Washington State Democrats have launched a website attacking Attorney General Rob McKenna in advance of a widely-expected run for higher office in the coming years. The biggest issue the site touts is, of course, McKenna’s controversial lawsuit against health care reform.

But another prominent issue? McKenna’s long-time war against light rail.

That just goes to show you, a leader who doesn’t support transit simply doesn’t reflect the values that voters look for. Politicians should take note.

57 Replies to “Politicans Who Don’t Support Transit Have a Liability”

  1. And yet he’s been elected Attorney General twice now, first with 52% and then with 59% of the vote

    1. … and generally the Attorney General doesn’t interfere in political matters like transportation. They are in the judicial branch of the government, not the executive or legislative branch.

      1. Not that it’s at all relevant to the current discussion, but the AG is most decidedly an executive role, not a judicial one. The Attorney General may bring suits on behalf of the people, but is no more a part of the judicial branch of government than a personal injury lawyer is.

      2. Strictly speaking yes he acts to enforce laws which is the role of the executive branch but at the same time he doesn’t have the ability to make laws, only act on them. So in that way he acts within the judicial branch.

    2. I am perfectly aware of that, but I just think the wording of the post could be phrased, since clearly some people who support transit must have voted McKenna into the Attorney General’s office, and it can be inferred that he must have had values that the voters were looking for in 2008 (not necessarily now).

      However, if McKenna officially announced he was running for governor, I would agree with you there, since the majority of voters supported transit with Prop 1.

  2. Exactly, Dylan. I don’t get the point of this article. McKenna won, didn’t he? If McKenna’s stance against light rail was a “liability”, it sure did not hurt him in the last election.

    I would say that now that Link has proven to be an utter waste of money, McKenna’s stance against light rail makes him look very wise.

    1. It’s proven to be a waste of money to those who opposed it in the first place, Surprising.

    2. Traffic over the new Tacoma Narrows bridge is also coming in less than projections – I guess we have two failed transportation projects on our hands.

      1. You have any documentation on this? Last I heard, tolls on the new Tacoma Narrows Bridge were paying the entire cost of that bridge, while fares from Central Link were not even paying for a quarter of the operating costs of Central Link and zero of the construction costs.

        I also read that the new Tacoma Narrows bridge has made trips over that bridge much faster than they were before, while Westlake to SeaTac is 10 minutes slower on Central Link than it was on the 194 bus.

        In what way would you say the new Tacoma Narrows Bridge is a “failure”, if, indeed, the tolls collected on it are paying for it, and it is saving people a lot of time?

      2. If the tolls have payed for the entire bridge, why is it still being tolled.

        Also, you can compare trips from one destination to another destination, and call Link a failure. Link is an artery, connecting many places to each other, and simplifying bus routes, it isn’t simply a shuttle from Westlake to Seatac Airport.

        With the money we used to build I-5, we could have built overpasses at every major intersection in Seattle. Did we? no. You can call I-5 a failure by looking at traffic on the Ballard bridge, but Seattle still need an artery, which is the role of both Link and I-5.

      3. I said the tolls are paying for the entire cost of the bridge. I did not say it was paid off yet. The tolls pay off the bonds over a number of years, just as planned.

        You call Link an artery and compare it to I-5? Link is not even carrying nearly as many people as MLK Way is carrying in cars, let alone I-5. lol Comparing Link to I-5 is ludicrous, but we can do that, if you want. You know how many people I-5 carries each day?

      4. I-5 did not have that kind of traffic on it’s first year, it only has this much ridership now because a region wide system, along with 50 years of concerted government efforts to socially engineer society around the car have been put in place.

        When transporting large numbers of people around an area, you need a high capacity artery, which is exactly what Link is, to do it efficiently. Otherwise it becomes vary expensive to move people from any points A to B, even if it is simple move them from Downtown to the surrounding areas.

      5. Link is currently averaging 16,741 boardings per day. ST predicts aboutr 45,000 boardings on Central Link by 2030. That is NOT “high-capacity”.

        45,000 boardings would amount to about 20,000 people per day past Rainier Beach station both directions combined by 2030. That is not “high-capacity” by any stretch of the imagination. It is less than MLK Jr Way itself carries in motor vehicles today.

