I-90 Crossing (Sound Transit)

[UPDATE: See excerpt of Board selection rules at the bottom.]

In our Greg Nickels endorsement, we alluded to the possibility of some sort of Sound Transit crisis in the future, the idea being that we would have wanted Nickels in a position of power should that happen.  Now, with Nickels out and either McGinn or Mallahan receiving an automatic virtually assured seat on the Sound Transit board when they take office, it’s important to recognize why establishment support for ST is necessary.

Although it’s the opinion of this blog that Sound Transit is a very well-run public agency, there are three basic things that could cause serious problems for the buildout:

  1. The Economy. Sound Transit got a AAA credit rating by being conservative about allocating its revenue streams.  That said, a weak recovery in sales tax revenue would put further pressure on the agency’s budget, and Japan-style stagnation could make it very hard to achieve all the Sound Transit 2 objectives.
  2. Tunneling. Sound Transit’s sole tunneling experience — through Beacon Hill — was not a happy one.  They were on schedule, barely, despite a huge amount of padding in the plan.  It may have been a problem with that particular contractor, but it bears watching as they begin a much larger tunneling project to Roosevelt, and possibly under Bellevue.
  3. Political Risk. We’ve covered this a lot before, but there are still powerful interests not at all pleased with having to give up the express lanes on I-90, or that seek to extract transit funding for use on state road projects.  Moreover, there are still plenty of people who self-identify as transit advocates who think that reorganizing transit agencies is a good idea.  This kind of maneuver, which has support in the legislature, would wreak havoc on ongoing projects.

There’s no reason to be overly alarmed about any of these potential problems, because they haven’t yet materialized.  And, of course, all large infrastructure projects have risk.  Nevertheless, it would be a mistake to assume that we can doze off until 2016 without making sure that the right leadership and the right politicians are in place.

Because there’s some confusion on this in the comments, the relevant Sound Transit Board selection policies are below the jump.

Who Serves on the Sound Transit Board

Sound Transit is governed by an 18-member Board of Directors; 17 members are local elected officials, and the 18th member is the Washington State Department of Transportation Secretary. Local elected officials include mayors, city council members, county executives, and county council members from within the Sound Transit District. Currently, the Sound Transit Board includes three members from Snohomish County, ten from King County, four from Pierce County, and the State Transportation Department secretary.

Board Appointments

The county executive in each of the participating counties appoints members from that county.The respective county councils confirm the appointments.By state law, appointments must include an elected city official representing the largest city in the participating county and proportional representation from other cities and unincorporated areas.To help assure coordination between local and regional transit plans, half of the appointments in each county must be elected officials who serve on the local transit agency governing authority.

71 Replies to “What Worries Me”

  1. Eternal Vigilance – the Highway Lobbies and all their various associated interest groups (pavers, drivers, exurban developers, oil companies, truckers and more) must be closely monitored at all times. The amount of money and media they can amass against an issue or for one of their pet projects is astronomical. They care not about sustainable development or cities as we’d love them to become.

  2. Tunneling is always a problematic situation … no matter how many test bores one drills, it is impossible to absolutely know the composition of the materials you are tunneling through.

    regardless, the experience they gained with the Beacon Hill tunnels will be very helpful with the tunneling through Capital Hill and northwards.

  3. So, the new County Exec will have to nominate one elected official from Seattle to the Sound Transit Board. If not the next mayor, then who? Aren’t the only elected positions in Seattle the Mayor, City Council and Judges?

    1. The mayor of the largest city in each county is always on the board, so the Seattle Mayor always has to be on the board.

      1. I agree it would be a huge slight for a Democrat (assuming Dow Constantine wins) to not appoint a Democratic mayor but according to the by laws all that’s required is that an elected official from the largest City in the county be appointed by the executive and approved by the city council. It is conceivable that the mayor might ask that a council person be appointed feeling they needed to concentrate on running the city or because a council member was more qualified on regional issues. If Hutchison wins I could see a freshman mayor ask that Constantine be appointed. Other jurisdictions have appointed Deputy Mayors but that’s not an elected position in Seattle.

