Constellations

cc_constellationWhile we’re on the subject of art, one interesting tidbit I learned about at the MLK Street Fair was the origin of the pictograms associated with each station. It turns out they’re supposed to be constellations, as explained in this brochure.

The basic idea is that one plots out the locations of several points of interest in the vicinity of each station, and then connects those points in a way that suggests some shape, which then becomes the pictogram.

For example, in the Columbia City “map” at right, the leftmost “star” is the light rail station, and the other stars are various landmarks along Rainier Avenue. All in all, it requires a healthy dose of imagination, but no more so than real constellations.

I suppose the pictogram program is an attempt to make the system more accessible for the illiterate and non-English-speaking, and that’s fine enough. It might not have hurt to come up with a scheme a bit easier to reverse-engineer, but how such a scheme would work isn’t immediately clear.

Parking Maximum Makes Sense

This idea from the Stranger’s Erica Barnett makes a ton of sense. Especially around light-rail stations, we shouldn’t need more than a single parking spot per residential unit. Tying it to the number of residential units makes less sense than the number of bedrooms. I would make the law like this: in dense areas -especially those around light rail stations – aparments get half spaces baseline, and an additional half a space for each bedroom. So a building with 40 studios would have 20 spots, and a building with 40 one bedrooms would have at most 40 spots, and a building with 40 two bedrooms could have at most 60 spots.

What do you guys think? Is putting a cap on parking spaces a good idea or more nanny-statism?

Another Little Improvement For Amtrak Cascades

Every year or two, we get rid of one more place where people can cross the train tracks. This time it’s one we’ve all been holding our breath for – Royal Brougham. The state, city, and federal governments (not to mention several others) are about to start work on elevating the roadway over the track, increasing safety for sports fans and increasing reliability for our trains.

The amount of freight going through here is immense. What seems to happen at this crossing is that a freight train will pass by, and someone will walk out behind it, assuming it’s safe – only to be hit by a train coming the other way, on the next track over. I’ve gotten to sit on a delayed Amtrak train down at Spokane Street to wait for the coroner more than once.

It’s easy to blame individuals for walking on the tracks (and seriously, how dumb do you have to be to go around the gate?), but that doesn’t solve the on-time performance problem this creates, or the delay for cars and people when a train is moved through the intersection on the way to and from King Street Station and the yard. So we’re slowly removing the problem crossings.

There are a few others funded – I think they’re all between Seattle and Tacoma, as that’s probably the most heavily utilized track in the region, and it goes through downtown Kent, Auburn, Puyallup, and Sumner – cities that will probably continue to grow as our commuter rail service matures and expands.

Here’s a map. You can see the new overpass there at Royal Brougham, which includes a very square looking little loop to get back to ground level. There will also be a pedestrian elevator on the west side with a ramp on the east – this will make it slightly more of a pain in the butt to get over to light rail. The big curved line is the offramp connection from I-90 to the existing Atlantic St. overpass. By the way – note that a single grade separation, a new offramp, and an intersection rebuild costs over $180 million (unless I’m mistaken, and that cost includes the Atlantic overpass as well, but still). These projects are not cheap – it always gets my goat when people say things like light rail are ‘too expensive’. Relative to what? This is the same as the cost of two elevated light rail stations.

Link Architecture In the P-I

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This P-I piece by their architecture critic talks about the interesting way architecture in Link stations and there’s a companion piece by the P-I’s art critic on Sound Transit’s public art program, “STart”. The two pieces are accompanied by a beautiful gallery of photos of the various art installations and station architecture. If you don’t know, Sound Transit spends one percent of non-tunnel capital expenditures on public art, which means all 1% of the amount spent on constructing tracks, elevated segments, park-and-rides and Sounder and Links stations is spent on public art.

In net, it’s a good thing, and the authors of the two pieces agree. Regina Hacket, the art critic calls Sound Transit’s art program “phenomenally effective”. On architecture, Lawrence Cheek of the first pieces speaking about the Link stations “they are colorful, richly detailed and considerate of human scale. Some seem likely to become emblems of their neighborhoods, and the whole system may speak well of Seattle”. Great.

