Snohomish County Report

The Enterprise reports that the Mountlake Terrace and Lynnwood City Councils are supporting the Sound Transit measure (which, BTW, needs a real name). Good for them.

At the end, there are some choice quotes from rail dissenter and Lynnwood Councilman Ted Hikel:

“We can’t afford to put in a program that is not fiscally responsible,” Hikel said. “Think of how many lanes of bus-only pavement we could put in . . .”

Mr. Hikel, I have news for you: you don’t need billions of dollars to put in bus-only lanes. You can do it with a few buckets of paint and a day’s worth of time from a road crew. However, in the real world it’s often unpopular to devote potential general purpose lanes to transit, and since it’s just asphalt, it’s easy to come up with a measure like I-985 to open those lanes back up to cars. Hence, no developer will build there under the assumption that the “BRT” will be there forever, even if the operating costs could somehow be brought in line with rail.

If Hikel means that we should build new lanes and somehow keep Tim Eyman away from them, perhaps he should check out this old Danny Westneat column, that compares the cost of a highway project and a comparable transit project. And in doing so, he should note that rail ridership projections are underestimates because they assume that no transit-oriented development takes place.

Transit Could Save over $8000 a year

According to this American Public Trasportation Association study. The APTA is the most active nation-wide transit advocacy organization. The study calculates the cost of gas compared to transit costs for a person who drives 15,000 miles a year, pays $3.909 per gallon and gets 23.3 miles per gallon. How the transit pass is calculated is not mentioned in the post.

Seattle comes in fourth on the list with $8413 in savings per year, behind only Honolulu, Las Vegas and San Francisco. But of course, we shouldn’t build light rail because that would just let more people save $8413 per year.

Seattle’s Next Infrastructure Downgrade?

This post originally appeared on Orphan Road.

Seattle will soon close part of three streets for a few hours, for exactly one day per street this summer. This is not a big deal for many cities, and the town where I went to college would do this once a month on their main street throughout the summer. But can this be the beginning of a positive change?

I’ve long thought that a great idea for a city of any size is to have a few car-free streets. If you build narrow streets this allows for Europe-style density, and if you leave them wide then you have potential for public meeting areas. Noise is dramatically reduced, safety is increased, and the neighborhood becomes much more walkable.

Car-free streets generally have tables set up for outside dining, served by nearby restaurants. You’ll see children playing, and people promenading – window shopping, people watching, eating ice cream. The street becomes a destination, not something in your way to a destination.

But how does car-fixated Seattle react to this small step toward something beautiful? Well, read the comments yourself.

Kemper Freeman

Chi-Dooh Li, who wrote a pro-prop 1 opinion piece last year, has a piece this time around explaining Kemper Freeman’s history in transportation activism, and why he’s wrong on light rail:

Kemper Freeman is an honorable man.

He is an intelligent man with a great breadth of life experience.

So why is he telling people in this region that they are better off riding buses than taking light rail trains?

There are great cities in this country and around the world where planners, politicians and people have managed to catch a common vision of integrated transportation systems that move people from place to place with the greatest efficiency and lowest cost. Trains, buses and automobiles all play a vital role.

Leave out trains or buses, and you have serious traffic congestion – on the highways and in the city streets.

As they say, read the whole thing. It’s an interesting look.

19th Century Cities

This post originally appeared on Orphan Road.

It’s been argued that rail is a “19th century technology” out of place in 21st century cities. While I find this argument absurd on its face (walking and bicycling are also “old technologies,” but still quite useful), it may not even make sense on its own absurd terms.

Consider this article in The New Republic on how big American cities like Chicago are looking more and more like 19th century Paris and Vienna:

What would a post-inversion American city look like? In the most extreme scenario, it would look like many of the European capitals of the 1890s. Take Vienna, for example. In the mid-nineteenth century, the medieval wall that had surrounded the city’s central core for hundreds of years was torn down. In its place there appeared the Ringstrasse, the circle of fashionable boulevards where opera was sung and plays performed, where rich merchants and minor noblemen lived in spacious apartments, where gentlemen and ladies promenaded in the evening under the gaslights, where Freud, Mahler, and their friends held long conversations about death over coffee and pastry in sidewalk cafes. By contrast, if you were part of the servant class, odds were you lived far beyond the center, in a neighborhood called Ottakring, a concentration of more than 30, 000 cramped one- and two-bedroom apartments, whose residents–largely immigrant Czechs, Slovaks, and Slovenes–endured a long horse-car ride to get to work in the heart of the city.

