Home > Transit > Light Rail: Transporting the scum of Seattle since 2009

Light Rail: Transporting the scum of Seattle since 2009

January 16, 2011 Leave a comment Go to comments

“There have been numerous studies that suggest that, uh, light rail makes it easier for some folks who are not always…  welcome [ nervous laughter ] because of their personal intents uh, to, uh…  it makes it easier to get here” – Joseph Rosmann of Build a better Bellevue interviewed on King 5 TV’s “Up Front”

This quote neatly encapsulates one of the more offensive and incoherent arguments I hear against light rail.  According to Build a Better Bellevue, Sound Transit’s East Link will make it easier for miscreants, from the wretched hive of scum and villainy that is Seattle, to descend in hordes upon our pristine shores.  Being a user of transit as well as a bus driver, I can authoritatively say that this line of thinking is complete bunk.  Light rail trains have video cameras, are randomly patrolled by fare enforcement officers, and have a more noticeable security presence than most of the bus system.  While not perfect, these features make Sound Transit’s trains a less cozy environment for those with less than honorable “personal intents”.  Given the relative lack of visible security on our bus system, a bus is a much friendlier environment for those intent on carrying out ill deeds.  It goes without saying that buses from Seattle already ply the roadways of Bellevue and can, even as I type this, bring those who would do evil deeds into your safe and quiet bedroom community.

As a bus driver, I do occasionally ferry patrons around who don’t pay their fare, are drunk, rowdy, or even seem intent on criminal activity.  However the vast majority of passengers I transport are just normal folks trying to get where they are going; Work, school, the store, or the doctor’s office is the destination of choice for most – not a seedy location to score a dime-bag of heroin or steal a suburban Mom’s jewelry.  To be clear, in the last 4 years of riding and/or driving buses virtually every day of the week, I have only come across one or two instances where I felt any real personal danger.  Given that 30,797 people were killed in car accidents the US in 2009, driving to work is far more dangerous than risking contact with an axe murderer on the bus – And yes, there was one such murder.  In 2008.  In Canada.  Given our current political environment, you’re probably more at risk going to your local grocery store.  For the record, Jared Loughner arrived by car, not bus or light rail, to shoot 18 and kill 6.

To the BBB folks I say, can you stop with the FUD? There are plenty of pro-transit/BRT/HOV/Bike path/Vanpool arguments that could potentially address congestion and could gain traction with reasonable folks like myself.  Sadly you seem more intent on sowing fear instead of truly “building a better Bellevue”.  Frankly, reasonable people should be wondering about other claims your group has made.  That said, I wholeheartedly agree with one thing that Mr Rosmann said: “it [light rail] makes it easier to get here”.  Um, yeah… isn’t that the whole point?

Categories: Transit
  1. Mike from Bmore
    January 17, 2011 at 12:04 am

    Just a note – home invasions, car thefts and “petty crimes” increased by over 33% in Owings Mills, MD after the opening of MTA Lightrail line from Camden to OM. Property values fell due to increase in crime numbers, etc. etc. It’s not a baseless argument to say that criminals just might take the trip out to happier hunting grounds… Look it up!

    • January 17, 2011 at 3:29 pm

      Mike, your comment really feels like classic “FUD” – In this case quoting statistics that may be made up or taken out of context. The only crime information I can find on Owens Mills shows very limited crime. Given the extremely low level of crime in OMM, a 33% jump could result from a single rape or only 2 or 3 more burglaries. If you are going to quote statistics about crime and link it to light rail you need to include crime rates over time and also give comparable dates for the development of the light rail line.

      For those in the Seattle suburbs, such as Bellevue, Mercer Island, and Redmond – all very desirable and wealthy neighborhoods – who want to keep crime out of their neighborhoods by keeping light rail out I’d say this: You are about 40 years too late since all of these areas are already linked to Seattle by bus service. The buses work pretty well, when they aren’t stuck in traffic. That’s why a majority of us here voted to build light rail.

      For what it’s worth, I was able to find various blog entries that talked about the light rail line you mention. I don’t really want to get into all the nitty gritty, but frankly, it sounds like an example of how NOT to develop light rail. It appears to be a suburban line used almost exclusively by park & ride commuters going into Baltimore. Our line will have a couple of park & rides but will also link Microsoft’s corporate campus with downtown Bellevue, Mercer Island (a suburban community near Seattle), and downtown Seattle. There is an existing mix of high density housing, shopping, entertainment venues, and restaurants along the existing bus route that will be replaced by light rail over here. In short, the two systems don’t sound anything alike. If you want to help us learn from the mistakes of Baltimore, I’m all ears.

  2. January 17, 2011 at 12:41 am

    I agree the argument about undesirable folks attracted to light rail is bunk. For what it’s worth, when I’ve interacted person-to-person over the past five years with Bellevue residents who focus on light rail and transit, I’ve never heard that concern expressed. Never.

    I’ll also note that as a bus (and rail mass transit) rider for over 50 years, I’ve experienced very few encounters where I felt uncomfortable from personal encounters with other people. I remember them all. And, while driving or riding in a car, I’ve experienced fewer such encounters.

  3. T rider
    January 17, 2011 at 4:02 pm

    Look it up, indeed. For one, Owings Mills is served by Baltimore Metro Subway, not Light Rail. For two, the station opened in the mid 80’s, about 25 years ago, and for three, the crime went up, yes, but the increase mirrored statistics in the surrounding areas not including the station. For four, the 33% figure cited is inflammatory and injects FUD as the actual numbers are small.

    In a study in Denver specifically focused on crime statistics before and after the construction of light rail, findings revealed that NO crime increased after construction of the station.

    In a study in Los Angeles, crime was shown to actually *decrease* after the construction of light rail.

    Sutdies have shown that as the distance between the criminal’s origin and the potential target increases, it is less likely that the criminal will commit a crime in that potential target area. It *is* baseless to say that criminals just might take the trip out to other hunting grounds. Look it up!

  4. Sherwin L.
    January 17, 2011 at 4:34 pm

    I suppose you’re aware, Mike, of the saying that correlation doesn’t always imply causation?

  5. R R
    January 19, 2011 at 10:39 am

    The many times I’ve used the Bellevue Transit Center, I’ve been impressed by the diversity of the people there. It’s a nice cross-section of the PNW and the people using it are clearly there to ride transit. It’s a good resource for anyone in the region that relies on or chooses to use transit, and I assume light rail in downtown Belleuve will be used the same way.

    If you only drove on Bellevue Way, you’d think of Bellevue as being one-dimensional. Step away a few blocks, and you see that it’s wonderfully not.

  1. January 18, 2011 at 12:54 pm

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