I want to add to the great post Frank at OR wrote in response to Ted Van Dyk’s latest Crosscut piece calling for a transportation “mega-agency” with a directly elected board that would have control over both transit planning and roads planning. Frank takes the similar position to the one I made last time, but Frank goes into more detail. Trust me, as with everything he writes, the whole thing is worth the read.
I’ve got something to add to the argument. There are some huge advantages to a federated board relative to a directly elected one. First, a federate board can plan transportation and transit around other major regional agendas. When Bellevue approved this development, they had light rail in mind, and it helped having the Bellevue City councilwoman who approved the development be on the Sound Transit board. There is definitely a synergy between the council members and mayors approving development and planning their cities and the transportation agencies.
Secondly, elected officials working on the same board are going to have an easier time coordinating efforts amongst each other vis-à-vis elected officials in different agencies. Compare efforts like Rainer Valley zoning and the Bellevue Plan to the trouble that larger, directly-elected agencies like King County and the Port of Seattle have had dealing with something as straight-forward as a rail purchase. Months of negotiation and a final solution still hasn’t been reached.
Finally, a directly elected regional officer/board would look just like the port, with little accountability, no oversight, and terrible corruption. Want your city/county council members to have bargain with an agency like the Port?
Sure, an elected office with taxing authority would be able to get work done faster, but it would also be able to do damage much faster. The agency Rice-Stanton envision would have the power to dictate route planning for local agencies, literally franchising routes downward from on high. Imagine if a Ted Van Dyk, Tim Eyman or John Niles became chair of this regional transportation agency? It’d either be roads all roads with Van Dyk, complete tax shutdown with Eyman, or all buses all the time with John Niles. Transit haters could run routes that no one would ride and point to it as proof that transit is a waste. That doesn’t sound like an effective agency.
What we have currently is a group of local, elected officials who know their constituents and know their areas’ long term plans working together to create transportation packages to bring to voters who ultimately have the say on it all. That seems reasonable to me. What Eyman, Ted Van Dyk, and John Niles want is a regional agency subject to politicization and direct-election propaganda. In their vision, every four years a new group could come in and do away with the progress made in the last go. How is that to our region’s advantage?