I do believe that, in a large sense, many people who are leaving Seattle’s “inner city” (i.e. the Central District and the Rainier Valley) to move out to, say, Renton, Tukwila, or Federal Way are moving up, and doing so intentionally and in search of a better life.

By way of comparison, 100 years ago, Seattle’s Jewish community was centered around 14th and Yesler (IIRC, the Langston Hughes Arts Center at 17th and Yesler was originally built as a synagogue). Over time, that community left the Central District and moved South and East towards Seward Park and Mercer Island. Today’s Vietnamese and African-American communities are treading much the same path.

But, of course, the big difference here is $4/gallon gas. “Moving on out” doesn’t have quite the same appeal. So, we have to be creative about giving people the opportunity to live the American dream, while at the same time making sure no one gets “stranded in suburbia.”

I Owe the SLU…S $1.75.

This post originally appeared on Orphan Road.

After work the other day I walked over to the SLU trolley to meet family at the Center for Wooden Boats. If you know how to sail, I highly recommend renting a boat for an hour on a sunny day. The streetcar was just about to leave as I made it to the stop, so I hopped on expecting to pay onboard.

I knew I only had $1 in my wallet, and also knew that they only take credit cards at the kiosk outside the streetcar. However, I have $1.75 tickets in my wallet that I keep for use on the bus. Also I remembered that their website lists a good dozen forms of payment you can use on the streetcar*, so I wasn’t worried.

But… apparently Metro cash tickets aren’t on the list. This means that I owe the streetcar $1.75, and that I will have to start carrying a pocket full of quarters (6 for a round trip) if I ever want to ride it again. Man do I wish they’d start the Orca pass.

* “The following forms of payment are also accepted to ride the Seattle Streetcar; Metro Pass, Puget Pass, Flexpass, GO Pass, U-Pass, Visitor Pass, Regional Reduced Fare Permit (with monthly or annual sticker), and active Metro bus transfer slips.”

Metro & Link in the Rainier Valley

Most readers would agree that Light Rail is going to transform the transit picture everywhere it goes. There’s lots of vague talk about how it will allow a dramatic realignment of bus service. With Central LINK now about a year away, what can we expect in terms of changes to Metro service in the Rainier Valley? With the sounding board a couple of months from kicking off, I’ll speculate on what it might look like. We’ll start with the routes likely to be affected, and then discuss some general service concepts.

The Puzzle Pieces

First of all, there’s no bus route that exactly follows the LINK routing, and is therefore clearly a target for elimination. The nearest candidate is the 194 to the airport, with essentially every stop covered by either the train or Sound Transit Route 574. Although it’s a few minutes faster than the train under ideal traffic conditions, it’s reasonable to assume that LINK’s superior headways, reliability, and smoother ride will annihilate the Seatac-Seattle portion of the 194’s ridership, if Metro continues it at all. It certainly will once the airport extension is complete at the end of 2009.

The next two candidates are the 42 and 48, which follow MLK for almost the entire Rainier Valley segment. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the 48 terminate at the Mt. Baker station to improve its legendary unreliability. The 42 deviates little from the rail line, except for the portion along Rainier and Dearborn, so it may very well disappear altogether.

However, that orphans a large number of brand-new bus shelters along MLK, as well as stranding residents living at MLK and Graham St, about a mile from the nearest station. Something is going to have to provide local service.

Routes 7 and 36 largely parallel Central Link, along Rainier and Beacon Avenues, respectively. The 7, in particular, is a short and level walk from MLK all along its route. Beacon Avenue is a steep climb up Beacon Hill away; still, I wouldn’t be surprised to see service curtailed on both lines to shore up some underserved areas of Seattle and shift service to East-West.

