Sunday, May 2, 2010

Seattle Times: Kemper Freeman is suing to stop light-rail expansion to Eastside

In today's episode of the Seattle Times, Bellevue developer Kemper Freeman Jr explains his opposition to light rail.
Freeman thinks light rail is a waste of taxpayer money, and there are cheaper, faster ways to solve our transportation problems. He wants to expand the area's freeways, but also says he supports bus-rapid-transit, free bus service and increased use of van pools.

He is an outspoken critic of Sound Transit, believing it represents the worst kind of big spending, unaccountable government agency. "They just plain plow on, irrespective of anyone or anything," he says. With characteristic hyperbole, he adds: "It's in the culture of the place. I won't call 'em crooks, but if it goes on long enough, it's the makings of something worse than Chicago."

A conservative Republican, Freeman is suspicious of big government projects. But he's not the only one; some Democrats have questioned the wisdom of rail as well.

"Kemper has had important insights about transportation," says Doug MacDonald, the former secretary of the state Department of Transportation, who thinks light rail makes sense along the heaviest-traveled sections of Interstate 5, but not as a way to solve traffic woes on the Eastside.
. . .
Freeman says he spends 30 percent of his time "community-building" — trying to make Bellevue a better place. He counts his activism on transportation issues as an extension of that work, and he hopes that if the lawsuit is successful, Sound Transit will be forced to dust off its own reports and invest in bus-rapid transit and van pools. He believes it could be done in three years, be built for half the cost and move 200 to 300 percent more people.
Seattle Times, Bellevue developer Kemper Freeman Jr

His point is that we do not have the population density to justify running trains around Puget Sound.

But what motivates Freeman may have been best expressed by Ben Schiendelman, of Seattle Transit Blog
So while I always hear the question – “Why does Kemper Freeman Jr. fight light rail?” – there’s a reason. It just doesn’t help him – he’s already built most of what he can. He makes ideological arguments about freedom and prosperity because they resonate with voters, he makes comments about the “type of people” he wants at his mall, and I’m sure his ideology informs his decisions, but his actions do make sense to his bottom line.

The yang to Freeman's yin are folks like Dan Bertolet of's HugeAssCity
The upside to all this—yes, there is an upside—is that creating urban environments that are less car-dependent will deliver a host of social and environmental benefits beyond those related to energy and greenhouse gas emissions.  Meanwhile, more and more people are becoming dissatisfied with car-dependent lifestyles, and demand for “walkable urbanism” is growing.

So, what motivates Dan Bertolet?
Dan Bertolet, according to his LinkedIn profile is an Urban Designer at GGLO.
What does GGLO do?
GGLO exists to forge innovative solutions that elevate the quality and spirit of life. We help create and revitalize communities—building-by-building and block-by-block.


On either end of the I-90 and SR 520 bridges we have developers. Freeman wants to build towers and needs more people getting in and out of Bellevue as soon as possible. GGLO needs something to replace those ugly buses with pretty trains to make those walkable community block-by-block upzones as profitable as possible.

Too bad all this has little to do with why people commute.
How many people commute from a poorly connected home to a computer screen?
What is it that they do at places like MicroSoft on the East Side of Lake Washington, and Adobe/Google/etc on the West Side?
The people that work at such places can not usually afford (monitarily, or socially) to actually live next to those work places. Even if they could afford it the idea of life long employment is a thing of the past, like the tail pipe, and train.

Ask why we commute, not where do you want to make money developing land.

Have a great day,
Mike Baker

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