Some of the art is really awesome and has won awards, some of it makes people – as Martin put it – “mad beyond reason” (I guess the one thing the 43rd democrats have in common with Tim Eyman is that neither likes Sound Transit’s art). I don’t like all of it, but it’s hard to argue that it’s not nice having it.

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The art I like the best is the series of temporary pieces at the corner of Broadway and John in the buildings that will soon be torn down for the Capitol Hill station. It puts what otherwise would be a dead space on the street to some use, and it gives local artists an audience that might otherwise not ever see their art. Some of them are really great, and engage the passer-by, especially at night, see the image above.

I haven’t had a chance to judge all of the architecture of Link, but I have been in the Tukwila station a few times, and I love it. It looks great from the outside, and inside it’s a wonderful monument to transit. The other big station concepts are the Mount Baker station and the Beacon Hill station, neither of which I have been in, though here are some early photos of the Mount Baker station.

In all, I think that Sound Transit has built a really attractive system, and I look forward to seeing what the rest of the system will look like, especially the underground stations.

In Crosscut Today

Whoa, did you see that Crosscut piece?

If you’ve been reading this blog or gone over to the Mass Transit Now website, you won’t read much you haven’t seen before.  What’s important, though, is who it’s by: Snohomish County Executive Aaron Reardon, Edmonds City Councilwoman Deanna Dawson, and Everett City Councilman Paul Roberts.

These people aren’t the “true believers.”  They’re not in the tank for light rail, as we are.  They’re not part of the Seattle Mafia.  In fact, they were skeptics early in the process and were brought on board only when they were sure that Proposition 1 did what was needed for the region.

Much more useful than more of Mayor Nickels preaching to the converted.   Bravo.

$700 Billion…

…I’m just sayin’.

These are the high speed rail corridors the USDOT has identified in their overall plan. If your rail line is on one of those green lines, and we ever pass an Amtrak funding bill with grant money for high speed rail, you can get those grants. Note that Amtrak Cascades is one of those corridors.

Given that the California project is $40 billion (although that’s not all of those lines), I’d say we could get most of this done for $700 billion. This could be our new Apollo project  - it would create jobs all over the country, we’d probably end up building at least one new railcar company (as well as helping the ones we have), and you can bet this would spur more renewable energy development.

While we need a New New Deal for infrastructure, we don’t really have the money. Especially not if we’re giving it to banks.

Making the Seattle Streetcar more attractive

The Seattle Streetcar – the hidden stepchild very few know about. It hides in South Lake Union, known commonly and jokingly as the S.L.U.T by some. The question many wonder – How do we make the Streetcar more viable and popular among the residents of Seattle. There are a lot of ideas, many which the City of Seattle has already taken a firm stand on. Everyone has their opinion on where they would love the route to go and I agree with all of them, however there is an important segment that would benefit greatly – Serving the Central Business Core of Downtown Seattle.

While I understand that the City of Seattle would like the SLU Streetcar to continue down First Avenue, this is a route that should be avoided. It would make the connection to the 1st Avenue Streetcar but that is where it ends. There hasn’t been a lot of forethought by the City of Seattle in this regards of making the connections much more seamless than painful and cumbersome.

These are my ideas for the Seattle Streetcar network;

Downtown Core routing;

This route will be an extension of the SLU route by continuing Southbound on Westlake in the Right-hand lane. The stop for the Southbound will be at 5th and Pine, next to the Seattle Monorail Station. The route will continue South with stops at University Street, Marion Street, James Street, and Jackson Street. The route will then turn Right onto Airport Way and Right again onto 4th Avenue South. The route will return North on 4th Avenue with stops at Weller Street (Sounder Connection), Main Street, James Street, Marion Street, Seneca Street, and Pine Street. The route will turn Right onto Olive Way followed by the shallow Left to reconnect to the SLU line.

