Monday, June 1, 2015
The Myriad Forms of Transportation in Seattle: A Textbook for Urban Planners
Seattle is one of the world’s great cities with a unique culture founded upon its geography and history. Portland comes close while the iconoclastic approach to life is shared with San Francisco, but no United States city can match Seattle in the variety of transportation. Surrounded by water and encrusted with hills, Seattle is Adaptable. Seattle presents a veritable cornucopia of transportation - historic, modern, and futuristic. We sold the Seattle house in 1986. Thus we have virtually been absent from Seattle for three decades, except for changing planes at SeaTac. We were just back staying in downtown for a conference. I had forgotten what Seattle offered then, and has added to since. I don’t think any city in the United States, including New York City offers the variety of Seattle. First, we have the historic, extensive ferry system, the largest in the United States. which no other U.S. can claim -ferries within the Sound, to Canada, and even north to Alaska. Puget Sound also hosts seaplanes. Then we have the relatively rare trolley busses, including double articulated trolleys. The trolley busses are an adventure when stuck on a hill during the rare snowstorm. Then come the proliferating streetcars, also called trolley cars, and now light rail. The cars are also articulated trolleys. Some of the light rail runs underground. Hence Seattle has an articulated subway system, not to mention the pioneering subway at SeaTac Airport. Let us not forget the now standard busses, regular busses, double articulated busses, and double decker busses (shades of London). (King County) Metro Busses, (Sound) Busses, busses from Tacoma and Pierce County, and Snohomish County. Seven transit systems serve Seattle, clogging downtown streets. You can witness it all from high up the Space Needle. You want taxis. Yellow Cab Company offers yellow Ford Crown Vics and green Prius’. Orange Cab offers non-green, orange Prius’. There’s also water taxis. Tesla has a store in Seattle. Bicycles are for those in great shape. Bicyclists are the elite. They ignore pedestrians. Walking is for most of us. Some youngsters avail themselves of skateboards. Pedicabs are offered to tourists. Finally, totally unique, the one and only, classic, futuristic and original monorail from downtown to the Seattle Center, left over from the 1962 World’s Fair. Of course, Seattle lacks some forms of transit. It scrapped its cable cars, as did almost every other city. Finally, San Francisco can claim a transportation edge over Seattle. The city also lacks a cog railroad. If you want human driven rickshaws, motorized rickshaws, bullock carts, human carts, and elephants, go to India. If you want camels, go to Egypt.