After the primary, we expected to write a tepid endorsement for Mayor. Mike McGinn’s philosophy seemed to err toward buses far more than our usual preference of a mixed investment that includes rail. But as we grew to understand McGinn more, we realized that his positions were more influenced by right-of-way than by mode. He wants bus lanes so buses don’t get stuck in traffic. He wants light rail through the west side of the city, instead of a streetcar that would travel in the same lanes as cars.
Although this emphasis on right-of-way should not obscure the other differences between buses and trains, there is no doubt that high-quality transit investment is a major stated priority of Mike McGinn. Indeed, the major deficiency in Metro’s RapidRide is a shortage of dedicated bus lanes, and McGinn envisions the capital investment necessary to take this important step.
McGinn’s highly visible promise to put another light rail line on the ballot raises many questions. His plan would, at a minimum, complete a study — conducted by Sound Transit — to answer these questions sooner rather than later. It is the first step toward getting more light rail faster, which is the always the first priority of this blog. With luck, McGinn’s plans could yield us much, much more.
Joe Mallahan, his opponent, only offered the ridiculous assertion that voting on light rail would put an education bond measure at risk. He is apparently a blank slate on transit; his statements have been either entirely banal boilerplate about fighting for more bus service or unwarranted attacks on streetcars. Furthermore, he has accepted contributions from anti-transit sources like John Stanton. It’s especially difficult to tell how a Mallahan administration would turn out, but the signs are worrying, and the chances of further progress are slim.
McGinn’s campaign has focused heavily on the SR-99 tunnel. The editorial board believes that the tunnel is poor policy and a terrible investment, although we disagree on just how bad. Regardless, the State has already reneged on several key elements of the original tunnel deal, such as expanded transit funding and the notorious cost overrun provision. The City should not accept these unilateral changes without a fight.
McGinn has committed to finishing the First Hill Streetcar that is in planning stages. Mallahan can’t seem to make up his mind — implying that a cost over-run of even a dollar justifies canceling the project (he doesn’t apply that fiscal logic to the SR-99 tunnel).
McGinn believes in a serious investment in light rail and in intelligent improvements in bus service. Nickels’s commitment to transit is a tough act to follow, but McGinn is the best candidate to try just that.
Vote Mike McGinn for Mayor.
Our editorial board is Martin H. Duke, Ben Schiendelman, and John Jensen, with valued input from the rest of the staff. Read our Seattle City Council and King County Executive endorsements.