To many, today will be a milestone in local history. It marks the beginning of a new era in how we think about Seattle politics: 2008 will be the year we got it together.

On the analysis side, there are a few things I’d like to briefly mention. First, Sims was trying the entire time to get us to pay twice for Transit Now. We’re already paying for it – but that money is being eaten by fuel prices. So he was trying to pass an amendment to get Sound Transit money to pay for it again!

Second, I think I can explain Pete von Reichbauer’s vote. Remember this, and this? von Reichbauer is trying to hide the fact that he’s Republican by passing an initiative to make county council and executive votes nonpartisan. Look at that first link again. Recognize a name there? John Stanton, part of the Governor’s committee on ‘governance reform’, otherwise known as how to take money away from Sound Transit and put it into roads, is paying $25,000 toward signature gatherers. I don’t think it’s a stretch to imagine that anti-rail Stanton is involved in this no vote – von Reichbauer probably can’t keep Stanton onboard with his project to be a stealth Republican if he votes for mass transit.

More as it happens. Any thoughts on Sims’ vote? It does seem like he’s undermining his own agency by begging for money.

13 Replies to “Vote Postmortem”

  1. I think it’s a great victory that the Governor’s (effectively) onboard. The race for governor could get ugly, and having a constant message of not supporting ST2 could have been very hurtful to the vote. Having her onboard means having a strong public voice defending any criticism against the measure.

    1. Don’t be too sure she’s onboard. It’s lukewarm support, perhaps, but she hasn’t made a statement.

  2. First, I want to thank you for this blog…I just recently discovered it, and what a find. Some years back I had to make a choice whether to pursue business school, or urban planning, and the subsequent choice to go into market research and analysis leaves me searching for an outlet…

    Secondly, geat insight in your recent post on how area politicians often maske their true stance on rail, by using the term “transit”. That single word means rail to us rail supporters, and bus to the bus people. I’ve had occassion to speak with Sims in a small group setting, and I can vouch that he is the biggest offender in this regard, and is no rail man.(Not to imply that buses do not have their place; I simply believe in the primacy of rail, and am tired of seeing us goldplate bus service at its expense).

    A request: can you break down the maintenance and refresh cost of bus cars vs. rail cars? I’ve always been struck how that is missing from the discussion of which mode we put our emphasis on. It seems to me that rail cars would have much longer lifecycles than a bus, and perhaps lower maintenance costs (fewer moving parts?). That theory seemed to be supported by a recent discussion with the project manager of the Lake Union tram (although a big difference I am sure between tram and light rail).

    I’m not sure how you would do an accurate cost comparison; perhaps an entire train set for light rail, compared to its passenger capacity equivalent in terms of buses.

    Any thoughts?

    1. Interesting information (excerpted below) on the cost of operating buses compared to light rail can be found in a report titled “Twelve Anti-Transit Myths: A Conservative Critique (by Weyrich & Lind)” which can be viewed on line at the APTA (American Public Transportation Association) website. Check out They have a wealth of information on transit from all points of view.

      “• The critics also claim that buses cost less than rail. This is true of capital costs, but
      not of operating costs. In St. Louis, Light Rail had an operating cost per passenger
      mile in FY 1995 of 224 compared to 684 for buses, a cost per passenger trip of
      $1.18 compared to $2.31 for buses, and a farebox recovery ratio (FY 1997) of 41.8%
      compared to 20.3% for buses.19 In Portland, Oregon, the operating cost per boarding
      passenger is $1.67 for buses, $1.40 for Light Rail.20 In Dallas, the operating cost per
      passenger mile of the DART Light Rail system is just 60% of that of buses.21 On a
      nationwide basis, the latest figures, from the Federal Transit Administration 1999
      National Transit Database, show the operating cost of Light Rail as 454 per
      passenger mile, compared to 554 for buses.”

  3. 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).

  4. The ill-conceived and (fortunately) ill-fated “Potential Amendment” to the ST2 plan proposed by Sims & Hammond at the ST Board meeting today contained the phrase “there is no assurance that buses will be available” to address our immediate transit needs. This was given as rationale for their amendment that essentially sought to hold up ST for $120 million to pay for the flailing Transit Now plan. ST’s enabling legislation, as pointed out by the erudite FutureWise spokeswoman and others today, does not allow ST funds to be spent on local transit service. The Sims/Hammond amendment was received by ST late Tuesday, so most of the board members were seeing it for the 1st time as Hammond and Sims were introducing it today. Nevertheless, it was quickly uncovered by Ladenberg and others that this was nothing but a naked grab for money by Sims. What’s sad for Sims is that if he hadn’t alienated the rest of the board by his selfish and unscrupulous behavior the past 10 months or so, he may possibly have had some support from more than just the turncoat PVR. Hammond didn’t have to vote yes today, many thought she was a nay or an abstainer. After all, Dino says ST2 is a “non-issue” in the gov race. Perhaps, feeling burnt by Sims when he used her to make his money grab, she thought she could regain her credibility with the rest of the board by voting yes for the plan. Hammond’s reasonable amendment to “surge” new bus hours earlier in the 15-year plan received support from the majority. Sims nearly incoherent rant about wanting to help all those “standing on buses” rang hollow in light of the infamous 40-40-20 plan which penalizes the most loyal and dedicated bus riders in the whole King County system.

    1. If this had been proposed months ago it would have been worth debate and perhaps even serious consideration. But submitting this a few days before the vote in which you know ST2 will move forward — well, it screams of making a political move rather than a serious gesture. There were far too many unknowns about debt coverage, subarea equity, and the legality of things to move forward.

  5. Thanks for pointing out that Sims was double dipping for his Metro buses. It seemed that nobody was highlighting that fact.

  6. It’s interesting to hear the news coverage of this today. A public radio story tried to be ballanced by sharing an opposing position. So… they interviewed some guy (missed his name) about how we could buy huge quantaties of vanpools and solve more commuter problems. I could almost hear the collective groan from anyone who’s ever been in a vanpool about this solution.

    1. The “vanpool guy” in the sound bite on KUOW is named Dick Paler. He spoke at the Sound Transit Board meeting yesterday representing the Eastside Transportation Association, a pro-roads anti-transit group whose members include Jim MacIsaac and Jim Horn.

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