It’s Vote Time

This post originally appeared on Orphan Road.

Okay, so I guess we’re a go for a 2008 vote. Ben’s done a great liveblog of the ST board meeting.

Meanwhile Erica Barnett is demanding apologies, which seems ridiculously premature. Let’s wait until this fall’s ballot passes, shall we? I personally supported last year’s Prop. 1 because I thought it was a compromise that stood a good chance of passing. I’m cautiously optimistic about this new proposition, but it’s far from a sure thing. We can’t count on Obama voters alone — tens of thousands of whom will probably split the ticket and vote for Rossi — to save us.

Victory is far from assured.

Now let’s get to work.

Vote Postmortem

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.

ST2 Fifteen Year Plan to go to Ballot

After a four-hour long board meeting (which was live-blogged below), the Sound Transit Board has adopted the fifteen year plan by a vote of 16-2. King County Councilman Pete von Reichbauerand King County Executive Ron Sims voted against the plan. The board then voted unanimously to send the plan to the ballot this November.

Some small changes were made to the draft plan before the vote took place. The head of the Washington State Department of Transportation, Paula Hammond, successfully fought for an amendment that front-loads the bus service instead of rolling it out in phases, which is a smart idea.

The adopted plan includes light rail to Bellevue to the east, Northgate to the north, and Highline Community College by 2020. Light rail will extend to the Overlake Transit Center a year later, and to Federal Way (South) and Lynnwood (North) two years after that. This is in addition to light rail stations currently being built on Capitol Hill and at the University of Washington.

A 25% percent expansion of ST Express bus service across the region provides immediate relief.

Sounder service will dramatically increase (65%) under the new plan, with platforms being extended for additional cars and new trainsets being purchased. Station access funds will fund additional parking, more feeder bus service, and/or pedistrian/bike access improvements to crowded Sounder stations as well as Park and Rides across Puget Sound.

A streetcar will connect Capitol Hill, First Hill, the International District. Matching funds will be provided for a Tacoma Link extension as well as partnership funds for a BSNF East project.

The plan is financed by a 0.5% sales tax increase in addition to extending current Sound Move taxes. After construction is done and much of the bonds are repaid, the tax will phase out if voters choose not to extend the system in the future.

I’m voting Yes to the ST2 plan because it provides short-term relief and long-term solutions. How are you planning to vote?

Liveblog: The Vote!!! On The Ballot!!!

Watch at:

4:36: Voting on bus frontloading. We’re moved the ST2 bus service increases up to 2009 and ASAP, instead of 2009 and 2014. This is fantastic. Passed!

4:38: Discussing the First Hill streetcar… nothing seems that important here.

4:42: Nickels is wrapping up discussion. He’s going to do a roll call vote. The stream is breaking up, so we’ll see how much I get. Gasoline over $4 a gallon. We need to give people an opportunity to vote. He says he’ll campaign hard (right here with you!).

4:43: Sims and Von Reichbauer voted no. 16-2 final.

Pete Von Reichbauer is from Federal Way. Light rail doesn’t get quite into his downtown, just to the edge of Federal Way. There’s something else going on with him – I don’t know what yet, but I’m trying to figure it out. Sims we all know about. Let’s get rid of him next year.

The last little changes: Sound Transit will fund putting HOV lanes on the I-90 outside roadway. That alone will more than replace the capacity loss of the reversible express lanes to LRT. We’re basically doubling total capacity across the bridge in the long term.

Let’s pass this plan in November!

Liveblog: The Vote (soon now)

Watch at:

3:33: Julia Patterson continues to create doubt about the proposed Sims/Hammond amendment – it would negatively impact Sound Transit’s debt equity, and nobody’s studied by how much. It’s a raw deal, it would essentially fund King County Metro’s Transit Now to the detriment of the other subareas.

3:34: Reardon just brought in a question as well. He’s pointed out that Sims/Hammond would affect Snohomish County’s bus service as well, and that makes him worried.

3:36: Joni Earl has stepped in. She’s pointing out that the two waves of bus service, 2009 and 2014, are staged the way they are because we’ll need until 2014 to have space available at our bus bases – we’re maxed out on base capacity. She’s essentially saying that this amendment has other problems.

