What to Look for Tonight

While we will likely know who the next President is within a few hours, we won’t find out the results of our state elections (Governor, I-985) or the regional transit expansion measure that we strongly support (Proposition 1). King County, the state’s largest, expects to count only about 39% of the ballots tonight.

But of course we can look at the returns as they come in and try to predict the outcome. For background, the Sound Transit District covers part of King, Snohomish, and Pierce Counties. The harsh reality is that King will likely have to pull up lackluster support from Snohomish and Pierce voters. If — and this could be a big if — Snohomish and Pierce Counties report 43% and 44% respectfully (as they did in 2007’s Roads & Transit vote), then it’s projected that a 55.5% vote in King County would lead to the measure passing by 51%-49% overall. Now, obviously, if we get worse results in Snohomish and Pierce, then King voters will have a steeper hill to climb.

When the polls close at 8pm you’ll be able to see results at this page. Results will come hourly until around 1am. Again, we probably won’t know for sure if the measure passes tonight so be patient.

Let’s party

The Mass Transit Now campaign boosting Proposition 1 is throwing a party at Kells Irish Pub near Pike Place Market. I think some of us bloggers will be there, so stop by. It’s right near the Showbox!

How do the polls look?

Well, for Proposition 1 we don’t have much information. Older polls showed massive support for a light rail expansion, but there are concerns that the financial crisis will hurt Prop. 1. The latest meaningful poll pegs support at 47% Yes, 33% No, and 20% Undecided with likely voters (including leaners). The wisdom is that undecideds tend to break against initiatives. That poll was taken on October 18 and 19. Things could have shifted for or against the measure, and the likely voter model that SurveyUSA uses may not account for a changing electorate that Obama might bring to Puget Sound.

But this looks much, much better than a poll taken from the same pollster for last year’s Roads & Transit measure around the same time last year, which ended up failing. That poll found 30% Yes, 32% No, and 37% Undecided but unfortunately didn’t include leaners — so it’s not an apples-to-apples camparison.

I-985 has had more polling from SurveyUSA. A poll taken 10/26 – 10/27 found 29% Yes, 42% No, 29% Undecided. Another taken 10/30 – 11/02 found 33% Yes, 45% No, 23% Undecided. Because these polls are from the same pollster and are recent we can extrapolate that there is at least some solid opposition to Tim Eyman’s bad initative. Thank goodness.

In terms of Governor, polls are extremely close. We have endorsed Gregoire for Governor because Dino Rossi’s policies are dangerous to transit.

How did the Proposition 1 campaigns do?

The No campaign, NoToProp1.Org, has mostly relied on a massive amount of funding from Kemper Freeman, Jr. Just a few small contributions have been made. The campaign raised $152,725. The No campaign started a bit late, and invested mostly in radio ads as far as we can tell. They have had some online ads and of course have yard signs here and there.

The Yes campaign, Mass Transit Now, has received funding mainly from engineering companies, unions, and environmental groups. It has also received dozens of small contributions made online. The Yes campaign raised substantially more money with $892,623 in the bank.

The Yes campaign focused on grassroots operations, targeting farmer’s markets initially and canvassing Seattle and urban parts of the Eastside, Pierce County, and Snohomish County. The campaign reached voters through phone banking and multiple mailers (of which the No campaign had none). The Sierra Club, FUSE, TCC, and other major contributors to the campaign supplied volunteers and space for phone banking. The Yes campaign has also appeared on the radio, though the buy seemed smaller, and they have had online ads as well. There was far more Yes signage around.

The Seattle P-I, The Tacoma News Tribune, and the Stranger endorsed Proposition 1. The Seattle Times suggested voting No.

So that’s where things are. Today it’s in the hands of the voters.

How to Survive the Economic Crisis

This post originally appeared on Orphan Road.

What will determine if a city will rebound quickly after the economic downturn? According to Forbes:

The best cities in which to invest are those that are considered gateways to international investment, have vital downtowns where people can forgo cars, and don’t have a glut of condos or office space.

(emphasis added)

Do we know any cities like that? New York? San Francisco? D.C.? Those are all on the list, but Seattle came in at #1.

What would make us even stronger, if this is the criteria? More good transit, of course. But I’d argue we should take walkability to the next level: close down a street or two downtown, allow food vendors onto our streets, and start connecting our neighborhoods together with traffic-free connections.

