"Smart Growth" and "New Urbanism" Compared with "Large Lot Zoning" (Tom Lane) [ Home Page – Click Here]

(May 17, 2017) – Traditional "Large Lot Zoning" is "Greener" than "Smart Growth" within Urban Growth Boundaries . . . Copyright 2009 – 2017 . . . Tom Lane . . . Photographing California, Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, Oregon, and Seattle, Washington.

(October 19, 2011) Be Green! Vote YES on I-1125: Stop Illegal Light Rail on I-90, attle to Bellevue

“If You Drive, Vote Yes on Initiative I-1125”

(Tom Lane, updated December 8, 2011)  Election Day was November 8, 2011. Sadly, I-1125 was defeated in Washington State.

Tom Lane’s Other Posts on I-1125, Light Rail, and Kemper Freeman

Before proceeding, click the following link for a list of all of my posts. (Posts and Photos Copyright 2010-2011, Tom Lane, except the Video screenshots from Firefox, with appropriate credit provided.)


Second, please click this link, for my I-1125 You Tube Video page.

Third, for my letter to public officials advocating a yes vote on 1125, click this final link.  Note: Neither the 2nd or 3rd link appears in the first link above.

* SEATTLE  – VOTE YES on Kemper Freeman’s Initiative I-1125 –

* Protect Your Gas Taxes and Tolls – * Stop Illegal East Link I-90 Light Rail – *Stop Expensive Peak Time Tolls During Your Precious Commute Hours – *Stop the Destruction of Historic Bellevue with an Ugly Transit Oriented i.e. another Smart Growth Development – *If You Drive Vote Yes on I-1125*

“If You Drive, VOTE YES on I-1125”

* Oct. 10, 2011 – * THE NEWEST VIDEO * – Seattle Times Editorial Board Meeting, with 1125 Proponents Kemper Freeman and Tim Eyman, and 1125 Opponents Doug MacDonald and John Stanton

* Oct. 8, 2011 – * SECOND NEWEST VIDEO * – Kemper Freeman debates Doug MacDonald on I-1125,  TV-W, with Host Austin Jenkins – CLICK IMAGE –

IMPORTANT – FAST FORWARD – to 28min : 50seconds,

to START I-1125 Debate –

* TVW’s Video Voter’s Guide with Tim Eyman (for 1125) and Doug MacDonald (against 1125) –

* CLICK IMAGE for TVW’s Video Voter’s Guide with Tim Eyman (for 1125) and Doug MacDonald (against 1125) –

CLICK IMAGE above for Video Voters Guide to 1125.

* CLICK IMAGE below, for the Official YES ON 1125 Web Page –

Click the YES ON 1125 Image for the official YES ON 1125 .org WEB PAGE -

* Washington State’s Sound Transit agency plans to illegally use gas tax revenues to fund light rail on the I-90 bridge across Lake Washington.

 *This violates the State Constitution,  and Tim Eyman has launched initiative I-1125 for the people to reaffirm the 18th Amendment to the State Constitution.  Eyman has the backing of Kemper Freeman, who donated $500,000 to the signature gathering process.

Not only Unconstitutional, but Not Green –

Smart growth proponents and light rail advocates need to face the truth about traffic and air pollution.  As you’ll see in chart below, gridlock causes significantly more air pollution – including CO2 – and therefore isn’t green. VOTE YES on Initiative I-1125!

Light rail will only take 5% of all vehicle trips by 2040.  Yet the Seattle region will grow by well over a million people in the next three decades.  More freeway lanes are required to prevent more air pollution, and keep Seattle’s legendary clean air quality close to historic norms.

Without a science based transportation plan including more freeway lanes, the smart growth and mass transit proponents will inevitably increase Seattle’s congestion and air pollution to intolerable levels by 2040.    Furthermore, the State of Washington’s agency “Sound Transit” has illegal plans to use gas tax revenues for light rail on I-90 into Bellevue. This violates the State Constitution’s 18th Amendment, that prohibits such uses for non-highway purposes such as light rail.

The Purpose of Tim Eyman / Kemper Freeman’s I-1125

The purpose of I-1125 is for the people to reaffirm their faith in the 18th Amendment of the State Constitution.  Kemper Freeman has donated $500,000 to the I-1125 petition drive.  Although Freeman and Eyman are traditionally known to support Republican causes, this is an instance where those of us “tree huggers” of many political persuasions – and who value clean air – will vote yes on I-1125 to decrease air pollution.  Kemper Freeman is also suing the State, in a series of lawsuits, over the unconstitutional actions of Sound Transit.

Here, you can read my letter to Sound Transit and the Puget Sound Regional Council, explaining why light rail violates the 18th Amendment. You can also read the 18th Amendment in my letter:


Air pollution: Imagine rolling down the windows along this stretch of northbound I-405 in Kirkland and breathing the accumulated smog.  Yuck!  Light rail is not the solution to this.  We need more freeway lanes.

Indeed, as traffic engineer James MacIsaac, with Seattle’s transportation advocacy organizations CETA and the ETA, says in the F.A.Q. section in his report, “Why Congestion Matters:” http://www.eastsideta.com/congestion.htm

“Congested traffic generates more air pollution per vehicle mile than smoothly flowing traffic. Stop-and-go traffic burns extra fuel and causes engines to operate less efficiently.  Large diesel trucks and buses produce conspicuously more emissions in congested conditions than when operating in a smooth flow.”

