There’s a remote chance I might get my dream streetcar yet.
Mayor Jenny Durkan has to get her way and increase the ridesharing tax on Uber and Lyft inside the city by about a half dollar per ride. There’s also a proposed minimum wage for drivers, but the tax would let the downtown streetcar be built, along with getting us some housing we’ve been waiting for since 1989.
The tax increase would triple the tax on the two companies per ride. A Lyft spokesperson has claimed as a result there’d be a 300 percent increase in costs to customers. Really? Not unless the average Lyft customer has been getting away with paying just 25 cents per trip, and neither Lyft nor the driver has made any money off the trips.
I think what the Lyft spokesperson might have done there is to conflate the increased tax with the effect of a minimum wage for drivers. These are two separate issues.
With the minimum wage proposal, the mayor is going places I can’t imagine. I have no idea how that could be worked out. What hours do the drivers work? How are the hours computed? Are they working just when there’s a passenger on board, or does the trip to pick up the passenger also count as time on the clock?
Should down time between trips count as time worked too? If not, wouldn’t the minimum wage need to be set that much higher? The drivers have to be able to buy a cheeseburger now and then to feed themselves and their children, right? Or don’t they have children?
Then at what point is the whole business too expensive, where customers really do have to pay three times more? What with the high cost of ensuring drivers get to eat and pay rent rather than live in their cars?
And then, when Uber and Lyft give up business in Seattle, do I still get my downtown streetcar? I want it, I want it, I want it! It should have been built by now!
I’ve been really patient about this. I only complained in 30 or so columns about the tunnel viaduct replacement. Barely a squeak here and there, 30 or so times. All I ever said in earnest complaint was that I’d rather they just filled in the bay and paved it completely, so drivers could go straight from Seacrest Park, West Seattle to Interbay and 15th West. The simplest possible solution. No need for Bertha.
I’ve never complained, not once, about the tearing down of the viaduct for the waterfront park that I’m sure I won’t like.
My friends will ooh and aah over the waterfront park while I stew in my own steaming bile. I’m fully expecting that it will be the next most popular thing in Seattle, this park I won’t like, right up there with the Space Needle that I’ve hated since 1962. And that ferris wheel.
I’ve accepted all that on one condition. I want my downtown streetcar.
You know what? I’m upping the demand. I now want not only the First Hill streetcar connected to the South Lake Union streetcar by means of the downtown connector. I also want the Denny end of the First Hill streetcar connected to the north end of the SLUS by any means necessary.
We built a 52-foot-wide tunnel one and three-quarters miles under downtown for cars, so we could certainly run streetcars from Broadway and Denny to Eastlake.
I suggest running them out on a gleaming bridge above Eastlake into a big, streetcar-sized elevator that lowers them to the SLUS tracks below. It’d be Space Age-ish, just like we like everything in this city. We’ll shoot fireworks from it every New Year’s.
Yes. There could be a restaurant inside the giant elevator, so people eating dinner can watch out their windows as they go up and down with each train raised or lowered. Tourists will come just to ride the Space Age Streetcar Elevator while eating their ribs and mac and cheese, or whatever people like to eat in overpriced restaurants. How would I know? I eat cheeseburgers.
“But why,” some say, “a downtown streetcar? Why choose this as our goal?” They may as well ask, “Why climb the highest mountain?”
“We choose to build a downtown streetcar in this decade and do the other things not because they are easy, but because they are hard....” — JFK, almost.
Dr. Wes Browning is a one time math professor who has experienced homelessness several times. He supplied the art for the first cover of Real Change in November of 1994 and has been involved with the organization ever since. This is his weekly column, Adventures in Irony, a dry verbal romp of the absurd. He can be reached at drwes (at) realchangenews (dot) org
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