      6. Good job at the straw man distraction, Norman. Uhh…projected ridership isn’t a metric of “high-capacity.” ‘Capacity’ would be the correct thing to look at. I don’t give a flying damn how many people actually ride Link. What matters is how many people it can carry, and I guarantee that the capacity on Link will far outstrip the capacity in the Rainier Valley corridor in 2030.

      7. “I don’t give a flying damn how many people actually ride Link.” lol I bet most taxpayers do give a flying damn how many people actually do use that $2.6 BILLION light rail system that they are paying for.

        In other words, you don’t care if it is actually USED or not? Amazing admission.

      8. Link is 4 minutes slower not 10, while serving many more destinations than the 194.

      9. Between Westlake and SeaTac, Link averages 40 minutes. The 194 averaged 30 minutes on that trip after Link started running, and the 194 took less than 30 minutes before Link trains shared the downtown tunnel with buses.

        Therefore, Link is 10 minutes slower than the 194 was.

        Plus, on Link you have a 5-minute walk from the station to SeaTac terminal, so the actual time between Westlake and stepping into the SeaTac terminal is more than 10 minutes slower on Link than it was on the 194.

      10. I don’t know what planet you’re living on, but on this one the 194 never took less than 30 minutes from Westlake to the airport. I’ve been riding it to the airport for business trips since 1995. It would take anywhere from 35 minutes to an hour, depending on the time of day and how many idiots decided to play bumper cars on the freeway. Plus the fact that a lot of the time it only ran every 20 to 30 minutes, and not at all at night, which meant you had to take the 174 back to Seattle if your flight came in late. You’re wasting your time trying to convince people here that light rail is a waste of money.

      11. The 194 took under 30 minutes on most trips between Westlake and SeaTac. You can ask the drivers, and they will tell you that. I found that out by taking trips on the 194 myself. It also ran every 15 minutes most of the day.

        You can try to rewrite history, if you want to, but Metro can provide the accurate information.

  3. Read Jensen’s post carefully. Notice how he calls being against light rail a war? And even the site he links to claims it’s a “jihad.” Careful, educated, big-picture readers, like myself, will also notice one subtle trick Jensen pulls in the third paragraph where McKenna’s concerns about light rail suddenly make him “anti-transit.” That’s like saying people who don’t want snack food machines in public schools are anti-food.

    1. Of course it was put together by the Democrats to oppose McKenna, so it is going to paint him in a bad light. Most of the dates on it are from years ago, which gives McKenna an opening to change is stance if he runs for governor or senator.

    2. Those people who tend to pit one necessary piece of transit infrastructure against another necessary piece of transit infrastructure, when those two should simply compliment each other, tend to be anti transit. They know that people in this region, state, and now even this country support transit, so they don’t come out against it as a whole, but just use court case, after smear campaign, after faulty statistic to lock the transit conversation in place.

      Pitting Link against buses is like pitting I-5 against 85th st. If someone does that, you know they just oppose roads, but don’t want to be honest about it.

      1. I mean that you need it to have a good quality transit system, in the same way that you need roads like 85th st. and highways like I-5 to build a city around cars. There is no point in pitting one against the other.

      2. There is absolutely no “need” for ST light rail in our area. The need for roads is obvious.

      3. For the both of us, the need for city buses, and city streets is obvious.

        Is we want to continue spending massive amounts of money on transportation, and not moving towards transit, then there is no need for Link. But if we want to stay with the times, and move beyond a near sole reliance on the car, then we need a transit artery. Link is that artery.

        Without Link, there will always be some place you effectively cannot go to by transit, no matter how many buses you add. If you live in Colombia City, for example, there will never be a bus to get you everywhere in town if there is no artery. If you have an artery, you can take the bus to that artery, get off at another station anywhere on that artery, and transfer to a bus to get you to your destination. Thats why link is necessary, it is a transit I-5. It doesn’t go everywhere, and standing alone it is expensive. But it makes the transportation system, as a whole, much simpler and more cost effective.

        Every single developed nation, and almost every developing nation, is poring money into rail transit, because it is proven to be an efficient technology. There is a strong need for rail transit, now more than ever, and the vast majority of the world knows that.

      4. There is no place that Link goes that buses can not go. What are you talking about?

      5. When transporting large numbers of people around an area, you need a high capacity artery, which is exactly what Link is, to do it efficiently. Otherwise it becomes vary expensive to move people from any points A to B, even if it is simple move them from Downtown to the surrounding areas.

