Meeting Minutes from inSPIRe Social on June 23, 2007

We had our fifth social event of 2007 at Cleve Stockmeyer’s home near Greenlake. We had a nice turnout with 35 guests to hear our guest speakers, Cleve Stockmeyer and Richard Conlin. Thanks so much to Cleve for opening up his home!

Our next meeting Our next social will be in September. We’re “taking the summer off” due to everyone’s busy schedules. Details will be upcoming stay tuned!

We’re always in search for volunteers to host! If you are interested, please contact Dave Gamrath at or (206) 938-8460.

Got something to say? As always, please send Dave Gamrath a note if you would like a two or three minute slot on our agenda at the next meeting to educate us on an important issue/event that you are concerned about or that you are working on!

Future Guest Speakers If you know of someone that would be an interesting speaker for our group and who would be willing to talk at one of our socials, please provide Dave with contact information for them.


Lisa Stuebing for Seattle School Board Lisa Stuebing joined our inSPIRe social for the first time. She is currently running for the Seattle School Board (non-partisan). She is dedicated to a Practical and Sustainable Plan for Seattle Public Schools. For more information, please see

Clean Elections Petition Marcee Stone announce that Washington Public Campaigns is distributing a Clean Elections Petition, which she also distributed at our social. Please see for more information.

Impeachment Rally June 24th Paul Carr announced details of the June 24th impeachment rally at Seattle University. One of the event’s keynote speakers, Dave Lindorff joined us at our inSPIRe social. Dave also brought copies of his book The Case for Impeachment: The Legal Argument for Removing President George W. Bush from Office that he authored with Barbara Olshansky.

inSPIRe Book Club! We will be reading for our July 18, 2007 gathering: The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals by Michael Pollan.

To join the book club and get on the list, just send an email to

First Keynote Speaker, Cleve Stockmeyer, Attorney and Former Board of Director Member of the Seattle Monorail Authority -

Cleve has been actively involved in Seattle’s progressive politics for the past 14 years. Cleve provided us with a PowerPoint (his first ever!) covering his thoughts on a progressive transportation system. Key elements of a progressive transportation system include broad mobility, environmental protection and social justice.

Progressive Transportation = Environmental + socially just + broad mobility benefit + highly leveraged returns.

Cleve showed a map of a new tunnel system in Switzerland going through the Alps. The first stage is a 21 mile tunnel, a construction challenge, which was completed for the surprisingly low cost of $3.5B. Cleve provided this as an example for Seattle to beat with our own investment in a public transportation system.

We have had new platforms for individual and social returns for decades or centuries. RR ROW, Bridges, tunnels, canals, yield $$ daily to users also $$ to the economy. They also shape density/pattern of development in long term. In 1930’s progressives owned economic arguments and wielded them against the right. Today we progressives play “defense” on economic arguments instead of “offense.”

How are we doing in Pugetopolis? We have a morass of bad planning & traffic congestion, no rapid transit system, our system is designed for cars, we have high congestion and CO2. We were warned we have 40 years to act on global warming. Now is the time! We have a “soak the poor” tax system with a $2000 burden on the poor. And we are facing rapid population growth in the area.

What have we been planning? In 2005: no monorail ($2.2B, 14 miles, 23 stations). In 2006: no Viaduct ($5B, 2 miles). Now, in 2007 we have a Roads & Transit initiative priced at $17B! This proposal is not what we need. Adding to roads results in increased infrastructure of sprawl, congestion & CO2, and without adding to ALL roads, we receive no mobility benefit. The car tab & sales tax that comes with the initiative soak the poor. We have no systemic plan - un-integrated -- 509 goes in, viaduct goes down.

We have lessons from our past. Fresh freeways: highly leveraged. Matured, developed freeway spending causes harm -- negative mobility and negative social returns. Adding cars does not get you to work faster. This will “dig the global warming hole deeper” per the Sierra Club.

