Monday, December 31, 2007

45 minutes from Downtown - without a North-South Freeway...

Near nature? Near perfect? On a day like this, you can almost believe the slogan. Mt. Spokane is an amazing spectacle today. How many cities have such a great destination right in their backyard?

This may seem like I am changing the subject, but bear with me. How's about we 86 the North-South Freeway and build a North-South lightrail instead? You could run it right through the abandoned switchyards in Hillyard. Put bike and pedestrian paths in too. How far could you take it? Why not to the base of Mt. Spokane? Have a shuttle bus service, maybe even a tram, to the the top.

A skier/tourist could stay in Spokane and get to the top of the mountain in less than an hour. In the fall, Greenbluff would be a destination. Everyday commuting would be a snap. Less pollution. Less upkeep. Spokane would be a destination for skiers. Mt bikers would dig it in the summer.

Now, I know we're not Aspen or Sun Valley. But, hey most of the country doesn't have anything like we have. And we could be a very economical, yet very cool place for bicyclists, skiers and kayakers to visit.

I mean there are commercials everyday for BRANSON! How did that happen?

On the way home from skiing, we put our car in the grooves of I-90 and let the autopilot take over. That's right - the grooves they fixed a couple of years ago.

I think freeways are necessary, but do we ever sit down and think about the toll they extract? For whatever reason, they just don't stay repaired for very long (unlike the freeways in Europe). Scam? Poor workmanship? Overuse? Studded tires? Built-in work forever? I don't know. But a North-South freeway is going to cost a lot to keep up.

And the costs in other ways are pretty substantial too. Look at beautiful LC High School standing in the shadow of the concrete. Visualize how the South Hill once flowed into Brown's Addition. What freeways touch they kill.

Lastly, it is proven that freeways enable urban sprawl. What if you had to choose between living in Spokane, close to where you work or living in Mead or Elk. Would a North-South freeway encourage you to live further away? You bet it would. Why are my tax dollars going to be spent so you don't have to contribute your property tax dollars to my city? Why will I have to pay so you can pump carbon monoxide into my lungs? Again, I realize that there is a need for freeways, but urban sprawl is a consequence of fulfilling that need.

Anyway, the point is probably moot, now that it looks like we east-siders will have to foot the bill for the freeway. We're not very good about that. Hoorah!!!

Anyway, all to say, a North-South choo choo would be very cool, and a North-South Freeway is a bad idea. Oh yeah - And Mt Spokane rocks!

Happy New Year!


E said...

You smelly hippies, with your ridiculous notions of "clean" living and "peace". BAH! Bush should nuke you too (whats the shortened vernacular for Nuke-you-leer?)

Seriously though, while the paper of rail sounds good, it will be another half-assed, underfunded program that the county feels is a burden, instead of a progressive movement. Let's look to changing the motion of people, keeping existing infrastructure. Could the dollars spend on the N-S freeway be taken over to SIRTI and given to the fuel cell or battery technology schools? Could we get the 60mph car that can travel 30 miles on a charge? This keeps our core cleaner, and keeps people from commuting from too far away. Couple that with free, electric-only parking with free charging stations....


EvilElf said...

Thank you from one hippy to another!

I can see your point of view.

I must admit that part of the allure of a train comes from experiencing the instant community that a train creates. I have always had great experiences of meeting people on trains. I've been really surprised by the helpfulness of people that I have met on trains. So, yes, there is a utopia dysfunction I possess.

Even if cars are powered by fuel cells or have fantastic batteries, there is still the factor of having to maintain a roadway for the cocooned individual to travel upon - not to mention the waste of owning a vehicle that will spend most of its life in a garage or carport - not doing anything but depreciating.

As for giving money to Sirti or tech schools - what kind of free market is that!?!!?

E said...

I wholeheartedly agree that rail is the better option. Having experienced a real rail system (EuRail), I see just how good it can be, traveling across countries for pennies compared to the cost of driving. The cost of the infrastructure is less per travelled mile as well.

Its Cletus, Jethro, Bubba, and the like that cause the problem. Their "Christian" divined rights of free will state that they should be able to turn here if they choose, and a rail won't allow that. They want to be able to pull over at McDonalds and harden their arteries, pop into wal-mart and spend money they don't have on garbage they don't need. All the while, we dirty, unclean, pachouli oil reeking hippies are relegated to our infrastructure, take it or leave it.

Id love to see a Division line, a Sprague line, Argonne Line, Nine Mile line, Airport line, etc etc etc. A fairytale, though it is...


EvilElf said...

Amen, bruthuh.

John Speare said...

Some day I"m going to sit down and do a bunch of math. Here's what I know: the N/S freeway will cost us $120 million/year for 20 years. Nearly all of that money must come from the region; the US DOT has been pretty clear on that.
Now compare that to what other non-freeway transportation infrastructure costs, for example...
If I recall correctly, the light rail proposal from Spokane to Liberty Lake was in the neighborhood of $230 million. A bike blvd done real nice is about $10k/block. Striping bike lanes on a street is around $2k/block. Fish lake trail; paved from SPokane to Cheney with a bridge over the tracks: $6 million. Once you start looking at the cost of the N/S freeway and convert that to bike/ped/mass transit money, you can easily transform Spokane into a world-class city with light rail, bike/ped facilites out the ying-yang, and even some trollys and we'd still be able to heat our homes for a winter by burning the piles of cash left over from not doing the freeway.
Going to the state transportation summit last year made it clear to me that the N/S freeway is all about moving goods through our region; there is no high volume N/S route this side of the cascades. If they build it and it's so important to have, it should be a toll road. The folks who use it should pay for it.

EvilElf said...

I like the idea of a user fee.

Remember how much people seethed when they had to toss a dime to cross the Maple Street Bridge? When the price catapulted to a quarter, you could almost feel the collective tightening of arteries as people started stroking out.

Imagine the anger these tightwads are going to feel if they have to pony up. It might make the asphalt curdle. How much will curdled asphalt set us back!?!

Thanks, John, for giving us some real numbers that back up what many of us are thinking!