Prop. 1 Aftermath: What’s next for 520?

This post originally appeared on Orphan Road.

Erica Barnett sums up, somewhat inadvertently, the problems with crafting another transportation package:

It was too big and too divisive, and hopefully the people who craft a replacement will have learned their lesson by the next time. (I would prefer, of course, that that lesson be: No more roads expansion; money for neighborhood streets, safety and maintenance; and more money for rail NOW, rather than in 20 years–but that’s just me.) In any case, I think one lesson is definitely that an $18 billion, 50-year package is simply too big to pass–especially when, as with this package, it doesn’t fully fund all the projects it includes, meaning that voters will have to pay tolls or additional taxes to finish major projects like SR-520.

In other words, this package was too big, but it wasn’t big enough! Reminds me of that classic Woody Allen line, “the food was terrible, but the portions were so small!”

Any package that “fully funds” SR-520 would, by definition, have to include even more money for roads, something that Barnett and others seem dead-set against. So where does that leave us?

It should be said, though, that “fully funding” a new 520 bridge was never, and should never have been the point of a regional transportation initiative. 520 is a state road, and it’s ultimately the state’s responsibility. The point of the RTID was simply to have the 3-county region kick in a some extra money to fill in the gap between what the state was willing to pay, what tolling could provide, and what the new bridge will actually cost.

Now the state will have to kick in the rest. But with the current gas tax money on the decline, and I-960 looming overhead, it’s unclear how they’re going to do that.

Prop. 1 Aftermath: What about I-960?

This post originally appeared on Orphan Road.

The passage of I-960, which will requires a 2/3 vote of the people or the legislature to raise taxes, will certainly complicate future transportation proposals. Already the state is worried that the gas tax money is drying up, and it will be next to impossible to get the 2/3 majority required to raise revenue for any other projects.

So what does that mean for transportation? Do RTID or Sound Transit count as state taxes, since they were chartered by the state and the state is responsible for tallying the votes, or are they local taxes that can circumvent the 2/3 marjority? That will certainly be up for debate, and probably get tied up in court along with I-960 itself.

Prop. 1 Aftermath: The Vote Goes Down

This post originally appeared on Orphan Road.

Well, last night was certainly disappointing. I have to hand it to the “no” campaign. They were outspent and outgunned and still they won. I was naive to underestimate their ability to corral everyone into a circular firing squad. It was surprisingly effective.

The “yes” folks, meanwhile, were clearly caught flat-footed, as the TNT’s Joe Turner notes:

“The No campaign created enough confusion over the cost, and that’s how you win,” said Pierce County Executive John Ladenburg, chairman of Sound Transit. “They put us on the defensive and we didn’t recover.”

He said it’s unlikely anything will happen on the regional transportation front before 2009.

“We’ve basically delayed the solution two to four years and driven up the cost by about $25 billion,” Ladenburg said.

The next fight will be the fight for public opinion. As the P-I writes, that’s still largely up for debate:

Before doing anything, some want to examine the election results more closely, possibly using surveys to figure out what voters didn’t like about the plan: Was it the taxes? The road versus transit squabbling? The specific projects proposed?

As state House Transportation Committee Chairwoman Judy Clibborn, D-Mercer Island, put it, “I don’t know what a no-vote tells me.”

That fight is now underway. Already Danny Westneat, a light rail proponent, is saying we should give up on big projects like light rail for a while, since the voters don’t seem to want to foot the bill. The state may be forced to kick in more money for a new 520 floating bridge, everything else is up in the air.

In the meantime, this is now our official regional transportation policy. Sweet!