3:38: Reardon is right back saying “Hey, so not only does this just benefit King County, but it wouldn’t be possible to get this service in Snohomish that fast anyway, because we don’t have enough maintenance base space!”

3:40: Patterson wants an amendment to the amendment, that if planners found any subarea’s debt equity ratio would be 1.5 or lower, the amendment for faster bus service at a whole would be removed. Financial guy (I did not get his name, Brian maybe?) points out that some subareas are lower than 1.5 in the plan already! Note that other areas are far over 1.5 to account for that.

3:42: Sims is coming back acting a bit confused. He started out originally talking about how these projects have a lot of play built in – he’s saying “We can add some risk, don’t worry, add some risk!”

We need to replace Sims next year.

3:46: Financial guy comes back sounding unsure if this is a good idea. Dawson mentions she doesn’t like it. Nickels says it doesn’t fit with Sound Transit’s policy or goals. More boardmembers weighing in saying “We need to be at 1.6 – not okay with 1.5”.

4:00: Reardon, Earl ask Desmond Brown (chief attorney at Sound Transit) whether it would be legal for Sound Transit to fund Transit Now service. At this point, that’s all anyone is talking about. Sims wants Sound Transit to make up his funding gap for RapidRide service. This isn’t happening.

4:08: We’re moving toward the end of debate on the silly Metro amendment.

4:19: Hammond would like to frontload all the ST2 bus service earlier. This would reduce the debt equity ratio from 1.67 to 1.65, and earns her vote. This wouldn’t change where bus service goes, just make it sooner. I’d go for it.

4:28: And I just went to get a drink of water and missed an amendment. Did we get the bus frontloading? Was Dawson happy with it? (I know now – Dawson is speaking at 4:34 about her desired language)

4:31: Larry Phillips wants to add language saying that Sound Transit is looking for opportunities for other sources of funding. Hammond whines that she does not support tolling on state highways as a source of Sound Transit revenue. Yes, that’s right, because you couldn’t figure out that you needed a percentage based tax on fuel when you had the chance!

4:33: More discussion about how uneven our tax burdens are. This is true, and we need to fix it. That’s a legislative issue that Sound Transit can’t change (thankfully, Dow Constantine actually says that). This new funding sources amendment is solid. It’s passed.

4:34: Dawson is discussion how to keep Everett to Seattle and Bellevue service level increases at 30 percent. This would be a friendly amendment to amendment 3, on bus frontloading. Ladenburg is okay with it too.

Liveblog: The Vote (discussion)

Watch at:

2:20: Mayor Nickels speaking about what’s at stake, how the package has been a result of a lot of work. Thanks staff for working on it and providing the Board tons of data. Says we have a solid plan – it would increase ST ridership over 80% by 2030, and increase transit’s ridership share by 65%.

2:22: An investment of 69 dollars a year for each adult in the Sound Transit district – for most, about the same as a single tank of gas. “This package allows us to break out of the highway and sprawl, and gives us alternatives to sitting in our cars on the interstate.” He talks about all the other expenses of driving, mentions that tolls are coming on SR-520. Compare $1700 a year for tolls to $69 a year to build light rail.

2:24: “The debate is action versus inaction, stalemate versus solutions.” By 2030, Link, Sounder, and ST Express will carry more than 109 million trips a year (and ten billion passenger miles, he doesn’t mention that). It’s time for show and tell. For those watching, have a look at the “Additional Documents” over on the right side of that page, where you can have a look at the PDFs that summarize the plan and its finances.

2:27: Ric Ilgenfritz points out some cool statistics. This would give us 53 miles of Link. Lynnwood 5 years sooner, Overlake 7 years sooner, Star Lake (S. 272nd) 5 years sooner. 65% increase in Sounder service – longer platforms, more trains. We have a tentative agreement with BNSF already! Also a 25% increase in the ST Express bus fleet, 97,000 additional service hours with half front-loaded in 2009, and half in 2014. Local municipalities won’t just “get a parking garage” this time, they’ll get partnership funds they can use on parking, pedestrian and bicycle access, and more – the choice will remain local.

2:29: 2030 ridership would be 358,000 daily riders (readers, you know this is understated, doesn’t include TOD). 99,550 tons of CO2 reduced per year from new transit riders and bus->rail conversions (wow).