        Take you favorite 194 example. Without a rail system, in order to get people from areas all over the City to the Airport, you would need:
        1 express bus service to Downtown Seattle,
        1 to the University District,
        1 to Northgate,
        1 to Lynwood,
        1 to Mountlake Terrace,
        1 to Federal way,
        1 local shuttle around Seatac.
        Another express bus from every neighborhood served by link.

        If you then do that between every other neighborhood served by a Link station, even if you keep frequency at 1/2 an hour, things tend to get pretty expensive pretty quickly.

        Everyone across the globe is investing in rail transit for this reason, among others. None of them are waging a bus vs. rail war. Something you seem vary keep on doing, but are simply using each technology to it’s strengths.

        If we want to stay with the times, and move more towards transit, we need to invest in Link or some other Rail system.

      6. There is absolutely no “need” for ST light rail in our area. The need for roads is obvious.

        Spoken like someone who’s never ridden the 71/72/73/74 or 41. Notice how packed those buses are all day long? Notice how frequently those buses run or how they tend to bunch rather than maintaining headways? Notice how an accident on say the ship canal bridge can make all of those routes wildly off schedule?

        I know your answer is “run more buses”. But how does that fix anything when the road network those buses run on is already overloaded?

      7. Buses take cars off the roads.

        If buses are packed all day long, the obvious solution is more buses = more capacity = fewer cars on the roads.

        This is very simple logic. People drive because there is not room for them on the packed buses. Provide more buses, with room for more people, and more people will take the buse instead of driving.

      8. “People drive because there is not room for them on the packed buses.”

        Hahahahaha. People drive because (A) they prefer cars; (B) there’s no bus stop near them; (C) the bus runs infrequently or part time; (D) there’s no express bus, only slow locals; or (E) the park n ride is full. Any bus route that’s standing room only, the adjacent car routes are overcongested.

        If you ride the 71/72/73 in the reverse-peak direction, it goes on Eastlake because the express lanes are running the other direction and mainline I-5 is a basket case. There’s so much traffic on Eastlake at that time that the bus slows significantly down. Doubling the number of buses would only make it slower.

        Link is like a freeway. Its cost and benefits are similar. It has “exits” every mile or so. Just as you can’t have an effective street grid without a freeway or boulevard for longer distances, you can’t have an effective transit system without a transit freeway. In the interim we had the 41, 194, and 550. These sort of work but only for trips between their endpoints, at the times they run. Whereas Link allows for a far greater variety of trips, at the same speed.

      9. The history of Metro is that as more service is provided, more people take the buse. This is not a theory — it is reality.

        People take the bus so they don’t have to pay to park downtown. If there were more room on buses, and more frequent buses (shorter headways), more people would get out of their cars and take the bus.

        If you deny this, then you deny they history of Metro’s experience with increasing service on popular routes.

        Link is vastly more expensive than a freeway: Central Link cost $160 million per mile. They UW segment will cost about $600 per mile.

        Link has only a fraction of the ridership that freeways have — thus it has only a fraction of the benefits of a freeway.

        There is no comparison bewteen Central Link and a freeway, in terms of cost per mile or in terms of how many people it moves.

        Not. Even. Close.

    3. McKenna’s concerns about light rail suddenly make him “anti-transit.”

      Hardly, McKenna’s record as an elected official and his public statements make him anti-transit.

      McKenna is responsible for the 20/40/40 rule. McKenna has fought spending tax dollars on transit every chance he’s gotten and repeatedly advocated for road projects.

      McKenna is far beyond a skeptic just “bringing concerns to the table”.

  4. Chetan, while I do agree about complimenting existing service. I would like to point an example of what will happen with a new mode of transit after a corridor matures. Between Richmond and Vancouver, the 98 B-line used to run. It ran one month after the line opened carrying only about ten passengers per run. Probably could have gotten away with reducing frequency to every five minutes but it was eliminated as planned. As infrastructure costs increase, do we put in a system to begin maturing a HCT corridor or do we build it full scale early? Tough decision

  5. That referenced review of McKenna’s history on light rail using newspaper quotes is unlikely to be a record that the current AG would dispute, even with just selective quotations from newspaper articles of the day.

    I found only one egregiously misleading selective quote, the one that makes Rep. Norm Dicks sound like a prophet in his forecast of Link light rail ridership: “Dicks said they told Istook that light rail would have 16000 daily riders, taking 14500 cars off the street.”

