Never Mind About Those Express Buses

When passenger train service is on the ballot, there always seems to a group saying that bus rapid transit (BRT) is better than rail. The Eastside Transportation Association (ETA) was that group in 2008, when voters passed Sound Transit 2.

flip flopHere is an ETA campaign piece calling for “BRT” instead of Light Rail Transit, from that 2008 campaign. By BRT, the group really means an enlargement of the network of express bus service.

Here is another ETA campaign piece calling for “Bus Rapid Transit”, with a headline (pg. 5) of “We Need More Transit – NOW!“, also from the 2008 campaign.

Oddly, ETA is now campaigning to downsize the regional express bus network, such as it is, by working to defeat King County Proposition 1.

There isn’t anything in Proposition 1 about building rail for ETA to complain about. Proposition 1 is about saving the Metro bus service we currently have. Also, cities would get 40% of the funding stream from Proposition 1 to do needed maintenance of bridges, roads, and sidewalks.

Defeat of Proposition 1 would lead to King County Metro having to cut 17% of its bus service hours. Nearly every eastside bus route would be impacted. In particular, 12 of Metro’s 21 eastside commuter express routes would be cut entirely.

The Eastside Transportation Association did not respond to my request to clarify its position on Proposition 1, but the most recent statement it has on the topic makes it clear it is opposed, and believes too much money is already being spent on buses.

Comments

    • David Lawson says

      John Niles is, at the same time, trying to present Metro as painting a childish doomsday scenario. He tried to claim in a Twitter post that reductions to 8 of the 11 routes in the CD meant Metro was violating its Service Guidelines by proposing a 73% cut.

      Not to be taken seriously.

      • says

        I suspect Niles is looking at the fact that the 17% cuts largely make the system more efficient but completely glosses over the impacts to those whose buses will be cut. I’ll admit to thinking this way, especially when I’m driving one of those “empty buses” (which these days, is rare).

        That said, I would prefer that we pass Prop 1 and continue to improve the efficiency of network incrementally rather than taking a meat cleaver to the few remaining inefficient routes and then hoping for future funding to expand service again.

  1. David Lawson says

    Brent, you’re doing a fantastic job bringing the opponents’ hypocrisy and mendacity into the light of day. Thanks.

  2. Chris I says

    There are very few people in this world that are actually pro-BRT and anti-rail. The vast majority of those that oppose rail transit projects are just anti-transit in general.

  3. Nathan from Tacoma says

    I have to ask, have any of these people actually ridden (not really)Rapid Ride buses? Do they really know what BRT means?

    Unless it has a dedicated right-of-way, it is going to suck just as much as any local bus in terms of being stuck in traffic.

    And as for trying to cut the freeway buses, Everybody that wants to do that should be made to ride from Lakewood to Everett on only the local buses… no express routes. That being, PT3, PT501 (yes I know the 500 is more direct), then RR-A, Metro 124, then the 512. (I wish I knew a better way to force surface streets but I dont know transit north of Seattle).

    • William C. says

      North of Seattle, the fastest way to stay off the freeway is to take RR E to Swift. There’s dedicated right of way for much of that distance, though. To really limit yourself to surface streets, things are more complicated:
      * 66 from downtown Seattle to Northgate.
      * 347 to Montlake Terrace
      * CT 112 to Ash Way
      * 201/202 to Mariner P&R
      * ET 2 to Everett Mall
      * ET 29/17 to downtown Everett

  4. mic says

    How is dredging up the BRT v. Rail frenzie of the last decade going to help Metro find sustainable ways to finance public transportation in the future. Prop 1 is a stop gap measure by any yardstick.
    Brents witch hunt to find all the transit Boogie Men in the region is entertaining to visit the past, but of little value in convincing anyone to vote Yes or No next month.
    The BRT/Train discussion left the station years ago. ST is building rail. ETA lost the argument. They moved on, and had a pro/con debate at their last regular meeting on Prop 1. Oh the horror of listening to a debate on the subject.
    Damn Them Eastsiders!

    • Martin H. Duke says

      Because it shows that many of the arguments about efficiency are phony, and that most Prop 1 opponents are basically looking to spend as little on transit as they can get away with.

      • Nathanael says

        Yes. It’s important to point out when self-described “BRT advocates” are phonies who actually oppose bus service.

    • David Lawson says

      mic, two points:

      1) Prop 1 is a “stopgap” in the sense that it will sunset in 10 years (a requirement added to try to placate anti-tax forces). But it is more stable, larger, and lasts longer than the stopgap it is replacing, which is just one in a whole series of stopgaps since Tim Eyman and a legislature that was deathly afraid of him eliminated a major, sustainable source of funding for transit. If it works well, perhaps 10 years from now it can be made permanent.