Why I Voted Yes

I talked a little in my common sense post about how the large-scale subsidy of roads contributed to killing the street railways and passenger railroads, especially on the west coast. We’ve ended up with a massive amount of highway capital infrastructure in a time when the energy necessary to drag everyone around in a rubber tired, 4000 pound steel box is becoming increasingly scarce, increasingly expensive, and very possibly extremely damaging to our long-term ability to survive as a species.
Targeted growth is the only way that our political and economic system as it stands can prevent these problems from becoming crippling – growth into options that are more stable in the long term. We know a lot of our problem is that we’ve spread out too much – so shifting the vast majority of our growth to places we already occupy, creating infill development, is a good idea. We know we need an alternative to fossil fuels – and it so happens that almost all of our region’s electricity comes from renewable sources.
Something we have, something tried and true, that can meet both of the requirements above, is rail. A high capacity corridor for moving people in a small amount of real estate lends itself to new, dense development. The fact that it moves *people* and not *cars* means that when those people get off the train, they want to walk to their final destination, and not very far – people don’t like to transfer, even if that’s just getting in their cars at a park and ride. For now, those are a necessary evil to get people back on efficient transportation – the concentrating effects of rail are slow to start, but they are long term and generally permanent.
Today, at home, we have a problem. The costs of continued sprawl are vastly higher than a small bump in the sales tax in a state that doesn’t even have an income tax. Even if you’re just counting the direct cost of sprawling infrastructure needs, ignoring all the other benefits of building a dedicated transit corridor, building this is much cheaper than paying the spiraling costs to support waves of shoddy homes at the edges of the region. The Sound Transit component of Proposition 1 targets our urban cores with real alternatives that will help create a more stable economy and more efficient land use – and we needed it 80 years ago.
The plan is well targeted – comparing the plan from 1957 to the plan now shows us that in 50 years, our urban cores are still in the same place, and still have the same needs. The time is now – if history teaches us anything, it’s that another plan later would provide less, cost more, and take longer.

Please make time to vote for Proposition 1 today.

Vote Yes

This post originally appeared on Orphan Road.

Well, since I lumped him in earlier with The Stranger’s no-on-Prop-1 endorsement, it only seems fair to note that Dan Savage is quite assuredly voting yes on Prop. 1, and he’s got the photographic evidence to prove it.

Unfortunately he doesn’t wield the kind of semi-corrupt dictatorial control over his paper’s editorial voice that Frank Blethen appears to have over the Times. (I’m kidding!)


This post originally appeared on Orphan Road.

Most people have probably mailed in their ballots already, but in case you haven’t, you should go to the polls and vote today.

Our Prop. 1 coverage can be found here. Vote yes!

Yes on Prop. 1, Part Two

This chart is far more eloquent than any 2,000 words about buses vs. rail.

Trips requiring a transfer are in red. Click on the picture for a larger view.

Vote Yes on Prop. 1. It’s the best we’ve got, and ST2 is a good system.

Yes on Prop. 1

Photo from Wikipedia.

There was an interesting piece on one of the P-I Blogs this afternoon about Gov. Gregoire’s “Plan B” if Prop.1 goes down. It should give serious pause to environmentalists holding out for a better deal.

I hope [the voters] will decide to invest and move forward, but if they do not, I am not going to take that as a comment on their part that we do not have to replace 520,” Gregoire said. “My conversation with the two legislative chairs was specifically to talk (about) how do we move forward with the replacement on 520.”

Translation: you’ll get your roads anyway. Thanks for playing.

“People have to understand that it is about both (highway construction and expanded transit). To do one without the other simply will lead to a food fight and will not be healthy for the people,” Gregoire said. “(RTID) polling says that they are better off showing the people of the community it’s a comprehensive approach.”

For those not happy with linked roads and transit measures, we bring you… linked roads and transit measures! Except more expensive and slower. What a deal!

“…Is it a different governance structure? all of which I think is ripe for discussion.”

For “different governance structure,” read “gut Sound Transit and replace it with some other agency that will spend 5 years learning its left foot from its right.”

Via Sound Politics.

Vote Tomorrow!

Remember, tomorrow is election day! Vote early, vote often! Just kidding on the second part individually, but as a group we should vote often: once for each of us!

Hopefully you’ll vote yes on “Roads and Transit”, which, of all the measures or candidates on the ballot, that’s the one with the biggest upside, the one that will improve our quality of lives the most. Whether you’re a driver, a rider, a walker, a carpooler or a cyclist, it passing will improve your quality of life.

Portland’s Bike Culture

This post originally appeared on Orphan Road.

While jerks here in Seattle are abhorrently shooting our bicyclists, Portland (as ever) points the way to a model of bicycle integration, as this NY Times article notes:

Sam Adams, a city commissioner in charge of transportation, joined development officials to help lure the show to Portland. It seemed a natural fit. The city regularly ranks at the top of Bicycling Magazine’s list of the best cycling cities and has the nation’s highest percentage of workers who commute by bike, about 3.5 percent, according to the Census Bureau. Drivers here are largely respectful of riders, and some businesses give up parking spaces to make way for bike racks.

“Our intentions are to be as sustainable a city as possible,” Mr. Adams said. “That means socially, that means environmentally and that means economically. The bike is great on all three of those factors. You just can’t get a better transportation return on your investment than you get with promoting bicycling.”

