University of Washigton Link Light Rail Station.

Assphalt: Why Does Light Rail Take Sooooo Long

Answering our readers’ burning questions.

Hi, Assphalt: I’m stoked about the new light-rail service to the U District, but like a lot of my co-workers, I’ll be even happier when it actually GOES TO THE U DISTRICT and not Husky Stadium. By my calculation, the U District station [located on Brooklyn Avenue Northeast between Northeast 45th and Northeast 43rd streets] will be one mile, as the tunnel burrows, from Husky Stadium, and the tunnel is already drilled. Yet it’s not slated to open until 2021. Why does it take five years to build one mile of tracks???

So Sound Transit gives you a beautiful new light-rail extension to your place of work, and you still find a way to complain. How very Seattle.

The reason the U District station won’t open till 2021 is because the line from Husky Stadium to Northgate will open in one fell swoop. That means the entire 4.3 miles need to be prepared before ribbon-cutting. In other words, your “just one mile” premise is a little false. Also, while one tunnel is drilled, 3.5 miles of the line runs in twin tunnels, so a second tunnel still needs to be dug. That’s in addition to three stations, the tracks, and all the fancy gizmos that makes a light-rail train run that have yet to be built. So, all that considered, 2021 seems pretty damned fast. But that’s assuming that sinkhole in Roosevelt doesn’t get any bigger. If only they’d drilled the tunnel under slumlord Hugh Sisley’s derelict properties. Two birds, my friend. Two birds.

Hi, Assphalt: Maybe a dumb question, but I see lots of people parking those little Car2Gos around, and they never pay for parking. Where does the city send the parking-violation notice?

No one. Seattle’s car-sharing services, Car2Go and the new BMW upstart ReachNow, pay a flat annual fee per vehicle to the Seattle Department of Transportation to allow the cars to park anywhere that other cars can park without paying hourly rates. Sound like a sweet deal? When Car2Go first started, it was paying $1,330 per car, with the caveat that the city would monitor how people actually use the parking and adjust the figures based on that. The fee has since been ratcheted up to about $1,700 (we can only assume that SDOT is arriving at these figures in good faith, though it’s kind of remarkable that the department’s director, Scott Kubly, wrote an op-ed last week promoting these very car-share services that his agency is regulating via parking laws).

Your question did get us wondering something: The ReachNow cars are much larger than Car2Go’s tiny Smart For2 vehicles—the BMW 3 series, available through ReachNow, is about 70 inches longer along the curb. So why does BMW pay the same flat rate for parking? We called Car2Go to see if they thought this deal was rotten. Seattle manager Michael Hoitink said no, arguing that it’s not the city that should take car length into consideration, it’s the customer. “When you’re driving around downtown, our cars are going to be a lot easier to find parking for,” he notes. ■

Assphalt is Seattle Weekly’s new transportation column. Have a question about that embarrassing rash on your Outback? Write us at assphalt@seattleweekly.com.

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