Horrible gridlock and stagnant air pollution on northbound I-405 in Kirkland.

Ballot Measure Summary –

“This measure would prohibit motor vehicle fund revenue and vehicle toll revenue from being used for non-transportation purposes (Tom: i.e. light rail on I-90). It would prohibit non-highway use of state highway lanes funded by gas taxes or vehicle tolls. It would require the legislature to set tolls, and would provide that a toll on a particular road or bridge, including the Interstate 90 floating bridge, could be used only for construction, operation, or maintenance of that particular road or bridge.”

Initiative petition for submission to the People

“To the Honorable Sam Reed, Secretary of State of the State of Washington

We, the undersigned citizens and legal voters of the State of Washington, respectfully direct that the proposed measure known as Initiative Measure No. 1125, and entitled, “Statement of the Subject: Initiative Measure No. 1125 concerns state expenditures on transportation. Concise Description: This measure would prohibit the use of motor vehicle fund revenue and vehicle toll revenue for non-transportation purposes, and require that road and bridge tolls be set by the legislature and be project-specific. Should this measure be enacted into law? Yes or No”

Complete Text of I-1125:

The complete text is also on the Washington Secretary of State’s Web Site:


For the original signature gathering petition, refer to Tim Eyman’s web site, Click here: http://www.voterswantmorechoices.com/pdf/1125petition.pdf

Eyman’s web site is: http://VotersWantMoreChoices.com

Below, I have annotated selections from I-1125:

AN ACT Relating to transportation; amending RCW 47.56.030,
47.56.810, 47.56.820, 47.56.830, and 47.56.790; adding new sections
to chapter 46.68 RCW; and creating new sections.

NEW SECTION. Sec. 1. The 18th Amendment to the Washington
Constitution protects gas taxes and toll revenues. But politicians and special interest groups have been working for years to sidestep the 18th Amendment’s protections and divert those revenues to non-transportation purposes. (Tom adds: such as Light Rail.)

This measure protects our gas taxes and toll revenues from a legislative raid by giving voters the chance to reaffirm their support for the 18th Amendment to the Washington Constitution.

(Tom adds:  Sound Transit plans to illegally violated the 18th Amendment, by using gas taxes for light rail (which is a non-highway purpose) on Interstate 90.)

This measure would:
(1) Prohibit state government from diverting gas taxes and toll revenues in the motor vehicle fund or other funds to the general fund or other funds and used for non-transportation purposes;

NEW SECTION. Sec. 2. State government, the department of
transportation, and other agencies may not transfer revenues in the motor vehicle fund or any toll fund to the general fund or other funds and used for non-transportation purposes.

False Information about Light Rail as the Only Solution to Air Pollution, Greenhouse Gases, and Traffic Congestion

The suburbs are not going away, and commuting with the personal automobile will never cease.  Long commutes in large metro areas will continue indefinitely.  Light rail will not serve more than 5% of all trips by 2040, according to Kemper Freeman and his traffic engineers.   Meanwhile, nearly 2 million people will move to the area by 2040, according to Vision 2040, the regional plan for the Seattle Metro from the Puget Sound Regional Council.

In contrast, Kemper and his engineers, including Dr. William Eager, found in their own study that building more freeway lanes will decrease congestion by 36%, by increasing vehicle speeds.  This will decrease auto emissions, and increase gas mileage and increase foreign oil imports, whereas light rail will not.

There is a lot of false information from urban planners and proponents of “smart growth” (new urbanism) that light rail is the only answer to more population and greenhouse gases.  However, light rail will only carry 5% of all trips by 2040, yet the population will increase by nearly 2 million.  And, other forms of transit are significantly more cost effective, such as bus rapid transit (see below). Furthermore, as we approach peak oil, our use of alternative automobile fuels will increase, such as natural gas and electric cars. Kemper Freeman already solved this problem, as he installed electric car charging stations at Bellevue Square in 2011, see my photos at this post: http://tiny.cc/7djp6

Click here to download Dr. William Eager’s “End Gridlock Now” study on adding more freeway lanes: http://www.tdanet.com/tda_inc_downloads_page.html

Dr. Wiliam Eager's study "End Gridlock Now" can be downloaded at this link: http://www.tdanet.com/tda_inc_downloads_page.htm

Kemper Freeman discusses “End Gridlock Now” in this 10 minute video:

For Mass Transit to Work, Seattle would have to turn into Manhattan and Air Pollution would Double

Population density must be very high for light rail to work.  Wendell Cox and Kemper Freeman explain this at my other post on Seattle light rail.  In addition, traffic engineer James MacIsaac has prepared this density graph and explanatory text in the aforementioned F.A.Q. Link, Question 8: http://www.eastsideta.com/docs/FAQ8-2008.pdf

“For each density category (…), transit ridership is relatively insensitive to density increases until densities above 10,000 persons per square mile are reached. For perspective, the average density of the Seattle urbanized area is about 2,200 persons per square mile (there are, of course, some census tracts of higher density). For a given area, doubling of density would double transit ridership but would also double travel by cars, trucks and vans.”

That’s the problem with Smart Growth and Towering Condos – Everyone still drives a car, and air pollution increases as engines run slower and less efficiently, producing more pollution – including CO2 – per mile of driving.  As MacIsaac says, Seattle density would need to increase by over 20 times, just to get 20% to ride light rail, like in Manhattan.

