Dan Bertolet notes that Downtown business and labor interests have launched a new website that promotes the SR-99 tunnel as good for transit, and then he points out that it isn’t good for transit at all. Just another case of transitwashing.

The Metro funding we were promised isn’t coming. The First Ave/Central Streetcar has next to no political support and no funding. West Seattle RapidRide is sold on the site as if it’s funded by the tunnel project when in fact it’s funded by the 2006 Transit Now vote. In fact, the biggest concern from transit activists with the SR-99 tunnel is the expensive project costs so much that it effectively prevents nearly anything from being invested in transit.

The so-called “Tunnel+Transit” effort looks like an effort to cynically confuse the public into thinking the project has anywhere near the transit service of a better surface/transit option. Maybe those who say we don’t need to open up the viaduct replacement¬† debate again are right, but that’s no excuse to mislead the public about transit service that isn’t going to materialize. Notably, The Seattle Times is listed as a member organization of the effort.

[UPDATE 2/13 (Adam here): I sent some e-mails out inquiring about the website and if the creators of the website had permission of the sponsors and organizations to put their names on the website. There certainly is a difference in saying that someone supports the three-way agreement between the city, county and state, and saying someone supports a website that so blatantly mischaracterizes and bends facts.

The response that I got from e-mailing the website came from Gary Smith of Smith & Stark who said that he understands my concern and he will look into it.]

36 Replies to “Today in Transitwashing: Tunnel+Transit (Minus Transit)”

  1. Your ‘surface/transit’ link…that’s about the Bellevue alignment, whereas this post is about SR99. Am I missing something?

  2. As is Nickles, the council, Gregoire, a dozen local developers, the street pavers union, the Discovery Institute, the Washington Highway Users Federation*…

    * “an association concerned with increasing capacity and safety on Washington’s highways”

  3. West Seattle Rapid Ride reps keep insisting it’s truly Rapid because of the tunnel and yet it states that bus service to/from West Seattle will be at least 10 minutes longer than it is now – barring any traffic backups. But most people who live in West Seattle and take the bus are not fooled. The promise of buses every 10 minutes is an empty one if the buses cannot get through traffic in the first place. I do hope that more rapid service does happen (and bus service has been increased along some West Seattle routes in teh past week but I haven’t ridden the bus yet to know if it’s working) but major construction start this spring and could still slow up the new routes up as well.


  4. The Deep-bore tunnel displaces 40,000 cars from the AWV onto surface streets, mostly the new Alaskan Way and the Mercer Even Messier, bound to create gridlock on both corridors. Not had enough of maniacal Seattle traffic?

    Think parking garage receipts. Think financing and insuring cars. Then follow the money. There you’ll find the leaders of the Deep-bore tunnel fiasco. If a tunnel is absolutely necessary, build a cut/cover on the waterfront.

  5. This STB item is the first I’ve heard that the Seattle Times signed on to any tunnel advocacy groups. Nobody in the newsroom has mentioned it, nor has anyone ever suggested that I tilt local-news coverage to serve the business side of the paper.
    – Mike Lindblom, Seattle Times transportation reporter.

    1. You should follow up with the maintainers of Tunnel+Transit – they’re the ones listing the Times as supporters.

  6. It’s odd how these folks that claim to be so concerned about transit never support transit projects.

    Mike, you doth protest too much.

    1. justinf,

      Not sure where that criticism is coming from.

      It looks to me as though Mike reports on transit in a neutral and fairminded way.
      This seems like a difficult tightrope given the view of Seattle Times commenters on transit issues.

      Seems likely that the Times Editorial staff will always be focused on boosterism.

      1. I thought it was pretty neutral. Both sides are presented, all the warts of the so-called “Vision Line” are mentioned. Were you expecting an editorial or a news article????

      2. Er, it doesn’t seem neutral, no. Most of the article is spent discussing the least cost effective option. Nothing is mentioned of the rest of the city council, discussing how to fund a tunnel.

      3. Er, the article was on the Vision line, not all the options on the table. It’s no wonder the article focused on the title of the story. As far as ‘lovefest’, I think Mike does a great job of presenting the facts in as unbiased manner as any professional journalist can do.
        Does this quote from the article sound one-sided and pro-Vision line.
        “Wallace’s concept has taken a pounding in pro-transit blogs”. He even gives you a URL to go find out more.

