The Seattle Times is talking about $4 a gallon gas and the possibility of a ballot measure this year, this time with a twist: the northern light rail expansion, so-called North Link, to Lynnwood instead of stopping at Northgate, and South Link going as far as Federal Way. I love it. It’s a compromise between the package from last year’s Prop. 1, and the fast-package being considered this year. If they can guarantee rail to Overlake Transit Center, the package would prove popular. Apparently, the board has until the 12th of August to decide.

I’m unhappy with a bit of the reporting. From reading this passage, you’d barely know there was a massive road expansion on that ballot measure:

Last year, voters in urban Snohomish, King and Pierce counties trounced the $38 billion “Roads & Transit” proposition that included a 0.5 percent sales-tax increase to build 50 miles of rail over 20 years.

After the loss, Sound Transit began studying a scaled-back, 12-year approach, with only 18 to 23 miles of new Link light rail, and perhaps a slightly lower tax increase.

The other thing that annoys me is this quote from Mark Baerwaldt (at least he wasn’t called a transit advocate):

Some Sound Transit skeptics argue that if the problem is gasoline, the answer is to increase buses and toll lanes, which can be done relatively fast.

“The relief cannot be provided by Sound Transit; it takes decades to complete their mission,” said Mark Baerwaldt, a leader of last year’s opposition campaign.

No challenge on the assertion that buses can be done faster? King County Metro has been waiting more than 3 years now for its last order of buses, and the coach manufacturers have more orders coming online than they did three years ago.

29 Replies to “$4 gas = Light Rail Ballot in 2008”

  1. This is good stuff. I hope this blog gets more active in debunking the negativity as the campaign progresses this fall.

    Now about that anti-Gregoire, pro-road ad running right now…….

  2. Mark Baerwaldt could care less that diesel prices, congestion and operating costs are eating bus transit service hours alive.

    He apparently didn’t see the Elway poll from a couple months ago which shows unequivocally that the public rejects toll revenues being used for transit.

    Not like the guy is living in reality, anyways.

  3. What is it with the lack of concrete information regarding Sound Transit, sometimes? What is the compromise to get to Lynnwood and to Federal Way? What are the trade-offs, construction timeline, and tax implications? Did they talk about this during the last board meeting?

    I mean, do I really have to watch a board meeting online to get basic information about potential ST expansion?

  4. rizzuhjj, Sound Transit is still awful about getting information public. The web site is constantly a month behind, if documents get up there at all.

  5. No kidding :)

    I watched the 6/12 board meeting and there’s no mention of the plan to go to Lynnwood. I have no idea how they would fund north to Lynnwood and south to Federal Way without a significant change to the proposed ST plan, which as of last Thursday didn’t seem possible given that the PSRC has to approve the cost efficiency and that ST is working on a greenhouse impact report.

    So who is floating this proposal and why are they talking to the media about it?

  6. “Sound Transit is still awful about getting information public. The web site is constantly a month behind, if documents get up there at all.”

    Perhaps someone could watch the meetings and post good summaries of them on here?

    Also, I think I’m going to send this post and rizz’s second comment to the Times (and you should too because I may be too lazy to do it), but even if they run a correction it won’t change anything as far as readers of the print edition are concerned, because corrections are tucked with a bunch of legalese and credits. Perhaps someone should try to start a newspaper competing with the Times and P-I that gets the facts right the first time, without semi-subtle biases.

  7. Although they’ve gotten slower recently, I think the ST site is a treasure trove of information.

    Go to the Metro site if you want to see opaque and useless. Just try to find something on RapidRide without giving up and using the search function.

  8. Hi everyone,

    I also noticed the lack of good information on the SoundTransit website, specifically a clear outline of what the different expansion options would get us.

    I then remembered that the online survey has a fairly good breakdown, but only on the second page which can’t be linked to. I extracted the information and posted it here:

    If anyone finds this helpful, please let me know!

    – Eric

    (original survey is here)

  9. I just hate the lack of context. I mean, is the push north to Lynnwood and south to Federal Way an actual possibility or just a last minute attempt? From all the information I have available to me, it seems flimsy at best. Which is why I think the mention of it deserves more than two sentences in a news story.

