Here is an article from the News Tribune about ST2’s outlook, and two editorials, one from the Seattle Times and one from the Everett Herald saying it’s took soon to go to the ballot for Sound Transit (neither paper endorsed prop 1 last November). Both editorial’s argument is basically that the economy isn’t great, and the first light rail line hasn’t opened yet, so we can wait to for a ballot measure in a few years.
I still think ST2.1 should go to the ballot this year, since gas has already hit $4 a gallon around here, a big election year will get tons of voters to the polls, and the sooner we start the sooner we’ll finish. The trick is really to get a ballot measure that people are really going to like. Twelve years ago Sound Transit was created by a successful ballot measure that came a year after a larger failed measure that had a longer construction time. Amazingly, the Seattle Times endorsed the 1996 measure.
This is not a perfect plan, but it represents a consolidation and rethinking of two earlier versions: a $13 billion budget-buster that never made it to the polls, and a $6.7 billion measure that was defeated in March 1995. The new plan benefits from a more-focused RTA mission and the public’s acceptance that a start must be made toward a solution.
Opponents are running out of ideas and credibility. No one believes there is any more money, physical room or public acceptance for major new highways and freeways. Republican legislative candidates who don’t like the RTA talk instead about pie-in-the-sky people-movers and other fanciful technology better suited to amusement parks than serving a bustling metropolitan area.
Another diversionary tactic is to suggest that King County’s Metro has the resources to take up the slack. Wrong. Metro is adding bus routes but pilfering its budget at the expense of relief for crowded park-and-ride lots.
All of these arguments were true then, and are even more true today. The 1996 post-election article sited “The difference, said Bob Drewel, county executive in Snohomish County and chairman of the RTA board, was that the RTA was willing to rewrite its plan after its defeat. RTA supporters reduced the scope of the plan and the time to build it.”
The measure from Prop 1 last year could be a good starting point for going to the Eastside and south to Tacoma, and maybe this year’s larger plan could be the design for going north. The lesson from the original Sound Transit vote is that the the plan has to please voters in the suburbs, many of whom will think that a system that doesn’t bring light rail to their area is a bad deal.
Now is the perfect time to go forward with a measure. Let’s hope we can get agreement on one before time runs out.