This routing would bring in the best possible ridership, it would capture passengers from Sounder or Amtrak, provide connections and easy walk to Qwest or Safeco Field. It would provide a transfer to the Waterfront Streetcar (Ahem), First Hill Streetcar, and a short walk to the First Avenue Streetcar. The cost would be about the same as the initial segment – The reason for this being the additional 4-5 streetcars needed to cover the gap of the route. This routing could increase ridership upwards of 4,000-6,500 a day at 12 minute intervals.

Jackson Street Streetcar;

The routing for this Streetcar is perfect for the most part but I would make some changes in the International District. The line should continue West to Occidental Avenue where it would turn left. The line would continue down Occidental until 1st Avenue then turn Right on First Avenue back to Jackson Street for it’s continuing run. This will allow the new development at Qwest Field to populate more and serve the stadiums, King Street Station, and the future condos and apartments going in soon. I would also propose the Streetcar going as far as 31st Ave/Frink Park. This would serve some of the Leschi/Mt. Baker residences. This routing would provide at least 2 school connections (Leschi and Washington Middle School) – Ultimately, this should go all the way out to the High School and eliminate the KC Metro # 14 and those buses redirected to the 1, 2, 3, 4.

That is all that I have on this subject for now…What are your thoughts on this? Would most of this be prohibitive enough that the city should ignore it? How would you feel about a line going through Downtown?

Photos from MLK Streetfair

Along with the rest that have been posted, I have uploaded my pictures from the MLK Streetfair which is available on Flickr.com. Also, make sure you check out more photos from STB’ers that where there as well

November 4, 2008 – General Election

Sound Transit (A Regional Transit Authority)
Simple majority (RCW 81.104.170)

Proposition No. 1

Mass Transit Expansion

The Sound Transit Board passed Resolution No. R2008-11 concerning an expansion of mass transit. This measure would expand and coordinate light-rail, commuter-rail, and (beginning 2009) express bus service, and improve access to transit facilities in King, Pierce and Snohomish Counties, and authorize Sound Transit to impose an additional five-tenths of one percent sales and use tax, and to use existing taxes to fund the local share of the $17.9 billion estimated cost (includes construction, operations, maintenance, interest and inflation), with independent audits, as described in Resolution R2008-11 and the Mass Transit Guide. Should this measure be:

[ ] APPROVED
[ ] REJECTED

Are you registered at your current address?

Light Rail Safety

The Sep. 24 Beacon Hill News & South District Journal has an extended piece about the two sides in the light rail safety debate.  I’d link to it, but it’s apparent their website is not ready for primetime.

Basically, businessman Ray Akers is nervous about accidents along the line because the Los Angeles Blue Line is also at grade, and has had a bunch of accidents.  With legal crossings far apart, people will be tempted to run across the street.  The paper quotes “some community members” as wondering why there aren’t any barriers to crossing anywhere along the tracks.

In response, Sound Transit’s Keith Hall points out the redesign of MLK has made it a far safer street.  LA Blue Line accidents are “mostly” where the trains travel 50 mph, while along the Rainier Valley Segment LINK will be limited to 35 mph.  Busy traffic on MLK, frequent trains, and the threat of police ticketing jaywalkers (cameras on the trains!) will deter crossers.  He blames the lack of barriers on community activists who were concerned that barriers would “divide” the community.

Our own Ben Schiendelman, commenting on other posts, has usefully pointed out that the trains are likely to be safer for pedestrians than both buses and driving.  That’s a point more relevant to those using safety as a convenient attack on light rail than those hoping to make it work as smoothly as possible.