Clearly Seattle does not want to turn into Manhattan. Therefore, we need to vote YES on Initiative I-1125, and send a message to Olympia that we don’t want  light rail because we don’t want Seattle to turn into Manhattan with high pollution.  We want freeway lanes, bike lanes, bike trails, and MacIsaac’s very own specialty – Bus Rapid Transit – see my new page on BRT.  Also refer to John Niles on BRT at his CETA web site.

From James MacIsaac, http://www.eastsideta.com/docs/FAQ8-2008.pdf Accessed: September 18, 2011

CO2 Increases at Gridlock Speeds

As density increases to accommodate smart growth and transit oriented developments, air pollution increases as gridlock progresses.  Conditions become unhealthful for runners and cyclists.  When I was in the smart growth havens of Boulder and Eugene, I had horrible sinusitis.

Even CO2 increases when cars are stuck in traffic.  Dr. William Barth of UC-Riverside found that CO2 emissions increase dramatically at speeds less than 30mphIn fact, if you are idling in traffic, you are producing 10 times as much CO2 than if you’re traveling at 50mph (2000 g/mi vs. 200 g/mi. on the chart below).  This graph is from Dr. Barth’s power point/PDF presentation:

If you want to vote green, then vote for better gas mileage, and less air pollution, and vote YES on I-1125.  This will stop light rail to the Eastside, and will force transportation planners to consider other alternatives such as more lanes.

How Bad is Seattle-Bellevue Smog?

Pictures tell the story.  We need to build lanes, eliminate gridlock, and reduce smog, for our childrens’ future.

Remember, in the Seattle area, air pollution is the major contributor to smog, since emissions have been cut from industry, and outdoor burning is banned within much of the metro area.  Much of this air pollution is generated during gridlock conditions, when cars are stuck generating excessive CO2 and other pollutants between zero mph and 30 mph. Here are photos on clear smoggy days, and also clear very windy days, in January and February, 2011.  These were taken on several clear days meeting one or the other of these two criteria:

1)  Under weak surficial high pressure with a limited pressure gradient; ESE winds at 5mph.

2) Under surficial high pressure (centered over Southern BC) along with the 500mb jet out of the NNE; with NE winds at 20mph to 40mph (and higher gusts).

Given modern technology and our ability to build efficient freeway systems, there is no excuse for gridlock conditions contributing to unsightly views:

Smoggy day: Looking WNW from The Golf Club at Newcastle, looking towards Seattle and Lake Washington. The Olympic Mountains can't be seen.

The same view from The Golf Club at Newcastle on a clear day with20-40mph NNE winds, and the Olympic Mountains.

Looking due north from Somerset on a clear day, gusty NNE winds, with the North Cascades clearly visible.

Same view on a smoggy day looking north from Somerset. The North Cascades are barely visible.

This is not Los Angeles. This is Seattle and the Olympic Mountains at sunset on a smoggy day. Horrible, and conditions will continue to get worse unless the area builds more freeway lanes.

Air Pollution in Small Town Smart Growth America

Smart growth principles, with increased density and towering condos, has been implemented to varying degrees in various smart growth college and destination towns.  As you can see below, places with a long history of densification – such as Eugene – have significant air pollution.  However, you’ll also see that places who have just begun the densification process – Flagstaff, Ashland, and Bend, still have relatively clean air. Hopefully, their City Councils will read this web site and many others like it, and stop their smart growth before it is too late and everyone gets sinusitis.

Horrible Air Pollution in the high density smart growth haven of Eugene, Oregon - looking south towards downtown towards Spencer Butte from Skinners Butte. Weather: under high pressure in September, 2010, 79F.

Ashland, Oregon - Downtown, looking east to mountains. Absolutely No Air Pollution - September, 2010. Weather: High pressure, 85F.

Bend, Oregon. Over the broad high volcanic plain in the High Cascades Province at about 5,000 elevation, looking west towards the Three Sisters and Broken Top from Pilot Butte. Absolutely No Air Pollution. September, 2010. Weather: High pressure, 74F.

Flagstaff, Arizona. Absolutely No Air Pollution. May, 2009. Weather: building high pressure, 60F. Cold. Looking SE from Mars Hill towards the NAU Campus, older homes north of campus, and the flat Coconino Plateau. The Ponderosa / Pinon / Juniper vegetation, recent eruptive geologic history, numerous cinder cones, short summers, and flat topography are nearly identical to Bend, Oregon (except for the presence of prominent sedimentation over Arizona's Coconino Plateau.

Air Pollution in Large Cities with Large Lot Zoning and No Light Rail

While I am not aware of any large city (i.e. pop. 500,000+) where all properties are a quarter acre or more – and also with no apartments – certainly there are some big cities that have a greater percentage of large lots.  For example, Scottsdale, AZ east of Phoenix has lot sizes of 1 to 10 acres, in what is called “North Scottsdale” (see below).  In contrast, the southern part of town is much denser.  In neighboring Fountain Hills, AZ, the average density is very low at 1.6 dU / acre (1.6 dwelling units per acre).  And, in Cave Creek, AZ, the minimum lot size is half an acre.

