RTID is a compromise

Josh Feit of The Stranger has a very kooky argument against the RTID. Something about net-present value and inflation and loans that basically falls apart when serious thought is put to it. He complains:

However, I am not able to stomach $6.7 billion or $14 billion on roads—roads— when I was told by everyone in town that $3 billion or $11 billion was too much for mass transit.

As Frank over at Orphan Road pointed out, the $14 billion figure is for roads all over the tri-county area. The $11 billion figure is for one line in the city. Comparing the two is virtually meaningless. And if you don’t drive a car, then you won’t even pay much for RTID because it is mostly paid for by MVET ($80 per $10,000 assessed value), with only a .1% increase in sales tax. It’s not much money, $10 for every $10,000 spent.

He also hammers on about the “carbon footprint” of the RTID which is a strawman argument. Here’s a reductio ad absurdum about the carbon footprint argument. Suppose you oppose anything that will increase “carbon footprints” (like roads), and support anything with the potential to reduce it. Then you should oppose RTID because it will increase the “carbon footprint” of the region, and you should support ST2 because it could decrease the “carbon footprint”. But you should also support destroying I-5 because that would decrease the “carbon footprint” of the region. So let’s destroy all roads and outlaw gas and we can live like cavemen with no carbon footprint but the wood we burn to cook our food.

Look, I’m an environmentalist, I’m not gung-ho about RTID, I don’t like the cross-base highway, and most of the projects won’t have much positive effect for me at all. The only one that would have any effect on me, replacing 520, isn’t even completely funded in the proposal. However it is a pill I’m willing to swallow if I am going to be able to take a train to see my little brother in the UD, or to buy some shoes downtown. We can’t sit and wait for the perfect propsal that pleases everyone, we have to accept what will make the best compromise and move forward from there.




Comments

  1. I’ve been out of town for a few days, so just catching up. But, I find your response to the climate concerns re: RTID projects quite disturbing, or at least showing a profound underestimation of the problem.

    I’m going to be testifying tomorrow morning at the RTID meeting in favor of the joint ballot because RTID staff and board have made some fundamental improvements to the RTID package and, more importantly, because it’s essential that we get the ST2 going as quickly as possible.

    However, there is no way you can just flippantly dismiss the carbon footprint of the new RTID road projects, if they are built and operated as hoped for by their proponents.

    In Washington state, our biggest source of carbon emissions is transportation. Gov. Gregoire and the legislature have stated that we must cut emissions 50% below 1990 levels by 2050 (about 60% below current levels). Scientists argue we need to reduce emissions a minimum of 80% below current levels by 2050 to achieve climate stability, thereby avoiding the most catastrophic impacts of climate change. So, not only must we stop digging the hole deeper on our biggest source of carbon emissions, we need to cut them drastically.

    Building out Link light rail, beefing up commuter and intercity rail service, adding some BRT lines, expanding bus service with cleaner vehicles, improving bike/ped facilities and dramatically changing land use practices will all be critical to reducing VMT to the level necessary to drastically cut transportation emissions. (Clean car technology and cleaner fuels are also part of the puzzle, but nothing on the next 40 year horizon will be enough avoid a need to dramatically cut VMT).

    Most of the new capacity that will be built under RTID exacerbates this problem dramatically. In theory, we probably should shut down I-5, but you very well know that it is much easier to not build something than it is shut down capacity that already exists. But, needless to say, radical changes in how we live and move around will be necessary.

    As I said, I and my organization-Environment Washington- will be supporting the joint ballot because we must build out ST2 ASAP to help achieve changed land use patterns and the alternative network to get people out of their cars. But, most of the new lane miles in the RTID package are indeed quite harmful and we will do everything in our powers to in some cases prevent projects from being built (through legal and legislative action), change the form of others with the same tactics, and price the rest.

  2. The package seems fairly impressive. I agree that it’s not perfect, but nothing ever will be. This is, however, an impressive start to a solutution.

    It drastically reduces the tri-counties’ carbon footprint. Between fixing various traffic problems and improving the light rail system, people will spend a lot less time on the roads.

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