That’s what Doug MacDonald and John Stanton, along with the Washington Policy Center, want you to believe. You’re wrong. You make poor decisions. You can’t govern yourself. You need “governance reform”.

That’s why they want to ask the region to build more highways, even after we said no. We said very clearly that we don’t want more roads *and* transit, we just want more transit. The difference between the yes votes in these two elections was in the double digits – crystal, I’d call it.

Then why do I see SB 6064, “Transportation Accountability”? Oh, I see, it would create a “balance” in our transportation dollars, to “prioritize” transportation projects – meaning take money from somewhere and, you know, spend it on something “higher priority” (like expanding I-405). Which money? From committee testimony last week: “the bill does subsume the roles, powers and duties of Sound Transit.” Oh, money we voted for to fund specific transit projects.

What’s going on here is simple. RTID is gone and dead. The state’s plan to ask local voters for a bigger share of highway money failed; we’d rather build more transit than build ourselves into gridlock. The state has put themselves in a poor position by expanding roads before they figure out how to maintain them – and now, Doug MacDonald is admitting his abject failure as transportation secretary by trying to steal money from transit. Sure, ten years ago, we thought Sound Transit might actually need reform – but it turns out it just needed new leadership, and now it’s kicking ass. These guys are manufacturing a crisis.

So, who’s sponsoring this garbage? It looks like nearly the same crew. Mary Margaret Haugen of Camano Island, who apparently still believes that her constitutents are in the Sound Transit district, and Fred Jarrett of Mercer Island, Bellevue, and Newcastle, who as usual wants his constitutents to be able to drive to work alone in his fancy I-90 express lanes. There are some other choice names – have a look at the bill information (linked above). I love how towns like Eureka and Country Home are really interested in state projects being paid for by Seattle. I wonder if they realize they don’t pay enough taxes to cover their own highways anyway?

The icing on the cake is the wording in the bill digest (PDF). A plan to take money from electric rail transit and put it into highway expansion is apparently “for the benefit of … the environment by reducing fossil fuel use and carbon emissions.” No, really. It’s that insulting.

Do you live in the 41st? Please help me out and call Fred Jarrett – remind him that his constituents voted for Mass Transit Now, not “Expand 405 Now”. The 10th? Mary Margaret Haugen is lost in the tulips, please tell her as much. And Ed Murray? Really? Why are we talking about this again?

And next time you hear these guys talk about ‘bus rapid transit’, please remember that they aren’t pro-bus. They’re just pro-asphalt. My favorite quote from John Stanton, completely separated from reality: “we don’t have enough money for roads.” Maybe we would if we weren’t trying to tunnel under the waterfront.

54 Replies to “The Voters Must Be Wrong”

  1. It’s pretty unbelievable that Ed Murray, who represents Capitol Hill, would not only support this legislation but be a sponsor, yet again.

    In December 2007 a commenter identifying themselves as Ed Murray distanced himself from the governance reform bill circulating at the time, saying he had “no current plans” to work on a regional proposal.
    Here comes governance reform

    I wonder what changed since then that made him think it was a good time to mess with Sound Transit? Or maybe he was just snowing us?

    1. I spoke to Ed Murray at the caucus in February of 2008 and he said that he did make those comments. He spoke warmly of ST, as I recall.

    2. Although I don’t like the bill either, your reasons are flat wrong.

      You should be proud of the Sound Transit victory, but don’t take it too far. Gas tax money is dedicated to highway development and that will not change. Bus rapid transit is smart, **functional** consensus politics.

      Shrill attacks such as yours are nothing but illiterate **bully** consensus politics, a specialty of the powers that are behind Sound Transit.

      FWIW, this ‘reform’ proposal is an attempt to head off grassroots based accountability efforts.

      One of these days you might just figure some of this stuff out, in the meantime, take care.

  2. I live in the 41st and emailed them over the weekend with my list of Mercer Street, better ferries, King Street rennovation, Point Defiance bypass.

    It is silly that we have these shovel ready projects and improvements and now now funds to push them along.

    Doug MacDonald is a Republican, right? This is what happens when a Democratic governor (or a governor of any stripe for that matter) can’t seemingly pick a cabinet of his or her own choosing but has to have all these posts determined by the electorate which hedges its bets. Hence we have a Democratic governor and a Republican in just about every other higher State position. I really do think that we should allow our governors (especially as we have a Democratic one) to be able to pick her own Attorney General, and State Transportation Secretary.