    If you know the complete numbers from Link’s justification paperwork, or pull up the complete Seattle Times article and read the sidebar on some CETA research I was personally involved in, you’ll know that 16,000 per day was the Federal Transit Administration’s official 2020 forecast number of so-called daily “new transit riders” that were supposed to climb aboard Link light rail, a number that can be turned into “14500 cars off the street” because a high percentage of the 16,000 would have been driving cars in the same corridor as the route of the Link train.

    The official forecast for Link Initial Segment in 2020 including former bus riders as well as new transit riders was 42,500 per day. Initial Segment stopped in Tukwila, but when the Airport Station was later added to the forecast, the number jumps up to 45,000 per day, again by 2020, and without University Link in place, which is now planned to be operating by 2020, though tunnel boring has not yet begun.

    The difference between 16,000 and 42,500 was probably the inspiration of the complete McKenna reaction to Rep. Dicks’ claim:

    QUOTE from http://community.seattletimes.nwsource.com/archive/?date=20030623&slug=sound23m

    That’s a figure that King County Councilman Rob McKenna would love the chance to dispute, if Istook decides to hold hearings on the $500 million grant.

    While people will certainly get out of their cars to take light rail, the system would reduce only a small fraction of the cars currently traveling along Interstate 5 during rush hour, according to Sound Transit’s own projections, said McKenna. Most of the reduction in traffic would come in neighborhoods that trace the light-rail line.

    “There are a lot of games that get played with the numbers,” said McKenna, a longtime light-rail critic.


    Right now Link is at about 17,000 per day, with an on-the-record Sound Transit forecast of 26,600 by mid year 2010, lately fudged to end of year 2010 as the reality of low patronage so far takes hold. I’m plotting the growth of Link ridership day by day at http://www.bettertransport.info/pitf/Linkpassengercount.htm. It’s like watching corn grow, except I don’t believe Seattle’s light rail ridership is going to be as high as an elephant’s eye by the end of summer.

    1. My own feeling is that rail works best when it’s logic is unavoidable.

      Take me, I ride the Sounder from Kent Station. If I miss the sounder, or it doesn’t run late enough, I take the 150.

      At times, I think, I’ll drive into downtown, or take another route.

      But always I end up parking at Kent Station.

      Because I only drive less than 3 mi my car insurance rate is rock bottom from Allstate.

      If I park at Kent Station, I can shop, eat and walk around while I’m waiting or when I get back.

      I thought of going to Auburn for the express bus, but they take just as long as the 150 local.

      The sounder is only 23 minutes each way so it’s the best option when running.

      See…for it to work, the logic has to be that taking rail is so easy or that a particular route is so cost effective, that nothing else makes sense.

      1. You consider Sounder trains to be cost-effective? What is the total cost — capital plus operating — of Sounder trains per boarding?

        Or, do you mean cost-effective for you, because taxpayers are paying almost the entire cost, so you don’t have to?

      2. You consider freeways to be cost effective? What is the total cost — capital plus operating — of freeways per trip?

        Or, do you mean cost-effective for you, because taxpayers are paying almost the entire cost, so you don’t have to?

      3. Vehicle owners and operators are paying for freeways, through a number of different taxes and fees. So the people who use freeways are paying for them.

        The people who use Sounder and Link are paying for only a tiny fraction of the cost of those systems.

      4. Norman, I use the freeways rarely. I find it disgusting that we have 8 lane freeways that have less capacity than a simple two track rail line. I pay and pay and pay for a highway system that I don’t use and frankly not interested in using. If the highways were used only for local freight, then we could get away with a simple two lane highway, and everybody else would be on the train or a local bus. Highways are a giveaway to the concrete and asphalt mafia.

        Frankly, I am fed up with paying through the nose so you can drive your hog.

      5. If you don’t drive, you are not paying for highways. I am paying for your light rail system, however as are all the other hundreds of thousands of taxpayers in our area who will never use Link.

        And 8-lane freeway has many times the capacity of a light rail line.

      6. “Your light rail system” ??

        You’re the one who has self-admittedly ridden it over 200 times just to “see how it’s going.” I’d say you’ve gotten your money’s worth this year, so quit griping about it.