      2) The reason this matters to the vote is because it shows that many on the No side are dishonest about what they want. When rail is on the table, they advocate for more buses instead of the rail. But when offered more buses, they oppose more buses. Their real agenda is simply anti-transit, but that is unpopular, so they have to hide it.

      This offers a useful window through which to view their latest argument: that the Eastside should be offered transit proportional to its share of transit taxes before any new taxes are approved. It is quite clear from other statements they have made that this argument is equally duplicitous: they often argue that Metro and ST are wasteful because they run empty buses on the Eastside.

    • djw says

      You don’t think discrediting the the major organizations opposing prop. 1, by pointing out they’re dishonest hacks who’ll say whatever they need to in the moment to oppose *this* transit funding without revealing their anti-transit agenda, might be helpful in passing Prop. 1?

      I mean, there’s probably a good case to be made that no posting here will help pass the thing, because the readership has made up their minds already. But insofar as contributions here to the public discourse matter, this is an important one; not just for now but for future conversations. They’re pursuing an extremely unpopular agenda, and not being truthful about it. Exposing such dishonesty can only help to improve public discourse.

    • Brent says

      The problem with “witch hunts” is that they usually involve killing people who don’t happen to be wiccans, along with killing a much smaller number of people whose only crime is believing in Wicca. I do not support witch hunts.

      But if you believe I am misrepresenting ETA’s distaste for funding bus service, make your case.

      • mic says

        The latest info on their ETA’s website from Mar 19th is this.
        .
        “Wednesday, March 19th, 8:00am
        The March ETA meeting will feature Ron Posthuma and Dick Paylor speaking on: King County Transportation District Proposition No. 1, the ballot issue that will be decided by the voters on April 22, 2014. If passed, Prop 1 will increase car tabs and sales taxes for METRO and local roads. Our speakers will be: Ron Posthuma, representative of the “Move King County Now” campaign and Dick Paylor, ETA Board Member and appointed member of the Opposition Statement Committee against the Proposition.

        Ron Posthuma will represent the Move King County Now campaign that is supporting the Proposition. Ron is the recently retired Assistant Director of the King County Department of Transportation. As such, he is familiar with the transportation funding requests of the county. Ron will provide the facts as presented by the campaign in support of the request to the voters for additional funding for METRO and other local transportation needs in the cities of the county and the un-incorporated portions of the county.
        Dick Paylor will present some facts prepared by ETA and others plus the Opposition Statement prepared for the Voter’s Pamphlet that he co-authored with fellow committee members. Come hear Ron Posthuma and Dick Paylor discuss the issues related to funding of local transportation in King County.”
        .
        I couldn’t find any ‘Hit’ pieces, unless you call their Sep 2013 study of eastside equity the smoking gun. ST has sub area equity. It’s a legitimate complaint. They also, in the same piece, point out that transit had been gobbling up tax resources like drunken sailors of late, but continue to provide a tiny fraction of all trips in the region. Again, a legitimate complaint. Transit Can and Should do better.
        If this is disturbing to you that regional players want their fair share, and advocate as they did in 2007 for a billion dollar eastside BRT/Express overlay, then I don’t know what to say to those of you agast I should respectfully dis-agree.

      • David Lawson says

        mic, please see the writeup of the ETA meeting, which amounted to poor Ron Posthuma walking into an arena full of lions:

        http://seattletimes.com/html/localnews/2023173643_busdebatexml.html

        Also, subarea equity is a recipe for inefficiency. Would it serve the public at all if Metro suddenly shifted 10% of its entire service hours budget from routes in Seattle that are packed to overflowing to routes on the Eastside that are well under capacity as is? Everyone in the county benefits from having a functional county transportation network, which naturally requires greater investment where greater numbers of people are trying to travel.

      • Brent says

        mic,

        Do you agree with ETA that provision of bus service should be totally based on geography, and not ridership demand or cost-per-trip?

      • mic says

        I think it’s called ‘artful negotiation’ or something like that. Of course nobody wants ‘total’ equity based on geography, and I doubt you can find that demand from any ETA document.
        On the flip side, I don’t think you would advocate for total allocation of hours or dollars based on a routes efficiency, as the MT3 or 7 fat and happy and the eastside would get even less than they do now.
        Compromise is the key here. Getting back only 50 cents on the transit dollar is the complaint. Dismissing East King County taxpayers as a bunch of anti-transit whiners will not gain you any votes. I submit your article does a dis-service to a healthy public dialog.