    Tim

    1. MacDonald basically just wasted a ton of money on expansions and didn’t plan for maintenance. Very poor choices.

    2. Doug MacDonald isn’t a D or an R. He is the wacky professor. With lots of theories. Who is always right, and never proven wrong….because none of his outlandish ideas ever come to pass.

  3. I don’t have time at lunch to get into this bill, but note the last lines of the bill short summary PDF — voter approval of taxes and fees is required. And this would have to also apply to already-approved taxes and fees, i.e. the new board could not simply reassign the voter-approved ST2 plan and reroute voter-approved ST2 revenues to roads, not without another public vote.

  4. REVISED.
    I don’t have time at lunch to get into this bill, but note the last lines of the bill short summary PDF — voter approval of taxes and fees is required. And this would have to also apply to already-approved taxes and fees, i.e. the new board could not simply cancel the voter-approved ST2 plan and reassign voter-approved ST2 revenues to roads, not without another public vote.

    1. I believe the legislature, if they really really wanted to, could move Sound Transit’s money into roads. I believe it would take an amendment to the state’s constitution, but they are the ones who make those amendments.

      1. No, Andrew. The legislature could NOT move Sound Transit’s money into roads. Nor do we make amendments to the constitution. By a vote, we can put a constitutional change ON THE BALLOT.

      2. I do understand that it couldn’t move current money into roads – unless they were HOV or HOT lanes, I’d imagine.

    2. Transit Voter, the bill language says that voters have to approve taxes and fees – but not what specific projects those taxes and fees are for. I don’t think MacDonald et al. would be pushing this if they couldn’t take ST money and put it into roads. That’s the whole point of the bill.

  5. THe bill at least needs to be amended to say that the voter approved projects of ST2 have to go forward. This PUNISH SEATTLE because it is full of car-hating Liberals and they have run the state so long is getting old.

    1. What I meant is, it seems that there are those in the State Legislature, Democrats too, that think the People of Seattle are wrong, and that they should have voted no. The city has nearly 600,000 residents, yet they all get painted with a broadbrush. We have LINK LRT under construction, about to open the first segment, and they fear expansion, that now they want to resort to outright theft. Senator Haugen, I’ll support your bill, provided Island County is annexed into it, Island Transit buses pull into Everett Station, and I am sure Islanders are taking advantage of the new station at Mukilteo.

      1. Don’t even go there. You do NOT want a directly elected board, they’ll just be bought by highway interests. Look at the Port of Seattle – we’d end up with corruption.

        There is nothing about this bill that we want.

      2. You got a point, and I was kidding, plus I doubt she would even be willing to put Island County into ST, would probably cost her a lot of votes. It would make Whidbey Island see so urban. I rode a few Island Transit buses once, including the main trunk line. It was full, but nobody paying. The trunk line I mentioned was the route from Oak Harbor to Clinton. It makes a lot of stops in the middle of nowhere, but people get on.

        As for elected boards, come to think of it, I got a problem with the Port of Seattle, points east of I-405 should not be paying for a port they rarely use. Also, I wonder despite it’s problems, how the port stole a few dockings of Maersk line ships from Tacoma?

        The part about stealing the transit money to pay for roads being outright theft, I am not kidding. We voted it down once. We got transit districts without the more stable MVET talking about cutting service when it is needed the most. Kitsap Transit cut Sunday Service for the second time this decade. Probably not getting the riders, and it looked expendable.

      3. Well, I know you were kidding about Island County, anything like this just makes me bare my teeth.

        I don’t think we could actually repurpose that money without serious legal wrangling – but I do think that we could change ST’s governance if we don’t pay attention, and have roads shoehorned into the next vote.

  6. I agree – I trust that the legislature realizes that Seattle and the Puget Sound region as a whole, is the economic engine of the State – such as it is right now – and the infrastructural investments are needed as a result.

    1. What ST advocates in Olympia, if they have any left should do, is remind the State Senators that there are commuters from outside that use Sound Transit’s services, and I do not mean the rubber-tired ones. Island Transit buses show up at Everett Station from Camano Island, SKAT buses pull into Everett Station now, Mukilteo has a station that is close to the Ferry Dock. Intercity Transit buses pull into Tacoma Dome Station, with transfer to SOUNDER and ST Express services. If SOUNDER pulled into Dupont, I sometimes wonder if Mason Transit will see if they have some people who will commute to Tacoma or Seattle via it. That is 1,2, 3 counties and a potential 4th who use ST services, but as for tax revenue, don’t contribute to the cost, at least for their buses to use ST-funded Park and Ride/Transfer Centers.