Ben has also pointed to Tacoma LINK, which uses similar procedures to Sound Transit, as a predictor of an excellent safety record.  I’m a little less sanguine, for two reasons:

  1. Unlike Downtown Tacoma, the neighborhoods along MLK are overflowing with essentially unsupervised small children.  As someone who stands along MLK every day, I can also say that traffic isn’t really thick enough to make crossing obviously fatal, as it would be along Rainier Avenue.
  2. Even if no one gets hit and killed, which we all hope, that doesn’t mean there won’t be problems.  If kids (and irresponsible adults) get in the habit of darting across the tracks, it may very well be that operators have plenty of time to slam on the brakes and avoid a collision.  There may even be a policy lowering operating speeds as a result.  In either case, to have these kinds of random delays on a major regional trunk line is simply unacceptable.

What to do?  It was never financially possible to grade separate this segment of LINK, and it’s certainly too late now.  I’m not sure it’s necessary to reconstruct the Berlin Wall along the route, either.  What I would like to see is a 3-4 ft, tasteful, black iron fence to discourage small children and lazy adults.  It wouldn’t really cost a lot of money, and I’d like to see our leaders take this kind of action rather than wait for a tragedy, or do something that compromises the viability of a gigantic capital investment.

Over the longer run, I’d like to see SDOT begin a multi-year (multi-decade?) program of constructing underpasses for the major arterials that cross MLK, not unlike the S 180th St underpass in Renton that was constructed under the BNSF/Sounder tracks.  This would have the nice side-effect of allowing trolley wire to pass under the tracks, which opens up a lot of trolley bus routing possibilties.

But for now, I’d settle for the fence.

Bel-Red Upzoning

The City of Bellevue is getting excited about the upzoning policies along Bel-Red road, where East Link is planned to run.  With the proposal suggesting heights of up to 150 feet, they’re making the relatively anemic upzones in the Rainier Valley look bad.

Of course, there’s the wee matter of Proposition 1 passing first.  And the NIMBYs will come out of the woodwork when it’s time to decide.

Hugeasscity has the details.

Board a LINK Train Tomorrow!

If you haven’t had the opportunity to step on a real, live LINK train yet, tomorrow (Saturday) is your lucky day.  Just head down to the future sight of the Othello Light Rail station for the MLK Safety Street Fair.  The purpose, I suppose, is to teach people how not to get hit by a train.

The headlining politician is King County Councilman and STB favorite Larry Phillips.  Chances are good you’ll see more than one STB blogger there, too, maybe even some of the too-good-to-show-at-meetups writers.  I would imagine there will also be some ST personnel that you could corner and push your pet agenda on.

The Fair runs from 11-4, with the program starting at 1.

The Seattle Times Says No, Again.

Today the Seattle Times has an editorial rejecting Proposition 1 – as we knew they would.

There’s a long and interesting story here, and I’m sure you’ll hear more of it as time goes on, but this is the gist.

The Seattle Times supported Sound Move up until one crucial point. When the University Link / North Link alignments were chosen, an alternative that would have gone up Eastlake was included. I haven’t found the original comments in the environmental impact statements yet, but the Seattle Times stopped being in favor of light rail the moment it didn’t serve their headquarters at Denny and Fairview.

This is par for the course. Most of the arguments in this piece are misleading, a couple are actually lies.

  • Sound Transit money can’t help Metro, Metro has to go to the legislature to get more funding. 
  • We don’t have an income tax, that’s why we have a higher sales tax than some. Total taxes in this state are actually pretty low.
  • The 0.9 percent Sound Transit wants to collect would carry more passenger miles than all the other bus agencies in the region combined, and then once we pay back the bonds, we’d only need 0.4 percent to operate it. Claiming buses are cheaper when the same amount of money covers capital *and* operations of light rail is obviously false.
  • The 0.4 cents Sound Transit collects today remains whether or not this fails. Their claim of ‘another’ 0.9 cents is false.
  • Bus lanes can’t go on Bellevue Way – we tried floating that, and there was overwhelming opposition. They can’t go on I-5 in downtown, either. The places where we are most congested are the same places we don’t have the room or the political will for bus lanes. The opposition in 1968, in this very paper, made the same claims. 40 years later? A couple of bus lanes here and there.
  • I-90 is not losing bus capacity. Sound Transit not only builds light rail on I-90, but also adds HOV lanes to the outside to replace the express lanes. This claim was false.
  • Buses wouldn’t be ‘kicked out’ of the downtown transit tunnel until 2020 – when the light rail that replaces them will carry more passengers. This was misleading.
  • When you don’t compare to the alternatives, you don’t get to complain something’s too expensive. HOV lanes don’t fix our problems – only new right of way will.