Air pollution tends to be less in all three of these northeastern Phoenix area suburbs, although the entire valley is generally within a brown cloud much of the time.  Nevertheless, lower density, and a focus on wide 4 to 8 lane boulevards traveling at 55mph, such as Cave Creek and Carefree Boulevards, results in improved emissions, fuel economy, and less air pollution than Seattle. Overall, Phoenix has very few smart growth projects (similar to Las Vegas, Palm Springs, Albuquerque, and Santa Fe, NM).

Albuquerque, New Mexico (metro pop. – 700,000) does not feature widespread large lot zoning, except within the traditional suburbs such as Placitas, Corrales, Edgewood, Los Ranchos de Albuquerque, and the South Valley.  However, the presence of open Chihuahean desert scrub on all sides of the town, including on Native American Reservations and the Petroglyths outside of the City limits, provides clear air from any direction, no matter what way the wind is blowing.

Albuquerque’s highest ozone readings are probably achieved in the distant NE heights, along the Central Avenue corridor, and in the northern part of the South Valley. While Albuquerque features a growth management act, impact fees, and a redevelopment agency for infill projects, the City has very limited centralized planning and a very limited light rail system.

Looking East towards the McDowell Mountains in North Scottsdale, with 1 to 10 acre homes, on both golf courses and horse ranches. Limited air pollution compared to areas south and west of North Scottsdale.

Albuquerque, looking east at sunset towards the Sandia (~Pink) Mountains from the suburbs West of the Rio Grande, towards the NE Heights (note the dark green strip, the Rio Grande Bosque).

Street Widths, Air Pollution, and Light Rail

A light rail line down a boulevard, such as NE 112th in Bellevue in front of the City Hall, may eliminate the existing street width, condemning street lanes, along with the widths of bike lanes and sidewalks.

Therefore, light rail may actually increase air pollution by lowering vehicle speeds. The trains may also increase hazards for pedestrians and cyclists, who are left without a bike lane on a dangerous, narrow sidewalk.

Furthermore, tracks for trains, including streetcars, are very dangerous and have seriously injured many cyclists in Seattle. I do not know if any have died, although many Seattle cyclists have died due to heavy traffic from high density, due to the explosion in Smart Growth Condos.

Given that Bellevue already has wide 6 lane boulevards and 20′ wide sidewalks, and very low traffic compared to Seattle, then light rail would destroy the very safe atmosphere for pedestrians and cyclists in Bellevue, and also increase pollution.

Therefore, vote YES on Initiative I-1125, if you favor a progressive approach towards keeping our streets wide and safe, and preserving our bike lanes, and our sidewalks for pedestrians and the disabled. Phoenix, as I show below, has the safest streets, since they are very wide, and they also incorporate traffic calming. Light rail may eliminate traffic calming, and bike lanes and sidewalks are narrowed.

Wide Streets and Traffic Calming – Both are Great Things, Only in Moderation!

Since air pollution increases below 30mph, then methods of traffic calming (i.e. curb extensions, roundabouts, narrow streets, and reducing speed limits) will slow traffic, increasing congestion on surface streets and boulevards.  Congestion and air pollution may increase to levels where cyclists and pedestrians will not wish to breath the fumes, and will drive instead.

In contrast, 4 to 8 lane boulevards have less air pollution, with traffic at 55mph, are dangerous for cyclists, pedestrians, and the disabled.

Nevertheless, a compromise is the obvious positive solution – provide wide streets COMBINED with traffic calming methods. 

Phoenix, Arizona has the best examples of wide 4 to 8 lane boulevards combined with traffic calming, and exceptionally wide bike lanes and very nice 10′ sidewalks.

Phoenix, AZ residential boulevard - Very nice wide street with wide bike lanes, wide sidewalks, median, landscaping ... no traffic, no congestion, and no air pollution.

Traffic Calming + Wide Street - It Works, and the Wheelchairs Even Feel Safe in the Bike Lane !

Do Urban Planners ever visit Used Car Lots?

Light rail proponents believe that peak oil will be such a crisis that we need to reduce the use of nearly all cars. However, as Jim MacIsaac showed above, this is impossible, since even with over 20,000 persons per square mile (20 times Seattle’s current density!), people still drive their cars.

Therefore, solutions to peak oil will come from hybrid and natural gas cars, and electric cars. Recently, I’ve been on dozens of used car lots.  I was very impressed with the Federal Government’s role in decreasing emissions. For example, many cars such as this Smart Car had this sticker:

Clearly, the US Government is helping with peak oil.  However, we need to do more, including building more freeway lanes.  Imagine what happens when this Chevy Silverado gets stuck in traffic – it gets 14mpg instead of 20mpg.  That’s a third less gas mileage, and several times more CO2 if its traveling at gridlock velocity.

Chevy Silverado only gets 14mpg when stuck in traffic, versus 20mpg at 60mph.

Even this used “smart car” was relatively inexpensive.  If we build more freeway lanes, and give tax credits for electric cars, natural gas cars, and smart cars, we could decrease our foreign oil dependence by well over 50% in 10 years:

Salt Lake City Builds a New Freeway and Reduces Congestion 20%

Many smart growth planners believe that building more freeways will increase congestion, since they erroneously think that roads lead to more sprawl.  However, this is faulty logic, since in the Seattle metro, we are talking about existing sprawl that exists in a network of not enough lanes.

