Not much new news here but it still interesting to see such a nationally focused and highly regarded blog commenting on our mayors race.

» Candidate Mike McGinn presents strongly pro-transit platform, while opponent Joe Mallahan’s interest in new capital investment is limited.

The Seattle political establishment was shocked by the failure of Mayor Greg Nickels to make it past primary elections in August. Mr. Nickels faced strong competition on both his right and left, from executive Joe Mallahan, who promoted an efficient, business-friendly platform, and from environmentalist Mike McGinn, who argued that the mayor hadn’t done enough to ready the city for a greener 21st century. The city’s inhabitants will vote again in early November to determine which of the two candidates will lead America’s 25th-largest city; their choice will be elemental in determining the municipality’s future transportation options.

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38 Replies to “The Transport Politic: Vote for McGinn”

      1. Which is part of the problem Seattle faces. It is relatively weaker in its metropolitan area than average. Quite a bit weaker as a matter of fact.

        There are enough significant suburban cities (Bellevue, Redmond, Tukwila, Kent, Auburn, and Federal Way) that they actually outnumber Seattle in voters. So when they see their interests as aligned against Seattle’s, they can ignore it.

        It was a mistake for Seattle to agree to fold Seattle Transit into Metro. Wastewater must be dealt with regionally, but the transportation needs of a relatively dense city like Seattle are almost diametrically opposed to those of sprawl suburbs.

        It would be better to give SoundTransit responsibility for all King County commuter transit and let the individual cities of the county decide if they want to have local service. I expect that Bellevue, Redmond and Kirkland would establish a PTBA of their own since local transit has established itself there and downtown Bellevue is a commute destination for all three towns, but everyone else would probably opt just for the regional and commuter service to Seattle.

      2. Right now, we have the ability to fund bus service in the city via Transit Now. Seattle’s already doing it, and they can keep doing it.

        Sound Transit works very well this way, because North King money stays in North King. When they go to ballot, the North King projects are generally selected by the Seattle-representative delegation.

        Changing Sound Transit would only hurt that.

      3. Ben,

        So Seattle can tax itself to provide service above and beyond what the sales tax allocation formula for Metro allows? That was not what I gathered from the all the bitching about having to run empty buses in the suburbs because of “40/40/20” for Metro and “Sub-Area Equity” for ST.

        If so, OK then, I can see keeping Metro. The point is to have more service in Seattle where it’s needed and used. So far as operations and purchasing there’s no doubt that it’s more cost-effective to have one operator with efficiencies of scale.

        By the way, soon after Metro Transit was formed I worked in the telephone information office for about two years. In those days we didn’t have computers, of course. Instead we had ten laminated slide out maps in a cabinet next to us with staggered thumbholes to pull them out one at a time. They were smaller size photo reproductions of large pull down maps on the walls of all of King County.

        For the schedules we had giant three-ring binders with Xeroxed schedules inserted in plastic sheet protectors. They had numbered tabs to jump to the right schedule.

        We were good at coming up with the most efficient route, including evaluating the transfers, but also I think pretty expensive. Computers are harder for the riders to use, but much cheaper.

      4. The city of Seattle is already paying Metro for extra service within the city through the Bridging the Gap property tax levy. There is no law keeping cities from raising their own taxes to pay for additional transit service through Metro and service added in this way is not subject to the 20/40/40 rule. The 20/40/40 rule only applies to service that Metro adds on its own dime.

      5. Anandakos, I don’t see how Seattle being able to fund additional bus service from its own pocket has anything to do with 20/40/40. Metro’s revenue is allocated via 20/40/40.

      6. I just did not know that it could, that’s all. As I said, I haven’t lived in Seattle for quite a while, but I do know the city and the system well from having lived there as a non-car person for ten years and having worked in the info department for Metro.

        Recently on STB there have been threads warning that if reductions in what is apparently “grandfathered” service exceeding the 40% allocated for North King County proposed for 2010 and 2011 are considered cuts they can’t be restored in full, but must be part of 20/40/40 increases. If they’re just “suspensions” then they might be able to be restored to the current “overages” as revenues recover.

        If that is an accurate summary of the posts, in which there was no mention of the possibility that Seattle might fund their restoration itself, I don’t feel too stupid for not knowing that Seattle had the option. It might not be an accurate understanding, but that’s how I read them.

      7. It’s a bit more complicated than that. The service partnerships also have a Metro funding component; Metro likes to fund these because their dollars go farther, but I don’t believe it’s totally independent of the overall budget situation.

      8. Is their participation mandatory? That is, is there some sort of statutory prohibition against Metro running 100% contract services? I can see how that might exist to “protect” private bus companies.

        Or are they just always eager to “leverage” the city’s dollars?

      9. “Local control” is what gave us the fragmented system with several different agencies, each with a different fare structure and zone boundaries. Having one regional agency in the future is a worthwhile long-term goal, and adding more agencies will just make it worse.