      2. Constantine is already on the Sound Transit Board because of the requirement that half of the members from each county also be part of the governing board of the local transit agency (which means 4 King County Council members).

        If either McGinn or Mallahan aren’t interested in serving on the Sound Transit Board (or aren’t wanted by the new county exec) the most likely scenario is to appoint a City Council Member.

    2. The City Attorney is also elected. Currently in addition to Nickels, Councilmember Richard Conlin is also on the Sound Transit board. There is also a requirement that members more or less represent the population distribution which might mean there need to be two city officials in addition to the two county council members who’s districts include parts of Seattle. Though arguably Dow Constantine is representing South and rural King County as much as he is representing Seattle.

      1. Oops, bad example. For some reason I always think of Constantine as being a Seattle rather than a county official. Conlin’s term is up this year but no results in the primary. Does that mean he’s running unopposed? Also, who if anyone is currently taking Ron Sims place on the ST board?

        If Constantine is elected Executive then he’ll automatically remain on the ST board but that will leave a position open. I think it’s a safe bet that Nickels place will be taken by whoever is the next mayor but the new King County representative to replace Constantine’s appointment as County Council will be open. I suppose that has to go to someone in South King. Maybe the mayor from Kent? But then to satisfy the reg about half from the governing board of the transit agency another King County Council member would have to be appointed.. Geesh! I’m sure Bellevue is wishing it was their turn on the merry-go-round :^)

        Board officers serve two year terms. How long are the other terms? Obviously a new Board Chair will need to be chosen. Or does that default to the Vice Chair? I would think that Constantine or Phillips would be strong contenders for Chair.

      2. Conlin has a single opponent, David Ginsberg. So they both advance to the general automatically.

      3. A bit of clarification on ST Board composition as set out in enabling legislation. County execs and mayors of largest cities are not required to serve and boardmembers must serve on a legislative authority.

        Most of what’s been written in the comments is accurate, but here’s a summary of the legislation:

        1. Appointments are made by each county exec and must be confirmed by the county council. Membership is based on the population of the portion of the county that’s in the service area.
        2. Boardmembers must be (a) an elected official who serves on the legislative authority of a city or as a mayor of a city within the district boundaries, or (b) on the legislative of the county, or (c) a county executive.
        3. Appointments have to include an elected city official representing the largest city in the county, proportional representation from other cities, and representation from unincorporated areas of the county.
        4. They serve staggered four-year terms.
        5. At least one-half of all appointees from each county must serve on the governing authority of a public transportation system.
        6. The State transportation secretary must serve.

        And a clarification about officers. Selection is dictated by the Board’s rules and operating procedures, not state law. A chair and two vice chairs are elected by majority vote of the full Board, must be from different counties, and serve two-year terms coincident with calendar years. They can be elected for more than one term; vice chairs do not automatically become chair.

      4. So what happens when a board member is no longer an elected official (e.g. Ron Sims, soon to be ex-mayor Nickels)? Can they remain on the board for the remainder of their four year term?

      5. Bernie – when a boardmember no longer meets the requirements (e.g. leaves office), s/he cannot continue to serve. A replacement is appointed to fill the unexpired term.

    1. that sounds about right … it should go elevated right beside I-5 and remain elevated all the way to Lynnwood (and then on to Everett)

      1. According to page 7 of this it will be in a combination of retained cut-and-fill and retained cut-and-cover tunnel along the east side of I-5 north of Lake City Way, where the bored tunnel portal is. North of 95th it’s elevated to Northgate and I believe it’s elevated all the way to Lynnwood.