The only people ‘slighted’ here are certain Seattle Times editorial board members who can currently use the I-90 express lanes to get to work. They might have to carpool.

This is about now – buses and commuter trains now, and starting now on building more rail. I guess the Times would rather we build light rail even later. But that’s been their argument for 40 years. Hasn’t it been long enough? People are moving to transit in droves.

Shame on the Seattle Times for the same simplistic argument again. They say do nothing about our transportation mess. Proposition 1 offers a real plan.

Viaduct Tops Wired’s List

And it’s not a list I mind the viaduct being on.

Wired has put together a list of the 10 highways that need to be torn down – right now. They’re right on target with our own Alaskan Way Viaduct. The structure is 55 years old and ready to go, but a replacement is only partially funded and would require shutting down all traffic for years during construction anyway.

My argument is simple – if it’s going to be closed for years, all the current users will find other modes of transportation anyway. We have a pressing need to get out of our cars, and this is a great opportunity to make that a lot easier. We certainly need more Ballard and West Seattle transit investment in the same timeframe, but that can come later.

Kudos to Wired for noticing!

Oh Yeah, They Do Have An Argument…

You’ll love this. It’s from the debate earlier this week. This is Michael Ennis of the Washington Policy Center. I’ll just let you watch first…

If you can’t watch this (say, at work), what he said was that the market wants more road capacity, and when asked if we should expand 5, 90, 405, he has a very firm ‘yes’.

This is insanity.

First, I think it’s pretty clear by now that the ‘market’ has absolutely nothing to do with what transportation modes are built. I think it’s also clear that there is no way in hell we’re going to drill another I-90 tunnel through Mount Baker, or tear down buildings in downtown Seattle to widen I-5.

I-405 is another story – for $11 billion in projects, we’ll add 110,000 daily trips. Those dollars are 2002 dollars – it’s a lot more today, and as we haven’t even funded it all, it’ll be even more. With light rail, we’ll go from 2030 ridership of some 130,000 without Proposition 1 – to 2030 ridership of 280,000 with it. That’s already half again more cost effective, and remember that those numbers are the most conservative ridership estimates we’ve got – compared to 405, where the 110,000 is the most capacity we’ll ever get. Proposition 1′s Link infrastructure, when it’s as old as 405 is now, will probably carry 500,000 daily riders – or even more – and it won’t need new interchanges and repaving.

Ennis finally gave up the real plan. The opposition has no environmental plan. The opposition has no idea how we’ll get off oil. They just want more highways.

And as for the ‘market’? Sounder is overflowing. Our buses are packed to the gills. Ridership has increased dramatically for transit in the last couple of years, and WSDOT says people are driving less. That’s a pretty clear choice.

These Costs Are All Voodoo. Light Rail Is A House.

I want to knock down every single one of the numbers we’ve been using – because they’re all utterly wrong. Even the number Sound Transit uses, while it’s correct in ‘year of expenditure’ dollars that do matter when putting together a financial plan, it’s not a number that human beings living today can understand.

John explained a bit about why using year of expenditure dollars isn’t that meaningful, and I submit that it should never, ever be presented this way. I have one simple reason why: The one thing that people plan for as a long term cost – a mortgage – is not presented this way. When we get a mortgage, we understand that we’re paying about double the total cost of the house over the 30 years we’re paying for it. We also understand that there are costs of living in a house – like our electric bill, water, sewer, garbage, maybe internet service or TV. Those are not part of the cost of the house we’re buying (unless it’s poorly insulated, or something) – they’re part of the cost of living in *any* house.

