Councilmember Licata left office on January 1, 2016.
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Urban Politics #179: Survey Question On Monorail Route

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By City Councilmember Nick Licata.

Urban Politics (UP) blends my insights and information on current public policy developments and personal experiences with the intent of helping citizens shape Seattle’s future.



  • Survey Question On Monorail RouteTHE MAYOR’S PROPOSAL
  • NW Route Considerations
  • Mercer Route Considerations
  • Public Hearing
  • Final Comments

Survey Question On Monorail Route

The City Council will most likely take a vote on the Monorail route at its May 3rd Committee of the Whole meeting. However, as it is now there may be portions of the route that the Council will refrain from voting on until a Full Council meeting is held later, most likely in June.

Perhaps the most contentious portion of the Monorail route involves the Seattle Monorail Project’s proposal (made by both their staff and board) to go through the northwest portion of the Seattle Center (referred to as the Northwest Route).

Specifically the route travels from the current site of the Northwest Rooms, along the pathway extending from Republican Street to north of the International Fountain, and then curving south between the Center House and Memorial Stadium, through the Fun Forest, then through the Experience Music Project to 5th Avenue.

The portion of the Northwest Route that comes closest to the grassy area south of the International Fountain consists of 3 columns that will be about 5 and-a-half feet in diameter, unless they are tapered at the top, in which case they could go to 6 feet. They will be spaced approximately 100 feet apart. The guideway will most likely be about 17 feet wide. For comparison 2nd Avenue is 54 feet wide from curb to curb. The bottom of the guideway will also be about 60 feet above the ground, roughly equivalent to the height of a five to six story building.

The base of the monorail columns should be about 135′ from the edge of the concrete surrounding the Center’s fountain and that concrete is another 60′ feet from the edge of the fountain itself. For comparison, the downtown city blocks between University and James along 2nd Avenue are 240 ft long.

The alternative would send it down Mercer Street instead, crossing over Mercer from the Seattle Center north of the Northwest Rooms and then down the north side of Mercer until it crosses Mercer again to go down 5th Avenue. It would have a total of 3 straddle bents (horizontal support beams that straddle the road) at the following locations: one on Mercer at Warren, one on Mercer just before 5th, and one at 5th just past Mercer. There would be one column on each side of the street where the straddle bents are located, each being about 4 ft in diameter.

Much has been written on this particular section of the route. There are critics and proponents. Below I’ve listed my considerations for both the Northwest Route and the Mercer Street Route.

I’m asking my Urban Politics readers to answer the question:

Do you support the monorail’s Northwest Route through the Seattle Center?

NO or YES or UNDECIDED or EITHER (but cannot respond BOTH)

(The alternative would be Mercer Street)

I’m asking you to answer this question twice if you would like. The first time, without reading the material below and the second time after you’ve read it.

Please place your answer in the subject line in this manner. This will make it easier to compile responses.





If you do not want to answer twice then just write back YES or NO in the subject line.

Below is a list of considerations for both Seattle Center routes. Our Council Central Staff primarily drew up these considerations.

—— NW Route Considerations —–

– This alternative is the preferred alternative of the Seattle Center Stakeholders group (a group made up of the groups that utilize the center, neighborhood groups, surrounding businesses, and festivals).

Note: the big 3 festivals do not agree, citing noise and visual impacts to the festivals and believe their attendance and revenue would be adversely impacted during the construction period in particular.

– Doesn’t affect future plans on 5th Avenue by Center for the theater district concept

– Potentially hampers development possibilities in future on Memorial Stadium site

– Requires relocating sections of the Fun Forest and therefore interrupting those rides being used for part of the year

– Shorter section of guideway and columns from Queen Anne station to 5th & Broad Station (an estimated 3,000 linear feet less, and 18 fewer columns than Mercer Route)

– Citizen input has stated it will visually detract from the ‘park like’ nature of the internal section of the center, considered ‘sacred space’ by some, which consists primarily of an open grassy area and trees. More than half of the 4.9 acres of grassy area is located on the far side of the fountain, away from the monorail.

– Lengthy construction time on Center grounds (18-24 months), although the Center has negotiated that no construction will occur during the festivals and pedestrians will be able to transverse the monorail construction area at a number of points during the entire construction period.