2:43: Larry Phillips (who I hope will run against Sims next year – let’s see how Sims votes) just pointed out that the ST2 plan specifies tax rollbacks after the plan is complete. One less ridiculous attack on Sound Transit!

2:45 pm. Discussion of the plan starts. Reardon moves, someone seconds (I didn’t catch who).

3:10 (I’m back): Board measures are speaking about the plan, what they like and dislike, what a great idea it is to plan in the long term.

3:19: Sims is seriously trying to say that Sound Transit should help fund Metro. Sound Transit CANNOT fund Metro’s service. It would be illegal! Sound Transit is NOT in the business of building routes that meander through Seattle. It is in the business of connecting our urban centers with mass transit. He is trying to treat it like Metro, when it is a completely different animal.

3:22: Paula Hammond is working with Sims now. This is ridiculous – they’re asking Sound Transit to stretch their financials to King County Metro’s service. Ladenburg just came back and said “Let’s make it all three counties, and then it’s equitable” (essentially). Hammond and Sims can’t fight against that – it’s fair. Note that Ladenburg just defused a lot of this by pointing out that it primarily serves King County. He’s very good at this – which is why he’s running for Attorney General. Claudia Thomas is speaking against the Hammond/Sims amendment as well.

3:29: Personally I dislike this amendment. It would make Sound Transit financials less solid. Julia Patterson is asking about how this would reduce Sound Transit’s debt coverage levels. She’s asking if there’s a danger to other subareas, increased risk. I agree with her point – this would be bad.

Liveblog: Webcast of Board Meeting

It doesn’t look like I can embed it here, but the link is here.

First Federal Way checked in with their support. Burien was next. Washington State Transit Association spoke in favor of expansion. Snohomish County Councilmember Mike Cooper just spoke in favor, talking about Ruth Fisher (the room they’re in is named after her), about improving the economy with public works projects – as Magnuson and FDR spearheaded locally and nationally.

Jim Horn (and a friend placed there to make him look even more ancient by comparison), both looking really angry (these guys always look like goblins), just pushed the ETA agenda. All he’s doing is spewing numbers… haha, the suburbs are a “market share already well served by buses”. Yeah, RIGHT. Oh, and it “doesn’t make sense” to build light rail to the eastside, either! What’s funny is that Horn, as a state senator, endorsed I-745 in 2000, which would have moved 90% of transportation funding (even ST funding) to roads. And they claim not to be anti-transit! Basically every one of the things they’ve just said are flat out lies – claims that light rail will increase congestion on I-90? Not by doubling I-90’s capacity, it won’t.

1:45: Enough with the crazies. Up next another real human being, Lisa Utter, Lynnwood City Council member, speaking out in support. Mayor Jerry Smith and councilmember Matsumoto of Mountlake Terrace, speaking in support. “If the eastside doesn’t want their money, we’ll be happy to take it on our side!” from Mayor Smith. Nice jab at ETA!

1:47: Sara Nikolic of Futurewise speaking in favor of ST2! She’s pointing out that Sound Transit was *created* to build rail, not buses. Express buses are here to build ridership for long term transit solutions that allow better land use planning, mixed use, walkable communities.

1:50: Marty Evons of Everett, who has basically no clue what’s happening on I-90. Oh, yeah, a “savings of billions” – to move fifty people instead of fifty thousand. The same crap we’ve gotten from the ETA.

1:52: Ian Terry of Issaquah, speaking out in favor – about how people’s commutes are changing, and we need to build public transportation.

1:56: Wiiiiiill Knedlik! Local anti-transit nut speaking next. “Supports putting the measure on the ballot so it can be defeated a second time.” Claims to be a rail supporter – but appears to be a conspiracy theorist, claiming Sound Transit has censored old board minutes, taking our money. He has a “handout” – oh, man, how many hundred billion does he claim ST2 is this time? Last year he claimed Sound Transit was spending a TRILLION DOLLARS. Nut.

2:00: Former Mayor of Mercer Island Aubrey Davis in support of building ST2, especially East Link. “We’ve been talking about this for forty years. Let’s get going.” He was followed with applause from the room!