Now, when we look at houses, we consider some of those costs. How much is our electric bill? Do we have to pay for gas? Fill an oil tank? These are important distinctions, and they exist in transportation systems as well – but our media is so caught up on utter horse poop numbers that they can’t even get to this discussion. There is a significantly lower cost attached to operating light rail than operating bus service, and even higher level than that, there’s a MUCH lower cost attached to operating light rail than those people on a car for the same trip.

When you buy a house, you consider this. You buy the house you can afford, and you buy the house you can afford to keep running. Now, here’s the interesting part. When we think about what kind of house we can afford, we’re basing that on what our monthly payment would be – we even base the price of the house we can afford on what our mortgage payment would cost and how much our bills would be (although the latter is just starting to become something people think about, now that the numbers are getting bigger). If we were to find a house for sale that had super energy efficient insulation and appliances, it would cost more, but it matters less to us how much the total cost is and more what the cost increase in our mortgage payment is – and often, that increase is offset by lower electric bills.

So, you’re sitting there reading, and hopefully you’re starting to see where I’m coming from. But if you’re not – if you’re going “more by this crazy fool?” – let me dig just a little deeper and see if I can bring you on board.

There’s a fantastic book from a linguist by the name of George Lakoff (you may have heard of him), from 1980, just before I was born. It’s called Metaphors We Live By. The point of this book is to show that most of the terminology we use in day to day life tends to come from physical, or even biological, roots. The terms we use for argument in conversation are the same we use for physical battle. The terms we use for measuring nearly every concept we have (time, value) have to do with forward and backward, up and down, bigger and smaller, because those are physical things our monkey brains can relate to. These numbers are meaningless to us as figures on a page – what matters to us, what creates the ‘that’s expensive’ or ‘that’s cheap’ reaction, is our connection of these figures to costs we already understand. Lakoff will tell you that’s the only way we understand anything.

In this regard, these huge numbers are useless until, as individuals, we find a metaphor to fit them into.

I reject absolutely year of expenditure dollars. Someone in 1930 told that minimum wage would be eight dollars an hour and someone today might make sixty thousand dollars a year – they would laugh, just as if I told you today that in 2050, you might make a million dollars a year. We can’t grok those numbers. They don’t make sense to us, and even though they’re right within some margin of error and with some confidence, they’re only useful for people who work in finance!

The opposition likes to create this fear that suddenly your taxes will go sky high, kablooie!, suddenly a bagel costs eighty bucks and you’re on the street. That’s the entire point of the big numbers – to create fear and uncertainty, just as so many leaders have done to push their people into poor decisions.

So: I know that even Sound Transit says it’s $17.9 billion, and frankly, that’s because our local media attacked Sound Transit so much last year that they figured it was the easy way out to just accept the Times and P-I’s attacks. Some of this is bus service we pay for now. Some of it is light rail construction we’ll start in a few years. A lot of our projects are paid for with a combination of savings and a bond issue. This would be a lot like advertising a $300,000 house as $600,000 on the sign because that includes operating costs for 20 years and your total mortgage payments over that time. Would you look at that house, or would you look at the one down the street that says $300,000 – for which you already understand there’s interest and upkeep? That’s the point – it makes these projects look more expensive than other projects, like highway projects, for which the Times and P-I report the capital cost today. That gives them something else to complain about, of course, because when we estimate a cost in 2005 and then build it in 2009, it inflates. Duh.

Now, there is an interesting point here. As we aren’t buying this house all at once today, its cost will inflate. We buy some light rail projects, and some Sounder projects, and some new transit centers, and all this comes at different times. So if we say something is five bucks today and don’t buy it until 2015, yeah, it might be eight bucks. In personal terms, we will make that much more money as well. In terms of Sound Transit, not only will we all make more money then, but there will also be more people we’re spreading the cost across! So in real, individual terms, it works out to be pretty constant – dollars are just worth less over time.

