Virtually assuring the construction of a bayside trolley line, the Board of Port Commissioners on Tuesday approved spending $10 million to help pay for the proposed $40-million line, which will service several of the Port District's largest tenants.
The money--less than trolley officials had sought and more than the Port District's staff had recommended--means the Bayside Line will be ready by the time the convention center opens in the district in mid-1989, said James Mills, Metropolitan Transit Development Board chairman.
"I'm very pleased . . . I think this is a good example of agencies cooperating," Mills said.
In May, the transit board had asked the commission for $20 million. Last month, however, MTDB requested a contribution that reflected the Port District's gain from the bayside line, estimated by Mills at $11 million to $14 million.
Analyzed Line's Impact
In response, the Port District's staff made a Bayside Line analysis, an exercise that the district's executive director, Don Nay, characterized as "necessarily somewhat subjective."
The staff report--which debunked or substantially undercut many of the direct benefits to the Port District that trolley officials claimed--recommended that the Board of Port Commissioners contribute either $6.3 million or $9.5 million, emphasizing the lower amount as being more justified.
The report said much of the increased cost of the Bayside Line stemmed from a decision to extend the tracks to the County Administration Center, an action the staff concluded was of minimal benefit to the Port District.
Additionally, the report noted, other expenditures, such as a consolidation and relocation of a freight switching yard, the cost of hiring a company to manage construction of the line and the number of light rail vehicles needed to service the line, either had no direct benefit to the district or were overpriced.
Deflated Other Assumptions
The report also deflated other key assumptions made by MTDB.
The Port District concluded that, while employees of bayside hotels or Seaport Village--particularly blue-collar workers in the South Bay--might use the trolley rather than drive to work, freeing parking space for customers, the Port District's tenants would benefit most. The change in commuting wouldn't increase the Port District's revenue, the staff concluded.
The report also said it was doubtful that out-of-town conventioneers would use the trolley to travel between the convention center and their hotels, and that local citizens who would use the line to attend trade shows and other functions don't produce hotel income or room taxes for the Port District.
Mills took issue with most of the report's key findings, saying that the report was indeed a "subjective" analysis.
The port commissioners were much more sympathetic to MTDB's request than the Port District's staff. "We don't know scientifically how to go about doing this," Commissioner Bill Rick said.
Rick, who made the motion to provide the $10 million--which was approved unanimously--said it is obvious that both the city and the Port District will continue to experience rapid growth and that the district will benefit from "employment or enjoyment" in the process.
Chairman Dan Larsen said the Bayside Line "will be beneficial for everyone in the future. It will be a benefit for everyone."