  4. OK,

    I met Mayor Nickels today at a Seattle Green and Clean campaign in Fremont and I have to say that I got quite emotional in explaining to both the mayor and his wife how disappointed I was in Tuesday’s Seattle results. However, as I was cleaning up trash from around the Fremont Troll and surrounding area slated to be a park, I thought that two ways we could honor Greg Nickels would be to change the Board’s line up rules so that Mayor Nickels could continue to serve on the Board after he leaves office in November. This would be a fitting tribute to a guy who as someone said introducing him to a sombre crowd was Seattle’s strongest Mayor in 25 years who has a great record on lots of things that we on this blog believe in quite fervently. It would be great to still have him on the Board of Sound Transit and would give him a continued voice in the City. It is the least we could do to honor him and would be a fitting tribute for all he has done. It would allow him to concentrate on the vision side of things and leave the new mayor to worry about potholes and snow drifts etc. In England, if Mr. Nickels had been kicked out of the House of Commons, someone would have sent him to the House of Lords because in England, we don’t send previous leaders into obscurity but continue to allow them a platform from the House of Lords.

    As I write this, we are not even sure if the new mayor will even continue the Clean and Green campaign – an initiative that I think is Seattle’s answer to the Peace Corps at a local level.

    The other way we could honor Mr. Nickels would be to set up a drumbeat for a write in campaign, or he could simply do a Lieberman and stand as an Independent if the rules allow for that?

    What do people think? Keep the Mayor on the ST Board so that his voice can still be heard? Have a write in campaign?

      1. So that couldn’t be changed until the Legislature reconvenes in January then?


    1. I like the mayor a lot, but the board should only be currently serving elected officials.

      To honor him? Well, let’s build a few rail lines in the city that’ll bear his legacy. Oh wait! :)

    2. He came in 3rd in the primary. He has been in politics his entire life. He needs to do something else. We need to get on with electing a new mayor on 3rd November. Idolizing him or naming some park after him is immature and does little if anything to improve our city.

      1. Try explaining that to the unemployed – “oh sorry, you have worked here for twenty years, you should go and get another job just to try something different”.

        I think Mr. Nickels would be great on the ST Board if he wants to remain involved in the direction of the city.

        I am not idolizing him – I just don’t think on the transportation record he has, he deserved to get thrown out in the primaries.

        A park? I don’t know about that one. He could have his footprints engraved in bronze and placed outside Nordstroms if you like!

        I think those sort of tributes are reserved for those who are close to leaving us. It is the Bill Clinton problem if you like – what do you do with these guys who obviously enjoy what they do, are too young to leave the arena and too old to begin a new career path?

        I am also referring to how best to protect the mayor’s legacy from undermining threats and to have him on the ST Board would serve that well. I don’t have a lot of confidence in either McGinn or Mallahan. If Mayor Nickles was supposedly controversial and bullying, I don’t see that going away, especially if Mike McGinn gets through in November.

      2. Well, Wes Uhlman, Charlie Royer, and Norm Rice are all very much alive but have had various things named in their honor.

        I don’t doubt Nickels will get plenty of job offers in the next few months. There are many foundations and non-profits who would be happy to have him either on their board or as CEO. He might get a job offer from the Obama administration. Dow might appoint him to some position in County government. A number of public affairs schools would no doubt welcome him as a practitioner in residence (like his predecessor and mentor Norm Rice).

        Greg may be out of elected office for now, but I have no doubt he will find some way to continue to serve the public.

      3. I ran into him this morning in Seward Park, and he said he was staying put in Seattle — not running off to DC, or whatever.

        For what that’s worth.

      4. He had a busy morning – I had my picture taken with him at Fremont for his Green and Clean event at 9.00am!

        I managed to talk to both him and his wife this morning and he seemed reasonably upbeat in the circumstances. I somewhat grandiosly compared his defeat on Tuesday to that of ungrateful voters regarding Winston Churchill in England in 1945. I said that referring more to the level of surprise many must have felt when Churchill lost to Clement Attlee after having led Britain to victory in the Second World War. It is not quite the same scale of defeat obviously but you know what I mean.

      5. Just for the record, W. Churchill was the victim of the parliamentary system, where the Prime Minister is the leader of the majority party in the House of Commons.

        By 1945, having not had a general election in 10 years because of the war, Britons were ripe for a change. Churchill lead the nation during WWII as head of a multi-party government of national unity. But for the 1945 election, he ran as leader of the Conservative Party. The Labour leader, Clement Attlee, was a member of Churchill’s War Cabinet, but for the 1945 election ran as head of the Labour Party. So Britons’ vote for change put Attlee in Number 10.