2:03: John Worthington, of Renton, speaking next. He’s a PRT nut! Claims we could connect every urban center in the region with super transit pods that go everywhere and do everything. Apparently we could run these pods over the 520 bridge, too! No friction? Oh, it’s MAGLEV PODS. I love how the crazies come out for these meetings.

Tally is 9 for the system, 5 against – all either crazy or underinformed. Looks like public comment is over, I’ll update with more of interest as it comes in.

2:12: The current speaker is writing about coordination and cost estimate methodology. The Independent Review Team’s panel report essentially says “Sound Transit, you’re doing a good job planning, your methodology is good, keep it up, we’ve still got some more work to do, but keep it up.”

2:18: Consent agenda! The Board just signed the ST staff’s paychecks. My boss only wishes he got to do that at a public meeting.

2:19: Here we go, items 7A and 7B, it’s time to vote on ST2.

One mile on rail replaces four miles driving

The Sierra Club asks, Does a mile in a car equal a mile on a train? Apparently not:

Pushkarev and Zupan in their pioneering 1980 study compared the six American regions with rail transit (New York-northeastern New Jersey, Chicago, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Boston and Cleveland) to other U.S. urban areas over 2 million population, concluding that for every p-m (STB: Passenger Mile) ridden on transit, four vehicle miles were not driven.

It’s an interesting read, if a bit technical.

A Re-introduction

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.


This post originally appeared on Orphan Road.

I’m glad that the STB dudes are meeting to talk about how to pass the new ST ballot measture that’s coming this November. I can’t make the meeting, but I thought I’d share a thought or two.

Sound Transit can’t actually campaign. So we need other groups to form — like last fall’s “Yes on Roads and Transit” — to do the legwork. That campaign was relentlessly positive, and I think that was a perfectly reasonable tactic to use.

However, while I was away, I caught a few radio and TV ads promoting Honolulu’s proposed light rail system. And I thought they were very effective. Here’s one:

The radio ads are even more aggressive. They basically call out the anti-rail folks for being full of it. They’re made by a 501(c)4 called “Support Rail Transit.”

Of course, negative ads are risky. They repeat the negative. Why give the anti-rail zealots a platform for their arguments? That’s why negative ads are generally accepted as a sign of weakness (c.f. Microsoft’s new anti-Apple ads, or any of John McCain’s recent anti-Obama ads).

But maybe it’s time to get more aggressive. Mayor Nickels’ recent op-ed is effective because it openly mocks the anti-transit folks’ arguments as absurd on their face. The Honolulu ads use a similar tactic.

With all the misinformation floating around in the public about what Sound Transit is and isn’t planning, it might be time to shoot down some of these arguments publicly. Our major local media outlets have generally been loathe to call B.S. on these guys, maybe someone else needs to.


This post originally appeared on Orphan Road.

Erica Barnett is right that I-985’s opponents are fighting the initiative the best way possible, by highlighting the programs that will have to be cut from the state’s general fund. If it’s a transportation and public-art issue, Eyman wins. If it’s about cuts to services and education, he probably loses.

If I had my way, every tax-cutting initiative would have to spell out in detail which services the initiative would cut. Maybe even provide a nice list of which actual kids would lose their health insurance or go hungry, with names and faces, if possible.

Short of that, though, this is the best way to go.

Nickels op-ed – any other ridiculous reasons to delay?

Welcome Seattle Times readers!

“10 lame reasons to delay mass transit” has ten pretty amusing reasons to delay a transit vote – like “you can worry more about climate change” and “standing all the way home [on the packed bus] improves your calf muscles and physical stamina.”

I have one – if we wait two more years, the people living in new development in downtown will have no way to get to work. They’ll start more small businesses!

If you’ve got more, share ’em. Also, vote on the Seattle Times poll for light rail this year!

In the meantime, we have a great transit package to pass, building light rail as well as investing immediately in increasing express bus and Sounder service. This is the best opportunity we’ve had in forty years to connect our region – Sound Transit 2 will create real regional solutions to our transportation mess. Keep checking back here for news on the package, what it will do for you, and why we need it!

Thursday Vote; Friday Meetup

As you all likely know, Sound Transit’s board votes Thursday for a November ballot measure.