      • mic says

        We;ll both find out in about 3 weeks. I’m prepared to offer a public apology, AND give you Davids bottle of scotch if E. King votes a majority for Prop 1.
        Bridge tolls, and $60 tabs is a tough sell.

      • says

        Also, subarea equity is a recipe for inefficiency. Would it serve the public at all if Metro suddenly shifted 10% of its entire service hours budget from routes in Seattle that are packed to overflowing to routes on the Eastside that are well under capacity as is? Everyone in the county benefits from having a functional county transportation network, which naturally requires greater investment where greater numbers of people are trying to travel.

        I believe that Metro would be better off if it followed subarea equity, but with the provision that each subarea is allowed to buy as much or as little service as it wants.

        For one, I think this would create a natural framework by which Seattle can buy enough service hours to create a truly useful network; I think it would be a long time before we could get voters in East/South King County to go for that.

        Yes, Seattle can and does buy its own service now, but there isn’t really anything stopping Metro from using Seattle’s money to pay for services that it would have run anyway. I’m not accusing Metro of malfeasance — I just mean that, without some guideline on how money would be allocated in the absence of supplemental contributions, it’s very difficult to truly know what those contributions are buying.

        For another, I think that subarea equity would also be an important political tool. Voters like to know that they’re getting something for their money, and subarea equity would draw a stronger connection between their tax dollars and their local bus service.

        Think about your 33% network. Which do you think is more likely to happen: King County voting to increase transit taxes by 33%, or Seattle voting to increase transit taxes by 50% (or whatever it would take to buy 33% more service in a subarea equity world)? My money’s on the latter.

        I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Sound Transit is the area’s most successful transit provider.

      • djw says

        Also, subarea equity is a recipe for inefficiency. Would it serve the public at all if Metro suddenly shifted 10% of its entire service hours budget from routes in Seattle that are packed to overflowing to routes on the Eastside that are well under capacity as is?

        Right. When I see a person who frequently (and often quite reasonably) complains about inefficiency and inadequate usage flirting with arguments for massive increases in inefficiency like sub-area equity, it makes it rather hard to take the first complaint seriously.

      • Bernie says

        I’ll go back to something I posted in a different thread, the reason the only opposition in the voters pamphlet and in the press is from nut jobs is because of the 40% bone to the Pave King Co. NOW lobby. I’m waiting for Ben to swoop in after the election and do the “I told you so” with the Roads and Transit failure vs ST#.

      • mic says

        Seattleite: ST2 won with 56% in Bellevue precincts, which is not the entire Eastside by any means. A lot of water has passed over the dam since that election 6 years ago, and ST2 had lots of goodies for everyone. Here’s the link to all the precincts in a color map.
        http://seattletransitblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/08/soundTransit_G08_rev0812151-1.pdf
        Prop 1 is a special election, begging for $60 tabs with little to offer except bus service won’t get worse than it is on the Eastside – for now.

  5. Mark Dublin says

    We could check my ORCA records when the NSA would gives me a copy, but lately I think I’m in a pretty high percentile of Sound Transit Express bus ridership. Last year, I also rode the huge blue express buses around Gothenburg, in Sweden.

    And driving for Metro Transit before the KC was added, after the Tunnel was opened I drove a fair number of express routes. Here’s my take:

    1. An express bus like my frequent ride on the 594 is generally fast and pleasant- except that on the Gillig forty footers and the old Flyers same length on the 590-series there is a maximum of four comfortable seats designed into the bus. Which makes speed more appreciated.

    2. In regular traffic, the most comfortable and luxurious bus becomes one more very large and clumsy automobile, whose horn should moo instead of beep- like the 512 I often ride south from Lynnwood, like yesterday afternoon out of Ash Way at 5:21, when the HOV lanes past Northgate are closed.

    Too bad- since Intercity Transit’s express buses southbound from Tacoma, transfer for the Intercity Transit 600-series, go to one hour headways much after 7, and for people who’d sooner not wait on a street stop in that city after dark- word “hosed” comes to mind.

    3. Real problem with the fastest buses is that the fast ones can’t be coupled. The Russians, who make the best of tough situations, used to couple ordinary beat-up forty-foot trolleybuses together and raise poles on the back one. Huge ridership.Can’t prove it, but suspect this is one reason the Ukrainians will face Russian guns to fight for right to German, or at least Czech and Polish equipment and operating procedures.

    So think about it: with safe following distance of six seconds, at sixty miles an hour, a platoon of six articulated buses will take about a third of a mile. Welcome to check out my math. Serious capacity problem, no? A four-car LINK caliber train with an equivalent or greater passenger capacity takes three hundred sixty feet at any speed. Meaning need for large parking space, full of ticked off passengers, waiting to enter the express bus lanes.