The new 2008 Legacy parkway (SR-67) near Salt Lake City was built parallel to US-15 to reduce congestion.  The project was a success, and congestion was reduced by 20% on US-15.  The freeway even includes a bike trail, nature preserve, and nature center.  This project represents a parallel arterial, or a relief route, for the primary arterial, US-15.

Local traffic engineers advocate similar ideas.  Seattle civil engineer Dr. Bill Eager advocates 6% more freeway lanes in the Seattle metro, to reduce congestion by 36%.  This would include several parallel arterials, and also widen existing parallel routes such as I-405 and SR-167.

Dr. James MacIsaac – Bus Rapid Transit 80% Cheaper than Light Rail

As stated above, much false information exists that light rail is the only viable solution to growth, transportation, and greenhouse gases.  Another viable solution is bus rapid transit.  Civil engineer Dr. James MacIsaac, who opposes light rail, demonstrates that a network of bus rapid transit lines is 80% cheaper than a single line of mass transit.  Note that his plan includes rapid transit routes outside of the urban growth boundary.  The bus rapid transit lines travel on frequently congested state and federal highways, including SR-516, SR-169, SR-900, SR-164, SR-164, SR-410, SR-202, US-2, I-405, I-90, and others.

Civil engineer James MacIsaac's regional transportation plan, with bus rapid transit includes lines extending outside the urban growth boundary. From page 19 of: http://www.bettertransport.info/rt/WhatYouNeedtoKnow8.31.07.pdf Accessed June 21, 2011.

Eastside Transportation Association:  Additional Reports Demonstrate that Light Rail will Not Reduce Congestion

You can download several reports and articles, from Dr. Jim MacIsaac, Dr. William Eager, and several others, from the Eastside Transportation Association:


Again, The Suburbs and Carbon Dioxide are Not Going Away. To be green, we must clean up our emissions.

We must clean up emissions or global warming and conserve oil as peak oil approaches.  Therefore, expensive solutions such as light rail that take only a few percent of all trips, are an outrage.  We need to use our money wisely, spending it on methods that will work, such as more freeway lanes, and bus rapid transit.  The suburbs, such as the photo below in Kirkland just north of Bellevue, are not going away.

And, I also speak from personal experience.  I’ve been to places that invest a huge amount in public transit, such as Boulder, Colorado and Eugene, Oregon.  Their traffic is just as bad as the Seattle metro, and air pollution is actually WORSE, due to local inversion conditions.

Just like Seattle, neither Boulder or Eugene have invested in sufficient freeway lanes and boulevards.  Seattle will ultimately turn into another Boulder, if local planners continue taking us back to the 1800’s with light rail and streetcars.

Looking south towards Lake Washington (and, Bellevue in the far distance) from a residential street in Kirkland.

Kemper Freeman Installs Electric Car Charging Stations at Bellevue Square

Kemper Freeman, owner of the Internationally recognized Bellevue Square near Seattle, knows that the public will demand alternatives as gas prices increase. He has just installed Electric Car Charging stations in his free parking garages at Bellevue Square Mall. Kemper is the first private individual to install charging stations in the entire Pacific NW (compared to federally funded stations along Interstate 5). Watch this You-Tube Video for more:

Also, watch this September 7, 2011 TV-W video with opponents of I-1125 and proponents, including Bruce Nurse of Kemper Development Co. and Tim Eyman:

And, finally, this photo summarizes EVERYTHING that we all require to pursue The American Dream, including freeways, used cars, used car salesmen, and US Flags on the cars for sale that we buy and drive home to the suburbs !

We need to keep the freeways green by voting YES on Initiative I-1125, that will stop the illegal use of the gas tax to build light rail, that will do absolutely nothing to reduce emissions.

As you can see from the examples above, the facts clearly show that efficient fast moving freeways are greener and produce less air pollution.  And, bus rapid transit is much cheaper than light rail, accommodating commuters in the distant suburbs that are not served by light rail. Cycling – especially off road gravel bike paths in forests away from polluted city streets – and build by philanthropic organizations, is another great alternative (discussed elsewhere on this web site).

Used cars, US flags, and freeways leading to the suburbs. It's the American Dream and We need to keep it Green.

Traffic Bottlenecks in the Seattle Area

Interstate 5 runs north to south through the Seattle area, and is the region’s major north-south traffic corridor. It has been neglected for decades, and is clogged every weekday morning and afternoon in predictable locations. Below are a few photographs of the “exit only” signs that plague this narrow, unsightly corridor through downtown Seattle.

These “exit only” lanes narrow the freeway to two and three lanes in a few bottlenecks. Dr. Eager in his report recommends adding two lanes in each direction on I-5, from just south of Tacoma to well north of Seattle. Due to gridlock speeds of 0mph to 30mph, downtown Seattle is known for its aroma by “suburbanites,” whenever we venture into downtown for appointments.

Also, whether or not to replace the earthquake-prone Alaskan Way Viaduct (SR-99, parallel to I-5), remains the subject of serious controversy. If I-5 was widened by four lanes, then most people would not even bother to take the Viaduct (which involves extra time, due to stop lights on surface streets leading to both ends of the elevated Viaduct). Indeed, the dangerous, elevated highway would not need to be replaced, if I-5 was widened instead.

Exit only lanes plague the northbound commute on I-5 into downtown Seattle.

In downtown Seattle. Only three lanes on I-5; this is unacceptable. Dr. Eager advocates adding two lanes in each direction.