Cleve then showed transit maps from cities across the globe. You can find these at These maps clearly show that effective transit systems can be built! Urban rail has shown to be universally successful “government programs (like sewers and electricity). They contain three key concepts: broad geographic scope; flow capacity of lines and efficient, planned construction. This includes planning the whole system from the start, not “as you go”; one government entity to manage so they don’t fight and burden the project; adding fresh corridors and not remodeling existing assets works vastly better. Remodeling is a “false economy”: you lose the prior use capacity and have inefficiency in construction from retrofitting. You are de-leveraging a prior investment.

The benefits of a full system include creating a “rideable region” creating a huge capacity (900,000 trips a day), providing fast trips plus a full scope. A full system becomes the primary system. With mobility and political synergy, no one is left out. We have individual & social returns, including fighting CO2, system density makes future transportation easier, economic growth & niche finding, users savings of $5,000 a year or $100,000 over twenty years and providing people the ability to get to their jobs. Also, a full system will last over one hundred years.

Where are we today? With Sounder we have a part-time system of 5 trains a day (BNSF owns & uses tracks) that cost us $1.2B, or $100 total subsidy per trip. Sound Transit 1 is a 21 miles partial line, SeaTac to UW in 2016 and Sound Transit 2 is 50 more miles to finish 2 lines north and south, plus adding a east line by 2027. It consists of very inefficient construction. Neighborhoods closer in to Seattle are left out. There are very limited stations in North Seattle, etc. I.E., this system contains many problems.

The initiative on the ballot for roads and transit, or R‘n’T , has financing techniques including a sales tax which highly burdens people in regard to their basic needs. This is unfair regional burden for core of state transportation system. With the car tab tax lowered from 1.4 to 0.8, there is a shift from transit to roads. The discussion of tolls very limited so far. It is unfair to let roads wither decades then catch up with sales and car tab tax.

So, what should we do? Roads just don’t do it this day and age. We need 80% reduction in CO2 . Billions for roads causes more CO2, sprawl, yields no mobility benefit & moves us backwards. Transit is our need. We need to revamp it, plan it, build full system in 25 years. We need multiple spokes plus hub. We should aim for 900,000 trips a day with the system. Is this impossible? No, it works everywhere! Is it financeable? Yes, Washington State has a high income level and standard of living. An example as to how we could finance this is by putting tolls everywhere to raise $24B, shift from roads (int. tunnel) $6B, have a 15 cent gas tax to raise $13B for a total of $43 billion. This can be done!

The barriers to doing this are mental. We don’t need to protect the rich any longer and preserve their $5000/yr bonus for living in Washington rather than Idaho. We threaten to punish voters by being dumb. Governments fight change & protect their turf. This can end.

We also need zoning throughout the system to prevent sprawl, a building code and other changes to stop subsidizing cars, major bus improvements, cross-town & neighborhood loops; shorter headways; longer service (18 hours / day) as well as the promotion of electric cars.

Second Keynote Speaker, Seattle City Councilman Richard Conlin .

Richard Conlin was elected to the Seattle City Council in November 1997 and re-elected in 2001 and 2005. In his first term, he chaired the Council's Neighborhoods, Sustainability, and Community Development Committee. In his second term, Conlin served as Chair of the Council's Transportation Committee. Now in his third term, Conlin currently serves as Chair of the Environment, Emergency Management and Utilities Committee. Prior to being elected as a Seattle City Councilmember, Richard Conlin was Director of the Community and Environment Department at Metrocenter YMCA from 1985 to 1996. Richard was one of the co-founders of Sustainable Seattle, an organization that publishes a bi-annual "Indicators of Sustainable Community," measuring Seattle's progress towards long-term cultural, economic, environmental, and social health.

Richard gave his perspective on transportation issues in the Puget Sound region, including a quick review of the politics that transpired this past year regarding the viaduct as well as what we face in our region over the next 5, 10 and 20 years, and longer.