    4. Aside from the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel, this region does not have a single mile of real express bus lanes, meaning lanes that nothing but buses and snow-plows can get into. Whatever can get in, does, including crashed or stalled cars which aren’t allowed to be there. Ride the Lynnwood or Everett service across the notorious “County Line” around 5pm. Don’t let the speed scare you: three miles an hour is a survivable crash.

    5. Loudly and publicly, run this past the people you mention: Thirty years after the opening of the DSTT, would you support the construction of about seven miles of fully reserved lanes carrying your express buses both directions all hours between Northgate and Seattle?

    And make them speak up so everybody can hear the answer. Problem solved.

    Mark Dublin

  6. Sherwin Lee says

    I knew Prop. 1 was an opportunity for ETA to show its true colors and I was right. To masquerade as a BRT/bus supporter only to throw buses under the bus when it’s time to actually support bus transit is the height of hypocrisy.

  7. Sam says

    In the last “statement” link, there’s a chart that says east King County pays 35% of Metro’s taxes but only receives 17% of their service. Is that true?

    • Brent says

      ETA didn’t respond to explain where they got their figures. Feel free to ask them.

      One of the problems with that sort of analysis, though, is that it doesn’t include fare revenue. Net subsidy that credits geographical areas for fare revenue is a totally different calculation with a totally different result.

    • Mark Dublin says

      Suppose a passenger who lives in the least populated part of,say, East King County, every workday takes one of the relatively few bus routes into Seattle, or Bellevue, and becomes part of the heavier ridership there?

      Or, someone who’s only paved transit provider is part of the Intersate highway system, daily uses it to get into multiple places where he can drive regional and city corridors to his heart’s delight?

      One of the major contributions of the private automobile to personal freedom for huge numbers of people was that it immediately rendered a huge number of town, city, county, and state boundaries invisible and irrelevant.

      Little-remembered early benefit was liberation for miners, loggers, and factory workers from company towns, which included only company-owned homes, the soul-owning Company Store in the Tennessee Ernie Ford song, and also the company’s private police, also known as “thugs” during labor disputes.

      Your car tabs are keys to an continental system of pavement. When the fare system of transit moves a hundred fifty years ahead and catches up, ridership will too.

      Mark Dublin

    • Nathanael says

      Um, Sam, King County pays 100% of King County Metro’s taxes and receives 100% of its service. You do realize that all the cities within King County *are part of King County*, right?

    • Glenn in Portland says

      I get that the usual are against transit. However, I don’t get where Kemper Freeman really fits into all this. Is he pissed off because Bellevue Square is outside the walking distance of the light rail line? Or is he worried that more light rail in general reduces driving, and thus lessens the value of shopping malls such as his?

      I just don’t get where his dog in this fight really is.

      • David Lawson says

        I see two ways to interpret Kemper’s position, one charitable and one uncharitable.

        The charitable view is that he is a utopian, and sees utopia as a world where everyone can use their personal vehicle to go wherever they like. He has always talked up that kind of personal mobility and never once that I can recall acknowledged the weaknesses of car dependency. He (along with many people who never actually use transit) sees a world where people take transit as depressing and unfree.

        The uncharitable view is that he does not want transit users, whom he perceives to be lower-income people, anywhere near his properties, which he has spent a great deal of time and money trying to market as exclusive.

        The good news is that to my knowledge he (along with a number of other typical transit opponents) has been completely silent on Prop 1.

      • Mark Dublin says

        I suspect that if Kemper Freeman were a dog, he ‘d now be sleeping by the fireplace with is nose in his master’s slippers, dreaming of chasing trains across the I-90 bridge in the days when every cat in Bellevue was high in a tree whose roots he’d just watered.

        Didn’t his own community association finally dis-associate with him? Peopled increasingly with young residents, many of whom come from parts of the world where good public transit is unquestioned, and corporate share holders of the same age and experience who don’t ask for modern transit nicely- it’s not his dad’s Bellevue now.

        Time’s on rail’s side. Though those enough with enough years to understand that are ourselves in serious danger of letting the ETA’s even older and more senile remarks drive us to early death by stroke or coronary.

        Really is too bad Don Martin, Sid Caeser, Soupy Sales, and Almost Live preceded us. Some decent humor around and we might have lived.

        Mark Dublin

      • Glenn in Portland says

        The good news is that to my knowledge he (along with a number of other typical transit opponents) has been completely silent on Prop 1.

        I’m in Portland so I don’t know the names too well, but his name shows up on some of the stuff, where I have attempted to find who is supporting the Anti-Prop 1 crowd. It isn’t a complete correspondence, but it does seem to be involved a bit, and so I dug a bit deeper. The money line seems a bit hard to trace in this case.