– The Seattle Center gains about $4.60 million Net Present Value (NPV) from leasing space to SMP for the Monorail Station and Guideway, which will help the long-term financial viability of the Seattle Center.

– Less cost for SMP (the number that has been mentioned is $10 to $15 million more for the Mercer Route – these numbers were preliminary, and have not been updated by SMP nor validated by the City)

– Fewer Trees would be removed than Mercer Route (20 trees lost, 24 trimmed for NW route). According to SMP the trees located just to the north of the NW line will probably not be adversely affected since monorail project columns and foundations on the south side, we will be well outside the critical root zone for the trees along the north side; SMP will not be using large underground foot pads for its columns there.

– Allows use of the EMP’s ‘hole’ so the monorail will go through it

——- Mercer Route Considerations —–

– All of the theater representatives oppose this route stating that they believe it would impact the Center’s future goal of a ‘theater district’ and inhibit the ability to widen sidewalks on south side of Mercer, and the development of parcels on the north side of Mercer by the Center

– Eight feet of travel lane on Mercer St. would be used, possibly removing one of the drop-off locations for the theaters, and may hamper a future 2-way Mercer

– Doesn’t impact the serenity of the grassy ‘center’ of the Seattle Center with noise or a physical presence

– The Fun Forest won’t have to be reconfigured and therefore will be open without interrupting some of the rides.

– Uses more guideway and columns between QA Station and 5th & Broad Station (an estimated 3000 linear feet more and 18 more columns with 3 straddle bents)

– Opposed by three Queen Anne community groups; they have said that they would feel that it would cut them off from Center, and it may hamper redevelopment of the QFC site at Warren Avenue.

– A significant visual impact on Mercer Street because of the use of 3 straddle beams to traverse Mercer Street twice.

– Greater impact on traffic on Mercer Street and 5th Ave (on the east side of the campus) during construction

– Construction timing will affect the festivals far less than the NW route, and therefore would have much less of a negative financial impact on them

– Seattle Center would lose $1.8 million (net present value) from revenue of the Monorail’s leasing space over the Center for their guideway.

– Greater cost to SMP (the number that has been mentioned is $10 to $15 million more for the Mercer Route, but these numbers were preliminary, and have not been updated by SMP or validated by the City.

– Impacts a greater number of trees (30-40 trees on Mercer Street and 16 trees on Warren Avenue). They may be more mature and therefore closer to the natural end of their life cycle.

– Does not allow use of the EMP’s ‘hole’ so the monorail will go through it

Public Hearing

The City Council will hold a public hearing on legislation to approve the alignment for the monorail on Monday, April 26 at 4:30 p.m. in the City Council Chambers, in the 2nd floor of the Municipal Building at 600 4th Avenue between Cherry and James (entrance currently on 5th Avenue). Sign-up begins at 4 p.m.

The alignment legislation would give approval for an alignment, both horizontal and vertical, for the monorail. It would not grant the use of City streets or the use of Seattle Center property; this legislation will be considered later.

You can view the legislation, Council Bill 114873, by going to and typing the bill number in the “Council Bill No- field.

Final Comments

The Monorail ballot did not mention whether the monorail would go through the Seattle or around it. That decision was to be determined later. Now that we have reached that time, there remains a some uncertainty on the City Council on which of the two above routes better meets the public’s needs. But I also realize that no matter which route is chosen, there will be drawbacks to that selection and in the end there will be people upset with the choice.

Those opposed to the NW Route, argue that the Center is a park and should not be a transportation corridor. Those in favor note that the Center is an activity center accommodating up to 50,000 people a day during the festivals and as many as ten million visitors a year.

Those opposed believe that the NW Route will detract from the Center experience and ultimately hurt its attendance, and consequently its finances. Those in favor argue that with 30,000 monorail weekday riders looking down on the Center grounds, more people will want to visit it and thus its attendance will increase and contribute to more revenue.

The Center presents a unique experience for all of us and ultimately the question before the Council is which route will best serve the public who visit the Center and those that ride the monorail. The list of considerations I’ve presented above, captures what I see as the pros and cons in this Hobson ‘s choice. But in the end, whichever route is chosen, the voters made the decision to build the monorail and I would like to see their decision come to fruition.

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