This post originally appeared on Orphan Road.

I’m a few days behind on this, but I wanted to comment on Mayor McGinn’s private robo-boll on west side light rail, as reported by The Stranger:

This November, voters will decide a tax measure to fund light rail, pedestrian, and bicycle infrastructure. The measure authorizes up to two point one billion dollars in taxes over thirty-five years. If the election were today, would you vote yes to approve, or no to reject this tax measure?
66% Yes
21% No
13% Undecided

Notably, the ballot doesn’t break down the cost for the average voter, which I assume would make it less popular. Assuming that Seattle has to pick up the full cost, like the monorail, we’re probably looking at something on the order of $230 per household per year.* And that’s assuming the $2.1B includes financing costs. If it does, we’re talking, what, $700M or so for actual construction, assuming a 3:1 ratio? That’s not a ton of money for a 14-mile long light rail line.

I desperately want light rail to the west side of town, and I’m excited to support the Mayor in this effort. But the one thing we know about our new mayor is that he likes to announce elections first, and ask questions later. This needs to be done carefully, and with a plan. Would SDOT be managing this? Will there be federal money available? Sound Transit spent a decade building relationships with the feds. Has SDOT? Let’s make sure we do this right, and not wind up with another monorail situation.

* I’m figuring $2.1B divided by 250,000 households over 35 years.

4 Replies to “West Side Light Rail”

  1. This is all as bogus as a three-dollar bill. There is no such measure on the November ballot, and when asked about it the McGinn mayoralty specifically declined to comment.

    If a measure were to be rushed to the ballot, it would be short on specifics, lacking in environmental vetting, and presented to the voters on a take-it-or-leave-it basis that is the exact opposite of engaging the neighborhoods in the business of governance.

    Can this plan, or any plan so conceived, long endure? I doubt it. With total deniability, the McGinn crowd has created in impressionable minds the idea that there is a $2.1 billion plan. But you never heard it from them! Well, uh, you kinda maybe did- but not in a way for which they can be held accountable.

    In fact, I’m kinda puzzled by Frank saying he’s “excited to support the Mayor in this effort”. Where is the effort?

    The bright side I’m getting from this right now is the ability to study in real time the pathology of public process. We’re taking a trip in the way-back machine to the days when stakeholders and lengthy public discussions were unknown, and secret plans became public mistakes with the regularity of the rising and falling tides. Times have changed, though, and I think the main result will be the delay, during the McGinn mayoralty, of any progress on the real problems.

  2. “If Seattle residents make Mike McGinn the city’s next mayor, he will give them a chance to vote on a light-rail line connecting Ballard and West Seattle, he said at a press conference today. McGinn would place the measure on the ballot within two years of taking office—most likely meaning the November 2011 election—asking for hundreds of millions of dollars.”

  3. Ah, yes- typical McGinn. And just about all he’s said on the subject- he will give them a chance to vote.

    Followed by more typical McGinn, noting the quick economical building of a line in Portland, but not noting that the line had been planned and agreed upon 20 years previously, with all the land obtained and held in readiness for construction.

    But, hey, I’m easy! Just show me the notice for public hearings on a plan, and I’ll start thinking there actually may be a plan.

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