        Winston Churchill was still the most popular man in Britain, and deservedly so. If they had a presidential system, he would have been re-elected overwhelmingly. (A Churchill anecdote: He once called Clement Attlee “a very modest man, with much to be modest about.”)

        Sorry for the OT, but I too find this history interesting, Tim.

      6. Yes our parliamentary system in England has its strengths and weaknesses, but Martin would probably scrap this message if we started a discussion on this one. I agree that Churchill would have won if the UK had a presidential style of government but the mood in Britain in 1945 was for an overwhelming change of government and style. Churchill of course returned to power in 1951. When someone commented to Churchill that the election of Clement Attlee was a blessing, Churchill remarked that it was a “blessing in disguise”.

        I still think that Seattle voters will come to regret Mayor Nickles not being in the November election. For the record, the mayor declined to be compared to Churchill!

      7. I think Mr. Nickels would be great on the ST Board if he wants to remain involved in the direction of the city.

        He’d have to get elected first or be appointed the director of WSDOT. I don’t see him really wanting that job.

    3. While I don’t disagree with the sentiment you are expressing, state law is not the biggest hurdle, politics is. As much as you may have liked Mayor Nickels, he lost in the primary to two candidates with virtually no political experience. That is not a small loss. The people of Seattle have made is abundantly clear that they want no more of Greg Nickels, attempting to resurrect him and insert him behind the scenes into a position of significant political power would be seen as a virtual coup d’état and generate a backlash that would do far more to hurt Sound Transit than you can imagine.

      I was as surprised by the election results as anyone, but there is no denying it: the people uncompromisingly wanted Greg Nickels out. While the people of Seattle love rails, ST is clearly not their top priority, especially now that ST2 is perceived to be a done deal.

      1. “The people of Seattle have made is abundantly clear that they want no more of Greg Nickels”

        Except that some people voted for one of the others thinking Nicks was sure to get the other slot, and they could choose between them in November when the choice might be clearer. So not every vote for another candidate was a vote against Nickels.

  5. The worst case scenario I think would be if Hutchison, Bloom, and Rosencrantz are elected, Licata is re-elected, and Mallahan is elected and turns out to be very pro-road and anti-transit. This would mean at least 3 anti-density and anti-rail members of the city council along with anti-density and anti-rail Mayor. Furthermore we’d have a pro-road and anti-transit King County Executive with the power to appoint new board members.

    If Constantine wins we get a King County Executive who is every bit as pro-transit and pro-rail as Nickels was. He’ll be choosing two new board members immediately to replace Nickels and himself. Presumably he will choose allies to serve on the board. I suspect Dow is more than capable (along with Aaron Reardon and Larry Phillips) of steering Sound Transit through any rough patches.

    This underscores what I think is the critical task for transit advocates over the next two and a half months which is to ensure Dow Constantine is elected King County Executive. Between Metro, their automatic position on the ST board, their power to appoint over half the ST board, surface water management, the critical areas ordinance, and sewers, the King County Executive is one of the most powerful local elected officials when it comes to transportation, land use, and the environment. Hutchison would be an absolute disaster. We might as well elect Kemper Freedman.

    While the city council isn’t nearly as critical I think the second task is to elect Mike O’Brien over Rosencrantz. STB already gave Mike an enthusiastic endorsement since he is nearly 100% in line with the editors on trasportation and land use. Rosencrantz is nearly the polar opposite particularly on land use as he opposes accessory dwelling units and believes single family zones should be protected at all costs.

    While I don’t think Mallahan is likely to be as retrograde and reactionary on transportation or land use as either Hutchison or Rosencrantz (or even Bloom) I’m concerned by what little he has said on both transportation and land use. He supports the tunnel, he opposes the Mercer improvements, he opposes streetcars, and displays a fundamental misunderstanding of how King County Metro Operates. Otherwise his proposals are rather vague to say the least. He has said almost nothing about land use so one can’t really judge his opinions on density. At this point I’d very much lean toward McGinn. However the suggestion for transit and density advocates who might support Mallahan to try to get his ear on these issues is a valid one. I don’t get the impression he has strong opinions and might very well listen to reasonable arguments.