Southbound I-5 into downtown, with exit only signs, restricted lanes, confusing arrows, what a mess.


12 comments on “(October 19, 2011) Be Green! Vote YES on I-1125: Stop Illegal Light Rail on I-90, attle to Bellevue

  1. Q

    The only thing Freeman’s study doesn’t take in to account is that demand increases with capacity. We just added a lane to 405 last year. Have 405 commutes gotten any faster? NO!

    • Tom Lane
        Correction: Kemper Freeman hired Dr. William Eager’s firm to conduct the study.

      The lane that you refer to on I-405 extends only for a couple of miles in Renton. Dr. Eager’s “End Gridlock Now” plan calls for several lanes along I-405, I-5, 167, and many others. Adding more lanes does increase demand to a point, because people who are commuting on parallel surface street arterials (such as Grady Way in Renton) now suddenly can take 405. However, they should have been able to take 405 at 60mph for the past 20 years. Commuters should be on freeways, not clogging surface streets at gridlock speeds less than 30mph, spewing out CO2 and other pollutants.

      Overall, folks in Seattle and Oregon are very anti-growth and anti-freeway, preferring regressive policies from the days of light rail and streetcars. The rest of the country is more progressive and pro-growth (even California), and the freeway system in Phoenix is a great example, as is the new SR-67 in Salt Lake City cited in this post.

  2. Fictitious Name

    Sigh… Illegal? You guys are SO full of it. Get a lfe.

  3. Hans

    “Freeways, used cars, used car salesmen” is not this American’s dream.

    Are we to believe William Eager or Jane Jacobs? Kemper Freeman or the Texas Transportation Institute ? Your citations and anecdotes have not convinced me that a greater ratio of road-lanes in our land use mix supports growth increases without congestion. I counter your Eugene and Boulder with my experience in NYC, Paris, and Munich. Grade-separated rail, density, and increased cost pressure on choosing long commutes are proven techniques.

    What cities hold up as examples of what you believe Seattle could grow to become?

  4. Ben

    Freeways encourage more driving and more POLLUTION. Obviously, I-405 has already been widened multiple times, yet traffic remains terrible during the day. Further widening may reduce congestion temporarily, but it will return. The only long-term, sustainable solution is to build a strong transit system. Light rail runs on electricity. Electricity from hydroelectric damns. It’s clean and efficient. Let’s encourage TOD [Tom write: he means “transit oriented developments”] and stop the sprawl[ing] awful freeway expansions! Creating transit a friendly metropolitan region will make our communities much more livable and environmentally friendly. VOTE NO ON I-1125!

    • Tom Lane

      Ben, below, I will respond to each of your claims.

      First, you wrote: “Freeways encourage more driving and more POLLUTION.”

      Tom answers: Building more freeway lanes decreases congestion. This allows cars to run at the speed limit, producing LESS CO2 and OTHER harmful emissions (see the CO2 graph from Dr. Matthew Barth of UC-Riverside above). Traveling at gridlock speeds of under 30mph is not green, nor is it sustainable, since Dr. Barth demonstrates very high CO2 emissions under 30mph.

      Second, you wrote: “I-405 has already been widened multiple times, yet traffic remains terrible during the day. Further widening may reduce congestion temporarily, but it will return.”

      I-405 has not been widened to the extent that Civil Engineer Dr. William Eager advocates: add 3 lanes in each direction on I-405 from Tukwila to Newcastle, and 2 lanes in each direction on I-405 from Newcastle until it intersects I-5. I remember as a child when I-5 and I-405 were not congested. I want to see the next generation have the same freedom to travel at maximum highway speeds that my parents had, when they drove “Tommy” around the Seattle metro area.

      You are correct that as population continues to grow, then I-405 would ultimately become even more congested. However, remember that Dr. Eager’s plan also includes widening of parallel arterials that run north to sound, including I-5 and a new 4 lane I-605 well east of Seattle, and SR-9 from SR-522 to the Skagit / Snohomish County Line. Eager’s study can be downloaded from: http://www.tdanet.com/tda_inc_downloads_page.htm

      Third, Ben wrote: “The only long-term, sustainable solution is to build a strong transit system. Light rail runs on electricity. Electricity from hydroelectric damns. It’s clean and efficient. Let’s encourage TOD [Tom writes: he means “transit oriented developments”] and stop the sprawl[ing] awful freeway expansions! Creating transit a friendly metropolitan region will make our communities much more livable and environmentally friendly.”

      Tom responds: Dr. Eager found that light rail in its proposed form by 2040 would never meet 5% of all vehicle trips in the Puget Sound area. Contrast this to plans that would provide much more road capacity, such as adding only 6% more freeway lanes, and a regional bus rapid transit system (see map in the post from Civil Engineer Dr. James Isaac).

      As for clean energy, I absolutely agree with you. However, the suburbs and the personal automobile are not going way. Light rail is a very inefficient way of providing transportation from the distant suburbs (i.e. Sammamish, Issaquah, Maple Valley, etc.) to the central business districts of Seattle, Bellevue, Redmond, Everett, Tacoma, etc. However, the caveat is that most jobs are in the suburbs, not the various CBD’s. Therefore, Dr. MacIsaac’s idea of a bus rapid transit web would be tremendous, since people could commute from suburb to suburb. For example, he even includes bus rapid transit lines oming from outside the Urban Growth Boundary. He has routes coming from SR-169 (from Maple Valley), SR-164 (from the Muckleshoot Reservation and Enumclaw), SR-410 (from Buckley, Bonney Lake, and even Enumclaw).