      I noticed they filed the bill just before the first cutoff date. Kind of sneaky.

  7. What is the likelihood of this sort of thing happening? Would ST be able to take it to court if it did?

    1. There will definitely be a court case if the state tries to repurpose ST2 money for roads.

      1. I remember when the city had to close Libraries in the lean years following Eyman’s first successes, people were wondering, why were they still building the new Downtown Library, and rebuilding the branches? Turns out the bond money funding the construction was levied for just that. The city never tried to divert it. Instead the building continued, and the project was delivered.

        The people celebrating the passage of I-776 were feeling happy, they felt that Sound Transit would be dead and the bonds would just be bought back. Instead ST sued saying the MVET could not be repealed as it was being used as backing for bonds. It was a contract. They won on the second round. That first successful defense by the sate of I-776 was based on the usual defense against an Eyman initiative, the Single-Subject rule.

      2. There is NO LIKELIHOOD of this happening. You guys really need to figure out why you are so paranoid.

      3. It’s really nice to see you say that. Dino Rossi did say he would take the Eastlink money, which is probably why we are paranoid on this topic.

      4. Not just Dino Rossi, but a number of people over the years have floated the idea of taking East sub-area funds for projects like the 520 bridge replacement or 405 widening.

      5. There are a very narrow set of uses for the bridge or for 405 that would fit under the ST umbrella. You might be able to use SOME ST money without changing the nature of those dollars; This was done, for instance, in building the I-405 queue jump for ST regional express at Totem Lake. If we are creating dedicated HCT lanes, ink that’s okay.

        Dino’s transportation plan, floated last year, was completely un-doable, if I recall. He can – anfd does – say anything he likes.

      6. Represenative Eddy, thank you for reassuring us. I’m less concerned with anything actually happening with *this* bill, and more concerned with a possible initiative. I also don’t like that Sound Transit’s staff has to muck about fighting nonsense like this when they should be able to spend their time finding ways to get more funding to accelerate construction.

      7. I wouldn’t trust Rep. Eddy on this matter. She never had a clue about the motivations behind governance reform. Instead, Eddy applied a simplistic “them vs. us turf battle” explanation/conspiracy theory for why Sound Transit was dubious of their efforts. Witness this comment of hers from January – came after lauding Doug MacDonald for his latest anti-rail rant:

        “Major opposition came from Sound Transit, whose lobbyists saw the entire effort as inimical to their existence, power, whatever. The Sound Transit board continues to have a legislative “plank” opposing anything having to do with rationalizing transportation without their Board’s approval. If that isn’t “turf”, I don’t know what is.

        And ST convinced TCC, WCV, others in the environmental community, that the effort in 2007-2008 was anti-environment, which is a shame — because it’s not.

        I’m elected to lead, and I surely do try. But even I am no match for ST’s billions of dollar (public money, by the way) and teams of staff and contract lobbyists.”

        Deb Eddy

      8. Deb Eddy comments from October ’08:

        “My argument for the past four years has been that transportation is a system. The modes have to work together, connected to and supportive of the underlying land use. Like many of my colleagues who study the data closely, I’m concerned that Prop 1 takes up ‘way too much money for ‘way too little benefit. I’m not a BRT-only fan; I want to see rail on the eastside. My major concern is that the proposed light rail routing to/fro and in support of the eastside is geared entirely to the last century and to a incredibly narrow band of interests.”

        “BTW, I’m not in a transportation ivory tower. There are a whole bunch of us who have been elected to study, know and think about this stuff at something beyond the sound-bite level (quite apart from the think tanks). I have a responsibility to the public to give my opinion. The Prop 1 routing for light rail across I-90 is not in the best interests of this region or the environment. I stand by that assessment.”

      9. OK, one last game of infamous Deb Eddy comments, collected from the PI message board November, 2007:

        “Apostle @288050 is right; check out MacDonald’s comments on KIRO (also in Connelly’s column). Whether you agree with him or not, the former WSDOT Secretary at least has composed the list we SHOULD BE talking about.”

        And here are the MacDonald comments Eddy is referring to:

        “Crafting Plan B will take precious time. Meanwhile, costs for new projects will climb with inflation. Citizens’ frustration with today’s inadequate system will grow. And new people and jobs coming into the region will add even more pressure on the system’s performance.

