It looks like Seattle will get a chance to recall its monorail in November. Pro-monorail campaigner Grant Cogswell is pretty steamed about that: “Seattle is all about different kinds of people going to every neighborhood and getting to know each other. That’s why Seattle isn’t like those harsher, freeway-oriented cities like Houston and L.A. We’re a gentler city.” Rail is often sold as a way to get the community mixing again. No more hiding in your cars, now you’ll be associating with all kinds of people you’d never encounter on your way to work. Seems you could also achieve this by, say, going to a Mariners’ game. Plus veteran subway riders know how good straphangers are at completely ignoring those around them. It’s the transit user’s game face. And now freeways make a city harsh? LA is actually near the bottom of the list in per-capita freeway miles. Maybe that makes Angelinos less harsh. Also, transit officials have long favored building rail to get wealthy motorists out of their cars, while neglecting bus service for the transit dependent poor. Now that might be harsh.
Ted Balaker is an award-winning filmmaker, journalist, and founding partner of Korchula Productions, a film and new media production company devoted to making important ideas entertaining.