  8. Anandakos says

    Actually, that “BRT” plan has some potentially good ideas. It even includes a proposal for a “DBTT”! There’s the stupid assertion that such a system could be paid for without increasing the ST sales tax and it looks like it’s not really BRT, but rather “BlueStreak” style CBD expresses with a few new freeway flyer stops. It’s clearly a commuter-oriented thing, and not all day transit.

    However, it looks like a good starting point for a decent Eastside network, which is absolutely going to be needed in the coming years, assuming that the US economy doesn’t go completely in la toilette.

    • Mark Dublin says

      One reasonable and useful plan for BRT: like the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel extended region-wide, build right-of-way to rail standards, and either wait to add rail as money for trains becomes available, or immediately put down the track as well.

      Yes, I know about the original tra’sck in the DSTT, which makes a good object lesson about either cheaping out or screwing up. Original plan for trackbed in the Tunnel was to cut “blockouts”, meaning grooves in a five-foot-thick bed of reinforced concrete for the trackbed, and pave the grooves over with lighter cement that could easily be jackhammerd and skillsawed out.

      Also, neither low-floored trains nor buses capable of sixty miles an hour were available in the early 1980’s. So Tunnel would have had to be shut down regardless while pavement was cut down about a foot, as well as new tracks laid and current “return” properly insulated.

      Rail-building this way undoubtedly costs more than for trains only, and probably requires heavier structure and right of way in critical places. But it also removes probably the only almost legitimate argument for going with buses: the length of time it takes to deliver a rail line.

      People can’t be blamed for losing tempers when they’re told that they’ll have to put with bad transit for thirty years until rail can be delivered. Best thing about this kind of busway is that while transit opponents under discussion here can still run their gums and jaws, their teeth will be a slipper-comforted fireside four-legged dream.

      Mark Dublin

      • Mark Dublin says

        BTW, that’s “tracks”- though spelling above describes them a lot better.

        MD

      • William C. says

        But would creating such exclusive ROW be any faster than building rail? It definitely wouldn’t be any less expensive, and I don’t see how it would be any less difficult, so where would be the technical advantage?

      • says

        But would creating such exclusive ROW be any faster than building rail? It definitely wouldn’t be any less expensive, and I don’t see how it would be any less difficult, so where would be the technical advantage?

        It would be quite a bit less expensive, for the same reason that the DSTT was less expensive than Central Link. You build infrastructure piece by piece, in the places where it’s most needed. By connecting the bus tunnel directly to the express lanes, you essentially provide a grade-separated link between Seattle, Bellevue, Northgate, Eastgate, Southcenter, etc., and all you had to build was a couple miles of underground tunnel.

        My favorite example is Westlake Ave. Imagine if there were a tunnel between Jackson St and Valley St, traveling via Westlake Ave to Stewart St to 1st Ave. There would be stops at Mercer, Denny, Pine, Madison, and Jackson. This tunnel would probably cost about as much as the DSTT, and in return, you get grade separation for passengers to Aurora Village, Fremont, Wallingford, Ballard (40), Green Lake, Greenwood, Phinney Ridge, Crown Hill, and maybe even West Seattle (recoupling the C with the E through the tunnel). The key part is that you’re not spending any money building infrastructure along streets that aren’t congested today, like Aurora and Westlake (north of Valley).

        This is why the DSTT is so successful, and why RapidRide is fundamentally broken. BRT works best when it focuses improvements where they’re needed, and takes advantage of what’s already there. Rebuilding an entire corridor for BRT will never be as good or as cost-effective as rebuilding the corridor for rail.

      • William C. says

        Thank you, Aleks. You’ve convinced me that, in certain corridors (West Seattle, maybe? I-5? I-90 to Eastgate?), open BRT would be faster and cheaper than rail.

        However, it seems to me that Mark’s vision is different than this: he seems to want to build closed BRT lanes region-wide – which, I still maintain, would be just as difficult and time-consuming as rail.

    • Anandakos says

      I agree with Aleks; there is no need for new fully separated busways except through central Bellevue. The reason I lauded this plan is that it uses the existing HOV lanes on the freeways for the separation out in the boonies. It’s “open BRT” which is of course a hip word for “express buses with flyer stops”. Think of Golden Gate Transit which has these amazingly cheap, sane and heavily used freeway stops tucked between ordinary off ramps and clover leaf on-ramps all along 101 north of the bridge. And the CHiPs actually give cars that drive through them nasty tickets.