      7. The people who use Sounder and Link are not taxpayers? They’re all tourists or live outside the tri-county area?

        So, both driving and transit have externalized costs paid by the taxpayers. Maybe one is subsidized more, I don’t know. But whenever the capital cost of a transit line comes up, people calculate the farebox subsidy and compare it unfavorably with some other more gas-guzzling mode (buses or cars). But people don’t treat road projects the same way. They don’t say, what is the subsidy per vehicle trip, and how much rapid transit could we build for that money? Actually, in other cities they do, such as Portland where Max was considered more valuable than the Mount Hood Freeway.

      8. I pay school taxes, and don’t complain, though I have no kids in schools

        I drive mainly on local roads, paid by my property taxes, but my gas taxes all go to the highway trust fund

        Highways are not funded by their uses – they are a small portion of the total road system. All gas taxes pay just for highways. The local roads are paid for primarily by property taxes. There is a big subsidy for roads.

      9. Your taxes do not all go to the highway trust fund. Only the federal gas taxes go there. The WA state gas tax goes to state and local highways and roads.

        Local roads are paid for with gas tax, license tabs, MVET, parking meter revenue, commercial parking tax, parking ticket revenue, traffic ticket revenue, sales taxes on cars, sales taxes on car parts and services, etc.

        The taxes that car owners/drivers pay more than cover all the costs of roads, including local, state and federal highways and roads.

    2. Well they better get some more butts in the seats, and pronto. The FTA’s required Before and After “Central Link” report card is due in just 15 more months (ref: FTA Full Funding Agreement for $500 million, Joni Earl 2003).
      Mr. McKenna’s concerns about costs and effectiveness make him look pretty visionary, at the time.

  6. Good heavens, McKenna was originally elected with Kemper Freeman’s money. He campaigned for more freeways in Bellevue. How many big red flashing lights do you need?

    Well, dumb question, I guess, considering who exactly has shown up to defend McKenna in this thread.

  7. McKenna is also pretty anti-gay, but I guess since this is a website from the state Democrats, they aren’t going to mention that.

  8. Though I will never vote for him, as I am a very partisan Democrat, I offer a counter example.

    In spring 1997, McKenna was chair of the King County Council Transportation Committee and was smart and brave enough to allow a restructure of transit in his district. In September 1997, Route 226 was as a two-way frequent trunk route between BTC and the transit tunnel that ST Route 550 later replaced. He was willing to change the trips of many of his constiuents for a net improvement in the network. Before the restructure, Route 253 extended to downtown Seattle via SR-520 and used the transit tunnel and I-90 routes 226 and 235 used the service streets. I-90 was and is more reliable than SR-520 due to the reversible lanes in the peak direction. SR-520 routes must also sit in I-5 congestion.

  9. Will transit-concerned political groups have the guts to go against anti-transit Democrat politicians? Very few groups that tend to support Democrats have a history of opposing any Democrats. Some even put out “report cards” greenwashing any and all Democrats. It will probably fall to us to lead the charge against Democrats who have taken hostile actions toward transit.

    I received a campaign postcard from David Frockt, who is challenging Sen. Ken Jacobsen. Others may disagree, but I think Sen. Jacobsen is in for the fight of his political life.

    http://davidfrockt.com/ is the challenger’s campaign website.

    I can’t find a campaign website for Sen. Jacobsen, but he has a facebook page, http://www.facebook.com/pages/People-for-Ken-Jacobsen/392098775183

    Y’all may recall that Sen. Jacobsen co-sponsored a bill to remove the City of Seattle’s ability to impede road projects. He has been opposed to any delay of 520 reconstruction, even for improving transit access. Plus, he voted to stick us Seattle taxpayers with the blank check for cost overruns on the viaduct tunnel.

    If a sitting state senator can be challenged and beaten by a challenger from his own party, I think that will change the whole game in Olympia.

    1. Not to mention his vote to repeal the requirement of a supermajority to increase any taxes.

  10. I seem to recall the supermajority to increase taxes was about Levies that requrire a 60% turnout from the prvious election, making it diffcult to fund those nasty little extras like Schools, Medic 1, and parks. to vote against these the year or two after a presidental race, one just need not vote, even if those voting have a huge majority. The term is the sin of omission.

    When sitting out counts as a vote, it is not participation in the process. Levies rarely have the funding to get out the vote the way the billions spent on presidential races do…

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