With that vote will come the beginning of a campaign we must win. The stakes are higher this year: A loss could well be the end of Sound Transit, the board replaced with new elected officials who would almost definitely shift transit money to roads. University Link could be cannibalized to replace 520. The team that’s been put together – today chomping at the bit to build when we say go, desks covered in designs and plans – would be lost to other cities. We would have to start over.

A win will offer a real alternative to highway expansion, giving us the tool we need to prevent sprawl. A win will keep Sound Transit delivering projects, and put the agency in a safe position from which to strike out with acceleration or expansion in a few years. A win will show the younger generation there is a better way.

Opposition will be fierce this year. The Seattle Times will attack every week. The Van Dyks and Kemper Freemans will say highways and vanpools are all we need. We know better, we know how to make our arguments, and this is the time to start going on the offensive.

Friday, let’s meet. The Columbia City Ale House, 7 pm. We’ll bring maps and talking points, everyone bring your brain and your ideas. We’ll make sure to have someone from the campaign, there may be volunteer opportunities, and I’m sure we can organize some action of our own.

News Round Up

Photo from Jade Gordon, found in the STB Flickr Pool.

Sounder Stats

This post originally appeared on Orphan Road.

Ho hum. Another quarter, another ridership record for Sounder, up 31% YOY.

Gee, it sure seems like people in the Puget Sound like their rail transit and want to see more of it. Too bad the Seattle Times is looking down their noses at these folks and basically telling them to go screw themselves.

Sorry to be crude, here, folks, but where’s the last place on Earth where people still buy and read printed newspapers? THE GODDAMNED TRAIN, THAT’S WHERE. The paper’s worth peanuts these days, you’d think that an injection of tens of thousands of new rail riders into the area would make them smile.

I know, I know… the Times editorial board and ownership is staffed by honorable public servants who would never use the editorial page to advance their financial self-interest.

Oh wait.

Nickels Calls Out Kemper Freeman on Fantasy Ads

A press release from Mayor Nickels’ office today – an apt comparison between the Eastside Transportation Association (essentially developer Kemper Freeman’s anti-transit front) and the Wizard of Oz – just wanting to click their heels. “Auntie Em, There’s no place like open roads!” isn’t solving anything:

We know who is behind the curtain of the Eastside Transportation Association – the same people whose only answer to the problems of climate pollution and congestion are more freeways, more traffic, and more frustration. Under Sound Transit’s new proposal, light rail would be extended to Bellevue, as well as Lynnwood and Federal Way. Those who are lining up against this common-sense measure are stuck in their own personal Oz, a place where our most pressing challenges can be wished away by laying more asphalt. This November, we look forward to presenting our bus, commuter and light rail solution – a way forward that will cost the average driver the equivalent of one tank of gas a year. Because we know building a better future takes more than clicking your heels and hoping our gridlock will go away.

We know that “ETA” has no real plan. The $11 billion expansion plan for I-405 will carry a fraction of the people ST2 will. Light rail is far more cost effective, and we’re dreaming if we think adding more lanes will help us deal with gas prices. It’s nice to have our mayor leading the fight this year!

Governor and challenger continue to disappoint on transit

We’ve talked about the problems with both Governor Christine Gregoire and challenger Dino Rossi’s transportation policies in the past, but things just keep getting worse.

The Seattle Times ran a story a few days back talking about how neither of them are making Sound Transit 2 a campaign issue.

The most troubling part of the article is this quote:

Meanwhile, Rossi says he considers Sound Transit a local issue: “I don’t even have an idea what they’re interested in doing.”

This shows Rossi’s lack of interest in inter-agency cooperation. Sound Transit and the WSDOT work together on many projects including HOV/transit direct access freeway ramps and the Point Defiance rail bypass. It’s also no secret that most of the state’s traffic problems are within the Sound Transit district, so it’s very disappointing that someone who wants to be governor hasn’t taken the time to educate himself.

Meanwhile over in the PI, Rossi brings up an issue we all wish was over: an 8 lane option for 520, claiming that the cost would be roughly the same (note this correction). This comes years after a state study concluded an 8 lane highway would cost much more and create too much additional traffic, further clogging I-5 and the areas surrounding each end of the bridge.

Both of these issues show once again that although Christine Gregoire is very far from perfect, Dino Rossi could do a lot more damage.