Much like the 48, the 9 also runs down Rainier from Capitol Hill, and this is other good candidate for truncation at Mt. Baker station.

The 34 and 39 serve Seward Park and Downtown. It would be logical to terminate these lines at the light rail stations, and use the savings to increase the fairly sparse service on evenings and weekends.

The 106 comes up from Renton, and comes near Rainier Beach station before crossing the line at Othello and continuing on via I-5 to downtown.

Lastly, all the routes that come from South King County certainly have the option of dropping riders at Tukwila, Seatac, or Rainier Beach station to get on the train, but I doubt it will happen. Although it would mean a more reliable trip for most commuters, and create tremendous operating savings for Metro and ST Express, transfers kill ridership. Furthermore, none of those stations are particularly convenient from I-5, so the average travel time to downtown would likely be considerably worse. Sound Transit could do a lot more to improve bus access at Tukwila station, but that’s a subject for another post.

Below are a few general service concepts that make sense in the area. An important input is what Metro hopes to do with respect to bus service hours. Will they take them out of the neighborhoods to serve other areas? Keep it the same? Or double down on growth in the Southeast?

Service Concepts

These shouldn’t be thought of as mutually exclusive, but are listed in decreasing order of likelihood, in my humble opinion:

1) Preserve the Status Quo. Because people tend to protest more strongly when service is taken away than when it is never provided in the first place, inertia may lead to essentially no change beyond minor diversions to serve the stations. There’s some merit in being conservative; if the vast majority of riders choose to board the train at the earliest opportunity, then Metro can quietly truncate the lines when it’s clear that no one is using the last segments.

2) Peak-only to Downtown. In the peak hours, commuters can still have their one-seat ride into downtown. But the rest of the time, service frequency can be greatly improved by delivering riders to the train, utilizing capacity that will probably be underused. Might as well take advantage of all that capital investment!

3) Shift from North/South to East/West. This would mean reducing frequency on buses like the 7, 36, and 42, possibly by truncating them at stations, and boosting the 39 and 106 to provide more service to the stations.

4) Circulators. For a radical change, Metro could junk the whole route system that exists in the Rainier Valley, and focus on a short-haul circulator system that connects the stations with surrounding arterials. For instance, a bus could run along MLK between Othello and Columbia City Stations, and then turn onto Alaska, go South on Rainier, and then back west along Othello St. Another could cover the West Side counterpart on Beacon Ave. Similarly, a bus could shuttle between Mt. Baker and the International District Stations via Rainer Ave. and Jackson St.

I don’t think the fourth option is going to happen, because it means reducing use of the existing trolley lines, which have their own constituency in Metro. Also, change confuses people and is therefore unpopular.

Metro will start publicly mulling over these issues soon. What would you like to see happen?

6 months to go…

But the Bush Administration is going to do as much damage as they can in the meantime. From the New York Times:

Gasoline tax revenue is falling so fast that the federal government may not be able to meet its commitments to states for road projects already under way, the secretary of transportation said Monday. The secretary, Mary E. Peters [at right], said the short-term solution would be for the Highway Trust Fund’s highway account to borrow money from the fund’s mass transit account…

It’s a good thing that highway costs are borne by its users, unlike those lousy transit systems, whom hardworking people on a fixed income have to subsidize.

Via Seattlest.  Photo from Wikipedia.

FRA and High Speed Rail

From Railway Age:
FRA grants eye grade crossings, rail-flaw detection

The Federal Railroad Administration has awarded grants totaling $5.87 million for rail-flaw detection research and grade crossing warning systems in higher-speed territory. Seven states with federally designated higher-speed rail corridors–California, Louisiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, North Carolina, Texas, and Wisconsin–will share $5.64 million to make safety improvements at 25 highway-rail grade crossings on freight rail corridors that host passenger trains. The funds will support the installation of grade crossing warning systems, crossing closures, and other engineering projects to help prevent motor vehicle/train collisions on these corridors, where higher-speed (110-125 mph) passenger trains may operate in the future. The grants are jointly managed by FRA and the Federal Highway Administration.