        It’s now essentially arbitrary which inter-city routes are run by ST, Metro, or CT. ST has a route from downtown to Bellevue, but Metro from the UW to Bellevue. Yet Metro has a route from downtown to Kirkland, and ST from UW to Kirkland. One difference is that most ST routes are all-day for regional circulation, while the peak-only routes are run by Metro or CT. ST would probably be reluctant to take on the peak-only routes because that’s not its core mission. But standardizing the all-day routes would make sense. Although my mom who’s on fixed income prefers Metro routes because they’re significantly cheaper, at least for now.

        I don’t know if Seattle would be better or worse off now if it still had Seattle Transit, but that was decided 30+ years ago so it’s moot now. I shudder to think how bad suburban bus service would be if the Eastside formed its own transit agency.

      10. I think there’s something to be said for the idea of messing with the branding so that one type of service has ST colors, while other types have Metro/CT/PT colors. Who actually pays would stay the same.

        Of course, that would involve agencies letting other agencies take the political credit, so it’ll never happen.

    1. That’s why it’s so important to elect DOW CONSTANTINE King County Executive. King County is the nation’s 14th-largest county, and the Exec plays a far, far bigger role in determining regional transit policy than the mayor. Would be great to see some more attention to that (FAR MORE IMPORTANT) race here on STB.

      1. Well, only two days ago we said that the Exec was by far the most important race this year. However, there really isn’t much point in belaboring it, other than hectoring people to donate and volunteer. Pretty much anyone who subscribes to the values of this blog is already voting Constantine.

        The Mayoral contest, OTOH, continues to divide the pro-transit community.

      2. Actually the most important race is defeating I-1033, second most important is electing Dow Constantine.

        I-1033 is as much of a disaster as I-695 and will have repercussions far into the future if it passes.

      3. Ditto on both of those – just defeat anything with Tim Eyman’s name on or behind it and elect Dow of course – no other choice there.

  1. Looks like the Amalgamated Transit Workers don’t agree with this Blog, and have decided that Mallahan is the candidate they best feel will bring more transit to this region. It is probably McGinn’s insane surface “solution” that did it, those professional transit drivers understand that it just ain’t gonna work, no matter how much you wish it. Ditto with the Fire Fighters and Police unions.

    And it isn’t because Mallahan is a union kind of guy, either.

      1. McGinn plans to invest significantly in additional bus service as part of the viaduct transit mitigation plan, and build more light rail. Both employ more drivers.

    1. Hasn’t one of their ranking members come out swinging against all rail transit?

      That might be it, right there.

      1. As far as I know, ATU is embedded in light rail as much as it is in buses.

        No it isn’t a conspiracy, the fact is that McGinn’s surface option will double the commute time for many transit riders as well as those in cars. The ATU gets that. It makes sense to create grade separated transportation networks like the bored tunnel. It keeps the surface open for other means of getting around the city, like buses, LR, bikes and peds. I’m afraid McGinn is wrong on this subject.

      2. For the 20% of Seattlites that live in the southwest, commute times to the downtown will double. I suspect other parts of the city will have a similar problem. That came out in the transportation study done last year as part of the AWV stakeholder process. That is why the stakeholders rejected the surface plan and went with the bored tunnel + transit option, which was embraced as viable by almost the whole committee. The surface option only had 6 out of 30 (or 20%) support, and many of those are people who wanted to gum up traffic for ideological reasons.

      3. False, here’s the handout from WSDOT:
        http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/NR/rdonlyres/8DE75ACA-24B0-4871-B689-7C112CF032E5/0/AWV_SAC_Nov13_Model_Analysis_Handout_lowres.pdf
        This is not something from an anti-tunnel group, it’s from the state highway department. There’s a lot more at the SR-99 “Alternatives Previously Studied” website. At first I thought the tunnel was a fine compromise–finally done, right? But then I started looking at the WSDOT studies. I’m not talking about stakeholders’ views, I’m talking about the traffic models done by professional engineers.

      4. UM – when the head of ATU sits next to me and talks about BRT in Curitiba when the rest of the room is talking about rail…

        No, ATU’s chief is not pro-light rail. Not one bit.

  2. Please. I was one of the stakeholders and went through the whole long process, the fact is that the surface option doesn’t work. Sorry, but that was the conclusion of 24 out of 30 stakeholders, I was but one of them. We patiently kept an open mind about the surface option and allowed it to be studied and restudied, but the conclusion was a negative one. As I stated in my original post, the Transit Workers, Fire Fighters and Police all agree with the stakeholders.

    Wishful thinking does not transportation plan make.

    1. Joshua: I see where you are deceived. The number shown under “current time” isn’t the time it takes to currently go on the viaduct. It was adjusted to reflect a closed viaduct (i.e. after an earthquake) to make the surface alternative palatable. When the stakeholders discovered that fact, the whole surface planning effort collapsed very quickly. The real numbers were never published but were given to us at one of our meetings, and they were shocking. Literally twice the commute time.

      I’m just giving you the facts, sorry to rain on the parade.

      1. UM – if the surface planning effort “collapsed”, why did your stakeholder group vote for it, exactly?

      2. Our stakeholder NEVER voted for the surface plan, almost everybody was opposed. McGinn said that we did a number of times, but that is completely false. I confronted him on this at a public forum recently and he denied every saying it! “I would never say that” was his response.