      I do not know what percentage of trips his plan would take, but given that his network covers multiple isolated suburbs and small towns AND ALSO major metro areas, the percentage would be well over 5%. So, if we got 5% from Mass Transit, we would get much more from Bus Rapid Transit. I do not know how much more; I’d have to ask him.

  5. Fake Name

    Please look up “induced demand” and then explain why building freeway lanes would do a [bleep] thing. In fact new freeway lanes simply slow traffic down more. If you want to eliminate gridlock, you have to do what China does: order people with even-numbered license plates off the road on even-numbered days and vice versa for people with odd-numbered license plates.

    • Tom Lane

      To answer your first point about induced demand, this concept has been applied to transportation planning … under the theory that providing more freeways will cause more people to drive …

      However, that is not the published goal of “End Gridlock Now,” from Dr. William Eager. Eager’s plan is a carefully calculated plan to reduce congestion by 36% in the Seattle metro, with construction of an additional 6% of new freeway lanes. Conceptually, this has already been proven to work in Salt Lake City in 2008, where the new SR-67 reduced congestion on I-15 by 20% (as I noted in this essay).

      Furthermore, most of your time spent driving is for commuting, shopping, family, and Church activities. This demand for distance traveled and travel time is essentially fixed. For example, if your commute is 40 miles round trip, that’s not going to increase if they widen I-405 and I-5 and build a new I-605.

      However, what will change with driving faster on more lanes is your vehicle emissions, your gas mileage, and foreign oil consumption. If you travel at 60mph on a 10 lane freeway, compared to 20mph on a 6 lane freeway, you produce less CO2, less air pollution, and get higher gas mileage while consuming much less foreign oil.

      That’s why I-1125 is a Green initiative, since it will reduce pollution. Voters will vote YES to re-enforce their faith in the 18th Amendment of the Constitution, that restricts Gas Taxes for vehicle lanes only, never mass transit.

      Let’s go green in Seatte and vote yes oln I-1125. Let’s tell Sound Transit and the Legislature that they must pay attention to the 18th Amendment that restricts gas taxes for vehicle lanes only, never for mass transit.

      The photos from Somerset in Bellevue and from the Golf Club at Newcastle show how “smart growth” within the urban growth boundary has increased congestion, by failing to build freeway lanes to keep up with increased housing density. That’s why we need more freeway lanes to “End Gridlock Now,” especially when mass transit will never take more than 5% of all trips by 2040.

      Finally, in Ithaca, NY where your ISP indicates that you’re writing from, about half of the population walks, bikes, or works at home. I can understand that you would be opposed to more roads in freeways. We have a similar beautiful liberal college town on the West Coast – Ashland, Oregon – where 25% walk, bike, or work at home. In fact, I wouldn’t be opposed to living there – I’d love to walk and bike everywhere.

      However, I am a pragmatist, and when we’re talking about the Seattle metro of several million, people are commuting 60 miles round trip everyday. There’s no way that light rail (mass transit) can ever take more than 5% of all trips. That’s why more lanes and a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system are best for our region (see the study above on BRT from Seattle area Civil Engineer Dr. Jim MacIsaac).

      Everyone who has lived in Seattle for 20 or more years remembers how nice this place used to be. That was before traffic was a problem. We can build more lanes and reclaim Seattle’s legendary quality of life and great air quality.

  6. Jeff

    This is the best suggestion in recent memory for changing transportation policy. I405 needs to be widened by 2 lanes each way from Renton to Bellevue. Many other freeways also need widening. I will definitely vote yes on I-1125.

  7. Alex Burchard

    This is out of sequence, but it is a continuation of the Seattle Times Thread with Alex, Tom and Boyerbl, from August 2011, at: http://community.seattletimes.nwsource.com/reader_feedback/public/display.php?source_name=mbase&source_id=2015857064

    ALEX WROTE – “IF people want their ten acres, then they can get away from the city (as in a few counties away) and stop relying on it for jobs, etc.”

    TOM WROTE – “We live in a free society so if folks wish to live on a farm in Enumclaw and commute to Seattle, they should have the right to do so on properly maintained and widened roads. ”

    ALEX WROTE: “Yes, and our free society unfortunately allows for people like you to live close to the city, leech the benefits, and attempt to destroy it for people who actually like it as a city.
    People who live in far flung exurbs within the voting districts of the city are the problem (sorry, but it is true). The more urban districts vote for light rail, because they know it has benefit, merit, and will help them. The problem is places like Enumclaw who don’t recognize the benefit, and whom it does not directly serve vote against it because it isn’t a lane coming to THEIR City.”

    TOM WROTE: “You will have to take [your concerns about Bus Rapid Transit] with Civil Engineers Dr. Harkness and James MacIsaac of the ETA [Eastside Transportation Association, http://eastsideta.com, and John Niles of CETA http://www.effectivetransportation.org/ ], all of whom say that BRT is MUCH cheaper than light rail.”

