Walking and the pedestrian environment
July 20, 2004
Letter to the Editor, part 2 (Seattle)

The original question/answer article resulted in an overwhelming number of people saying they love the viaduct. I guess they don't read my site. Here's my reply to an email from the PI:

This is part of the special feature Freeway Box, showcasing my old life next to freeway viaducts.

Thanks for forwarding, Mark. I forgot to include editor@ in my email. And by the way, when I said "if you've read the plans.." I didn't mean 'you' Mark, I meant 'you' everybody. I should have worded that a bit differently to not sound like I was criticizing the columnist!

Also, thanks for soliciting opinions and keeping the discussion alive for the viaduct. I was a bit surprised on Friday night when I ran into someone at a neighborhood event who was strongly opinionated in favor of keeping the viaduct (note: he doesn't live in my neighborhood). I thought he was a bit nutty because he felt that only 'elitists' wanted to remove the viaduct. I pointed out that there's a real negative impact for anyone trying to walk under the viaduct and carry on a conversation, and you have to own a car to drive the viaduct. Apparently I am an 'elitist' becase I live downtown, have only very small parks in my neighborhood, and try to walk my dog along the waterfront. I'm also an 'elitist' because I don't own a car and don't contribute to congestion. He was entirely dismissive of the car argument. 'It doesn't matter if you own a crappy old Toyota or a Mercedes - you can enjoy that public view!' The fact that it lasts only 20 seconds, and not everyone can afford the gas and liability insurance necessary to even own a crappy old Toyota, was lost on him.

Frankly, I was surprised at how confident this gentleman was. After reading your article, I understand that it's because most people that he talks to outside of downtown [have] the same opinion.

In my opinion, the viaduct fails the 'public ammenity' test because it's not a destination. When has anyone gone on a date on the viaduct? When has anyone gotten their friends together to go hang out on the viaduct? How has the viaduct increased sales tax revenue or property tax revenue to help the city's financial situation? Are people really drawn to visit downtown because they'll be able to enjoy the view of the viaduct? If so, why aren't we hearing the same thing about 520 and 90, which have arguably better views? I think it's only successful as a freight and traffic corridor and indirectly helping fill city or 'developer' coffers.

I hope that viaduct planning drags on for another decade or so. Once South Lake Union Park and the Olympic Sculpture Park are done and people get used to them, I think people may start to appreciate what an attractive waterfront could do for this city.

Rob Ketcherside
International District

Posted by Rob Ketcherside at July 20, 2004 7:23 AM
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