    Personally — and this is just speculation since the reporting isn’t there — I would love if they dropped much of the bus portions of ST2 in lieu of Link expansion to Federal Way and Lynnwood. ST is designed to be a rail authority and if we can maximize our investment in rail it’ll definitely pay dividends. It’ll give North and South KC both more money to play with in ST2

    Also, I agree with an earlier suggestion that it’d be great if STB could watch and summarize those board meetings/workshops since there is so much information there. But I can understand that it’s not a very glamorous task :)

  10. And Eric, what’s funny is the Times article and this blog post talk about a new alternative that hadn’t been on anyone’s radar before. That’s why I’m so confused.

  11. It’s called politics, folks. That’s the way you get the votes on a committee. Dangle possibilities until you get enough votes and then do what you were gonna do in the first place.

    See also: trial balloons.

  12. Ok, now I’m confused- going north to Lynnwood and south to Federal Way hasn’t been on anyone’s radar?

    Well, it’s certainly been on mine. After building through Seattle, extending north and south at the ends of the line would appear to be so obvious, by comparison to the previous task, so easy, and so attractive to commuters from those areas (because they’re driving further than the people close in) that I always assumed it would be the logical next step.

    And I would certainly hope ST has been studying those future routes, so that what they build today doesn’t end up being five miles from what they would like to build tomorrow. I don’t expect them to be sticking surveyer’s stakes in the ground and calling out property parcel numbers, but they should have a rough idea of demographics, contour lines, and how the process can be kicked into gear when the time comes.

    Compared with boring under Beacon Hill, how hard can this be?

  13. Of course extending north and south are logical steps, but Federal Way and Lynnwood TC were never considered as terminal points as far as I can remember. There are issues, such as presenting a cost-benefit analysis to the PSRC that’s now out-of-date and the on-going greenhouse gas emission study to appease the board and the Sierra Club, that would require at least some time. Given that the board will have to vote on the measure in late July (according to the board meeting I watched from last Thursday), I don’t see an abundance of time. They also have done zero polling or public outreach for a North-Lynnwood terminated or South-Federal Way terminated line.

    Granted, I’d love for this option to happen but why weren’t we discussing this when the plans initially rolled out?

    And I state that it hasn’t been on anyone’s radar because STB and Orphan Road have never mentioned this possibility until yesterday and today, respectively. I don’t see where that money would come from without cutting something out, which is fine.

    Also, note that the plan’s timeline could change from 12 years to a range of 12-20 years, obviously to be determined by ST engineers. Meaning that this “new” plan may go North to Lynnwood and may go South to Federal Way and may require other service options to be removed and may take 15 or 20 or 12 years and may pass the ST board. Nothing mentioned in the article is concrete regarding this new, hybrid plan. I’m wondering why it’s not concrete.

    Some obvious options are:

    * Snohomish and maybe North King asked ST to work up a plan behind the scenes

    * Snohomish hasn’t gone to ST yet but is trying to get something happening on the board behind the scenes, so the board as a whole will ask ST to work up a plan

    * This plan is on the table (behind the scenes, again), but will be put to ballot in 2010

    * Snohomish is leaking to the press to put pressure on the board for this to be added to the 2008 plan

    * The Times has their information wrong

    * In the interest of speculating about Lynnwood, the reporter also included speculation about Federal Way which I don’t think is very likely to happen

    But if there is a new plan, hybrid or not, there is very, very little time to develop the reports and information necessary for the board to vote on it by July 24. Again, I would love for rail to extend north and south as far as possible even to the exclusion of ST Express improvements, but this information is coming out of left field and I wonder if it will have a significant impact on whether we’re going to the ballot in 2008 or not.

  14. Would this make it harder to get the North King vote? Assuming we need to stretch the timeframe to cover the cost of getting to Lynnwood, this makes ST3 (and therefore the Ballard-West Seattle link) even later…

    That said, going to Lynnwood means Shoreline (finally) gets some benefit from ST, so maybe it’s a wash, voter-wise.

  15. In terms of voters or the board? I think voters will eat it up anyway and will never know that the timeline was changed in North King, at least. The ST board, I have no idea if they’d want this or not.