    ALEX WROTE: “It is (sometimes, not always) cheaper to SET UP BRT than it is to set up light rail, but it is then far more expensive to operate BRT, because gas is less efficient than electricity, and the operator to rider ratio is ridiculous with brt (1/100-150 vs. 1/800 or 1/1000 potentially with LRT). Also, due to induced demand, SR-67 and I-15 in SLC will be as badly jammed as they were [before], then what? Also, John Niles is just wrong. Once the light rail system is fully built out it WILL serve more than 1% of trips, it already serves 5% I believe in Seattle City, and seeing as it doesn’t really reach out of Seattle City much yet, it should be rising considerably once it does in the general metro area. IS it going to carry as many people as the freeways? No, because it won’t be as extensive as the freeways. We aren’t all Bill Gates, but it will carry as many people as the freeways combined within Seattle City do someday (probably 40-50 years down the road).”

    • Tom Lane

      Thanks to you and Boyer BL for posting articulate and passionate information at the Seattle Times thread.

      First, in Eastern King County, residents of Renton, Enumclaw, Covington, Kent, Maple Valley, and Black Diamond would vote overwhelmingly for Bus Rapid Transit (BRT), since they deal with horrible congestion on two lane roads (SR-169 and SR-410) while commuting into Renton and Tacoma (and they also deal with SR-164, the dangerous narrow and curvy Auburn-Black Diamond road, and the congested 272nd / SR-516 corridors). Remember, James MacIsaac’s great BRT plan serves these areas outside the urban growth boundary, including the SR-169, SR-410, SR-164, and SR-516. The map of his plan is presented above.

      Irregardless of your passion for light rail, since light rail is too expensive to build 20 to 30 miles out to Eastern King County, would you support widening these state highways for HOV lanes for BRT and carpools?

      I’ve studied and photographed SR-169, and there’s plenty of room to make it an 8 lane highway, complete with three GP lanes in each direction and one HOV lane in each direction. Click here for photos:

      Since a bike trail is already in place along the Cedar River between Maple Valley and Renton, then all we need is more lanes, to connect the great people of Eastern King County to the metro area. Interesting that the very affluent Maple Valley, with many Microsoft Employees who must commute to Bellevue, was voted in the top 10 cities to raise a family suburbs by Family Circle Magazine (2011): http://www.familycircle.com/family-fun/travel/best-towns-for-families/?page=10 Shouldn’t they also get a slice of the pie of transportation money that’s going towards mass transit?

      Unfortunately, the region’s transportation dollars are going towards light rail, instead of bus rapid transit. If Eastern King County was presented with the alternative, 55mph bus rapid transit from Maple Valley to Bellevue in 30 minutes, I believe they would vote for a regional BRT plan.

      2. You mention “Induced demand” from building more freeway lanes on SR-67, a bypass that reduced congestion on I-15 through part of Salt Lake City by 20%. However, that concern is not relevant to congestion reduction, either in Salt Lake, Seattle, Phoenix, or anywhere else. Loop freeways are built to reduce capacity on existing arterials and clogged surface streets, and therefore reduce congestion.

      Dr. William Eager found that adding only 6% more lanes would decrease Seattle area congestion by 36%: http://www.tdanet.com/tda_inc_downloads_page.htm Since the Seattle freeway system reached capacity decades ago, then Eager’s new plan is making up for lost time. However, yes, it will “fill up” as population continues to grow. Therefore, long term transportation planning requires consideration of adding more lanes along with bus rapid transit, bike lanes, bike trails, regional internet connectivity for tellecommuting (see John Niles’ web sites for more on this) decentralization of employment centers to the distant suburbs (i.e. by extending the urban growth boundary), etc.

      Personally, I favor decentralization to Eastern Washington with Frank Lloyd Wright’s Broadacre concept (or, something similar), along with Tellecomuting. The Seattle metro, at 4 million, is too large and even the BRT project of widening rural roads for HOV lanes is expensive. Due to frustration with large metros, interest in telecommuting is growing, and local areas of interest include Bend and Ashland, Oregon, Durango – Bayfield, Colorado, and Yucca Valley – Joshua Tree, California.

      3. As for John Niles, have you read his May 2011 testimony to the Puget Sound Regional Council? Less than 1% will ride light rail by 2040:

      From his web site are these two PDF’s on his testimony –

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Salt Lake City – Rio Rancho, New Mexico – NO Urban Growth Boundary = AFFORDABLE HOUSING on LARGE LOTS – More Photos Forthcoming

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* HEY SEATTLE * – VOTE YES on Kemper Freeman’s Initiative I-1125 – Protect Your Gas Taxes and Tolls – Stop Illegal East Link I-90 Light Rail – Stop the Destruction of Downtown Bellevue with an Ugly Transit Oriented Development -CLICK HERE –

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*CETA* Coalition for Effective Transportation Alternatives (Seattle) – John Niles – August 22, 2011 Letter to Ray La Hood advocates Bus Rapid Transit on I-90

* SEATTLE DISPLACEMENT COALITION * – John Fox and Carolee Colter – Defending Lower Income Apartment Residents against Greedy Smart Growth Developers and Seattle Politicians – CLICK HERE for web site & columns –

*GREEN ALTERNATIVE * to Smart Growth – *WATCH VIDEO* from Pique Architects – Do They Present Something SIMILAR to the “LANDSCAPE URBANISM” Concept of Harvard’s Dr. Charles Waldheim? Image Source: http://vimeo.com/user4133046/videos – Pique LLC of Bend, Seattle, & Montana –

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