Since we’ve had a sudden infusion of new readers, I thought it might be a good time to produce a primer on what it is that we do here, and what we believe.
This blog has many purposes: general news & information about transit in the Puget Sound; debates on the merits of various small transit projects like RapidRide, the Seattle Streetcar, and Eastside Commuter rail; and stuff we think, as transit fans, is simply “neat.” In the current context, however, our most interesting role is policy advocacy.
Our blog authors are private citizens that live in Kent and Seattle, and work both in Seattle and various places on the Eastside. Although we have many disagreements over the priorities of various smaller projects, the authors share three core convictions that come across in the blog, and they all lead to our endorsement of Sound Transit 2.
1) Transit investment is generally better than highway investment. All modes of transportation receive government subsidy, and the question is where those resources are best used. Although light rail is often attacked for being expensive or not cost-effective, in fact the cost per rider compares quite favorably with most projects that improve highway capacity. Furthermore, transit has significant benefits in terms of pollution, global warming, sprawl reduction, public health, and social equality.
2) The regional transit backbone should be rail, not “bus rapid transit”. There are a multitude of reasons for our conviction on this point, but this post is a pretty good summary of some of the most important arguments. If you search our archives, you can find many, many other posts about BRT that marshal some additional points. Throughout those comment threads, you can read some of the arguments and counter-arguments that have arisen between our authors and various factions of the readership.
3) For all practical purposes, Sound Transit is the only game in town. There are as many rail plans as there are rail advocates. However, the Sound Transit plans are a mix of sophisticated technical analysis and recognition of the political realities necessary to win a public vote. Although I’m sure your rail plan — whatever it might be — has its own merits, as a practical matter going back to the drawing board is a recipe for delay. Given the spiraling cost of construction over time, the reduced quality of life as we wait for program completion, and the quality of the plan on the table, the additional benefits of some other plan are likely to be overwhelmed. In particular, I’d like to refer to Ben’s excellent piece on why light rail has to cross I-90 instead of SR 520.
Additionally, Sound Transit has emerged from an initial period of organizational disarray to become a well-managed organization that meets its objectives, plans conservatively, and passes audits with flying colors. Attempts to reorganize or replace it with something else risks the depletion of valuable staff experience, renewed organizational chaos, and more decades of delay.
I hope you decide to visit frequently, or subscribe to our RSS feed. Even if you hate rail, I think there’s pretty useful discussion of local bus route planning, news of events, and healthy debate between advocates of various plans.
Although this principle is typically honored in the breach, I ask that commenters refrain from personal attacks and impugning motives of others. Our comment thread is, at best, a very educational exchange of facts, and I hope that we can expand that professional tone.