Jim Ellis and Ben Schiendelman

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.

19 Replies to “52 Days”

  1. We were heading down I-5 just south of downtown and got lucky and saw a new Light Rail zooming (it looked like was going fast!) towards the tunnel from SODO. Very cool. Was kind of surprised they were testing on Memorial Day – wouldn’t overtime costs be a little pricey?

  2. Nothing really important, but check the spelling in this sentence: “Ellis has now ***faught*** for transit in our region for more than fifty five years”

    If only we had listened to Jim Ellis…..I remember reading something in the Times a couple of years ago that said when I-5 was being planned, Ellis fought for a reserved right-of-way in the middle of I-5. Could someone provide some details or background info about that?

    1. Sorry. The spell check doesn’t work when I’m using my phone.

      History Link probably has information about the I-5 issue.

      1. I’m not editing the post again (it’s even hard to edit these on the phne than it is to write them), so we’re just going to have to live with whatever’s there at this point.

  3. It was not a totally selfless plan. His firm would have got the contract for the issuing of the bonds. As it was they got it for the Metro stuff.

    I’m putting this in the “evils of capitalism”, but Mr. Ellis gained financially from his involvement. (not directly, it’s through the bonuses paid to all the partners at the end of the year.) And I’m glad that the work was done, and it seems right that those who put in the effort should get rewarded. It’s just like many things there are shades of gray.

    1. I understand your cynicism but I chalk this up in the “that’s how shit gets done” column. We’re far more likely to experience progress (both good and bad) if we can link it to moeny-making opportunities of many kinds on the back end. Between this and stimulus $$, I figure that’s how we’re getting that dumb tunnel, whether we like it or not.

    2. Engineering firms and Contractors paid for most of the yes on prop. 1 campaign, but it was a good thing for everyone that it passed.

  4. We were heading down I-5 just south of downtown and got lucky and saw a new Light Rail zooming (it looked like was going fast!) towards the tunnel from SODO. Very cool. Was kind of surprised they were testing on Memorial Day – wouldn’t overtime costs be a little pricey?

    1. I didn’t see any trains in the tunnel today. They’re supposed to come every 10 minutes but I sat for 20 and saw none around noon. I’m unlucky to have not seen a test train in the tunnel since last Wednesday’s press event.

      1. I know they were turning short at Stadium on Monday (saw them while on the busway). I figured that was for the holiday, but maybe they’re having some problems…?

  5. We had to work in the south end on Saturday and were able to watch the trains running. Very impressive.

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