    While I would like to see Israel defeat Licata, between the results of the primary and the cash on hand I don’t see it happening. We can try to put Jessie over the top but I wouldn’t make it a priority compared to the above races.

    With Position 4 Bagshaw is clearly better than Bloom on transportation and land use as Bloom is quite firmly in the John Fox camp. Bagshaw is also quite likely to win in November. The only reason to spend much effort on her campaign is to try to get her ear on transportation and land use. Though given her background I suspect she knows the details of both rather well and has fairly strongly held views.

    1. Nice analysis, and far better than all this gnashing of teeth about Mayor Greg – thanks!

      1. I don’t know if all the gnashing of teeth is just about Nickels. I think there’s a fear that maybe what Nickels represented — the “Vancouverization” of Seattle (for lack of a better term) — is facing a backlash from the voters. Individual politicians come and go, but my fear is that that Nickels’ unwavering push for rail based transit and increasing density is facing a backlash from the voters. When people on this site express concerns about Mallahan’s position on rail, or McGinn’s commitment to Sound Transit, that’s largely what they’re talking about. As much as I’m trying to learn about each individual candidate’s views, I’m also trying to figure out which constituency they’re purporting to represent. I think that might be a source for at least some of the dismay expressed on this site.

      2. I agree about the “Vancouverization” backlash and I think that is the vein both candidates tapped into. I mean, under Nickles most of the fancy junk in SLU came in and so did all the stuff in Belltown. Really the northern part of downtown looks nothing like it did before he came into office.

        My big fear is that the fools who post on Seattle Times are a bigger constituency then I had guessed. That they are real base and more than just a handfull of trolls.

      3. And a good job too that the north end of downtown doesn’t look like it did when Mayor Nickels came into office. What would have preferred instead – a continuation of weed strewn parking lots and urban decay? Don’t be fooled into preserving the past when there isn’t any worth preserving. Just because a huge condo complex doesn’t look anything like the sort of place that Arthur Denny and his party would have looked into, doesn’t mean that these condos cannot establish a tradition all of their own looking forward. My knowledge of how South Lake Union used to look is that it was full of characterless parking lots and car dealerships and graffiti and litter – not a lot worth preserving there in my opinion.

        As for “Vancouverization”, I don’t think we are risk of too much of that. Though I haven’t been there yet, their skyline looks extremely uniform and unzoned to me – South Lake Union and Belltown have more diversity in building heights and usage.

      4. Do we truly want “Vancouverization” as it has evolved there, with few jobs downtown and workers driving to their workplaces? Do we truly believe that SLU and Belltown’s “diversity in building heights and usage” make up for the lack of parks, schools, libraries and a mid-range supermarket in either neighborhood? Most residents drive to Uptown to do their grocery shopping – hardly sustainable; surely ppor land use and planning.

      5. By Vancouverization, I’m mainly using a shorthand that refers to the policy of increasing neighborhoods where a car is optional. I don’t think everything about Vancouver is ideal, including the low ratio of jobs to residents in its downtown, but certainly Seattle could increase its downtown population without driving businesses out. For historical and cultural reasons, I don’t think Seattle is in danger becoming Vancouver, for good and ill. Maybe “Portlandization” would be a better term, though I think Portland’s urban planning successes are somewhat overstated. If I could pattern Seattle after one city in this country, it would be DC.

        You’re right, too, about a lack of neighborhood amenities in places like Belltown and SLU, but I think that type of thing will have to addressed over time, after a constituency has been built-up that can successfully push for things like parks, or support more services like groceries. I don’t think you can blame city planning on that–groceries are private business that will locate based on their own criteria. I think expecting fully actualized neighborhoods to appear in neighborhoods that have been under-utilized for decades is in unfair. Nickels and the city get credit for starting the process and advancing it significantly.

