County Exec Roundup

Wikimedia Commons

Wikimedia Commons

King County Executive is by far the most critical position up for election this year from a transit standpoint. The Executive is not only the ultimate authority over Metro, but he or she also appoints representatives to the Sound Transit Board.

Below is my attempt to digest some of the transportation-related positions taken by the four major Democratic King County Executive candidates (Dow Constantine, Larry Phillips, Fred Jarrett, and Ross Hunter) recently, as reported at Publicola, by the P-I’s “Strange Bedfellows“, the Seattle Times endorsement interview, and on the candidates’ own websites.The other front-runner, Susan Hutchison, has fairly vague positions that don’t really fit in the framework below, and I’ve dealt with her ideas in another post.

The first conclusion you reach after viewing all this material is that the four positions are very, very similar.  From this, it’s clear what the next Executive is going to push for with only small areas of uncertainty.

Metro Budget Crisis

  • Efficiency: Everyone is in favor of finding greater operational efficiencies within Metro. Phillips has the most specific plan relying on the audit due in September, as well as “entrepreneurial” initiatives such as seeking more advertising and sponsorship.  Constantine and Hunter talk a lot about controlling labor costs, with Hunter putting more emphasis on wringing concessions from the unions.
  • Fares: Everyone has said they support higher fares to help close the gap, although no candidate has proposed a specific amount.  Phillips’ plan contains no immediate fare increase.
  • Revenue: Everyone is in favor of transferring at least some ferry district taxing authority to Metro. The only difference is that Constantine wants to preserve existing ferry service and is open to expansion; Jarrett would freeze growth and “scrutinize” what exists; and Hunter and Phillips would halt it entirely. No one is willing to raise taxes immediately; Hunter, however, was a driving force behind getting more authority for Metro in the legislature last session.
  • Cuts: All envision immediate cuts to “unproductive” routes, except Phillips, who reaches a bit deeper into the Fleet Replacement Surplus (thus shortening the life of this surplus).
  • 20/40/40: No one has anything nice to say about Metro’s 20/40/40. That’s not a statement that one subarea or another deserves more resources.  In fact, each candidate makes the point that all parts of the county are developing dense, walkable corridors that deserve good transit service.  However, it’s difficult to see how applying a productivity-based metric could impact Seattle service worse than current King County policy.

Service Allocation

There’s a lot of talk from everyone about increasing route productivity, but Hunter has the most interesting proposal:

[I would] tie increased availability of transit to demonstrated ability zone for and to permit additional transit-oriented development inside our urban growth boundary. This creates an incentive for more density.

Jarrett has made similar comments.  This plan implies that most Metro cuts would fall on cul-de-sac neighborhoods, with the emphasis on maintaining service in high-ridership corridors.  These corridors are the most productive for Metro.

Eastside Commuter Rail

Constantine has been the most explicit (and, I believe, honest) about the fact that the BNSF Eastside commuter rail corridor is never going to happen.  The other candidates have said nicer things about the DMUs in the past.

Light Rail/Sound Transit

In this election year, everyone has nice things to say about Light Rail, with everyone claiming they’ll be the one to make sure East Link is built.  There are fewer concrete plans, but Phillips and Constantine have the longest track record of supporting Sound Transit.  Jarrett’s relationship with East Link in the Senate was more complicated, to say the least.  Hutchison endorsed the Rice/Stanton governance reform proposal, which would replace regional transit agencies with a single super-agency with responsibility for both roads and transit.

Hunter also flirts with some agency merging in his policy paper:

I will focus on reducing overhead costs in both Sound Transit and Metro, and will consider selective merging of the agencies to reduce overhead while retaining control of route distribution in King County.

Hunter also had the best quote from the Times interview, about Bellevue’s Bel-Red corridor plan: “we need, like, fifty of those.”

Seattle Transit Blog will be publishing its executive endorsement in about a week, assuming we can reach an agreement.  Right now, it’s not looking good.




Comments

    • Martin H. Duke says

      Contrary to what Adam said, not in this style. We are doing endorsements, starting tomorrow.

      We highlighted the exec race because it’s so important and because the differences are so fine.

  1. Gary says

    Got an email that Cascade Bicycle club was supporting Dow Constantine. (for what it’s worth.)

