Today the Seattle Times has an editorial rejecting Proposition 1 – as we knew they would.

There’s a long and interesting story here, and I’m sure you’ll hear more of it as time goes on, but this is the gist.

The Seattle Times supported Sound Move up until one crucial point. When the University Link / North Link alignments were chosen, an alternative that would have gone up Eastlake was included. I haven’t found the original comments in the environmental impact statements yet, but the Seattle Times stopped being in favor of light rail the moment it didn’t serve their headquarters at Denny and Fairview.

This is par for the course. Most of the arguments in this piece are misleading, a couple are actually lies.

  • Sound Transit money can’t help Metro, Metro has to go to the legislature to get more funding. 
  • We don’t have an income tax, that’s why we have a higher sales tax than some. Total taxes in this state are actually pretty low.
  • The 0.9 percent Sound Transit wants to collect would carry more passenger miles than all the other bus agencies in the region combined, and then once we pay back the bonds, we’d only need 0.4 percent to operate it. Claiming buses are cheaper when the same amount of money covers capital *and* operations of light rail is obviously false.
  • The 0.4 cents Sound Transit collects today remains whether or not this fails. Their claim of ‘another’ 0.9 cents is false.
  • Bus lanes can’t go on Bellevue Way – we tried floating that, and there was overwhelming opposition. They can’t go on I-5 in downtown, either. The places where we are most congested are the same places we don’t have the room or the political will for bus lanes. The opposition in 1968, in this very paper, made the same claims. 40 years later? A couple of bus lanes here and there.
  • I-90 is not losing bus capacity. Sound Transit not only builds light rail on I-90, but also adds HOV lanes to the outside to replace the express lanes. This claim was false.
  • Buses wouldn’t be ‘kicked out’ of the downtown transit tunnel until 2020 – when the light rail that replaces them will carry more passengers. This was misleading.
  • When you don’t compare to the alternatives, you don’t get to complain something’s too expensive. HOV lanes don’t fix our problems – only new right of way will.

The only people ‘slighted’ here are certain Seattle Times editorial board members who can currently use the I-90 express lanes to get to work. They might have to carpool.

This is about now – buses and commuter trains now, and starting now on building more rail. I guess the Times would rather we build light rail even later. But that’s been their argument for 40 years. Hasn’t it been long enough? People are moving to transit in droves.

Shame on the Seattle Times for the same simplistic argument again. They say do nothing about our transportation mess. Proposition 1 offers a real plan.

19 Replies to “The Seattle Times Says No, Again.”

    1. Here’s the letter I sent to the Times:

      “In her op-ed against the Mass Transit Now campaign, Ellen Banner made one good point, but drew the wrong conclusion. We sure do need much more bus service right now. However most of this need is for local, not regional, bus service.

      Sound Transit’s Proposition 1 is all about taking a big step beyond oil dependency, toward regional transportation based on renewable energy. A transit backbone of electrical light rail will be the key to getting around for a lot more people as climate catastrophes and gas prices accelerate over the next decade.

      But the backbone of regional transit will be weak without the ribs of local transit. We need to double local bus service over the next decade. This means the state legislature must authorize a new county tax.

      And we’re fed up with the state telling Sound Transit and the counties that it’s a sale tax or the highway. How about something creative like a vehicle carbon tax? Maybe even enough to roll back the sales tax.”

  1. Greetings from the other side of the continent. Where all this rail vs. “the right to drive” bs was figured out a long time ago.

    Once upon a time, newspapers in America took the long view, tossing short term feel-good populist sentiments to talk radio yahoos.

    Not any more.

    The Seattle Times could care less about the platitudes involved with multi-generational issues. It took Blethen, Ink 10 years to realize people want to read the news in real time. As such, they have been forced to embrace the ethic of extinction, and hope to drag the rest of Seattle down with them in to the tar pits.

    This editorial is plain nihilism, pure and simple.

  2. Maybe the Times has legitimate conceerns that ‘this plan’ is not the right plan.
    It’s hard to swallow that light rail costs the equivalent of building a new Safeco Field every mile along its entire route. Or maybe they are concerned that the I-90 reversible lanes will sit idle for many years during build-out, while packed buses crawl across the lake during commute hours.
    Perhaps a legitimate reason to pause is the fact that only about 1/3 of one percent new riders will be attracted to the system away from all trips made in the region.
    Maybe, just maybe we could move more people by other means for less money with less CO2 impact.

    Why don’t we wait until Airport Link is up and running, use real numbers to compare cost and benefit, and then decide on more rail or something else.
    Just a thought!

    1. Perhaps now is a good time for the site owner to bring back the “Operating Costs of Bus vs. Rail” post from some weeks back, which showed that a rail system can provide more capacity than bus at a lower operating cost. Aside from the obvious benefit in relieving congestion, this would imply that either 1) taxes could be dramatically lowered in the long term, or 2) taxes could be sustained at the same level in order to build a system that has even greater capacity.

      Irt, I am curious as to your comment on CO2, as Metro runs on diesel, while lite rail would run on electricity generated by hydropower…had you thought that one through?