      6. First off – to Mad Park, South Lake Union now has a Whole Foods and the South Lake Union Park is under development with Phase I already completed. Phase II opens next year. SLU also has Denny Park. Belltown is getting a landscaped street on Vine I believe plus it also has easy access to the Olympic Sculpture Park. As for libraries, well, Queen Anne is not too far off and the Central Library is even closer. It is an urban neighborhood after all and not every amenity can be within spitting range. The purpose of the recent planning for both Belltown and for South Lake Union is to get more people into the area first and then they can think about schooling etc.

      7. SLU also has Cascade Playfield and a farmer’s market, and Home Deli and Alfi’s for the really basic stuff. Belltown is of course close to downtown’s Pike Place Market and Kress IGA. I have a hard time believing that people who live there drive to QFC or MM. I’m also not sure why you say there are “few jobs downtown”… WaMu certainly left a big hole but there are still a lot of jobs, and if you live in the city there are a lot of transportation options. (And here’s an anecdote for you: I met a guy that lives in Belltown and works in downtown Tacoma. He takes the bus. I’d never thought of that. :)

        I’ve also heard third-hand that the Parks Dept offices in Denny Park at Dexter are also very likely to be the site of a community center or library, and maybe even school if fund raising is successful. The idea is interesting to the city and SPS but neither has funding so it would need very strong community support. I do wish all this could have been pre-planned but SLU was not a mass development with 20 years of history like Vancouver’s False Creek North. DPD is only now working on the Urban Design Framework for SLU.

      8. Everyone has a point here but I think many of you are off base. As someone who lives downtown, at first and Stewart in fact I can tell you that these neighborhoods are seriously lacking in amenities. IGA=rip off and total joke. Pike Place=total tourist attraction(it starts shutting down at 5 for god sakes, how is a working person supposed to do their shopping there) and Whole Foods=way to expensive to do actual grocery shopping. I personally go the Uwajimaya or the QFC on pike and broadway. Park space is ok, will be a lot better when Bell Street is turned into a park boulevard. I would also propose that you need to build some sort of a school in order for there to ever be demand for it. Who is really going to want to move into a part of town that does not already have a school knowing that it will be a nightmare to get your child to and from school. I know that building a school is going to be very expensive but I think that it would certainly benefit the Seattle core.

      9. ‘Do we truly want “Vancouverization” as it has evolved there, with few jobs downtown and workers driving to their workplaces? Do we truly believe that SLU and Belltown’s “diversity in building heights and usage” make up for the lack of parks, schools, libraries and a mid-range supermarket in either neighborhood?’

        Vancouver does have amenities in the West End; that’s what Belltown/Denny/SLU lack. I’m not sure about schools and libraries, but there are several supermarkets and drugstores on Davie Street. Parks are around the edge of the district if not in it, and the main library is just a mile away (well, Seattle has that too). Some intersections are cut off, with plants and maybe a bench making a pleasant park-ette. Jobs may be a problem, but my friends ran small businesses in the neighborhood. They could easily spend weeks without leaving the neighborhood.

      10. “Home Deli and Alfi’s for the really basic stuff. Belltown is of course close to downtown’s Pike Place Market and Kress IGA”

        None of these are a general budget supermarket for those without money to burn. None of them are drugstores or hardware stores.

      11. I don’t think anyone is “gnashing” their teeth about Mayor Nickels – I just don’t think he deserved to get thrown out in the primaries and I don’t think that Mike McGinn or Mallahan are all that committed to mass transit in the round.

        Seattle voters have rarely been disappointing in their voting choices – they support tax increases for virtually anything progressive, they vote for Democrats but they can get hung up on items that in the general scheme of things are not worthy of derailing a person from standing on them.

        We now face years of debate on the viaduct replacement and as I have said many times, this is an inefficient use of democracy as a tool of accountability.

      12. You know if there is as much of a lack of real consensus around replacing the viaduct then maybe it does need to be debated for a while longer.