      Another nice thing is that they create short quarter of a mile “busways” that even expresses that aren’t stopping at a particular “pad” (that’s the local name) will use — slowly, true — to bypass the worst sorts of congestion.

      Now I realize that if ST built such “flyer stops” they’d be like Mountlake Terrace, but just because the good people at ST have a bit of an edifice complex doesn’t mean that bus stops within the envelope of a freeway aren’t very good things. They aren’t the only thing, but can be good done well.

      Isn’t the I-405/SR 167 Eastside spine supposed to be “rebuilt” with an additional HOT lane each direction in the next decade? It seems to me that incorporating a good portion of this open proposal for a base commuter system with an all-hours captive BRT (just Alderwood to Kent on the main stem) with the existing Seattle-centric system crossing it at many places providing collection-distribution services would be a great basis for a strong all day frequent Eastside bus system.

      There might be political hassles over the necessary high tolls/3+ HOV restriction required to make the buses work at their best, but the politicians need to man (and woman) up and say “There is no more room for additional high capacity roads, people! We might be able to tuck an additional lane in here and there on the roads we have, but as for new routings, we have what we’re going to have, and we have to use them more productively.”

      • Mike Orr says

        WSDOT has outlined BRT on 405 as part of the next widening project. ST also has 405 BRT in its long-range plan. I don’t remember if it’s for ST3 or later, but if it chooses WSDOT’s design it would have to wait for the highway project which isn’t scheduled yet. There’s nothing yet on what kind of stations it might have or how people will get to them.

  9. Sean says

    Why isn’t the ETA excited about the roads money? Does that many anyone happy? Maybe Prop 1 should have only been for transit and raised less revenue. Roads don’t seem to appease anyone.

    • lakecityrider says

      With tongue firmly in cheek: Because roads don’t need a vote, silly. That money is budgeted, collected, and spent almost always without any public vote. Only transit needs a vote. Therefore, this pesky “transit vote” is getting in the way of roads.

      Now don’t mind me, I’m off to hop on my unfree transit network and live a limiting lifestyle enjoying a hand pie in Fremont.

      • Mark Dublin says

        William C., Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel is a good case in point. When we opened the Tunnel on September 15, 1990, nobody involved with the project ever expected that it would take 19 years before Train One rolled through Westlake carrying passengers.

        If we had waited two decades to even start building, and digging, the “chain of buses” up Third Avenue every rush hour would have accompanied the years, seeing to it that only people who lived downtown growing fewer by the day, would ever work there.

        As far as extra expense goes, would like to see an accurate figure in the debit column for every minute of operating time lost to stalled traffic. My guess is that this expense would pay for a lot of elevated and underground structure over time periods like two decades.

        My bus from Lynnwood into Downtown was indeed on schedule last night- one padded to let a forty minute ride be called a regional express. If those inbound PM express lanes had existed for 20 years- at least we would have had means and money to put the 512 in the Tunnel where it belongs.

        When is LINK going to get to Lynnwood- 2030? The Pleistocene Age was only temporary too.

        Mark Dublin

      • William C. says

        I’m all for that, Mark. What I’m saying is that building these separated lanes, in any given location, would be just as big a project as building new Link lines there. If you want to accelerate these big transit projects, I wholeheartedly agree with you – but I don’t see how just making them bus lanes instead of rail lines would help.

      • Mike Orr says

        Are you saying they expected trains sooner? Many people were doubtful there would ever be trains because not enough people would vote for such an expensive project.

        Lynnwood Link is coming in 2023.

  10. Mark Dublin says

    Mike, one of the worst frustrations over the first nineteen years of Tunnel service for those of us that drove the Bredas when they had weak diesel in their trailers, was that every time we suggested improvements in DSTT operations, invariable response from Metro management, and worse from their political bosses was that improving the system wasn’t worth any money because buses in the Tunnel were only temporary.

    And William, people who flatly believed there would never be trains were often easier to talk to than whose who used their impending appearance as an excuse for a whole career’s duration of inaction. At least some of them, unlike ETA, were willing to support some improvements.

    And Tim Eyman? I really wonder if his presence lasted so long- remember, even small-pox generates antibodies, the Europeans’ most powerful weapon in seizing North America- because his vile activities provided two decades of excuses for tired, disillusioned people to do nothing.

    What keeps this reference from its usual fate of being OT is the heartbreaking damage done to our transit system under a whole generation of leadership by people who were liberal democrats and farther left in the ‘sixties and ‘seventies, but whom Ronald Reagan and his successors cut off at the knees like the Union soldiers walking into grapeshot at Fredericksburg.

    My greatest hope for an electric train-ride from Olympia to Everett, and maybe farther both ways, is the history presently-arriving generations weren’t here to see and be devastated by.