Richard stated that there has been “a lot of direction” regarding transportation solutions among Seattle officials, but that there hasn’t really been much success at following direction. Richard was in Japan recently and saw how effective the Japanese have been in investing in transportation solutions. This drives a key point: when as a country you choose to not invest hundreds of millions of dollars each year into the military, you have plenty of public funds to solve a multitude of problems, such as effective transportation systems. Our federal government’s policy of huge defense spending has left local governments on their own in funding transportation solutions. In the past we could count on 80% or 90% federal funding to assist with the projects. Today we don’t have that. We need to change our priorities as to how we spend taxpayer dollars. Our tax system structure lead us to public poverty and private opulence.

The average family spends about $10K per year on their cars. This is a huge portion of the average family budget. Investment in an effective public transportation system is necessary to relieve this financial burden on American families.

An effective system needs to focus on mobility, not capacity. Ed Murray has lead the effort in Olympia to pass a new transportation initiative that doesn’t focus on “moving cars” but rather focuses on moving “people and freight”.

Washington State’s Growth Management Act (GMA) does not attempt to limit growth. We don’t get to decide how many folks can move into our communities. Local government’s job is to just plan for whatever growth happens. Seattle’s strategy with our Growth Management Plan is to create “walk-able communities”, known as Urban Centers, and to have these connected by efficient public transportation systems. The plan establishes a “line in the sand” with growth encouraged within the boundary. Development takes place within the boundary/centers. Seattle has six Urban Centers. Urban Centers are also being developed outside of Seattle proper, with Centers in Bellevue, Kirkland, Federal Way and elsewhere. The growth plan is to allow these centers to take the upcoming population growth. The trick is to design a transportation system to take the growth and connect the community.

Richard stated that we are not sprawling now in Seattle. Sprawl has been brought under control. This effort is centered on building successful Urban Centers. In five to ten years from now we will know if these efforts have been a success. Seattle has a “Destination 2030” transportation plan. The American Planning Association declared this plan the best in the US! It includes strong visions. Richard feels that it’s not a bad plan, that it includes great transit improvements but that it might be better if it included fewer roads.

Again, the problem has been implementing the plans. Costs always increase as time passes. It’s difficult to accurately compare costs for a progressive transportation system in Puget Sound with systems in other locations. It is also difficult to compare with historic costs. Seattle’s geography adds to the difficulty in construction, thus also in costs.

Richard then gave a brief account of the I-99 viaduct. The viaduct was authorized in 1947 when elevated highways were more commonplace. Even so, multiple Seattle City Council members voted against the viaduct. Twenty years ago, council members at that time tried a new initiative to get the viaduct torn down. This failed. After the 2001 earthquake, views on the viaduct changed.

In 2002/2003 the viaduct came to be viewed as part of our full transportation system as well as being linked with other city/region goals, such as our urban design goals. These included traffic density goals as well as goals to open up Seattle’s waterfront. Most folks involved seemed to be on the same page. Politicians wanted a tunnel, local newspapers supported a tunnel, etc. Richard was less enthusiastic. Richard wanted to also study a surface option.

In 2005/2006 the push for a tunnel began to falter. Frank Chopp and other local politicians began to work against the tunnel. New cost forecasts were demanded, and because they were forced to include high cost estimates for contingencies, the estimate was much higher even thought the estimate for construction had actually decreased slightly. Local newspapers switched their positions and now opposed the tunnel. Efforts were happening “behind the scenes” to look at ground option.

In 2006/2007, Governor Gregoire gave the Seattle City Council two options: take a new Council vote or put the viaduct to a public vote. The Council agreed to take another Council vote and voted to move forward with the plan. However, Gregoire then changed her mind and mandated a public vote, which led to the election this past March where the public turned down a tunnel as well as a new elevated viaduct.

