A pet peeve of mine, and mine only, is the habit of attacking one alignment or another as “political.” It’s a tool of both Sound Transit critics (North Sounder, Central Link) and those who generally agree with ST (the Wallace alignment). It also turns up in discussions of certain Metro routes.
I think the problem with this accusation is that it presupposes that there is a platonic ideal of an objectively optimal route for any given project. In fact, any routing decision is a complex tradeoff between a number of different objectives and interest groups. Most people agree that ridership, VMT reduction, lowest cost of service, and improving the mobility of low-income people are important objectives for a transit system. Many people here would add “encouraging dense development.” On some level many people think it’s important that those who pay for the service should benefit from it. If you’re a rail advocate, speed, reliability, and quality of service are probably important ends in themselves.
Cursory examination of these objectives shows they are to some extent in conflict. There’s a word for trading off competing interests; it’s called “politics.” There is no other way to resolve these conflicts in a democratic society than to have our representatives haggle this out.
I don’t mean to suggest that this always results in sensible outcomes. To make up an example, if there had been a politician from Bothell that was obsessed with rail, and had therefore spent a decade of his time on the ST Board advocating for his constituents, we very well might have seen an earlier emphasis on service to Bothell. In real life, I believe the recent overwhelming emphasis of certain Bellevue activists on reducing impacts on their neighborhoods to be misplaced, and in any case not an important regional consideration.*
Tarring our opponents’ ideas as “political” doesn’t move the discussion forward because it doesn’t contain any information. Let’s instead look at what each proposal is trying to achieve and explain why those objectives are invalid or less important than our preferred ones.
*Not important, because Link is destined to run through someone’s neighborhood, unless you (stupidly) push it away from where the people are. It’s just a question of which one!