I read with great interest your reporting on the upcoming transportation tax referendum [R-51] and the "street-level" views of our current traffic mess [Road Hog(wash) package, June 13]. I am, however, a bit perplexed. In all of the reporting on the so-called Seattle traffic nightmare, there has been the complete omission of one simple fact: There is a way to dramatically increase the capacity of our current traffic system without building more roads.
The current system is based on the proposition that every driver is in direct competition with every other driver. People, who naturally are only interested in the progress of their own vehicle, cannot be expected to take into consideration the overall needs of the entire traffic system. This is the most inefficient possible use of our current infrastructure and can only lead to gridlock and road rage.
Imagine instead a world where people are not forced to compete for space on the road, but where every car is working constantly to cooperate with every other car. A world where every car is smart enough to know that by occasionally slowing down a little, it is helping to maintain the efficient flow of the entire system. Imagine a world where people are relieved of the tedious chore of driving through freeway traffic because their car is, in fact, smart enough to do the driving for them.
Smart cars driving themselves on automated highways? Is this a far-fetched idea? Not really. As recently as 1997, a successful full-scale test was conducted with prototype cars on a stretch of automated freeway in San Diego. The upgrades that people would need to buy to make their cars smart—like forward-looking radar, wireless data communication, and dashboard computers—are already offered by auto makers as safety features in their new models. The technology is proven and available, all that remains is to deploy it. What better place than Seattle?
Our traffic system is a network; isn't it about time we upgraded?
TOLLS, NOT TAXES
Fixing the 520 bridge should be free [Road Hog(wash), "Small is Beautiful," June 13]. Simply add a toll to the bridge for single occupancy vehicles, where the cost of the toll fluctuates to keep the roadway optimally full. For instance, at 5 p.m. on a game day, the cost could be as high as $20. At 11 a.m., the trip could be free.
All the infrastructure for variable tolls already exists. WebFLOW statistics could be used to set hourly rates a month in advance. Those nice new digital signs could be used to display the price. 520 was even built for tolls, so there doesn't need to be right-of-way purchased for a toll area.
The funds collected could be used to upgrade the bridge and ultimately add capacity. In the meantime, carpooling would have real incentives and the traffic load could be optimized at all times, even during construction.
ERICA, DON'T DRIVE 405
Hey Erica [C. Barnett], glad to hear that you will be staying off the roads [Road Hog(wash), "I Can't Drive 405," June 13]. That will leave more room for my "big, polluting SUV," which, by the way, pollutes significantly less than your small, out-of-tune, 15-year-old beater. And yes, you are correct that we commuters choose to drive alone to work (horrors!). We do so because it is convenient and comfortable, and we will choose to shorten our commutes by voting to improve roads—a solution that, despite your liberal illogic, will decrease the time we spend with our engines running. I hope you have fun in cosmopolitan Ballard.
WHAT'S ON THE MENU?
Interesting reading June 13's food review, "Eating Rainier." Well-written background on Asian cuisine. But where's the food? Except for tossing a few afterthoughts in the last restaurant listing, nary a mention of a specific menu item. Maybe it's just me, but I kinda like a few brief, accurate, juicy descriptives of the actual food in restaurant reviews. I'm wacky like that.
Carol Banks Weber
I appreciate you doing a story on the Storm ["Eye of the Storm," June 6]. From a PR perspective, I can understand why you'd want to use the angle of only talking about [Sue] Bird in the story, though I disagree with it. Maybe if Seattle papers would do more reporting on the Storm, they would be more popular. It certainly isn't for lack of heart in the game.
I would like to make a correction, though. The loudest cheers are received by Lauren Jackson, not Bird. I'm sure she will receive her share of loudness in the future, but she's going to have to earn it, just like Jackson did last year.
Regarding the headline, "Sue Bird has the looks and the skills . . . ," I have two questions: (1) Why did you feel the need to mention her looks in both the headline and the story? (2) Why, in the headline, did you put "looks" before "skills"?
FRIZZELLE DON'T SMELL
Regarding your writer, the intellectual lightweight who went to the Seattle Scrabble Tournament [The Nightstand, June 6]: In my family, we valued intelligence, book smarts, and the ability to hold an interesting conversation. Etiquette and cleanliness were appreciated as well, but not at the expense of being dull or boring. Being polite to those less fortunate was likewise an important social grace. If Christopher Frizzelle was too busy flexing his social skills and washing his pits to learn words like scry, well, all the worse for him; it's nice that the [smelly, toothy, geeky] Scrabble Club was kind to him despite his obvious lexical failings.
IF HE ONLY HAD A BRAIN
Strike one: for [President Bush] being dumb enough to not know that Brazil has a significant black population [News Clips, "Who Said It?" June 6]. According to the CIA Factbook online, Brazil's population is 6 percent black and 38 percent mixed black and white. Did [Bush] miss that whole Black Orpheus thing?
Strike two: He was dumb enough to air his ignorance in public. This from a man who has made political hay on the inadequacy of public schools and "No Child Left Behind." While I totally agree with this sentiment, you have to admit not being well educated did not hurt him one bit.
Lastly, shame on the U.S. press corps for being too cowardly to report this incident. That's their job, and you better believe it did not go unnoticed.
Somebody has to be brave enough to be that little boy shouting out the obvious from the crowd. So let me start the chant: "The president has no brains."
THAT AIN'T AMERICAN
Since when was writing an accusatory newsletter a crime [News Clips, "Trummel in Solitary," May 30]? Since when was having an offbeat personality a felony? Paul Trummel may irritate Judge James Doherty, but it is the judge, not the writer, who should be in solitary confinement for taking the law into his own hands and persecuting a man by cruel and unusual punishment without regard for the First Amendment, due process, or human rights. There are countries where the judge's high-handed behavior would be acceptable, but one of them is not the United States of America.
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