        As we leave Plan A and Prop. 1 behind, we might best limit the bad trip memories to a few family snapshots. There were good points in the plan. But that couldn’t overcome some key flaws. One of which was the high cost and outdated vision of Sound Transit’s corn-fed plan for light rail south of Sea-Tac, east of Lake Washington and north to Lynnwood.

        Another, on the road piece, was asking voters to entrust billions to a program whose most prominent feature was its glaring omission: no visible guidance or suggestion from political leadership about how or when to solve the two largest, hardest highway problems.

        Those would be, of course, getting people to, from and through Seattle on something other than today’s failure prone viaduct and its younger, healthier but still overburdened I-5. And second, fixing the east-west, two-way commuting crisis where we desperately need a new SR 520”

        ————

        Time and time again, Rep. Eddy is out there defending Doug MacDonald’s comments all over the internet. Yet, MacDonald only supported ONE segment of rail extension in the ST2 plan: UW to Northgate. The rest of the program was supposed to be done by buses, outlandish tolling, and wider freeways. Eddy can try to convince us that she is a rail supporter until the cows come home. But her real agenda a rail line which does not exist, and will never exist. Because the data shows the alignment preferred by eastside politicians (over professionals) would be a failure. But Armchair Planning isn’t unique to the Greater Seattle area; politicians around the world have tried to pull similar stunts. History is littered with examples of poorly performing rail lines left in their wake….

      10. I lied. Found one more choice Eddy comment, from Jun. ’08:

        “Whatever concern I might have about being perceived as politically incorrect by some people is far surpassed by my belief that we need to act faster, sooner, to get effective transit across this region — to ensure the continuing quality of life here and to reduce the long-term impacts of all this upheaval on my grandkids.

        SOUND TRANSIT’S PLAN TAKES TOO LONG AND DELIVERS TOO LITTLE. Yet it absorbs an enormous amount of money. I believe that money can be better used, FASTER, elsewhere.”

        Elsewhere? As in where elsewhere? Faster? As in how fast? Viaduct fast? 405 fast? 520 floating bridge fast? And why do all rail critics get specific with their critique, and remain vague when it comes to prescriptions??

      11. Rep. Eddy,
        I have some concern over this bill and what effect it might have on: the taxes and fees approved as part of Sound Move and ST2; and the allocation of funds for completing projects as approved in Sound Move and ST.

        Do any of the provisions of this bill constitute a re-vote on Sound Move or ST2? Either on the tax side or the project side? For example assuming this bill passed the legislature and a regional transportation plan was passed by the voters would the taxes and project list in the transportation plan replace Sound Transit’s taxes and project list?

        To what extent can Sound Transit money be used for constructing HOV lanes, HOV access ramps, transit priority signals, BAT lanes, rail grade separation, ferries, or other general transportation project with a transit component? If Sound Transit money can be used for any of these projects is there a limit to those funds contribution to the overall project cost?

        Some examples to better illustrate what I mean:
        1. The 520 bridge replacement includes 2 general purpose lanes and 1 HOV lane in each direction. In addition Sound Transit has identified 520 as a potential High Capacity Transit corridor. Can Sound Transit funds be used for any portion of the 520 bridge replacement? What limitations if any are there to what portion of the project those funds can be used for?
        2. There are a number of grade separation projects in various stages for the BNSF corridor between Seattle and Tacoma, such as the project at Royal Brougham. Since this rail corridor is used by Sounder and grade separation has the potential to improve Sounder service to what extent can Sound Transit funds be used? What limitations if any are there to what portion of the project those funds can be used for?

      12. I understand this could never really happen – but why on earth does this ‘governance reform’ crap keep getting into the legislature at all?

        I’m not paranoid, I just know that immediate and loud response is the only way to avoid bad things happening to Sound Transit. Going from a federated to a directly elected board would be a disaster.

    2. I hope they can, they manage to get some initiatives that are a threat to transit struck down, one of the reasons groups like the BIAW try to stack the courts, spend millions, and in the case of 2007, lost!

  8. If sponsors of this bill want to clarify that they are NOT seeking to undermine rail transit, nor trying to divert rail transit revenues to roads projects, then they should support an amendment like the following:

    “Tax revenues previously approved by voters for transit projects shall remain assigned to voter-approved transit projects, and shall not be reprogrammed or otherwise diverted to roads, highways, or other non-transit facilities or functions.” OK, not artfully written, but you get the drift.