      4. Are you kidding me? I think you need to more critically read articles by the Times. The piece this week that Ben linked to is a practical lovefest.

    2. Follow the money, of course, and be ever vigilant of these folks saying something that isn’t true enough times their lies take on the aura of truth – something skillful politicians have been doing for decades.

  7. Am I right to assume that not a single Metro or ST bus would use the new tunnel upon completion? Which routes would possibly thru-route themselves through downtown with nary a stop?

    1. Ding ding ding! I believe that’s correct. No buses would use the tunnel, because the whole point of bus service to the center city is to serve the center city.

    2. There will be some new express routes from West Seattle to Ballard, from West Seattle to UW, from West Seattle to Northgate, and from West Seattle to Lynnwood for the large number of riders going between those places who don’t want to stop downtown.

      Just kidding.

    3. So the point of this tunnel is what?

      To keep traffic out of Seattle?

      To not provide any new transit?

      If so then why not just add a new level to I-5?

  8. I also find the “members” listing pretty suspicious, especially considering the whois shows the site is registered to domaindiscreet.com (a company that will hide website ownership for a fee).

    Anyone can put Greg Nickels and Ron Sims on a list based on old press releases about $150m in MVET funding. How would they get their names off said list after the governor vetoes the funding?

    Mike–I suggest you tilt Seattle Times transportation coverage toward transit, based on the voting public’s clear record in support of it!

    1. So, in the theory that this is legit I just sent them this email:


      Thanks for your support of transit. I’d like to suggeest a
      new FAQ about transit funding, based on your text at the bottom
      of this page:

      The agreement signed by the governor, King County executive and Seattle mayor calls for the county to commit $190 million to Tunnel+Transit, mostly in the form of transit infrastructure and services, as well as $15 million a year for transit operations. None of these funds has been allocated as yet. Meanwhile, the debate at the county has centered around the ability of Metro to maintain its current commitments.

      Our coalition supports added transit as a vital part of the Tunnel+Transit plan and encourages decision makers to ensure that the funding is there for it.

      I don’t really like the tunnel plan, but if it’s happening we need support to get transit funded.

      1. Josh I have sent both the website, Larry Phillips and Dow Constantine and e-mail asking if they really support what the website says.

  9. I read that piece in Publicola and it seems to me to be just a rant. By transit, I am sure they are referring to the fact that buses will be able to use the tunnel. It opens up the possibility of faster service perhaps between West Seattle and the University District without having to change in downtown Seattle.

    I think most of you here, should start to view the tunnel as offering a huge boost to the local economy which needs a serious jolt right now from construction dollars.

    Normally I discount the Seattle Times, but they are offering some valid criticisms of what has not exactly been a stellar start for McGinn in Seattle and all of this flaying around of what the tunnel will or will not do for traffic and transit in the downtown core, what it costs or doesn’t cost. If you don’t support the high cost of the tunnel project, it is going to make it that much harder for you to justify spending an equal sum of money on mass transit projects that we all want – well here we do at least.

    Looking to the future, of course mass transit is an integral part of this, but along the way, we can still throw out sops t the toad lobby – especially during this period of chronic unemployment.

    1. Tim, by that definition any new highway is a “transit” investment because buses could conceivably use it, even if there no obvious high-demand routes.

      I-605? Transit investment! R.H. Thompson Expressway? Transit investment! After all, buses could use it!

      That would really rob the term of all meaning.

      1. Any chance the state could buy me a sailboat? It would be a transit investment, since in theory it could be used as a ferry. Actually, for the cost of the tunnel, they could buy 400,000 sailboats at $10k each – at least one per Seattle family. Of course, that would probably create a whole new traffic problem.

    2. I think that Publicola has been much more detailed in their reporting about McGinns first months than the times.

      I don’t get the other point you are making. I don’t think anyone here is the type of person that thinks that spending billions of dollars on infrastructure is a bad idea. If anything we need to spend more. I rather see this money spent on BRT and light rail.

    3. The tunnel + transit site is not referring to the fact that some buses will use the tunnel (though not many). The site specifically promotes transit elements that are completely unfunded. It is misleading, and intentionally so.

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