He wants to disband Sound Transit, and he’s not the only person who wants that.

Disband Sound Transit. One less duplicative bureaucracy to fund and maintain. Finish King County’s light rail — since so much money has been sunk into it already we might as well go ahead and finish the thing, then operate it as a laboratory and concrete example of what not to do next time, should the region ever venture into rail again. Then turn it over to Metro. Give the Tacoma light rail segment to Pierce Transit.

Turn the Sounder commuter trains — which always made far more sense than light rail since the rights of way already exist and they move people between towns, a major source of congestion — over to Amtrak and/or the Washington State Department of Transportation (Amtrak already provides contract commuter service in California, Maryland, Virginia and Connecticut, contracts with the state of Washington for support of the Cascades service and provides maintenance services for Sounder). And turn express-bus service over to Metro, Pierce Transit and Community Transit, which should have been running it anyway.

It’s a list of action items without any reason. Why does he want to disband Sound Transit? Because it’s duplicative? What is agency is it duplicating exactly? Because “Metro, Pierce Transit and Community Transit” should have been running it anyway?

He ends with ‘Ban from regional transportation planning anyone who has uttered, or even thought, the phrase, “We’ve got to get people out of their cars.”‘ Yikes.

There’s nothing of substance here, but it’s worth noting that Virgin is not alone in his thinking, and we need to be vigilent against those trying to destroy our transit agencies.

12 Replies to “You’ve got to give us a why, Bill!”

  1. Jesus why’d you give it that title? It makes it sound like you want to disband sound transit!

  2. The recent spate of anti-rail/anti-ST rhetoric has left me with a feeling of dread. My god, haven’t these people ever ventured outside of Seattle (just 150 miles north or south of the metro area provide shining examples of good rapid transit) ? I’m seriously bummed.

  3. King County alone is as large or larger than the Vancouver region covered by Translink or the Portland region covered by Tri-Met. The three “local” transit agencies operate the bus services already. BNSF operates the Sounder train. Link will be operated by Metro. What is the purpose of a “regional” transit agency if it is shackled by so called sub-area equity if it means that every project is looked at as a sub-area benefit rather than a regional benefit? What is the purpose of one huge tax district when it basically constrains a place like the City of Seattle, which has more expensive transit needs (and voters are willing to for them), by linking arms with South King County or Snohomish? It seems to me that Sound Transit’s only saving grace is a well-managed project delivery program (it wasn’t always that way). If there needs to be a multi-county transit agency, why shouldn’t it be reformed to produce regional results while fostering local benefits where appropriate through differentiated taxing levels? Why oppose reform when the writing is on the wall?

  4. hold your horses multimodal man!

    BNSF owns the rails sounder runs on, but sound transit operates sounder.

    Tri-Met is a regional agency partnership of three counties (sounds familiar) and just because king county is big, doesn’t mean it can ignore the commuting patterns of it’s neighbors.

    Skytrains service district is about 200,000 people larger than King County as a whole, and about 350,000 larger than so-called “urban” king county, the part served by Sound Transit’s RTA.

    That said, you’re right that sub-area equity is a huge problem for the reasonablity the transit equation, since Seattle needs transit much more than Auburn does, and as you said, the expenses there are naturally much higher.

    I think there is a need for Sound Transit to think about transit from a regional perspective. Personally, I think Seattle needs it’s own agency, especially since King County is screwing seattle (where transit is most needed) out of new service with it’s grotesque 40/40/20 rule.

  5. multimodal man:

    A regional agency ensures integrated transit planning. If we left things up to each county and/or city, there’s no guarantee that light rail systems in each area would even be compatible. It would be a lot harder to gauge the impact of project A in one district from project B in another district, particuarly if each had to be approved by voters separately.

    Sound Transit is a good thing. We need a regional agency. I’d rather abolish the local agencies and kick the state out of our regional transportation business than get rid of Sound Transit.

    As for subarea equity, it’s a political reality that you have to give people something for their taxes or else they’re not going to vote to be taxed. Some voters have a broader view but most people want at least some kind of payoff that they can see in their area, even if they don’t plan to use it. It’s possible a different subarea equity formula would be a better idea, but the concept is necessary in some form.

    I think what’s needed is a constant source of funding that is always paying back annual proportional benefits to each area. That way everyone can see that something tangible is happening in their area, but everything is being built to a regional plan. Then figure out the amount of revenue that is politically viable, put together a tax package to get that revenue, and start building to the regional plan in priority order within each subarea. If people want more rail faster, then they can vote to add more revenue.

  6. Actually, I am starting to feel a little more Seattle-centric in my transit dreams. If the money/votes are there to fund a high quality local rail-as-the-backbone system, I’m all for booting sub-area equity type planning off the table. In a very microscopic and imperfect way, the SLUS seems to have been born from this philosophy.

    Maybe they (I don’t know who “they” are) should just gerrymander the pro-rail districts into a single entity.

  7. Oh, and one thing about building as much in other areas proportional to revenue as in Seattle is that the end result is a more extensive rail network. When the available regional projects outside the metro core are complete, then we can shrink the revenue base to the Seattle subarea and start cranking out more in-city lines.

  8. Ok, time to get people confuzzled =)

    Link Light-Rail is owned by Sound Transit and operated by KC Metro. Half of the selected employees (was based on a bid) was sent to Portland MAX for training. The other half will be trained in Seattle.

    South Lake Union Streetcar will be owned by the City of Seattle and operated by KC Metro however were trained on Portland Streetcar.

    Sounder is owned by Sound Transit, operated by BNSF Railway (Engineers and Conductors) and maintained by Amtrak.

    ST Express buses are divided by operating county. Service to Snohomish is CoachUSA/Community Transit, ‘Local’ routes are KC Metro, and service to Pierce County is by Pierce Transit.

    Tacoma Link (Streetcar) is owned by Sound Transit, operated by Pierce Transit. City of Tacoma is planning 2-4 Streetcar routes throughout Tacoma and when finalized and financining becomes available, the name of Tacoma Link will become ‘Tacoma Streetcar’ and City of Tacoma owned.

    There are talks on the Everett Streetcar which would be operated by Everett Transit and be a circular route throughout the Downtown core of Everett but nothing has been said since it’s conception earlier this year.

  9. Brian: It’s somewhat less confuzzling to say that Community Transit’s contractor is First Transit.

  10. Unfortunately for subarea equity, it was put in place before a continuous (or, at least, long-term) funding mechanism was approved – which makes it a political albatross until a comprehensive plan is passed in the whole region. Since we know that a balanced comprehensive plan (which was exactly what just failed) will likely never pass unless the legislature just forces it on the region. And like that is going to happen.

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