Prop. 1 is a vote about a lot of different things. It’s a vote about 50 miles of rail, and $7 billion or so of new roads, replacements for existing roads, and improvements for existing roads. To me it’s more than that, it’s also a vote on the sort of city we want to live in, what life is going to be like in Seattle in 50 years, and whether Seattle can finally move out of the sort of transportation “Groundhog’s Day” (as the PI put it) and become a city that actually gets things done rather than just talking about the perfect plan for generations.

One thing it’s not, or shouldn’t be: It’s not a vote about global warming or about greenhouse gases. According to Sightline’s Clark Williams-Derry, the roads portion, RTID, could increase carbon emissions by as much as 15 million tons over 50 years. That’s an average of 300,000 tons per year. Currently, the US outputs 6394.5 million tons per year (a “metric” tonne is 110.25 English “tons”). Even if that were not to increase (it will), that means represents less than one half of one one hundredth of one percent of the US’s total greenhouse emissions. Or put another way, that means it’s less than four tenths of one percent of what our region does in greenhouse emissions (our region is about 1.25% of the nation’s population and pollutes slightly more than the average per person). For comparison, Sea-Tac airport is about 7% of our region’s greenhouse emissions, and adding a third runway ought to increase greenhouse emissions by about 50% there. That’d be about 3.5% of our region’s greenhouse gas emissions meaning the third runaway at Sea-Tac is an entire order of magnitude more greenhouse gas emissions than all the roads in RTID. According to David Suzuki, Erica Barnett’s trips to Texas at Atlanta by plane are as bad as driving a hummer there and back the whole distance. So we shouldn’t stop light-rail and all the good it will provide for a few tenth’s of a percent increase in greenhouse gases.

The arguments against ST2 have been made for generations. Look at the image to the left, it has the arguments against Forward Thrust 40 years ago. “Seattle doesn’t have the population density.” “It would be well to see how the controversial Bay Area Rapid Transit turns out” (Really well by the way with lots of expansion plans). “I feel the transit plan would saddle the people with an extremely high debt for 40 years” (the bonds would have been paid off this year) “His plea is for buses is dedicated highway lanes”. Isn’t that John Niles argument as well?

The fact is, that BRT has been tried here in the bus tunnel, at a cost the same as subway, but far worse for ridership. It has been tried in highway lanes in Los Angeles where there were huge cost overruns, making it almost as expensive as a subway line, and it even had collisions at the rate of one per week. So BRT is a red herring, and not a workable solution. We need to put it to bed.

Why are we still having this conversation after 40 years? Because Seattle is stuck in the ideas phase and can’t get past it, can’t put rubber to the road (or steel to the rails as it were) and get things done. Maybe our motto should be “don’t just do something, stand there!”

13 Replies to “Prop. 1”

  1. Am I to understand that your qualifications for evaluating the transportation issues in the Seattle area re: tax burdens, congestion relief (or lack thereof), and moving people and goods is based on your being a member of the fashion industry in California?

    You’re not even a resident in the King/Pierce/Snohomish County area that will be taxed by the RTID/Sound Transit 50-year tax?

    That makes you just another guy on a platform having a religious experience with light rail & making emotional arguments.


    * daimajin
    * Ben Schiendelman
    * Nickin206


    * Gender: Male
    * Industry: Fashion
    * Occupation: Designer
    * Location: San Francisco : CA

  2. ??
    I live in Capitol Hill, grew up in Wallingford and have lived in Seattle for 22 of the 26 years I’ve been alive so don’t give me some bullshit about how I’m not a resident you liar.

    Go troll somewhere else!

  3. …and I’m an engineer already, but going back for my civil degree.

    Anonymous, I believe you win this week’s “dumbass bitch” award for unsubstantiated, ad hominem attacks against those who actually do their homework.

  4. Two problems with this argument:

    1.) Stopping the almost-completed 3rd runway is not an option while stopping as-yet-unbuilt highways is an option.

