The Port Takes Out an Insurance Policy

This post originally appeared on Orphan Road.

That seems to be the gist of the new deal between King County and the Port of Seattle on the Eastside rail corridor. The Port is going to buy the corridor from BNSF, same as before, but now King County doesn’t have to trade its Airport. Instead, King County promises to “consult” with the Port before “any major developments” (read: building a passenger terminal for Southwest or Alaska Air).

So the Port basically laid out $103M just to hedge against the possibility that King County might someday want to put a second Airport in your backyard. It’s sort of like buying Marvin Gardens because the other guy already has Atlantic and Ventnor Aves. and you’re worried he’s gonna build hotels.

It looks like, by holding out, King County got a better deal than it would have under the original Ron Sims-Mic Dinsmore swap, which called for the County to give up the Airport. Kudos to the King County council for making it happen. Now we get a trail with even more strict assurances that it will be usable for high-capacity transit in the future.

“Jay Inslee is a congressional expert on global warming”

This post originally appeared on Orphan Road.

Judging from the bio, it’s pretty clear what audience Rep. Jay Inslee’s op-ed in Today’s P-I is targeted at:

Prop. 1 is heavily weighted to transit-related investment, with 75 percent of funds dedicated to light rail, high-occupancy vehicle lanes, park and rides, and road investments that will make transit more efficient and reliable. Fifty miles of light rail in Prop. 1 will give commuters options other than roads.

This is what I fear the most. Prop. is so heavliy tilted towards transit improvements (75 percent to light rail HOV, etc.), that if it goes down, the message will be “voters reject transit.” I just don’t see a way around that interpretation becoming conventional wisdom.

(Don’t get me wrong, I’ll try to fight that interpretation if the exit polls warrant it, but I’m just a lonely blogger here compared to the awesome megaphone of, say, The Seattle Times, and we know what their agenda is).

Also, Isnlee’s a big green-tech proponent, so this part isn’t too surprising:

Second, efforts to move to a carbon-free economy may be advanced as much by revolutionizing automobiles as eliminating all lane building. By the time we fix the U.S. 2 bypass in Monroe, we’ll be able to drive plug-in hybrids that charge in our garage at night, drive 40 miles off that charge, and then run off environmentally friendly biofuel produced in the Evergreen State.

He may be too optimistic here, but it may also be too optimistic to say that we can never build another mile of highway. The truth is liklely somewhere in between.

Why You Should Read The P-I Instead

Today I woke up to nonsense. The Seattle Times is seriously arguing against building light rail from Seattle to Tacoma.

Now, look at the way I just put that. Light rail from “Seattle to Tacoma”. It’s easy to argue against that, right? We have Sounder from Seattle to Tacoma. We have express buses from Seattle to Tacoma. Why would we need more? Anyway, this article says it would take riders on light rail 70 minutes to get from Tacoma to Seattle! Isn’t that a long time?

Sounder takes 60 minutes – from Tacoma Dome Station to King Street Station. The express buses are scheduled to take 40 minutes, but of course they’re often stuck in traffic, and that’s getting worse. Those buses run all day, and carry as a whole around five thousand people. Sounder, with only five peak-direction round trips, carries ten thousand passengers a day, and that number is steadily increasing – the express buses carry half that. What, you say? Are these people dumb? Why would they take Sounder instead of the bus? Oh, wait. They’re *not* dumb. Most of them live in Auburn, Kent, Puyallup, and Sumner, and some of them even drive from Renton to Tukwila and take the train from there. In just a few years, Sounder will connect Lakewood and South Tacoma with Seattle as well. These people have the same commute time every day, which is very important to people who have jobs that are not next door.

But what does this have to do with light rail from “Seattle to Tacoma”?

Simple! We aren’t just building light rail from “Seattle to Tacoma”. We’re building light rail from Sea-Tac to Des Moines, and Des Moines to Federal Way, and the Rainier Valley to Federal Way, and Sea-Tac to Tacoma, and Des Moines to the Port of Tacoma, and Federal Way to Tacoma, and the U-district to Federal Way, and Bellevue to Federal Way – and I actually know people who work in Redmond and live in Des Moines, which is a crazy commute, but this would serve them! Sounder doesn’t serve ANY of these trips. In fact, even if someone did live in Tacoma and take transit to Seattle, if they wanted to go to Westlake or Capitol Hill, they have to transfer if they take the bus or Sounder (and with Sounder, they could only go during peak hours) – but not if they took Link. Transfers kill potential ridership, and make people stay in their cars.

Let’s point out some more of Andrew Garber’s bull – that “70 minutes” number? That’s from Westlake to Tacoma. Sounder service doesn’t serve that – it stops at the other end of downtown, at King Street Station. You have to take a bus (or starting in 2009, transfer to light rail) to get to Westlake. The Times picked that number because they think it makes light rail look bad – but all they’re doing is showcasing the fact that light rail built by Proposition 1 will serve trips that aren’t currently well served. In 2030, taking the bus from Tacoma to Westlake will take 80 minutes during peak times, and the same trip will be 70 minutes, consistently, on light rail – faster *and* vastly more reliable.

Readers of this blog already see some of the flaws in this article. Ron Sims’ “Buses are great and futuristic!” argument falls flat when we read the same thing from 1968 – the last 40 years are pretty good proof that magical superbuses just aren’t effective, even where we have transit lanes. Comparing the south line to University Link, the best projected ridership per dollar of any transit extension planned in the United States in thirty years, just tells us that the south line is normal, in line with the cost-effectiveness of all the other cost effective transit built around the country. And yeah, those 2030 University Link riders? They won’t be there if we don’t build Sound Transit 2 – some of them are coming from the south line, and a lot more are coming from the north and east lines. We don’t get those if we vote against Prop 1.

Oh, yeah, and if you’re going to say “is it worth the money?” about a project, at least compare to another project that actually moves a similar number of people – like building a new highway, which is what you’d have to do to move as many people as the south line will.

One last shameful and misleading thing? The graphic on the Times’ article doesn’t show University Link as “under way” – uh, folks, a lot of the properties have been purchased, the design is well under way, and we’ve got the money.

Hey Seattle Times: do you wonder why readership is down? Trying to think of reasons that the Blethens are having to prop you up? Maybe it’s because your front page pieces don’t pass the whiff test for the people you’re trying to sell to – they smell like bull. People driving their cars don’t read papers – people on the train do. If you want to survive, stop shooting yourselves in the foot.