Will at the Slog has a piece up today that makes me angry – so angry I’m posting from Portland, where I was trying to have a nice vacation. Will is blaming Sound Transit for not having a ready-made light rail plan for a mayor who hasn’t even yet taken office when the plan doesn’t even have a scope yet!
This seems to display ignorance of a system that we’ve been working for years to help people understand.
Sound Transit gets a certain amount of money each year, from sales taxes and MVET. They write a budget based on how much they’re expecting, and publish it. Usually, there’s some wiggle room – as projects are completed, surpluses are sometimes released, and there are funds available for unexpected administrative or legal expenses.
In the past – maybe last year, or the year before – Sound Transit might have been able to take on a planning project like determining alignment for West Seattle or Ballard light rail – a $12 million study. But Sound Transit is receiving less in sales tax revenue this year than they’d budgeted for, meaning they’re looking to cut costs wherever they can, not accelerating projects. Sound Transit’s plan for ST2 shows light rail planning for these corridors to be budgeted in 2015 – and it’s been that way since the Proposition 1 election in 2008.
Furthermore, no plan – not even a scope – has been released by the mayor-elect’s office (possibly because he’s not actually the mayor yet). No plan – or again, even a scoping document – has been released by Richard Conlin’s office. As far as I’m aware, no request has been made to Sound Transit by those offices or any other for light rail planning in these corridors.
During McGinn’s campaign, I urged his staff to talk to him about making light rail to West Seattle and Ballard a priority. I’m overjoyed that he’s doing it, and I look forward to that planning taking place – but there’s nothing for Sound Transit to do here. Even if they could find a way to fund a study (and don’t hold your breath), they’d have to know what to study within some range between streetcar and subway, and have some idea of how they’re going to pay for it. The ball is in the mayor-elect’s court to figure out what he wants. The Slog’s piece today is Sound Transit bashing at its worst.
Sloggers – you know better than this.