Looking Back at Seattle Transit’s ‘Forward Thrust’
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Looking Back at Seattle Transit’s ‘Forward Thrust’

October 10, 2019


Seattle has been growing — rapidly — for years. And there’s one thing that newcomers always ask: “Where’s the subway?” “How come there aren’t any trains?” “I thought the Seattle was this big, sophisticated city?” Well, the story begins almost 50 years ago in 1968, when many major cities started building mass transit. Seattle had a plan, too, called “Forward Thrust.” As one progressive leader said, “People will come. You either prepare for them or you don’t.” Lots of great civic projects were on that ballot in February, 1968. In order to “thrust” the region forward, the big one was a 47-mile rapid-rail system with 32 stations. It would cost King County taxpayers $400 million, with the Federal government paying the rest. The voters chose:
A covered stadium, parks and recreation, highways, and sewers. They did not choose (*buzzing noise*) — rapid transit. But Forward Thrust was not about to stop thrusting, and the feds really wanted to help. Two years later, Forward Thrust tried again. But something had changed. The country was in recession. Boeing laid off nearly 75 percent of its Seattle employees. Voters weren’t in the mood for new taxes, no matter how good of a deal it was. The thrusting has come to an end. And the $900 million in Federal money? It went to Atlanta, which built a shiny, new subway system. Twenty year later, voters said “We should have trains!” and approve a 25-mile light-rail system, (*Cheering*) immediately followed by years of arguing about where it would go and how much it would cost. And then, lots of people fell in love… with the Monorail. In 1997, they said “Let’s build it too, all over the city!” City residents approve a plan, and lots of money is spent acquiring property before the entire idea falls apart and is scrapped. Finally, in 2009, we have a light-rail line. It is 14 miles long, from downtown Seattle to the airport. In another seven years, it goes to Capitol Hill and all the way to the University of Washington. *Cheering* People love the trains, and voted for more. Soon, trains will go to Northgate, Lynnwood and Bellevue. *Train bell rings* Sound Transit 3 — if approved — will be a $54 billion plan that includes 62 new miles of light rail to Ballard, West Seattle, and all the way to Redmond, and Issaquah, Everett to the north, and south to Tacoma. And it will open in 2041, just 73 years after the first Forward Thrust. “In Close” on KCTS 9 is made possible in part by BECU.

7 Comments

  • Reply Jim Dayworth October 14, 2016 at 9:27 pm

    Let's repeat mistakes of the past. Vote for ST3!

  • Reply John Niles October 15, 2016 at 6:27 pm

    If history is any indication, hundreds of thousands of people across the three county Sound Transit tax district will vote against the $54 billion ST3 25 year expansion plan for any one of dozens of reasons. Whether a majority of voters will want to fund more light rail before the first two phases are completed remains to be seen. The official forecast numbers from Sound Transit indicate that the yield of happy transit riders per dollar of investment is going to be much higher with the already funded segments of light rail than with the still-to-be-decided ST3 for which the balloting concludes on November 8. For musical entertainment on the ST3 issue, look up Seattle Train Wreck right here on YouTube.

  • Reply Tyler Simpson October 15, 2016 at 6:59 pm

    Saying it opens in 2041 isn't so accurate, Issaquah-Kirkland opens in 2041. Everything else is sooner. The first project would open in under 7 years from now. WS in 14.

  • Reply Govanification October 18, 2016 at 6:18 am

    Wtf is this leprechaun story tone they used in this whole video?

  • Reply stearnsand October 18, 2016 at 7:01 pm

    Nice video! However, the initial Sound Transit plan was approved by voters in 1995, not 1990 as this video indicates at 1:53.

  • Reply Frank C March 22, 2017 at 11:23 pm

    My few thoughts:
    900 Million went to Atlanta's railway system but didn't make Atlanta a better city than Seattle, IMO better public transportation facilitates higher crime rates.
    If Seattle voted YES 30 years ago, train fleets now are facing huge cost to cover the replacement.
    People would have been paying the maintenance costs for something proved to be not really necessary.

  • Reply James H September 8, 2017 at 12:13 am

    Seattle has been left in the dust by virtually every major city in the United States and people are saying "Well since the monorail was a failure lets just never get a mass transit system ever." And then they go on to complain at why traffic sucks in Seattle so much. Gee maybe there would be less cars on the freeway if people took light rail. This isn't LA ok, Seattle is densely populatated and comparitively small by land area so just a view lines of light rail would cover everyone. Also if everyone want to be so environmentally friendly why don't we drive less and have a train system. Sometimes people in Seattle are just so fucking stubborn.

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