  2. Chris Stefan says

    Personally I’m on the fence between Dow and Fred, not to say Larry and Ross aren’t also good candidates in their own way, but I think Dow and Fred are more likely to get what they want to do done. The biggest issue I think beyond who would be the best on transit and land use is who is most likely to be able to beat Hutchison in the Fall. She’d be at best ineffective leaving the County with a leadership vacuum and at worst truly dangerous and destructive as she did the bidding of the Discovery Institute, Evergreen Freedom Foundation, BIAW, and Kemper Development Corporation.

    The other races are proving to be a bit easier to make a choice in though in some cases I’ll still have a tough choice in the fall if my two favorite candidates make it past the primary.

  3. Jessica says

    This is my first time paying attention to local races (I know “and how many years have I lived in King County?” – I moved from Virginia in August 2000 to start at UW)

    Not sure who I’m going to vote for. And just because I live in Bellevue does not mean I automatically endorse ESR

  4. JesseMT says

    For me, I just don’t trust Fred Jarrett after this year’s East Link fiasco in the legislature. I know he tried to come up with a bit of a fix toward the end, but I still don’t feel like I can go there when there’s three other good choices.

    Otherwise, I’m very undecided. It seems like a much stronger field than the Seattle Mayor’s race.

    • Carl says

      I agree that Jarrett is hard to trust. He also hasn’t raised much money so he’s not likely to win.

      I’m concerned about Dow Constantine having too many ties to unions and being unable to shake things up – and face it, King County has a spending problem more than a revenue problem. The new executive has to be able to shake things up and deliver more results for the money.

      I support Ross Hunter because I think he’s a smart guy and hard worker and that he’s learned how to be effective even while taking on sacred cows. I think King County exec is about more than just transit but I think the Ross understand transit is an important part of the job, as is zoning and land use.

  5. Mark says

    “I will focus on reducing overhead costs in both Sound Transit and Metro, and will consider selective merging of the agencies to reduce overhead while retaining control of route distribution in King County.”

    Err, ST already contracts out its service to Metro. What else is there to combine? The two agencies have different charges…Metro is virtually all operating, and ST is virtually all capital.

    Maybe ST’s project managers can start doing route planning?

    Also, has Ross Hunter figured out that King County is only half of the ST district, in terms of population served? Do you think folks in Pierce and Snohomish would want ST doing King County’s work – or King County doing ST’s work?

    I think Hunter hasn’t done his homework. Or, he has fallen victim to the Jarrett “academia vacuum”.

    • Lloyd says

      Probably only serialcatowner and I will remember Alice Franklin Bryant, a perennial candidate for a host of offices in the 1950s and 1960s – she even took on Scoop jackson in the US Senate Primary at one point. With here squeaky voice and shock of white hair, she was a bulldog at debates, always advocating against McCarthyism, xenophobia and nuclear weapons proliferation – not popular causes then – a true Adlai Stevenson Democrat, the likes of which are rarely seen any more.

  6. ST Guy says

    RE: “There’s a lot of talk from everyone about increasing route productivity, but Hunter has the most interesting proposal:

    “[I would] tie increased availability of transit to demonstrated ability zone for and to permit additional transit-oriented development inside our urban growth boundary. This creates an incentive for more density.

    “Jarrett has made similar comments. This plan implies that most Metro cuts would fall on cul-de-sac neighborhoods, with the emphasis on maintaining service in high-ridership corridors. These corridors are the most productive for Metro.”

    Hunter’s proposal is just like what Metro (then independent) did with the City of Bellevue 30 years ago. The city rezoned its downtown area to highrise residential and office and put in some modest caps on parking — a complete transformation from the suburban office/shopping center patch it was then. In response, Metro agreed to some large number of additional service hours every year, over and above what the area would have received otherwise.

    It’s taken a long time but downtown Bellevue is now a real downtown, and Metro and transit had at least a little to do with that.

  7. Zelbinian says

    I’m pretty torn between Constantine and Hunter. I’m not (yet) wonky enough to really make an informed decision based on policy (I have my gut reactions here and there but not much else), so I all I really have to go on is style and background.

    The Sierra Club likes Constantine and their views very much align with my own. Then again, I agree that King County has more of a spending problem than a revenue problem and that Hunter would probably be able to do some good for the budget while promoting ToD.

    I’m really torn. I have a feeling I’m gonna end up tossing a coin and calling it good. This is a nice problem to have, though; seems like as long as the person elected is not named Hutchinson it appears as though we are in good hands.

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