I don’t know why but the fact that Washington State wasn’t mentioned as one of the many high speed rail corridors has me quite bothered if HSR will actually come to this region. It doesn’t seem likely now.

BNSF Updates

Here are some updates for BNSF. This mainly pertains information for Sounder Commuter Rail and Amtrak.

Construction for the Seattle – Tacoma corridor is 95% completed. What remains is fixed some of the rough spots that have been created from drainage pipes that have broken under the right of way, which creates "mud pumpers" You’ll notice this mainly in Georgetown.

The biggest reconstruction program was completed last week with BNSF relocating the main lines closer to 3rd Avenue S from Royal Brougham in Downtown Seattle to Spokane Street. Technically, the BNSF mainline is 3 main tracks from Royal Brougham to Black River/Tukwila (Or just North of I-405 in Tukwila)

Construction from M Street to D Street for service to Lakewood is slated to start this Fall. Of course, this date has changed several times in the past. When I see equipment on that line, I will believe it.

BNSF has started major construction on the Everett – Seattle route. Earlier this year, BNSF installed a new crossover in Blue Ridge which enables trains to cross over to a new track at 50mph. The agreement with BNSF and Sound Transit is to double track the corridor between Seattle and Everett. This improvement will benefit freight mobility, Amtrak, and Sounder Commuter Rail services.

The next major work over the next month is adding a new track between Milepost 7 and 8 on the railroad or just North of the Ballard Railroad Bridge (Known as Bridge 4, Bridge 6.3, BNSF Mainline Bridge Tender, etc) When this work is completed, work will shift to Balmer/Interbay/Magonlia for another mainline relocation and double tracking.

The Balmer project will take about 6 months to complete. This project will remove one set of cross overs between Cedar Street and Vine Street on the Seattle Waterfront for a higher speed single 30mph crossover. This will allow BNSF and Union Pacific trains access into the Louis Dreyfus grain terminal at Terminal 90 without stopping and blocking all of the grade crossings on the Waterfront. The relocation will convert a storage/holding track into a main line and the current main 2 track will be then become main 1. The double tracking will begin at Galar Streer to W Fort Street or Milepost 3.3 to 5.4.

Once the Balmer work is completed, the section crews will begin prep work for Edmonds in 2009. Edmonds will receive the same as above, double tracking but a new station will also be built here. Amtrak and Sounder both stop at this station but the station needs to be moved in order to place the new track through town.

Finally, in late 2009, BNSF will finish double tracking between Milepost 27-28. What this will leave is the 1 mile of single track right of way between Howarth Park and Everett. A new tunnel needs to be constructed but not funded to make the entire corridor double tracked between Seattle’s King Street Station and Everett Station. This one mile segment is what will prevent Sound Transit from adding additional trains between Seattle and Everett unless BNSF’s position changes regarding additional for the North route.

If there is any other questions regarding this or freight mobility, please let me know and I’ll do my best to answer any questions.


Overcrowding – The ripple effect of late buses

Here is a slight ripple effect when the 15+ minute late 121 and on time bus to the same general location causes.

Normally this bus is pretty empty since the 120, 121, 122, and 123 all serve to Burien Transit Center. I got on at 3rd and Pike (thankfully) and the bus very quickly filled up to at least 28 people standees.

I do want to give major kudos for the bus driver who totally kept her cool and kept the ride smooth as glass. Excellent throttle and braking control, especially for a fairly new driver! Way to go!

People Ditch Their Cars

Via the always helpful Gordon Werner, I saw this CNN article about people ditching their cars en masse. Americans drove 9.6 billion fewer miles in May 2008 compared to May 2007, an amazing to me 32 miles per person fewer in that month. That’s more than a mile per person per day less than the year before. Incredible.