      13. The reason there is lack of consensus is because honestly, the thing just isn’t needed. The only debate we have about 520 is how to fund it and how much bigger should it be expanded to. Nobody debates tearing it down and not replacing it.

        The debate over the viaduct is all over the map because in our heart of hearts, we know it is something that we really dont need. 4.5 billion (probably 5 billion in the end) could buy a mostly tunneled light-rail under west Seattle down into white center. I’ve now got friends who live over there who were ardent “replace the viaduct with another viaduct” people that have now come around to realize the money should be spent on mass transit. Really, the viaduct doesn’t need to be replaced. It is just taking us a decade to have the courage to say that fact out loud.

      14. How can you say this? Where is all of that viaduct traffic supposed to go then? The lack of courage is really from those who don’t want to decide anything

      15. crk,

        You are wrong to say that no one wants to simply remove 520 and replace it with nothing. Many hard-core environmentalists, urban density and transit advocates think we should do just that. The reason you have not heard about it is because the debate has been framed in such a way as to not include that option as a possibility.

        The same was true of the viaduct for decades. It was not until the people of Seattle soundly rejected both an elevated AND a tunnel solution that an opportunity was created for the surface-transit option to be considered. Unless a stable funding source is identified, the same fate may befall 520. People simply have not been asked the question. If you did, you would be surprised how many people would rather spend the $5 billion on parks, schools, or light rail. Just for perspective, $5 billion is more than enough to fully fund a 100% subterranean light rail line all the way from Ballard to West Seattle. Ask the people of Seattle which one they’d rather have and I think you’d be surprised at the result.

      16. Oh yes, lest we forget 520 is even further away from being fully funded than the tunnel.

      17. Tony the Economist – Absolutely. There is no empirical evidence at all that we “need” either a replacement 520 bridge or a replacement 99 viaduct. The City of Seattle, its ‘burbs and the Port would make amends in their ways of doing business, life would move at a bit slower pace, things would be much quieter, and we would be worse off how? Forty years ago this year when Wes Uhlman was elected, one of his opponents in the primary suggested tearing down the viaduct – thus was started the discussion that has not yet ended. Transit and “quality of life” improvements? Many would jump at the chance!

    2. We haven’t gotten together as a staff and hashed out our positions for the general, but I really couldn’t have put it any better myself.

      I might quibble to say that I’m not 100% in love with O’Brien with respect to light rail expansion (maybe I’m 80% in love), but that’s a tertiary consideration for a City Council member.

    3. I’m hoping to sit down soon with Sally Bagshaw, specifically to ask her some of these questions. I’ll let y’all know what I hear…

  6. completely different topic … but for those of you who have not ridden on LINK’s sister cars in Phoenix … this is what the ends look like from the inside:


    also, the LED passenger information displays in Phoenix’s LRVs are in the center of the cars hanging off of the ceiling … and look like they were designed to be there … as opposed to LINKs which look added on as an afterthought

    as in this photo: http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3084/3145325564_10ff4de2de.jpg

    1. Interesting concept… With this thing you could start with BRT and slowly convert it to light rail as the traffic along the line increased. (Well, in theory). It’s kind of like those BNSF maintenance trucks with little rail wheels, but on steroids…

  7. Great comment Chris!

    I would also add this bit of information. Typically the chair of the ST board rotates between the three counties. And it has typically been a county executive, not a city or county council member. I don’t believe this is law, just political practice. Currently Nickels represents King. Before him John Ladenburg from Pierce was chair. Sims from King was chair before Ladenburg because there was nobody in Snohomish at the time who was willing/able to chair. But before Sims, Dave Earling from Snohomish was chair.

    This would all suggest that Aaron Reardon is the likely next chair of Sound Transit–if he wants it. He is vice-chair now. If not, it may well be Dow since there has been a lot of turnover in Pierce County and Pat McCarthy is still new to the board.

    1. I suspect Reardon would want to be chair, given that he’s vice chair I doubt there would be much objection.

      He’s been a pretty good advocate for Sound Transit (look at the returns for ST2 in Snohomish County compared to say Pierce County) so I think we’ll be fine.

