In a triumph of bureaucratic innovation, Seattle officials tried to encourage the public to make use of a hugely expensive new transit system by banning all parking near the stations. In so doing, they provided a perfect example of government’s contemptuous, reckless and ubiquitous disregard for the people it’s supposed to serve and represent.
The residents of the city tried to make sense of the puzzling and novel policy in July, 2009, after the long delayed completion of the most expensive light rail project in US history. The heralded debut of “Central Link,” following fourteen years of controversy, cost-overruns, false starts, embarrassing federal audits and back-to-the-drawing-board reconsiderations, left many locals deeply disturbed, even outraged, by the system’s bizarre attempt to prevent people from using their cars to connect with the trains. The much-ballyhooed boondoggle (just the first stage of a vast future system scheduled for construction over the next thirty years) cost $2.4 billion for a meager 14 mile line—an unprecedented public investment of $179 million per mile (or an astonishing $100,000 per yard). The thirteen gleaming new stations feature millions of dollars worth of eye-catching public art but not a single parking place, except for a few coveted slots at the Tukwila station currently marking the end of the line.
What’s more, the imperious executives at Sound Transit decreed strict limitations even for on-street parking anywhere within a quarter mile of the lavish new stations. Anyone who attempts to park a few blocks away from the light rail line and then to board a train to get to work downtown will face a fine of $44 and potential towing-- with additional charges, of course.
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