    While it does push out ST3 slightly (maybe — if federal funding for mass transit booms in the next 8 years it could change a lot of the rules), it also gives North King more money in the future to work with… Unless Snohomish is going to lend North King the money to build toward Lynnwood, which we’ll owe back for ST3.

    Net benefit, though, is that the line is bigger and ST3 will have to worry less about obvious stuff — “obvious” being completing the entire ST2 map.

  16. rizzuhjj, we get this kind of information from being involved in the local transit community and talking to people. I’m sorry it’s not on ST’s web site, but that’s really not a battle I want to try to fight right now…

  17. To the topic of getting extra buses: I can’t believe that so many routes are standing room only at rush hour and yet they can’t get more service.

    I understand new buses and drivers are expensive, but COME ON.

  18. brad, I wonder if that’s the case :)

    ben s, the information I’m talking about is coming from the Seattle Times not from STB… Unless, you’ve heard about plans to go to Lynnwood and to Federal Way?

    I know you guys are well connected, but the thing is I pay pretty close attention to this stuff as well. Ideally, by reading all these blogs I should be just as informed of the current political climate as the bloggers here, right?

    Anyway, one of my post earlier in this thread was some criticism of ST and STB that I want to follow-up on.

    Toward ST: the board meeting minutes are impossible to find since the links are apparently never updated. The powerpoints they show to the board are hard to locate and often we only see them when the Times gets them. Finally, apparently there are backroom deals going on secure Snohomish and South KC board member votes that won’t have much public review to discuss the trade-offs. This will be used by anti-rail folks. However, their board meetings are streamable from their site which is awesome.

    (Don’t get me wrong, Sound Transit is a great organization.)

    Toward STB: board meetings are rarely discussed here, and the most meat and potatoes issue about ST 2.1 (the extents of its rail) are maybe in the process of being modified and this post didn’t really address how important that is or ponder about the trade-offs that must take place. First, I think good reporting requires enough context to direct readers to what’s important (and the Times article didn’t). Second, there are some very smart people here (ben s, you are one) that would have insightful things to say whether any compromise is smart or not. Personally, I’m just curious about the details of this compromise and whether it’s politically realistic — and I hate being uninformed. :/

    It’s kind of odd to me that things come out of left field while STB and Orphan Road posts don’t note the significance. I’m wondering, is this already a known alternative or do people just not care as much about the details until the ST board approves a plan?

    (And definitely don’t get me wrong, STB is a great blog!) :)

    When I first read that in the Times, I simply thought it was bad reporting and that STB and Orphan Road (and the great Carless in Seattle) would have the real scoop. It’s always weird to me when the Times gets transit info before the transit blogs do.

    So, *sigh*, maybe ignore the rest of my post. But aren’t you, Ben, as an ST junkie, wondering why you’re hearing about this just five weeks before the board must vote to go to ballot? Aren’t you concerned that a modification to the current plans will force the measure to be delayed until 2010?

    Anyway, to put my criticism in context: if I felt like STB needed or wanted another co-blogger I’d apply* and help — so this isn’t just empty criticism. It’s just feedback :)

    And Ben, don’t worry: I’m calm! I’ll try to come to a meet up in July so you realize I’m not crazy.

    * I’m very cognizant that I ask a lot of questions and write pretty excitedly, so I guess I wouldn’t be taken very seriously.

  19. From what I know, and I guess I should have written this in the post, this was just a conversation about the extensions, no formal plan has been put in place.

  20. Well, I don’t know much about ST, but normally, with a government agency, you can ask to be put on a mailing list and have the minutes of meetings sent to you, or alternately, be referred to where they are posted for public reading.

  21. Incidentally, something I’ve been getting a whiff of lately is that some of these small towns are close to putting high rises in, going directly to the Bellevue Model. So don’t be too surprised when you see this happen.

  22. and did anyone else notice that in their diagram, they switched the federal way and star lake labels and they left out the alderwood mall station? i called their corrections hotline and let them knoww…

  23. I’m pretty certain they were going to do pre-engineering to the north and south with the original 2.1 plan… it would seem they’re just being forward-thinkers. For once.

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