    With both hope and terrible sorrow and regret,

    Mark Dublin

  11. says

    Wow. They are trying to ding metro for not providing enough service to suburban areas? Ok, rant alert.

    1: Metro is one of the best agencies in the area for suburban service. I look at areas in S King County like Federal Way and Auburn (like my house, which, despite being in a suburban residential area, is within 1.5 miles of two hourly routes, two half-hourly routes, and 3 peak only routes), and I think “gee, metro is doing a much better job at covering suburban routes than Pierce Transit.”

    2: Seattle is where the population is. One third of King County’s population is in Seattle.

    3: Many of the people who don’t live in Seattle commute there using metro.buses both express (which they lip service to trying to save) and non, and spend all day there, potentially riding more buses throughout the day.

    4: “…nearly 60% of all transportation tax revenue is spent on transit.” It sure is convenient of them to use the sales tax figure, which makes metro look rich, rather than the state transportation budget (2% goes to transit), which would reveal more of the truth than they want you to know.

    5: Define “West King County.” Does it include Mercer? Does it include the entirety of North King? What is it? Is its definition formulated to make it look unfairly overserved? I wouldn’t really be thrilled to give them the benefit of the doubt on that one.

    6: 3.6% of regional trips are taken on transit, but transit gets 60% of the taxes. Would they consider comparing the 3.6% of trips taken on transit to the 2% of the state budget transit gets? No, they aren’t interested in being objective.

    7: No mention is made of the fact that 43% of Seattle commutes are on public transit. They just leave that buried in the 3.6%. Because, you know, it’s better to just pretend that it isn’t there.

    8: “Transit usage is only projected to grow to about 5% system-wide on a daily basis by 2040. This assumes a doubling of local transit service hours, extension of light rail to Everett, Redmond, Issaquah, Tacoma and Lakewood, plus tolling of all Highways of Statewide Significance in the Puget Sound region.” I didn’t have time to research the sited source, but I think they are probably spinning it to make it look like transit is a terrible investment. They already have a long history of misrepresenting statistics just from this article alone. And is it suspicious to anyone else that they site a 2010 study that is in the middle of being updated?

    I suspect that the author of this document is some unnamed but well known person from Mukilteo.

    • says

      Speaking of Pierce Transit, the anti-transit No campaign has a misleading and sad statement on their site claiming that Pierce Transit is an example that Metro can learn from.

      They bait you by saying PT is increasing service after “being forced to cut costs after voters rejected a tax increase”. What they don’t tell you is that PT already slashed ~40% of its service before the vote. And they ignore or think Metro’s cost efficiency measures count for nothing.

      • Brent says

        Efficiency leads to more transit service in the densest locations, such as downtown Seattle, and less service where the buses are mostly empty. But now, ETA is opposed to efficiency in bus service, at least for this election.

        The ultimate solution to subarea equity is the elimination of transit service. Sadly, I think that is what some in ETA are hoping for, despite all the fake front groups with the name “transit” in them set up by the opposition statement authors.

        If they want a more swallowable fake-out of pro-transit voters, they should set up websites for these fake front groups saying that *too much* of the Prop 1 money is going to road spending (and ignore the detail that it is for maintenance only, and not for state or federal highways). Nothing in ETA’s latest flyer suggests that bus service on the eastside or in south King County actually be increased. They simply call for spending on buses to be decreased.

        There’s a huge problem in that strategy of calling for bus spending to be decreased. A lot of senior citizens depend on the bus system for mobility. And seniors vote.

  12. KyleK says

    Nice post Brent. I like the Jon Stewart like burn of the anti-transit nutbags – who are comically Mr. Burns-esque by every measure.

    Regarding Prop 1’s 40% to road maintenance: I suspect that was a backroom deal to get all those insiders on board. If not, I have to question the strategy… I doubt it’s convincing anyone into a yes vote.

    Like others already pointed out – roads just get funded by automagic, so why would they need a measure?

    • Brent says

      The 40% isn’t dedicated to roads. It is alloted to cities on a population basis, to fund their local transporation master plan needs. ETA could lobby the eastside cities to buy more bus service or spend it on transit capital projects. I’m not holding my breath for that one.

      • KyleK says

        Re: 40% – OK – but it probably will end up as road maintenance, right?

        Point being that either of the alternative options would be preferable politically to what they are going with.

        Option 1/Save Metro: .1 tax and preserve the $20 car tab.

        Option 2/Save and improve metro: Same tax, tout improved service/added lines/etc. Add a shiny thing like the downtown connector and some new RR on the Eastside.