So frankly – good grief. There’s a real discussion to be had here about the cost of transit versus the automobile, but it’s completely coated in a thick slime of stupid debate about numbers that will all be different because they’re all calculated different ways. But there’s no way for us to understand the total, because it’s a mixture of dollars we do understand and dollars we don’t have any baseline for.

So I approach it this way. You know that when you go to the store, you pay some percentage in sales tax when you buy something. You’re used to that. So when I tell you how much Sound Transit 2 will cost you, the only measure which I think is meaningful is to tell you how much more you’ll pay next year if you vote yes. That number is a little different for everyone, but for most people, it’ll be around $69 a year.

To the opposition: Stop using numbers nobody understands as straw men. If you have a real argument, let’s hear it.

The Weekly’s Rick Anderson Doesn’t Get it

Rick Anderson over at the Seattle Weekly blog wrote an absolutely ridiculous post. Normally, I am not one to call out people by name and launch direct assaults but I feel that this post is inexcusable given the analysis made elsewhere recently. I will discuss Rick Anderson’s post in parts:

You knew we were back in monorail wonderland along about the end of July when the Times reported Sound Transit’s November bus-rail expansion measure would cost $17.9 billion and the P-I reported it would cost $22.8 billion.

Absolutely ridiculous. the $17.9 billion number doesn’t include debt servicing, the $22.8 billion number does. It’s just different accounting metrics. They’re effectively the same cost. The papers do agree on the cost — both numbers come from Sound Transit, in fact. This will come up again later.

Now we have the $17.9 billion to $22.8 billion 2008 Prop 1. Or is it the $107.3 billion Prop 1? That’s the estimate of transportation planner and Sound Transit critic Jim MacIsaac. As the P-I reports today:

[P-I Quote]Bureaucrats hate it when you bring up real costs – the interest-weighted money it takes to finance construction.

Andersons defintion of “real costs”? That’d be the $22.8b number. Not the $107b number.

The $107b is a fabrication and has nothing to do with interest and everything to do with claims that the average Seattlite makes and spends tens of thousands more than reality, that the tax lasts 15 years longer than reality, and that Sound Move costs are somehow under Prop. 1. The $107b number says that Prop. 1 costs $52b even if it’s not passed. Ridiculous.

It tends to double and triple the price tag presented to taxpayers. Officials dismiss it with the argument that when you buy a house you don’t include interest in the price, either.

Nope. Debt servicing, or “interest,” takes a $17.9b number and makes it $22.8b. No doubling or tripling. That’s the difference — the Times doesn’t include “interest,” the P-I does. And by “interest,” we/Anderson mean/s debt servicing.

Typical of Nickels, ST and others pushing rail expansion – which most of us back – they’ll paint over reality rather than present us an honestly detailed picture.

Support rail expansion? Right. Listen, ST’s numbers are open to analysis. The Seattle P-I did analysis, and both The Stranger and this blog conclude that Sound Transit uses sound assumptions while the oppositon wildly inflates the “typical” family’s spending and arbitrarily assumes the tax lasts 15 years longer than planned. (A question never asked: Why 15 years longer than planned? Why not one more year? Why not three?)

Bottom line: MacIsaac’s projections are likely more practical than ST’s – the ballot measure does not specifically mention a tax time-out down the road.

It’s more practical to assume that the average family spends $50,000 on sales taxable items — things that aren’t food, rent, mortgage, gas? It’s more practical to assume that Sound Transit will break the law and extend the tax 30 years past construction? It’s more practical to say that Prop. 1 costs $52b even if it isn’t passed? It’s more practical to say that an anti-rail, anti-transit think tank is delivering fair numbers?

I think it’s practical to say that Rick Anderson didn’t read this blog, read The Stranger, or read The Seattle P-I and base his statements in any of the discussions of the day. He took the “No” campaign’s numbers at face value — even though their face value of Prop. 1 is nearly half ($55b vs. $107b) in the very P-I article that Anderson cites. (The $107b number includes $55b for mass transit expansion and $52b for Sound Move costs that will happen regardless of Prop. 1 passing — both $55b and $52b are wrong numbers.)

