In the modern city, suburbs have grown up around cities as a means to enjoy the economic or cultural benefits of the city without contributing to the tax base. Land use laws in suburbs effectively protect against city “problems” (like density, multi-family housing, crowded schools, mass transit), but the suburbs remain close enough to the urban core to provide jobs, culture, and human conviviality.
The only great transportation solution for any city is a urban transportation system. Any regional transportation system that dissipates the benefits of the city outside its borders will only further the dissipation of the city’s energy. Seattle should build a transportation solution for Seattlites. The choked roads in and out of the city are a tribute to the attractions of Seattle. Gridlock outside the city gives commuters the time to contemplate why they live and work where they do. The transportation system we build within Seattle should be a monument to our city’s character and ambitions, not another way to allow suburbs to siphon the dynamism of Seattle.
Great cities have always stood apart from their surroundings and endowed their citizens with gifts that set them apart from other cities. We do not need to solve the region’s transportation problems to solve Seattle’s transportation problems. We need Seattlites to use all our creativity and ingenuity to solve them for ourselves. It’s the only way we’ll find a great solution. Is it any surprise that those lining up against the monorail are preaching solutions that focus on regionalism or look to the state legislature as the ultimate determiner of what sort of transportation the city ought to have? We’ve seen this before – it’s how we got 2 stadiums built side by side through regional fiat over the objections of our city’s voters.
Until Seattle stands on its own, mentally, fiscally, aesthetically, we’ll be enervated with mediocrity and governed from afar.