Richard brought forth a resolution to “step back” and view the viaduct in its different construction segments. It was agreed to begin work on the parts of the viaduct not under the serious disagreement as was the two-mile center section, but rather to focus on the south end, fixing the Battery Street tunnel, etc. Richard indicated that they have now agreed on continuing forward with a surface/transit option. This will include linkage from West Seattle to Downtown, as well as Ballard to Downtown. Also, in the future Sound Transit will connect with the West Seattle Junction. Third Avenue in downtown will likely become transit only. Our system will be “rider focused” and will use resources efficiently. Currently we don’t have all the resources we need for the plan, but Richard stated that if we build one line, people will want more, just as in other locations throughout the country. A new vote for continuing the system may come up in 2011/2012, etc. We also have a very good bus system one of the best in the country. Our system in total is currently number 8 in the country. The initiative on the November ballot will also include a new transit lane on 520.

Richard stated that the upcoming initiative is “ok”, that it could be better, but that it’s the best we can get right now. It will make reasonable investments which will lead to better and better investments in the future.

Questions and Answers to both Cleve and Richard

Q Cleve, why did you not mention street cars in your vision of a progressive transportation system?
A (Cleve) Streetcars are fine. We need to get them into the mix. The point is to have a “main plan” with real transit to get people across regions to where they need to go, work, etc.
A (Richard) Most good transportation systems do include street cars.

Q Cleve, is Stockholm close to Seattle in geography?
A (Cleve) Sort of, but the new tunnel through the Alps is the better example of what can be done regarding transit for a reasonable amount of money.

Q Richard, what is Seattle’s “plan B” if the initiative on November’s ballot fails?
A (Richard) We’ll have it back on the ballot in 2008. The state legislature took a big gamble when they decided to combine the roads and transit initiatives into one big initiative, turning this into a very large amount of money. But there is some polling that indicates it may pass.

Q Cleve, what is the positive alternative if this initiative is voted down?
A (Cleve) there is a new, very strong public awareness of global warming. We need to get out there and teach people that “roads are bad”. We can have a much broader plan, and put that on the ballot in 2008.

Q Richard, what was the Port of Seattle’s influence on the viaduct?
A (Richard) The Port was somewhat irrelevant. Container trucks don’t use highway 99. The Port has a small stake in the outcome of the viaduct decision, but they do have some stake. The Port has an interest in North Bay property where they want mixed-use development.

Q Richard, I use to live in Singapore, where they have really done transit right. Any comments?
A (Richard) we also will have tolls in the Seattle system.

Q Cleve, is the monorail dead?
A (Cleve) I’ve never been into a “monorail vs a sky train” debate. I just wanted to work to serve the corridor. A problem exists when you need to find space within existing traffic to put light-rail. It’s much better to keep the system out of traffic.

Q Richard, when I drive from Everett to Seattle there is constantly bumper to bumper traffic. Per Cleve’s comments, the current ballot initiative won’t work to alleviate this. What’s wrong with presenting a full plan to deal with our increasing population?
A (Richard) there will always be traffic, but our plan will work well, especially with congestion pricing.

Q Richard, your plan may not work because it doesn’t connect enough places. We need to connect places north, south, east and west. Plus the plan is too slow.
A (Richard) the plan currently on the ballot is not the full plan. This is just the next step. This process needs to go step by step.

Q Richard, what will be the service to First Hill?
A (Richard) there will be a streetcar running from the Capital Hill station.

Q Richard, I was recently in Moscow and St Petersburg, Russia. They have a wonderful subway system even though they had many geographic challenges. Why can’t our state make this system state wide?
A You’re right. We need this statewide. But, we’re taking this a step at a time. We need to connect all our urban centers.

Q Richard, are we really able to put a toll on federal highways? Isn’t this illegal?
A (Richard) it’s a challenge, but there are actually many places looking at this. I think that in the end this will likely happen.

Q Richard, our traffic light system is old! We need a computerized system! When will we get it?
A (Richard) we already have a computerized system!

As always, many, many questions were asked but not recorded. Sorry!

Many thanks to Cleve and Richard for their informative and important talks!

See you at the next inSPIRe meeting!

Subscribe to inSPIRe by sending a note to


Previous meeting minutes


Previous IAN Events

Speakers: Richard Conlin (left) and Cleve Stockmeyer (right)


See more photos from this event on

Contact Us Copyright 2010 InspireSeattle ©