The fall in driving is almost entirely due to the rise in gas prices. Drivers are increasingly seeing driving as the lowest value-proposition way to get around. As the article points out, the rise transit use, carpooling, telecommutes, and walking and biking commutes is puting a squeeze on highway funds paid for by per-gallon gas taxes.

I believe locally this will play out to some major drama if ST2 does not pass next year. Already there has been pressure on local districts to raise their own funds to pay for expensive highway projects like the 520 bridge and the Alaskan Way Viaduct replacements. If ST2 doesn’t pass, expect to see more “governance reform” type initiatives aimed at getting voters in our immediate area to pay for the highway projects. With less gas tax revenue, WSDOT will have a difficult time paying for these projects.

Interestingly the video on the left when I loaded the article was about traffic falling with commuter deaths, something very few people talk about: driving is one of the most deadly forms of transportation.

VMT Declining

This post originally appeared on Orphan Road.

Clark Williams-Derry notes that total vehicle miles traveled (VMT) is declining nationwide. The US DOT frets that this will be the end of the highway trust fund, but I say, fear not! After all, WSDOT thinks that fuel economy will inexplicably rise starting next year. Maybe they should loan some of their analysts to the other Washington.

(yes, yes, per-capita VMT is not the same as total VMT.)

Meanwhile, in Metro-Land

Buried on the King County website, there’s more information on the proposed Metro fare increase that we previously discussed here. Specifically, there’s a Q&A with some interesting information:

Will another fare increase mean that my bus will be less crowded than it is now?

Because fuel prices are affecting everyone’s budget, more and more people consider transit an affordable alternative to driving alone. Metro has been working diligently to meet the increased demand for service. One of the reasons Metro is proposing this fare increase is to avoid service cuts, which would almost definitely result in more overcrowding more often.

Metro is using Transit Now funding to expand bus service and reduce crowding on heavily used routes. Metro and the City of Seattle have formed a service partnership that will add trips on routes 3, 4, 10, 11, 12, 14, 26, 28 and 44 in September.

Will Transit Now funds be used to cover unexpected costs?
Transit Now, approved by voters in 2006, is an initiative to expand transit services by 15 to 20 percent by 2016. The initiative is intended to help Metro keep pace with regional growth and transit service demand. Metro is following a plan to phase in Transit Now service expansions over a 10-year period. Metro has been delivering on pace with the phasing plan and is committed to moving forward. By year’s end, Metro will have delivered around 110,000 new service hours—about 17 percent of the new service promised in the 10-year Transit Now initiative.

Metro has been using Transit Now dollars to expand bus service on high-ridership routes and in growing residential areas, to develop new bus rapid transit service in five corridors, and to improve Metro’s Rideshare and paratransit services. Metro is determined to moving forward with the Transit Now program. The same fuel prices that have hit Metro have caused riders to flock to buses, and make the promised service expansions under Transit Now more important than ever.

What will Metro do if the proposed increase is not approved?
If a fare increase is not approved, Metro must find an ongoing annual reduction of $22 million. This would require Metro to consider service reductions, which could affect both the level and the quality of service and could include the deferral or cancellation of capital projects.

While I certainly didn’t appreciate Executive Sims’ attempt to stick his hand in the light rail cookie jar, I hope he’s able to scrounge up the money to keep the RapidRide program going. My colleagues (and, uh, I) have been pretty skeptical of the whole project’s prospects, but at least three of the five lines (West Seattle, Ballard, Aurora) are serving areas that will have to wait till at least ST3 to see dedicated ROW rail service. I’d certainly support another fare increase if that’s what it took.

However, if push comes to shove, the Pacific Highway and Eastside RapidRide lines largely duplicate planned light rail service, and in the event ST2.1 passes these should be the first on the chopping block.

Photo by Oranviri, as usual, from the Seatrans Flickr pool.

