There are two new interesting Pro-Prop 1 pieces out. The first one is a rather more enthusiastic piece from Hubert G. Locke, an elderly man who is actually for prop. 1, he calls voters to bring pragmatism and live ideology at home. The second is a less enthusiastic, but self-possessed pragmatic endorsement from Crosscut’s publisher, David Brewster.
A decade ago, Sound Transit was considered a disaster. Currently, it is hailed as a public enterprise that gets things done. Much of the credit, even Sound Transit critics acknowledge, goes to Joni Earl, Sound Transit’s CEO, who took over an agency with “a lousy reputation” and is credited with its near complete turnaround. Earl happens to be a public servant who turned down a raise five years ago based on her exceptional performance because Sound Transit had not achieved two major milestones it had set for itself. That kind of integrity, combined with the fact that she lives with public transportation issues every working day, makes Earl a voice I take seriously. So I asked her what advice she has for voters on Nov. 6.
True to her reputation for integrity, she was careful not to indicate how she thinks voters should cast their ballots. She points out, however, the two unarguable facts in all of this: Droves of people continue to move into our midst every year and we’ve delayed coming to grips with our transportation needs for far too long. No plan is perfect but now is the time, she says, to get on with it; “It’s only going to get more expensive if we delay.”
That’s sage counsel about a problem that won’t go away.
He knows what he is talking about. The transportation problem here just keeps coming up again and again, and as people keep moving here it gets worse and worse. This ballot measure seems to cover many of the points we care about: solutions to choke points that are broken only for lack of better infrastructure and a transit system to finally give people an alternative to driving.
On to Brewster. I was surprised he endorsed Prop 1, since he has written a number of pieces about how expensive light rail is on his site. His position is basically:
- This ballot isn’t perfect, but it is good enough to deserve support.
- The local elected officials who put the measure together will likely be the same ones who will draft the next ballot if we do make one. So defeat is not very likely to bring us something better. It’s a compromise now or a compromise later.
- Passing the ballot will lift a huge burden off the voters and the politicians, where they will be allowed to work toward the more simple and small-scale solutions that will serve their consistencies. Basically, we only need one large scale ballot measure like this over the long time.
I agree with Mr Brewser, on the last two points, but I actually think Prop. 1 is pretty good. I love any and all transit and think that many of the roads portions of RTID are actually very good, that only the 405 and “Cross-Base” parts of the roads parts are bad roads.
Mr Brewster makes some other interesting points:
It’s hard to imagine that our politics, after such a monumental defeat, would move to the sunny uplands. One reason is that the same folks who brought us Proposition 1, with all its lumps and compromises, will be the folks who would fashion Proposition 2. The political realities won’t change (except for the worse). The highways folks, steaming in traffic jams, still have a veto over the transit folks, dueling over their technologies — and vice versa. The Legislature still has the last say over authorizing taxes, and they still are as gunshy as ever about tax-revolt figures such as Tim Eyman (doubtless more so after the taxpayers say no). So these are the folks who will suddenly have the courage and statesmanship to start imposing tolls, slicing off service to Pierce and Snohomish counties, and gambling on a surface solution for the Viaduct?
Well said. This idea is also very valuable:
Fixing the choke points on our highways and bridges may seem immoral because it lets drivers keep driving their evil cars. But it also helps fight sprawl, by keeping major employers closer inside the urban boundaries rather than throwing up their hands and moving to Moses Lake or Spanaway. A basic cause of sprawl is companies moving far out, to avoid congestion and to get cheaper land and the ability to move their trucks.
If you keep making congestion worse, you get a few people who move close to a job or switch to transit but a lot more people who vote with their feet. The way to get people to use transit is not to torture them, but to build good transit that is safe, frequent, fairly fast, and cheap. And you can’t build transit by not building transit.
Emphasis added. A lot of greens think that we can simply do nothing and people will pick up transit because they love it or will have little choice. As long as there are places like Spanaway, Duvall and Moses Lake, people will move there to avoid congestion. That’s sprawl, and that’s all that we’ll get if we don’t fix the obvious choke points, such as the 405/520 interchange and the so-called “Mercer Mess” and build transit.
Both writers make the point that this is a lot of non-Seattle politicians making decisions for their own voters, as they should. Locke writes:
Prop. 1 is a regional transportation issue on which the good people of Pierce and Snohomish counties, as well as King, get a chance to be heard. Their votes will serve, it is hoped, as a counterbalance to those local voices that pontificate about transportation as if only Seattle has a stake in its outcome. They might serve also as a corrective to the cycling enthusiasts in our midst who often sound as though our transportation problems could be solved if we just all took to two-wheelers. Prop. 1 is challenging us to think like the region that we are, rather than trying to behave as if Mill Creek and Federal Way didn’t exist.
Sounds almost like he’s writing against the Sierra Club and the Stranger. Erica Barnett and Josh Feit at the Stranger both complained about the idea of running transit through now low-dense South King County, as did the Sierra Club’s Mike O’Brien. They even said that it could cause sprawl, how transit causes sprawl in places people already live, I don’t know. But the only way to turn Federal Way into something like Fremont, California or Mill Creek into something like San Bruno, is to build light rail there. ECB or Feit could never understand that, probably because neither has ever been to any of the four places I mentioned. And Brewster writes:
It’s been interesting to watch a new generation of political leadership emerge, figures like Julia Patterson of the King County Council, a resident of SeaTac who was raised on a small farm in South King County; Pierce County Council member Shawn Bunney, chair of the Regional Transportation Investment District; and Pierce County Executive John Ladenburg, chair of the Sound Transit board.
None is from Seattle, you notice. In fact, the one clear Seattle leader, King County Executive Ron Sims, having led the effort on Sound Transit and perhaps sensing how un-Seattlecentric it was becoming, jumped ship. At any rate, we’re way past due for some effective regional politics to come to maturity and not just defer to Seattle’s wishes, and this is Act I. Nor can Seattle expect, in the wake of a defeat of Proposition 1, to have any more clout, as its percentage of the regional population shrinks each year and its clout in Olympia keeps diminishing.
I don’t actually think that Sims jumped ship because it’s non-Seattle centric, and I don’t think that think that this ballot measure is overly anti-Seattle. But the fact is that it is a region plan, and it has a region purpose, and it serves the whole region reasonably well. Seattle gets a pretty good deal out of it too.
So we should vote for it.
Oh and the anti-Prop. 1 post? Ms Barnett of the Stranger in her usual form. Not much analysis there other than assuming it will fail without much evidence, and calling anyone who endorses Prop. 1 a “defeatist”. Nice. I wonder which of the three here actually thought this issue through more seriously?