(hat tip to the ever-gloomy Seattle Bubble blog that even tries to find bad news in this story)

My Closing Statement

Prop. 1 is not a perfect package, but it is very good. It strikes an appropriate balance of new express bus service immediately, new Sounder service soon, and a massive expansion of light rail over the next decade and a half. The light rail that would be built will cover most of the region’s population, and what’s more, if passed it will cover an even larger percentage of the new job centers and housing developments that will be built over the coming decades.

But more than a specific package of rail lines and bus service, Prop. 1 is a choice about what sort of region we are going to live in. Will ours be a region where all transportation is limited to those corridors where cars go? Limited to the speed of congestion? And limited by the price and supply of gas? Or will we live in a place where transportation does not necessarily mean traffic, pollution and concrete? In an election where “change” is the operative word for the presidential race, we have a very real chance to change our area for the better in the voting booth tomorrow.

Someone once said “a civilization gets what it wants, is willing to pay for, and ultimately deserves”. I think our region deserves a choice about transportation, and I hope you agree with me and vote yes on Prop. 1.

My Closing Statement: More Than Just A Train

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you know that Proposition 1 would extend Link Light Rail by 36 miles into the region’s major employment and residential centers. You also know that trains carry more people than buses, cost less to operate, last longer, and are more enjoyable to ride.

We all look forward to the day when we can hop aboard a beautiful, quiet, and efficient train right here in our home town and get where we need to go. We all know that this proposition must be approved.

But to me, Link is more than just a train.

Every one of us has faced challenges this past year – war, the financial crisis, climate change, gas prices… amidst everything, it’s very easy to loose hope for the future.

Link offers me hope.

We all have an opportunity right now – today – to create a future designed for us – not automobiles.

A future where we no longer give our hard earned money to overseas oil companies that are destroying the planet and funding terrorism, or to auto companies who lie to us every day claiming that their gas guzzling cars get good mileage.

A future that can co-exist with the planet, and not destroy it.

And most importantly, a future where we can enjoy more time out in a great city with friends and family, instead of alone enclosed in a small box stuck in traffic.

Proposition 1 will further transform the area we love into something even more amazing. It starts with a train, but it leads to something much, much more amazing: a better future for everyone.

This is why I am voting yes on Proposition 1 today, and why I hope you will too.

Closing Argument

Do you want to live in a region with a comprehensive rail system, or don’t you?  It’s true that there are large bus improvements in this package, but fundamentally Proposition 1 is about extending light rail to 70% of the region’s population.

If the answer is yes, and you’d like an alternative when traffic is bad, parking is scarce, or when gas is expensive, it’s imperative to vote yes.  I’ve learned my lesson about predicting the next ballot measure, but if Proposition 1 fails, you can be sure that the next one will be smaller, more expensive, and finish later.

So maybe it doesn’t go exactly where you work now, or where you live now (although the stats suggest it very well might).  I can’t do my current commute on the proposed network either.  However, I realize that in 2023, when the system is completed, I very well might.  Given the tendency of rail lines, unlike buses, to attract job centers and dense, walkable housing, there’s a decent chance you will too.  Your children may as well.

At any rate, it’s a good system.  It takes the stress off the I-5 and I-90 corridors by hitting most of the big employment centers, and is a giant step towards an Everett-to-Tacoma regional spine.  With four-car trains and fully dedicated right-of-way, with frequent grade separation, it’s significantly better than most other light rail systems built in the last few decades.

Oh, and taking the train reduces pollution and puts less money in the pockets of anti-American dictatorships.  And it’s a more pleasant ride than a bus.

The criticisms of Sound Transit are a smokescreen.  Leaving aside the fact that under new management they have a stellar audit history, how long are you willing to wait for the agency of your dreams?  10 years? 20?  It’s go with the current crew — which we now know can deliver a light rail system — or punt to the next generation, as generations did before us.  

Vote Yes.  Do it today.  If you have an absentee ballot in your hands, take it to the post office to make sure it’s postmarked in time.

I-985 Coverage

The polls for the other big transit-related measure on the ballot, I-985 are running close, and I have been pretty happy with the coverage of the measure in local papers. If you’re not familar, I-985 is Tim Eyman’s transportation bill that, among a number of misguided ideas, opens HOV lanes up for general use outside of two brief windows: 6-9 am, and 4-6 pm on weekdays. This would cause huge problems, and costs, for buses that run in HOV lanes.