Plan Odds and Ends

We’ve been over the plan highlights, but it’s worth it to point out some of the details that can be gleaned from the plan documents. Appendix A is the one that gets into the weeds, although the header lists it as a “draft” for the July 24 board meeting. Random observations:

  • The $17.8 billion figure is not $17.8 billion in new taxes — it includes over $2.3 billion in surplus left over from Sound Move in 1996, $895 million in assumed Federal Grants (which is much less than the $1.25 billion likely to be contributed to the UW-Seatac segment, and is therefore conservative), and over $200 million in operating revenues. In terms of cost to taxpayers, a better figure is $7.8 billion in taxes and $6.5 billion in bonds, presumably paid off mostly by taxes. In any case, we should just stick with the “$69 per person per year” figure, because that’s the number that actually means something to voters. But the daily newspapers should take notice.
  • There are planning studies for: Downtown / West Seattle / Burien / Renton; Downtown / Ballard / UW, UW / Kirkland / Redmond; and Bellevue / Issaquah.  Along with Everett and Tacoma, there are your ST3 possibilities.
  • Sounder North “provisionally” gets stations at Ballard and Broad Street. This is a big deal for some Ballard residents, and all North Line commuters that won’t have to go all the way to King St and then work their way back up to SLU or Belltown. As for the “provisional” status, I suspect this has to do with the uncertainty of tax collection, federal funding, reserve fund leftovers, etc. There’s no other obvious place to spend North King surpluses of a few hundred million, except streetcar extensions and the long-forgotten Boeing Access Rd Station.

Appendix A goes into more detail about which P&Rs get improved, etc., as well as breaking out sub-area equity carefully. Have a look if you’re interested.

The one missing piece is exactly what bus lines will see the promised improvement.  In particular, I’m curious to see what “BRT” means in the context of SR 520, since we all know that brand can be used to sell a fully grade-separated bus, or something totally indistinguishable from a standard Metro route.  The 545 already has exceptionally high-frequency service in peak hours and an HOV lane, so there’s good questions about what more can be done.

SurveyUSA Polls Sound Transit District

An interesting SurveyUSA poll has been released showing some data about the Sound Transit 2 plan. For some reason, there’s no data showing how many voters survey supported the plan. I believe you can take the amount of registered voters from the other data (about 520) and subtract that from those who said they oppose the plan (about 252), and you’re left with the “yes” or “undecided” voters, but I’m not sure of the exact methodology here. In any case, let’s look at the data that SurveyUSA has posted.

The first interesting question was asked of 252 votes who oppose the ST2 plan: Why are you opposed to ST2?

First of all, this question is not open-ended so the responses are by nature pigeon-holed. For example, there would be no way to say that one supports BRT over ST2 without saying “other” — voters who feel that way will be inclined to state one of the listed position.

I think if someone opposes the plan already they have probably made up their minds, but these may be the arguments that ST2 opponents will make to their friends, family, and the Internet: No new taxes, not right now, and light rail doesn’t solve anything. Us who support ST2 have to have good responses to if we expect to win the vote.

Next, voters were asked about the best way to fix our region’s transportation problems:

In other words, 56% of voters think the major components of ST2 (bus service, light rail, commuter rail) help the most. 35% think that building new roads or new lanes is the solution. This is good news for transit fans, and shows that more and more people are beginning to understand that asphalt can’t be the answer.

(In some cases people who are pro-transit may just be reflecting their commute. For example, a Microsoftie who loves light rail may say that building a new lane on the 520 bridge is vital — and he’s right, we need an HOV lane across that bridge. Clearly, not all new lanes are created equal.)

The cross-tabs for this question are fascinating. 50% of Republicans and 46% of Snohomish County residents feel that building new roads/lanes is the solution, compared to 35% (as stated above) for the region as whole. 28% of King County thinks light rail would help the most, while 17% of Pierce County and 11% of Snohomish County believe the same. Commuter rail polls about five points in Pierce County (17%) better than King and Shomhomish, obviously reflecting the success of Sounder.

We must frame ST2 as delivering the bus service expansion that 20% want and the commuter rail expansion that another 14% want. Everyone knows that ST2 offers light rail, but some may not know of its near-term bus service improvements as well as the SR-520 bus rapid transit line or the Sounder service improvements. Of course, we need to further educate voters that relying on new roads won’t cause gas prices to fall.