      • Brent says

        I’ll leave the question of which approach would have gotten the highest vote percentage to the polling professionals. For now, I’m focused on what is actually on the ballot.

        Federal Way could very well increase their bus service with some of their share, given the Federal Way City Council just voted to endorse Proposition 1.

        We can make suggestions to the Seattle City Council, but I would discourage using the money for buying bus hours when we have a long list of one-time capital improvement projects for pedestrians, bicyclists, and buses waiting for a funding source. That’s a discussion I’d rather have *after* the election.

        The Seattle City Council made clear its intent to not use Prop 1 money for rail when they voted unanimously to endorse Proposition 1 this past Monday.

      • Brent says

        aw,

        It is not a given that the unincorporated share will be used for roads. A lot of the unincorporated portion lives in urbanized pockets that can’t seem to get adjoining cities to annex them (or don’t want to be annexed). They have sidewalks to build or maintain, bike paths to build or improve, ADA curbcuts to install, and bus service to save and improve upon. I think the county council will listen to residents of unincorporated areas about how they want their share spent. But yes, I’m sure a chunk will be used to maintain existing asphalt, including in Seattle.

      • Anandakos says

        @Brent,

        Lord knows that many of Seattle’s streets need some maintenance! Since this is a proposition led by transit, I’d support focusing on transit streets that need repairs (and that’s fair; the buses do a pretty good job of tearing them up with their high rear axle loads).

      • Nathanael says

        Check the state of your local complete-streets ordinances. If you’ve got them, then some of that money is going to end up going to maintain sidewalks. As it should.

    • djw says

      Like others already pointed out – roads just get funded by automagic, so why would they need a measure?

      As the most recent monstrous transportation bill floated by Tom and company shows, the proposition that “the legislature will always find vote-free billions for roads” doesn’t translate into “the legislature will always take care of necessary maintenance for existing roads.” The automagic they conjure up tends to favor the new, bright, and shiny, not the boring and routine.

      • KyleK says

        To be clear – I really want prop 1 to pass and I’m donating my time and money to helping that happen.

        I also think the maintenance/city improvement money is a good thing. As you point out – there is always money for a highway to nowhere but rarely money to fix potholes.

        I’m just interested in why its there… It seems like more of a risk than a help. But I’ll digress – Brent is right that this is a conversation best had after 4/22.

  13. MrZ says

    Don’t let my comments mis-lead you, I hope King Co. is able to pull this off. but $60 car tabs is very hard sell. And if my memory serves this has been tried before and failed (coupling roads and transit in king county). I will admit, there is a part of me that wants to see this fail. Not to destroy transit, but to bring the overall transit funding issue front and center. Neighboring counties have gone through the cuts, King County has gotten special treatment for these past few years and its time for them to cut. Some cuts are healthy cuts, and I think need to be made to optimize metro service. Others are little too deep. But these cuts if they do happen will also bring the funding issue front and center, and hopefully a resolution can be found that benefits everyone, not just King County again.

    • Nathanael says

      For reference, car registration fees in a state which isn’t afraid of income taxes:

      http://dmv.ny.gov/registration/registration-fees-use-taxes-and-supplemental-fees-passenger-vehicles

      They’re high, but i think they’re actually lower than yours are, because yours only last for one year, if I’m not mistaken, and ours last for 2 years.

      The reason your fees keep going so high in Washington state is that you have no state income tax. Here in NY we have 4% state sales tax and most counties have a 4% county sales tax (slightly higher in NYC) — you already have a 6.5% state sales tax due to the unwillingness to pass an income tax.

      You can’t keep running the state without an income tax forever. Eventually you’re either going to have a collapse in the state’s infrastructure and services, or the drag from the ever-higher sales taxes and fees will start to make other states much more attractive. Right now, WA is getting away with this due to immigration from the tech boom — basically, new development is paying for the old infrastructure, in the classic development Ponzi scheme described by Chuck Marohn at Strong Towns. But that isn’t sustainable. Eventually someone’s going to need to bite the bullet and start taxing the income of the wealthy.

      Or maybe not. Washington state DOES have an estate tax. When Bill Gates dies, maybe that’ll balance the budget for the next decade. Except that I think he’s planning to give it all to charity, which will make it exempt.

  14. Brent says

    If Prop 1 is defeated, I’m afraid transit will be an even lower priority for the state legislature. They’ll see that the people have voted to deprioritize transit.

    There are some routing efficiencies I’d still like to see Metro enact, but they are in the 0-2% range of service hours — nothing approaching 17%.

    • KyleK says

      I concur. A failure on prop 1 is a disaster for local transit — reading it any other way is wishful thinking.

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