I can already hear the official excuse, come 2038, when the project is, cough, completely paid for: “Sorry, the tax will continue. Ha ha. They probably just said that to get the thing approved.”

Well, that’s a possibility but I think ST has learned from its mistakes and plans very conservatively. Still, assuming a 15 year increase in length is a bit much — that’d mean a bigger screw-up than Sound Move before 2001, which is a pretty tough accomplishment.

What I believe is more likely is that we vote in 8 or 12 or 16 years to extend the tax to continue expanding Link. But seriously, if the Link expansion is over-budget or over-schedule, does that mean we should just cancel the project — even if it’s 95% done? 99% done? I think the point is that voters who pass Prop. 1 are passing the idea that they want mass transit to Lynnwood, Federal Way, and Bellevue — not the exact cost of- $17.9b or $22.8b or $55b or $107b. And Sound Transit’s number — $125 per household – is easily verifible: take the median income in the region, take the average amount of money someone with that income typically spends on sales taxable items, and you get $125.

Instead of looking at this logic, the Weekly took the lazy route and took a political campaign’s numbers at face value. The reasoning is inexcusable. The laziness is baffling. The conclusion is a joke. Rick Anderson: You didn’t do your job

(I am not unbiased on this matter. Besides writing for this blog and advocating for transit expansion in general, I am an unpaid volunteer for the Mass Transit Now campaign supporting Proposition 1.)

BNSF selects GNP/Ballard to serve Snohomish County shippers

Thanks to tipper Jason Hill regarding the selection for freight service on the Eastside Rail Corridor:

The Port of Seattle announced today that it will begin negotiations with GNP/Ballard for freight service operation on the northern portion of the Eastside rail corridor. GNP/Ballard, a partnership between Byron Cole, who operates the Ballard Terminal and Meeker Southern Railroad, and Tom Payne, owner of GNP Railway, will pay the Port for use of the land, which runs from Snohomish and Woodinville.

The Port of Seattle is acquiring the corridor from BNSF, who selected the short line operator. Any contract between the Port and GNP/Ballard will not be finalized until the transfer of the corridor is complete.

The Port is acquiring the corridor from BNSF for $107 million. King County will contribute $2 million toward the purchase price in return for an easement for trail development on the southern segment of the corridor. The Surface Transportation Board is expected to grant approval in the fall of this year. The Port will then begin a public process to gain input on how King County citizens would like to see the rail corridor used.

Find more information about the Port’s purchase of the corridor or the public process that will follow on the Eastside Rail Corridor Web site.

Barnett on the P-I piece

Erica C. Barnett is considerably less impressed with Larry Lange’s P-I piece than I was.

When I read articles at 6:30 am, I promise to read them once more, after coffee, before commenting.  She makes some solid criticisms, in particular that the No campaign’s criticism that ST’s median income uses the wrong denominator is completely innumerate.

I still think Lange did a pretty even-handed job.  It’s clear that he asked ST to respond to the No campaign’s claims, and they covered most of the main points.  But extended analysis just pokes more and more holes in these tired arguments and scare tactics.

The “Megaduct”

Via Crosscut, State House Speaker Frank Chopp has gone public with his high-concept viaduct replacement: an enclosed highway with shops underneath and a park on top.  No cost figures yet, but I’m sure hundreds of millions would be conservative.

I’m not prepared to comment on the merits of this project, were it free.  But, I really have to ask the residents of the 43rd district: is this who you want to represent you in the House?  Is this really the biggest problem the city has?  The biggest transportation problem, even?

If you’re a light rail fan, with this kind of money you could massively accelerate opening day.  Or, you could get a pretty good start on Ballard/West Seattle.  Even if ST2 goes down, you could probably get to Northgate with this cash.

If you don’t like trains, you could pretty much solve Metro’s operating and funding problems in the city for a decade or so.  But instead, Frank Chopp is using his limited ability to push for his district’s interests by pushing a pet road project.