        On the other hand, we almost all supported the bored tunnel + transit that emerged. (BTW, there was more support for an elevated rebuild than there was for the surface option which had only 6 of 30 who supported it, and most of those wanted to gum up the streets)

      3. Yeah UM you are confusing me. I’m not following anything you are saying. Could you please refer to some documents that back up your claims.

      4. The “current” commute times on the charts that Joshua has provided were adjusted from the real commute times based on using the viaduct, to commute times with the viaduct shut down (i.e. on surface streets as they currently are). Therefore the relative times with proposed surface improvements look good in the charts, but in reality they are often twice the time it currently takes using the viaduct. This came out at a public stakeholder meeting and it was quite the scandal. Soon after a revolt against the surface option occured.

        But don’t trust me, ask someone from the WSDOT team to give you the details of how the current time was calculated in the charts.

  3. There is no way I can support either Mallahan or McGinn. For the first time in my life I’m considering not voting for Seattle Mayor. The citizens of this city have screwed themselves. Mallahan doesn’t support Burke Gilman trail – McGinn doesn’t support the AWV tunnel. McGinn wants the surface option, which will just create a new kind of wall between downtown and the waterfront. Also, McGinn’s westside light rail plan is ridiculous. He thinks by opposing the tunnel but adding light rail (plus seawall) he is doing us a financial favor. Get REAL! Then we add into the mix that Mallahan has seldom voted, is too close to business interests, and is substantially self-funded and both are luke warm on streetcars. Then McGinn wants to take over Seattle Public Schools despite the fact that SPS scores above average in 19 our of 20 statewide assessments. I throw up my hands and scream WTF!

    Doesn’t anyone believe in balance anymore? Balance roads and transit; balance business and labor and environment; balance neighborhoods and downtown? Oh yeah Nickels did that. He was far from perfect, but somehow he managed to keep Seattle moving forward for eight years. Now he’s out because the transportation director screwed up during a snowstorm!!!???

    Seattle voters have shot themselves in the foot! God I wish Ed Murry had run in the primary.

    1. Let me put it this way.

      Cars are killing us. A ‘balance’ would be, perhaps, 2 billion for a viaduct replacement and 2 billion for westside transit. Instead, we get 4 billion for a viaduct.

      If you want balance, that’s McGinn. Just because he’s the leftmost option on the table doesn’t mean he’s very far to the left. It just means you’re letting your view of the spectrum be colored by the candidates available.

      1. I disagree. I do have a full view of the broad spectrum available for political outlooks. My view of the candidates is realistic – both of them.

        I hold my views as the head of a single car family, a hybrid driver, bus rider on occasion and most often a bike commuter. Neither one of these candidates speaks for the majority of my views.

        I DON’T want to increase road capacity, but I do want to maintain the capacity we have and manage it better.

        I want increases in transportation demand to be filled by bikes, walking and transit (in all forms) while road capacity is properly maintained.

        I have DRAMATICALLY lowered my carbon footprint in the last year because I care about global warming. I reduce, reuse, and recycle religiously. One would think I would be in full support of McGinn. But I’m not.

        Like many who post on this blog, he believes in a single vision – and it’s not a vision shared by the majority of Seattleites (a darn liberal group overall). McGinn isn’t open to accepting and transforming the views of others. He wants to be right. But his vision is too limited.He has failed to impress on of the most Liberal groups in this city – the gay and lesbian population. Believe me, they are not excited by McGinn.

        Also, the fact that the plastic bag tax was recently defeated demonstrates Seattle citizens do not walk in lock step with a single liberal view of what must be done to save our future. Politics is the art of the practical combined with the art of leadership. I see neither from both candidates, and let me point out – this is the first time I have felt this way since I moved to Seattle almost 23 years ago. This election is unique in my experience. Transportation and development are at the forefront of this election, and neither candidate is close to gaining my support.

        My read is that McGinn was endorsed by STB as the lesser of two evils (rightly so, they may disagree with me). That’s no longer good enough for me. I believe the editorial board of this blog should have refused to endorse either candidate. Both are weak and unworthy of the job.

        One of them will win, and mark my words, the winner will not be be reelected after 4 years. But the city will have stagnated or even moved backward because of this election.

  4. I cannot agree with this endorsement. McGinn is the main reason the most effective transit advocate — and greenest mayor — in Seattle history will no longer be in office: Greg Nickels.

    Mallahan’s candidacy was reactionary– he jumped in because of the snowstorms. There is a logic to it. McGinn is just plain selfish and vindictive. He split Nickels’ voters and cost us a truly great leader. I can never support him as a result: it would be rewarding him for a perpetrating a mistake of historic proportions.

    My advice: if you can’t support Mallahan, then write in Nickels. McGinn is bad juju.

  5. 75% of voters chose someone other than Nickels. Talk about your bad juju. Good riddance. He was about as accountable as an automated answering machine, operated more on greenbacks and greenwash than green-cred.

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