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.

10 Replies to “ST2.1 Outlook”

  1. I think a plan would pass this year (because of the presidential election turn-out that’ll heavily favor Obama), but I also think that the Sound Transit board is unlikely to send the measure to the ballot.

    Some things about the plans do seem silly, though. For a 0.1% increase, all North King gets is a slightly longer streetcar? Where’s the rest of that money going?

  2. Look at the map more carefully. They’d also be extending the bus lanes on Aurora to support BRT along that corridor.

  3. I thought the same thing, but the BRT improvements cost money, and I think a small percentage is going into a fund for future extension.

  4. Hey Matrin, the map seems to disagree with the text on the second information page and says those BAT lanes are in both the 0.4% and 0.5% proposals. So ST will pay for lanes for KC Metro BRT, correct? I don’t think ST should be supporting local transit in that way — I feel the mission of ST is (or should be) to support the capital investment and operations of mass transit.

    Yes, I’m sure ST will use those lanes but I’m sure they won’t be competing with Swift or RapidRide. And I would call Shortline <-> Lynnwood a Sno. County investment more than a North King investment. (This is just like extending Sounder south to DuPont is a Kitsap investment and not a Pierce investment, which is why you don’t see service upgrades down that far on the map.) Needless to say, I don’t buy that Shortline <-> Lynnwood bus lanes are a good ST investment for North King.

    daimajin, as far as I know ST has no concrete plans to run anything that we would typically call BRT (in any subarea). ST has so far used “BRT” and ST Express to reach subarea equity, but Seattle doesn’t need that. And Seattle has absolutely no need for regional BRT or additional ST Express. I would much rather those funds be saved for future extensions or to make the bonds more favorable to ease future extensions. And even that isn’t ideal — the best ST staff can deliver for 0.1% is an extra half mile of streetcar and transit improvements for Sno. County residents? Come on, I know Northgate is the most ideal terminal but even one station further North is more than a symbolic gesture. I think they’re reaching to call cross-lake corridor or North 99 improvements North King when clearly the benefits are going to East King and Sno. County.

    anonymous: The right of way is the real expense in any transit capital investment.

  5. The sheet I put up is wrong. I put up an old, incorrect version of the sheet. I have the correct version, but I’m unable to access gmail to replace it.


  6. Good to hear that there’s a corrected version available! I look forward to poring over it again :)

  7. Man the Seattle Times article was still kind of depressing: expected opening for the base Seattle light rail line in 2002; expected completion of system all the way to the U-District in 2006. Wouldn’t that be nice? We’d already be riding light rail and expanding would be a no-brainer this election cycle. Ah well, at least they’re hopefully delivering the central link on time now.

  8. I support light rail expansions being on the ballot in 2008 but perhaps we should wait till 2010. The economy has gone down right now and I think any new proposal to raise taxes will be shot down host down. Plus, after gas prices have risen to $8/gal and light rail has run for a year, support will be overwhelming.

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