      1. According to whats up at the ST website Claudia Thomas from Lakewood is Vice Chair. Of course it still lists Ron Sims so I’m not sure how accurate it is. Reardon would seem to make a fine Chairman. Given that King County has just held the position that would seem the most likely.

    1. Exactly – that is such a good column I am going to save it.

      Danny said what I have been saying for days now, the only difference being that he gets paid for saying it and I do not! Either way, he has hit the nail on the head but I cannot get any traction from readers here on the Blog it seems, even if anyone reads what I have been saying.

      1. Yeah it’s a great column. This only thing is, it’s the exact opposite of what he’s been saying for the last several years…

  8. Well, folks may disagree on McGinn’s amount of political experience… but it’s hard to argue that he has not demonstrated his commitment to fight all your concerns in #3 above.

    There’s no question that he would fight to preserve transit funding, support transit agencies like ST, and wants to work towards changing Olympia’s views on transportation in the Puget Sound.

    1. Mickymse,

      Can you point to any examples of him doing something concrete to support the I-90 alignment or against governance reform? My recollection of his relationship with ST is that he was against their agenda in 2007, which worked out well, then in 2008 went off to run the Parks Campaign.

      Which is fine; there’s more to life than rail. But it doesn’t give us much of a track record for him going to the mat for ST.

      I also don’t doubt that he’s for light rail in the abstract; the problem is that there are far too many people in this region that like rail but find a reason to oppose everything that ST plans. I’m not saying McGinn is one of those people; I honestly don’t know.

      1. Frankly I’m much more worried about Mallahan than McGinn. For one Mallahan is very strongly opposed to streetcars. Second he’s such a blank slate it is really unclear how he’ll behave on transit, roads, parking, land use, bikes, or peds. At least McGinn has a track record on a majority of these issues. Considering how good McGinn is on issues where the city has either the primary responsibility or considerable influence I’d hate to throw him under the bus so to speak because he’s a bit of a rail skeptic.

        I think everyone is getting too sidetracked on the whole McGinn vs. Mallahan thing. The King County Executive race is far more critical. Worried about the I-90 alignment or governance reform? Then you really don’t want someone who’s been a member of the Discovery Institute’s board or who is getting money and independent campaign expenditures from some of the parties to the I-90 lawsuit to become King County Executive.

        It is critically important we get everyone we can throughout the whole county to vote for Constantine rather than Hutchison. If she gets elected she can do a tremendous amount of damage to Metro and Sound Transit in only one term. Damage neither agency may ever recover from.

      2. You’re right, but I think the argument on the better Exec candidate on our issues is settled.

        I can’t speak for the whole ed board, but on Mayor I have to think McGinn is a strong favorite for our endorsement. However, there’s enough unknown about the two candidates that I can imagine it turning out the other way.

      3. Well I didn’t figure there would be much argument on the Exec candidate. However I’m just concerned all of the drama in the Mayor’s race will distract people from the far more important contest.

        I do understand wanting to get some clarification about where both McGinn and Mallahan stand since neither has a long track record or much in the way of public statements to point to.

        I suppose the editors (with help from the readers) could put together a questionnaire for the remaining candidates in local races. Who chose to respond could be as instructive as what their answers are.

        There are also the various questionnaires and interviews used by organizations like Friends of Seattle for their endorsement process.

  9. Martin, what exactly would you have had him do? It’s not exactly Great City’s agenda to deal with either the I-90 alignment or governance reform…I understand fully that these things matter deeply to the folks who write STB. I’m glad you cover them! But I am not at all certain what a civic activist/non-profit person (which is where Mike was in ’07/’08) could have done a lot on either issue.

    I would add that your understandable concern about people who like rail in concept but fight the specifics doesn’t necessarily match McGinn – any more than it doesn’t, if that makes sense. And as Mayor, given the majority of the system in Seattle is already approved and will be getting built during his first term, how much do you really care? It’s been said repeatedly above there’s no guarantee he gets a seat on the ST Board; even if he turned out to be virulently anti-rail, which I seriously doubt, what other damage could he do?

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