Yesterday the P-I ran down the opposition to I-985 and criticisms on its costs, in a piece entitled “Is I-985 detrimental?”. The answer is apparently ‘yes’. The opposition list is pretty heavy, including the Federal Highway Administration, WSDOT, and nearly every city council in the state. The article does give a voice to Eyman, who never seems reasonable to me. The nice quote at the end of the piece:

Some have suggested widening freeways. Bellevue developer Kemper Freeman, who supports I-985, said at the same event he “would like to see more lanes built.” He supports eight lanes on 520.

King County Councilman Dow Constantine, echoing other policymakers: “It’s just not going to happen. Where would we put more lanes? How would we pay for them? You can’t build your way out of traffic congestion.”

If we could only get quotes like this in pieces about Prop. 1.

Then today the P-I ran an article entitled “I-985 can’t solve one traffic woe: Accidents”. That headline almost implies that I-985 can solve other problems, when in fact it solves nothing. According to the piece, 25% of congestion is caused by accidents, which of course is yet another article for grade-separated transit.

Reminder: 37 of 39 counties have no polling places

This post originally appeared on Orphan Road.

Public service announcement: Unless you live in King or Pierce counties, you have to mail your ballot in – there are no polling places. If you’ve lost your ballot, contact your county election department.

King county will join the 37 other counties in voting only by mail next year, but for now there are still polling places.

Oh, and a full 18% of Washington ballots are postmarked too late. Make sure it’s in the mail before pickup on Tuesday (perhaps drop it at the post office just to be sure).

We now return to your regular blogging, already in progress.

News Round-Up

Here’s a couple of news bits:

Something to Ruin Your Weekend

The same outfit that did the last Prop 1 poll, showing the YES campaign leading 50-43 +/- 7%, has released a second poll with a radically different conclusion: down 41-49, with a 7.7% margin of error.

The slide presentation doesn’t have that margin of error figure, but  I got it from Loren Collingwood of The Washington Poll.

I’m no expert on polling statistics, but in the first poll 211 of 600  statewide subjects were in the Sound Transit district and therefore counted in the Prop. 1 figures.  The second poll had only 387 voters statewide, so it figures that there were around 136 people that made up the Prop. 1 sample.  That’s a truly tiny sample, and I’m surprised the margin of error is only 7.7%.

Furthermore, it’s clear from the poll’s other results that there are about 5% more conservative-leaning voters in the new poll:

  • Obama 54-34 to Obama 51-39
  • Gregoire 51-45 to Gregoire 50-48
  • I-1000: YES 56-38 to YES 53-43
  • I-1029: YES 65-20 to YES 60-26
  • I-985: YES 45-43 to NO 55-40
  • Prop. 1: YES 50-43 to NO 49-41

President, I-1000, I-1029, and Prop. 1 seem to be consistent with just such a shift away from what I’d characterize as the “progressive” side, without a whole lot happening in each race.  I-985 has been getting a ton of bad press, and the governor’s race has been both counter-cyclical and heavily advertised.  That doesn’t mean the first set of numbers is right and the second set is wrong, but it does probably mean that these numbers aren’t weighted for party ID.

Although it’s not yet time to start looking for a job in Portland, there’s also clearly no reason to be complacent about this thing passing.  There are plenty of opportunities for volunteering in the next couple of days.  With Obama a shoo-in and the gubernatorial campaign uninspiring, it’s important to make sure that you and your young, transit-inclined friends get to the polls on Tuesday or drop your ballot in the mail.  Don’t let long lines deter you!

We Won’t Know if Prop. 1 Passes Tuesday Night

Just a reminder that we won’t know for sure if Proposition 1 has passed or not the night of the election for a few reasons. First, the vote counting equipment in King County is pretty slow and outdated. Second, many people mail their ballots just before or on election day, making it impossible to count them until later. The Seattle Times has an article on it in the context of the gubenatorial election:

King County’s 16-year-old ballot-counting equipment will contribute to a slow statewide tally that could leave voters still wondering Tuesday night who the next Washington governor will be.

The Washington Secretary of State’s office is warning people not to draw too many conclusions from Tuesday’s results.

That’s because King County — home to nearly one-third of the state’s registered voters — expects to report only about 39 percent of its results by late Tuesday and early Wednesday.