      1. Most electricity is generated by fossil fuel. We happen to tap the hydro side of the grid, but the electrons could just as easily flow south or east where coal and NG fire the turbines. You can’t just say the trains are free of pollution, but there certainly a step in the right direction if only we had many more MWatts of renewable electric.
        CO2 emmision during LRT construction won’t be recaptured by savings for at least 50 years, and by then it’s anybody’s guess whats available. I for one need to see CO2 reductions now, not 50 years from now when the ice sheets have melted, and sea level has risen ?? feet.
        A Prius actually generates less CO2 than a typical LRT trainset with average loads(USEPA). A Prius 3+ carpool is far and away a winner, not that I’m pushing Prius carpools.
        So, yeah Zach, I have given the matter some thought.

      2. A lot of this information sounds made up. Source for the 50 years stat?

        “A Prius actually generates less CO2 than a typical LRT trainset with average loads(USEPA).”

        Does that pass the smell test for anyone? A hybrid that uses fossil guels emits less CO2 than a LRT system in Puget Sound powered by hydro-electric power?

        Are you interested in serious discussion lrt?, or are you just another guy who’s going to say three or four different, irrelevant, and lacking-in-context statistics in every comment?

        If you want the debate: Your plan to reduce CO2 reductions tomorrow is to either not invest in mass transit. Sweet. More than half of this regions CO2? From transportation. The plan? The alternative? There isn’t one, there are distractions — and your alternative seems to be more cars, more traffic, more CO2. That’s an alternative this region can’t afford.

      3. lrt… give it some more thought. Seattle City Light runs on 90% hydro. The state as a whole generates about 70% hydro. More to the point, we can generate more clean energy. We don’t have a plan to replace 300,000 Washington cars with electrics.

        And I have no idea how you’re making up the numbers about CO2 recapture. You’re talking about a hundred thousand people off the road every day. Link’s construction emissions will be offset in a matter of months. This sounds like the same argument people used to use against solar panels… and it smells just as bad.

      4. He’s right about a single Prius vs “typical” trainset, but that’s missing the point.

        First of all everyone with a Prius could already be carpooling but most of them aren’t. There is no “My neighbor with a Prius takes me to work” on the ballot. You need to go ask your neighbor if you could get a ride by paying for costs of not only fuel but also vehicle purchase and wear. That’s what you’re getting with Proposition 1.

        Second a train carries a lot more people than a Prius, lasts longer with less maintenance, and can be expanded more easily.

    2. lrt?,

      Your comment is full of incorrect information.

      Or maybe they are concerned that the I-90 reversible lanes will sit idle for many years during build-out, while packed buses crawl across the lake during commute hours.

      It’s nice you’re so concerned about buses, but this is simply incorrect. Prop. 1 pays for the completion of HOV lanes in the main roadway across Lake Washington. East LINK construction won’t begin until this is complete. That’s why it’s going to take 12 years to get to Bellevue: the engineering is done and the money’s there to build this segment, they just have to wait for the road construction. So, in fact, ST is bending over backwards to make sure you have your precious bus lane.

      Maybe, just maybe we could move more people by other means for less money with less CO2 impact.

      Why don’t we wait until Airport Link is up and running, use real numbers to compare cost and benefit, and then decide on more rail or something else.

      Gee, you’re right, what the transportation issue needs is more study and navel-gazing. After all, we’ve only been talking about rail transit for 40 years. Back in the real world, people are eager to get quick, congestion free transit as quickly as possible.

    3. I disagree, but in any case this plan is all we’ve got right now. There is no “oodles of buses” plan on the ballot. There is no “pave Lake Washington with more roads” plan on the ballot. If we want to take any action, it’s Vote YES on Proposition 1.

      By the way, even if we could get fleets of additional buses delivered the day after election day, there would be massive CO2 emitting construction costs for them and the bases to support them, too.

  3. Personally I enjoyed their reference to “Northwest 15th Avenue”. Why shouldn’t voters listen to the Times when they so clearly know their stuff when it comes to transportation in the city.

  4. Hey Ben,

    This is the same board that endorsed George W. Bush for President.

    I’m sure they’ll publish some counter-arguments over the next few days…try to get in on that action. :)

  5. I don’t own a car so I’m looking at AAA’s 2007 Your Driving Costs and it tells me I would have to pay 50 cents/mile or $5,000/year to drive to school and work, not including the cost of the vehicle. At $69/year, Sound Transit 2 is a bargain. Even if it were inflated to hundreds of dollars that the NO side claims it’s still cheaper than owning a car.

    While many are not ready to ditch their car entirely, having transit choices means they can drive less, burn less gas, put less wear and tear on their vehicle, emit less CO2, have more money in their pocket, and usually be happier too.

  6. Getting back to why the Seattle Times doesn’t support ST2, they have a long history of not supporting Sound Transit. It’s difficult for old dogs to learn new tricks, as they say. However, there was a noticeable turn against Sound Transit when the Capitol Hill alignment was selected over the Fairview/Eastlake alignment for Link light rail. At the time, the paper was hoping to sell their downtown property and move their HQ to Bothell. Apparently, Blethen’s gang felt “Fairview Fanny” was left high and dry by ST’s decision, holding devalued property that would have been oh so much more profitable if only light rail served it. Isn’t it ironic!

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