In 1952, a “Home Rule” King County Charter (the County Charter is the equivalent of the county constitution) was on the ballot. The King County Government was still using the original territorial charter established in 1852, and some leaders wanted a modern charter that reflected the realities of the 1950s: a large county with a mostly-urban population. The charter included a seven-member non-partisan county council and a non-partisan county executive, rather than the three county commissioners at the time. On top of the county council provisions, the idea of building a modern rapid transit system was one of the major motivations, along with a parks agency, a water treatment agency and a planning agency.
Jim Ellis (pictured) led the charter-writing effort, so it’s no surprise it included a mass transit plan. Ellis has now fought for transit in our region for more than fifty five years. More on Ellis here, here and here. I rode Link with him last year, and his vision for our region is finally becoming a reality: the 1952 Charter failed by a 2-1 margin, but since then nearly every other provision in the charter has passed. In 1958, a county wastewater treatment agency was created. In 1968, the county adopted a council and executive system, and the positions were made non-partisan last year. In 1973, Metro Transit was created to provide county buses. King County Parks were created in 1974. In 1994 Sound Transit was created to provide regional mass (and rapid) transit, and light rail opens in 52 days. If we had only listened to Ellis earlier we might be a lot better off today.
Another 52: Sound Transit is targeting 52% farebox recovery for Central Link.