Next up, we’re looking at ST’s favorability:

Nearly double the amount of favorable as unfavorable, that is pretty good. “Neutral” can only shrink after light rail comes online in 2009. Which leads us to this last question: Did you get your money’s worth from 1996’s Sound Move vote?

Sound Move was passed in 1996 with a vote of 56.5% to 43.5%, but only 20% feel they got their money’s worth from the vote. Yikes.

I feel that another big vulnerability for ST2 is that Sound Move isn’t yet done. We need to emphasize that Central Link is on-schedule to next Summer, and the extension to Capitol Hill and UW is proceeding with construction.  However, I can understand voter’s frustrations here. Even a transit supporter who lives along Rainer Valley may not have gotten his money’s worth until Central Link opens. This isn’t an argument to delay the vote — we simply can’t be idle anymore — but I’m just arguing that this perception is fluid and voters likely realize that.

Some darn interesting numbers, though I wish we had data on the percentage of voters who support the plan and why they do. It would be nice to see which arguments resonate with voters.

(I should note that I chose not to echo ECB’s analysis from the Slog since the margin of error for that particular question is 3.5% providing a statistical dead-head for that question. Also, the question was asked of all polled votes — not just those who opposed the package as she misstated.)

Incoherent Argument Watch

This post originally appeared on Orphan Road.

Jim Horn edition:

State Treasurer Mike Murphy has said both the 520 and I-90 bridges should be tolled in order to keep financing viable for a new 520 Bridge, but one transportation activist predicted a backlash if tolls are charged for both bridges and imposed before the new 520 Bridge is completed as some propose.

“I just think the public reaction to that is going to be very bad,” said Jim Horn, former state senator and president of the Eastside Transportation Association, a pro-highway and bus group.

If the ETA is indeed a “pro-bus group,” it should be thrilled about charging tolls on both bridges and before the new 520 span is completed. After all, tolls are the only plausible way to keep buses moving during rush hour. Especially on the existing 520, where there’s no dedicated HOV lane.

But, of course, ETA just says it’s “pro-bus” and we’re supposed to take them at their word.

Comment of the Day

Newish commenter “phantom” captures the angst of Ron Sims’s decline:

I am mostly just disappointed in Executive Sims. He was one of the few politicians I felt was driven by conscience, and I have always been supportive of his initatives.

That includes the 2006 vote for Transit Now. During the campaign, it was emphasized that buses could be brought online in terms of months, not years (a dig at light rail construction times). So, the measure passes, and we find out that RapidRide won’t see the light of day in Ballard or on Aurora until 2013. That’s seven years out from 2006. Central Link is being built in six, groundbreaking in 2003 and completion in 2009. All we’ve seen is a few busses added to sparsely populated locations in outlying King County, and a few off-peak trips added to the 8 and 44.

Now, we’re finding that gas prices are eating up the funding for even that.

Sims’ last minute meddling in ST2.1 to funnel money into Metro Transit is disappointing, especially considering he sits on the board and could have voiced these opinions as 2.1 was being crafted over the last several months. He should have spent the spring lobbying the state Legislature if Metro Transit was having budget issues.

I wonder if Sims will even run for re-election next year. He seems a bit disengaged from all of this debate, except now to say at the very last minute, “more money for local bus systems instead.”

My opinion is that we’ve put off building a real mass transit system for 40 years, and now we’re suffering the consequences. Gas prices suck, busses in Seattle are standing-room only, we all sit in wretched traffic and there really is no immediate short-term relief. We need to bite the bullet, account for our lackadaisical transit planning, and get this thing passed. In our current system, we will have to suffer through it for a few years, but there is still light at the end of the tunnel (pardon the pun). Central Link opens next year. Hopefully, we will have a federal government and executive administration more friendly to funding transit, and perhaps a state Government that will re-think how we do transportation around here (regressive sales tax funding, tolls, etc).

I’m not ready to say that Transit Now was a bad measure to vote for, but I’ve been groping to express similar thoughts for a while.  Bravo, “phantom.”