In this interview with Capitol Hill Seattle Sen. Murray expresses some surprise his pro-transit credentials are in doubt:
Murray tells CHS he is genuinely baffled by some transportation advocates like writers at the Seattle Transit Blog who question his commitment to pro-density rapid transit and insisted his time in Olympia only bolsters his ability to get more done.
To be clear, interviewer Bryan Cohen told me he drew the inference to STB, and we did not come up by name in the interview. Nevertheless, I think there are some interesting points to be made:
1. It would be foolish to claim Sen. Murray is fundamentally anti-transit. However, “pro-transit” is merely the entry point to the race. In Olympia, even the idea that we shouldn’t gut bus service is controversial. In Seattle city races, every candidate rhetorically supports more Metro funding, supports light rail and Sound Transit, supports the streetcar network in the Transit Master Plan, and thinks the city should accept more density.
Where they differ is in priorities. In practice, streetcars may fall well below road maintenance, bus bulbs, and even low taxes as areas of emphasis. Bike or transit lanes can’t run afoul of customer parking for businesses. Density may be nice, but not if it offends neighborhood activists, casts shadows, or violates decades-old neighborhood plans. This is the true fault line in Seattle politics, and Ed Murray’s long and good fight against radical right-wing politics in the legislature tells us little about where he stands on these struggles.
2. In the aforementioned battles, Mike McGinn has consistently dismissed these excuses for inaction in defense of our future. A Mayor Murray might or might not do the same; he certainly hasn’t said much on the subject, including declining my offer for an interview. I certainly understand the impulse to not get pinned down on policy specifics in a primary, and the secondary importance of reaching STB readers. This is not an attack on Ed Murray. It’s a recognition of Mike McGinn’s solid record on transportation and land use.
3. A crucial argument of the Murray campaign is that he would get better results for Seattle in Olympia. I would not to presume to understand how things work in the legislature, but from my layman’s perspective the record is poor. The last truly transformative transit bill to come out of the legislature was the Regional Transit Authority that authorized Sound Transit in 1990. Since then, Olympia has let Community Transit go over the cliff and kept Metro afloat with temporary authority, and had minor transit spending attached to giant highway bills. I would not blame Sen. Murray for all that has gone wrong in the legislature, nor credit him with what little has gone right. This is not a question of his “commitment,” or doubt that Mayor McGinn has a had a tough relationship with some key figures in the capital. However, the very real constraints that stymied Ed Murray the senior Senator are likely to stymie Ed Murray the mayor.