No, Really, the Seattle Times Hates Sound Transit

This morning the Times has an editorial saying Sound Transit shouldn’t put light rail on the ballot. Their reasons are suspect, and their logic is twisted.

They continue to push the “don’t-take-my-express-lanes-away” agenda – the purely self-interested stance. Early in the hit piece they say:

Perhaps, though they might say yes for a mix of transit less-biased toward rail.

This package is a mix of transit less biased toward rail. Last year’s package was some 95% light rail. This year’s package is more like 70% – with big increases for ST Express. I don’t think even the Times can argue against more Sounder.

They go on to talk about boardings between buses and rail. First they talk about 477,000 boardings per day by our other transit agencies. Then they talk about ONLY the conservative ridership estimates (which should be boosted by the TOD we’ve built just since those numbers were calculated) for Central Link. They ignore University Link, ST Express, and Sounder. But wait, those apparently don’t exist!

For actual bus service, Metro charges an 0.9 percent sales tax. For promised light-rail service, Sound Transit has been charging 0.4 percent. You can move many, many more people for the money on buses than on rail.

Okay, so… Metro currently has daily boardings of about 370,000 for their .9%. Sound Transit already has 45,000 weekday boardings on ST Express, 10,000 weekday boardings on Sounder service – with 50% more service yet to add – and will have not only 45,000 daily boardings on Central Link, but later another 70,000 boardings on University Link (still part of that .4%). Also remember that the 370,000 daily boardings on Metro will drop on some of their core routes as people ride rail instead – the 7, 36, 42, 194, and others will see drops in ridership even next year.

So, .4%? In 2030, without ST2, that would be 200,000 riders a day. More than half the ridership of Metro for less than half the money. There’s another interesting component here. ST Express and Sounder trips are far longer, on average, than Metro trips. Sound Transit takes their passengers today 17 miles on average, but Metro takes their passengers under 5 miles. That’s more than three times the miles traveled for those boardings!

In 2030, with ST2, just Sound Transit’s rail services will carry more passenger miles than all our local bus agencies combined – with about the same tax rate. Link and Sounder combined will carry .9 billion passenger miles per year. All the buses – ST, ET, PT, CT, MT – will carry .6 billion. As we pay off those bonds, it will cost a third as much to operate. The Times’ own argument works against them.

They’re stuck in the fifties, when we hadn’t yet learned from our mistakes and we didn’t yet understand development:

Think of all the places buses go — in all three counties — and look at the map of where light rail will go, twenty years from now. Light rail is two strands, in the shape of a T. Bus service is a spider web.

Development follows transportation infrastructure. In Seattle, a hundred years ago, development was along strands of rail. You can see this today – wherever there are clusters of old brick buildings in our neighborhoods, they surrounded a rail line. Buses can only map the sprawl that occurred after we got rid of that rail – they can’t affect it. The fact that this strand of light rail will carry as much of our traffic as Metro’s huge web should make it painfully clear that ST2 is where we need our next transportation investments.

I-985 is Certified

The Times reports this morning that Tim Eyman’s measure will definitely be on the ballot.

It would create a traffic-congestion-relief fund by tapping car-sales taxes, revenues from red-light-camera tickets and the money set aside for art on transportation projects.

The initiative also would require cities to synchronize traffic signals and open car-pool lanes outside rush hours.

There really isn’t enough time in the day to go through all the things wrong with this proposal, although the total lack of attention to road maintenance — with bridges threatening to collapse all over the state — is pretty galling, even if you’re pro-road.

If you read this blog, you’re probably pretty strongly disinclined to vote for an Eyman initiative anyway, but I’ll also point out that opening up HOV lanes to general traffic is a direct assault on the Express Bus system, and the potential for any Bus Rapid Transit line.  The position of various public figures on I-985 will be a pretty good discriminator between those who genuinely believe BRT is the best transit solution in the region, and those who merely use it as an excuse to attack light rail.

I personally believe that many BRT advocates (Doug MacDonald?) are arguing in good faith, and we’ll find out who those people are real soon.

Furthermore, the existence of the kind of sentiment expressed in I-985 is a good argument against BRT in itself.  When you construct asphault for the sole use of buses, there’s always going to be some segment of the population agitating to turn it over to cars.  That doesn’t happen with train tracks.