Mea Culpa

Along with Martin, I apologize for doubting a transit-only package would pass. I was clearly wrong. I have a very strong feeling that much of the credit for this year’s Prop. 1 passing goes to Barack Obama, and the enthusiasm around the candidate that drove people to the polls. We’ll never know whether last year’s Prop. 1 could have passed this year, though I doubt it would. I also don’t know if last year’s package could have passed in 2007 without roads, though it seems obvious now that it would have done better than it did tied to roads. So I was wrong, and I apologize.

Part of my bitterness last year with the Sierra Club and the Stranger was because I supported the roads portion of the proposition. Most of the roads were new HOV lanes, which are very important to good bus service, or necessary investments like the 520 bridge or the South Park Bridge. I still want many of those roads projects completed.

What I didn’t understand at the time was the actual motivation for tying the RTID roads to Sound Transit. Those in Olympia who put forth RTID don’t know how they will come up with funding to replace these bridges and create those HOV lanes, and are scared of the backlash in their districts of raising funds statewide to build roads projects in the Seattle area. The political cost is apparent in the large failure margin of I-985 in counties outside the Central Puget Sound area, where most of the benefit would have been concentrated. I know now that last year’s transit package wasn’t married to roads because anyone thought that the roads would help transit pass, they were married because the roads supporters knew the transit would help the roads pass, and Olympia wanted to punt the State’s responsibility to taxpayers in our area. I was wrong on each of these counts.

I know I upset some people by arguing that defeating RTID wouldn’t prevent global warming – global warming being the Sierra Club and the Stranger’s main argument against the package – and I still believe with that. The solution to global warming lies entirely in investment in non-fossil fuel energy sources, and the best way to achieve that end is through a carbon tax, especially an escalator carbon tax. With a carbon tax, auto makers will be forced to make more efficient cars, inventors and researchers will be encouraged and subsidized to find effective alternatives, and energy companies will be incentivized to invest in clean energy solutions. Cancelling roads projects won’t have any effect other than the statement to politicians encouraging them to get their act together on climate change. I don’t apologize for my opinion, though I am sure most of you don’t agree.

This year’s measure was also much better than last year’s. There is a little more Sounder service, and a lot more buses than last year. Sure there is less light rail, but I am confident that ultimately, we will get all the light rail from last year’s plan and more. I was wrong last year, and I am very glad that I was.


  1. Multimodal Man says

    Nicely said. So, now with ST2 passed and years away from a so-called ST3, how will this blog pass the time? I imagine many posts about rail’s opening and leading up to that. I would encourage you all to think how you can promote other transit plans and policies. The Alaskan Way Viaduct replacement process probably needs more transit interests to be involved.
    Other issues beyond streetcars, commuter rail, light rail and Amtrak are: more bus lanes, improved regional fare collection, expansion of electric trolley bus routes, integration of bus service with Link. I know that many of these topics have been addressed, but it seems they are usually in the context of “and this is why rail rules.”

  2. Martin H. Duke says

    I agree that the world changed a lot between 2008 and 2007, in ways that helped this Prop 1 to pass, and I don’t think these are changes that the 2007 naysayers necessarily foresaw. All the same, their judgment turned out to be correct.

    The really bad call was made by the pavement lobby. RTID was the best road deal they might have gotten, and they blew it, blinded by their hatred of light rail.

    • Andrew says

      Yeah, it’s pretty funny. They have no idea where they are going to get the money to perform any expansions, but they will be damned before they support a new penny spent on rail.

      Too bad for them that ideas about transportation have left them behind.

  3. AJ says

    See, having the Stranger on our side was a good thing.

    I won’t apologize to the Sierra Club because I’m chewing on my foot after I complained about them owing us a mailer and one suddenly appeared in my mailbox. After I take my foot out of my mouth, I’ll also eat crow.


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