    2.) But even if we could make the 3rd runway disappear, the calculation is not correct. Overall, we need to reduce GHG’s by 80% from a 1990 baseline — that means transportation contributions cannot increase, as they would if Prop 1 passes, but must decrease by 80%. A correct calculation would subtract 20% of 1990 RTID area transportation GHG’s from the GHG’s predicted for the RTID area if Prop 1 passes. The result is how far off Prop 1 is from meeting the necessary GHG targets. This is the number you need to be comparing with other things — and remember, other things should be dropping by 80%. If you don’t decrease them by 80%, you’re essentially giving up by assuming that we will do nothing to solve global warming. Voting yes on Prop 1 is like saying we’re screwed no matter what, so it just doesn’t matter what we do.

  5. Even at 1990 levels, Prop. 1 is a piddling percentage of green house gases. According ot my link, US greenhouse gases increased 16.3% from 1990 to 2005. So it’s like a 0.000000449 * 1.163 fraction instead of just a 0.000000449 portion.

    And your 3rd runway argument is shitty. You don’t care about the third runway, niether does the sierra club or the jet-set stranger crowd. You just want to get on your high horse.

    Well, mine’s not a high horse. Look, let’s work on global warming. But let’s not destroy something that will help in spite of the pieces that will hurt.

  6. Anonymous, for this particular vote it DOESN’T matter what we do, because these highway projects will be funded by other means.

    Here’s the rub: However we cut down on driving, we’ll cut down on driving. We can’t cut down on driving enough via congestion to make any significant reduction in our greenhouse gas output – but when other choices present themselves, like building dense development and using light rail, we can.

    The “greenhouse gas” attack on Proposition 1 is absolutely asinine, because Proposition 1 is the ONLY option on the table that would get 300,000 trips a day off the roads and onto sustainable energy.

  7. “Stopping the almost-completed 3rd runway is not an option while stopping as-yet-unbuilt highways is an option.”

    Random anonymous Sierra Club idiot seems to be confusing highways with the vehicles which drive on them.

    Similarly, it’s not the Third Runway causing global warming, it’s the jets with all the “purist greenie” eco tourists on those runways killing off your polar bears.

    Real difficult to figure out, no?

    Now, go back to fighting/supporting electric light rail, and pushing slow, GHG-emitting buses on us….

    The Sierra Clubbers sound an awful lot like Nader’s Raiders from 2000. A totally clueless bunch of ideologues…

  8. Check it out. The pointed-headed academic clown in Ron Sims’ shop Googled “daimajin blogger” and this is what he came up with:

    Blogger: User Profile: daimajindaimajin. Gender: Male; Industry: Fashion; Occupation: Designer; Location: San Francisco : CA. Blogs. Blog Name, Team Members. View this Blog … – 5k – Cached – Similar pages – Note this

    These Sierra Clubbers are intellectually lazy ideologues who base their theories on pure fiction. The worst of all worlds.

    Whether Prop. 1 wins or loses in November, one thing is for sure: Ron Sims and his rag-tag group of snobbish elitists at the Sierra Club will go the way of Ralph Nader’s Green Party….

  9. What’s amazing is that “anonymous” doesn’t actually read about the economics of rail before posting that I’m having a “religious experience”.

    Anonymous – I’m an atheist, and I’m also an engineer. How, exactly, are we going to move a couple hundred thousand new people into Seattle in 2030, if not with rail?

  10. Thanks for this piece. It really underlines how asinine the global warming objections to Prop. 1 are.

    We need to reduce emissions by 50-80%. New regional population alone is going to add 15% or more to emissions by 2030. Whatever solution gets us to 20-50% of our current emissions is not going to be affected by a proposal that increases our emissions by .4 percent.

    We need massive auto fleet conversion to plug-in hybrids, which if universal could reduce transportation-related emissions by 2/3. We need investment in technologies to reduce the car-related emissions further. We need smart development and we need transit choices, and congestion pricing would help. We need to improve conservation and efficiency of power plants, and shift away from natural gas regionally and carbon-emitting plants in general. A carbon tax and probably some kind of carbon-trading system will be essential.

    None of that is accomplished by voting no on Prop 1. Some of that, at the margins, is accomplished by voting yes.

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