BNSF Corridor

People have been talking a lot about the BNSF corridor on the Eastside now that it seems the port is going to buy it. Some people want to build passenger rail there, but there are some serious problems with that. First, the trail goes straight through the middle of the street in Renton, sort of like SF Muni in San Francisco (see the photo). This is a huge problem because while SF Muni carries riders a few miles at most, the distances in the BNSF corridor are huge and could only be served by either a Link type system or preferably a Sounder type system. You can’t run Sounder Trains in the middle of the street. Second, through Bellevue the trail goes about 800 feet on the Eastside of 405, about a mile and a half from downtown Bellevue. This means that everyone who takes the train to Bellevue would have to transfer from the station to downtown, and everyone knows transfers are a deal breaker most of the time.

Those were the two problems that jumped out at me immediately, and I only looked at the tracks for a few minutes, and only in those two places. There could be problems with the Kirkland and Woodinville alignments as well. Plus, the “Eastside Rail Now” group is an anti-Prop. 1 front. Still, Prop. 1 does include a study for high capacity transit through that corridor, and it’s something worth keeping an eye on.

Why South Sound Deserves Transit

The News Tribune makes their case. They seem to understand the long-term importance of transit:

It was painful to see the headline atop the lead front-page story in Thursday’s Seattle Times: “Light rail to Tacoma: Is it worth the money?”

The problem with nearly all criticisms of light rail is that they focus on current population densities and demand for transit. Yet Proposition 1 would create enduring transportation corridors operating independently of freeways and adaptable to future transit technologies. Build the line from Sea-Tac to Tacoma in our lifetime, and it will be there in our great-grandchildren’s lifetimes.

Sound Transit receive second credit rating upgrade

November 02, 2007

For the second time in two weeks, Sound Transit was rewarded for its stellar financial performance with a credit rating upgrade from one of the nation’s three major independent municipal bond rating agencies.

Standard & Poor’s announced that they have upgraded Sound Transit’s subordinate lien bond rating to AAA, signaling strong investor confidence in Sound Transit’s financial health and outlook. Standard & Poor’s also affirmed the AAA rating for Sound Transit’s senior lien bonds, a rating that was upgraded to the S&P’s highest grade back in 2006.

“Two credit upgrades in less than a month is unassailable proof taxpayers can have total confidence in Sound Transit’s financial health,” said Sound Transit Board Chair and Pierce County Executive John Ladenburg. “Now we can get even more bang for the buck as we move forward with regional transit projects.”

Light Rail for Me, But Not for Thee

This post originally appeared on Orphan Road.

Dan Savage is fond of writing about the awesome airport rail links in the cities he visits. Now that the light rail is funded from the Stranger’s offices on Capitol Hill to SeaTac, it would seem that the paper is far more circumspect about endorsing light rail.

Consider this line about the proposed SeaTac-to-Tacoma light rail in The Stranger’s anti-Prop. 1 editorial:

The line itself (through a low-density area) may feed sprawl in South King County, instead of promoting dense urban development that will grow alongside light rail stations in North Seattle.

Josh Feit admits the paper “caught hell” for that, and rightly so.

Today, Feit is going back and forth with Will @ Horse’s Ass over this. Will says the stations along the line will lead to transit-oriented development, Feit says they’ll lead to more sprawl.

I’m with Will. Growth is going to come to South King County anyway. And while Feit is right to note that “light rail is not just a pour and stir fix,” it is an important part of the equation. If you get out in front of it with good growth management (which we have) and a light rail line (which we will have) then the kind of growth is much more likely to be centered around the rail stations than freeway exits. Once the growth happens, buying up right-of-ways for trains becomes much more expensive.

Parking Signs

This post originally appeared on Orphan Road.


How sweet are the new parking signs in South Lake Union? Simple, clear graphic design, with the important information very large. Parking times range from 2-10 hours, and it’s impossible not to know that with just a glance at the sign.

Seattle parking signs have gotten so complicated and wordy, this is a breath of fresh air. The transportation sector desperately needs better information design. More like this, please.

Jay Inslee on Prop. 1

Rep. Jay “congressional expert on global warming” Inslee comes out for Prop. 1 in the P-I (yesterday? Wednesday? somehow I missed it). I think he basically says what I have been saying all along that Prop. 1 is mostly transit and HOV roads (75%) and if we are to achieve carbon-neutral transportation it will not be from eliminating lane-building but rather moving away from carbon fuels. A green automobile is certainly possible.

Certainly a better argument than “if developers support it, it must be bad!” Jesus Christ, Annie Wagner gets paid to write for a “newspaper”? Transit=Sprawl? I have lost any respect I had for the Stranger, though there wasn’t much serious respect there to begin with.