    1. GOod Point, plus I would like to see an amendment that is not full of legalese. If gas tax revenues have to be used for highway purposes, money specifically levied for transit should not be diverted to roads.

    2. But we don’t want them to do that. We want to kill it outright, immediately, so we don’t have to waste our time fighting over crap like wording.

      1. Agreed, Ben; yes we don’t want this effort to go anywhere. My point was directed at the sponsors and supporters, and the operative word was IF. IF they are sincere in not just wanting to kill rail expansion, then they would propose language to make that clear. But they aren’t, and they won’t.

        In fact, after a reread of the bill, it’s clear they intend to bury transit funding reallocation in the guts of an omnibus reorganization proposal to regional voters. If this effort ever gets that far, we will have to ferret out all the uglies and let the voters know what’s REALLY going on.

        And remember, if such a matter ever gets to the ballot, voters will have seen Link light rail in operation for many months, if not years. And there’s nothing like a local operational system to put voters onto the rail path. (Opening day scheduled for this July, with current betting on the second or third weekend of the month. Mark your calendars; BE THERE!)

      2. You know I’ll be there. :)

        And I think if we can make it through this year, we’re home free for a while. I want to go on the offensive next year.

  9. Andrew,

    Would you be open to a series of, say, Sunday morning blogging sessions by members of the legislature, wherein they educate us on the process, as well as identify the specific steps they have taken to increase funding for rail?

    1. That would be a short session, given that we haven’t gotten any state money for rail.

  10. Scuttlebutt around the office is that this is a precursor to a statewide initiative, for which sponsors would need to gather over 241,000 valid signatures. Gets them the free use of the services of the State Code Revisor to put the bill into form.

    I’m amused at Rep. Eddy’s remark, above. A little healthy paranoia can just help assure this turkey doesn’t fly. And it precharges us, forewarns us for a possible campaign against an initiative signature drive.

    Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty, as the widely-attributed saying goes.

    1. Yes! Vigilance is what this post is for. Just making sure they’re aware that we are paying attention.

  11. Here’s an idea that should shock/stun you all:

    Lets merge all our transit systemsthat are in the ST district. Pierce Transit, King County Metro, Community Transit, Everett Transit (if they would get their heads out of 1909), and expand it to include Island Transit, Kitsap Transit, and Intercity Transit. We’ll expand the ST district to include Olympia, making Sound Transit truly cover the Puget Sound. We can eliminate a few layers of management, and make the Puget Sound area one unified dispatch. We can eliminate the different levels of taxation and funding and all this garbage and make it one streamlined machine. Link will run from Tacoma to Everett and over to Bellevue. Sounders will ply the rails from Olympia to Everett. And Express buses will serve their routes as they do now, but with better connections to local buses because we are all the same agency. Treat it like a railroad if you must, With the Snohomish division, the King Division, Pierce Division, and Thurston Division.

    Why not make it one unified system? Why must we have all the politcal discord?

    1. I’ve been calling for something similar for months (the merger of ST with the Washington State Ferry system) and others a lot more knowledgeable than me have pointed out that we have way too many overlapping systems.

      So I think it deserves a strong look. A lot of potential for “issues”, but certainly a lot of potential for gain.

      1. Don’t worry about it for now. Worry about it after U Link opens and everyone loves ST.

    2. Unifying the system wouldn’t remove political discord, it would just pit Olympia’s ST reps against Bellevue’s ST reps for whether ST dollars should go to buses in Olympia or East Link. The benefit of smaller organizations is more local control — more knowledge of what the local needs really are.

      Besides, it’s not like there are really huge ineffiencies with the system as it stands.

      1. Steve, nothing of the sort would happen. Sound Transit has subarea equity for exactly this reason – money collected in one subarea goes to that subarea.

        There are certainly inefficiencies to having so many agencies – 20/40/40 isn’t an inefficiency?

    3. We will do that. But we can’t do it until the public trust for ST builds enough to agree to it.

      That’s why I don’t care much about Metro’s blundering, but I catalog it for future reference.

      It can’t happen until U Link opens, at the very least, and people in all three counties know and love ST service.

  12. Rural Washington is being difficult about the roads issue for sure.

    Sadly, Idaho is locked in much the same issues and claims Utah and Washington are positive role models. Something is wrong with part of that idea. ;-)

    I wish I could link to the editorial, but it’s in the Post Register, which you have to pay to read.

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