If you want this, testify tonight.

Today, at 5:30pm at City Hall, we’ll have the opportunity to ask the Seattle City Council to place a long term, $80 Vehicle License Fee on the November ballot. There are a number of competing proposals, and all but one of them are, quite simply, bad for transit.

As Martin wrote recently, the efficiency winner (by far) of the streetcar corridors in Seattle would be the 4th/5th connector, bringing the SLU streetcar and First Hill streetcars together. Building it would dramatically reduce negative perception of the SLU streetcar and dramatically increase visibility for the streetcar network overall. With such a connector in place, any future streetcar expansion will be more cost effective and poll better – this is the project that would lead to a snowball effect for rail transit.

It’s also the easiest project to showcase during a campaign for the VLF – while wonks like us appreciate small efficiency projects and planning, a new rail corridor through downtown is a lightning rod that earns votes and creates a simple, cheap campaign message. Remember that votes are rarely about how good projects are – they’re about how easy the projects are to understand and repeat to others.

Surface/Transit/I-5 is a great example of a counterpoint – it’s unarguably the most cost effective viaduct replacement solution, but it’s the most complex and difficult to explain, so it gets short shrift. In the case of this streetcar, we would have both a good project and a simple project – exactly what we need for a November win.

Here’s the problem: Only a long-term, $80 VLF will fund this connector – and the Council hasn’t seen much pressure to put that on the ballot. Most of them are interested in a $40 or $60 package that has nothing exciting – a package that voters won’t care about or talk about, and will end up being ignored on thousands of ballots. Today, at 5:30, is our one chance to put on that pressure.

There’s another, long-term reason this is very important.

Next year, the legislature will be discussing a huge transportation package, possibly for a statewide vote. With the transit master plan largely complete, Seattle will be in a strong position to go to Olympia to ask for transit funding for one of our half dozen unfunded high capacity transit corridors. Olympia knows they need our vote to overcome rural and suburban anti-tax voters, and they’ll be open to providing us a good incentive to come to the polls.

Our best argument to demand real funding for transit is to be bold today. I want to walk into a hearing room in Olympia next year and testify that Seattle uses every penny given to it by the legislature – and that we want more, from a progressive funding source. The only way I can do that is if we tell the City Council, today, to use all $80 that the legislature has provided it, and to use it to build rail. If we only use $40, or $60, legislators will ask why Seattle isn’t using the funding they’ve given us – and they will balk at offering more.

So I urge you to show up tonight, at 5:30, at city hall, and demand rail transit now. This is your chance to have it today and tomorrow.

192 Replies to “We Need The Full $80 – Here’s Why.”

  1. I’m more excited about getting more pedestrian, bike, and transit ROW (even if it isn’t streetcars), to reduce the ongoing maintenance cost of filling all the d@#* potholes. I’m so sick of having to pay taxes to fill potholes I am not creating. Hence, I’m excited that the filling of potholes be covered by the car tab (and hopefully not out of any other funds any more, I wish).

    Because bikers have to share the road with cars for most of their commutes, bikers have become a lobby in favor of filling the potholes. I want to get bikers out of that trap.

    I’m willing to wait longer on streetcar projects in order to get more Complete Streets, so people can bike more safely around town, and can walk safely to bus stops. The outskirts have waited long enough to have sidewalks, and have absorbed as much density as some of the inner neighborhoods (which, frankly, are not that dense). For this amount of money, it’s time for the City to stop making excuses.

    I’m also still a little concerned about taking ROW on 4th and 5th for a streetcar, when we haven’t even gotten dedicated ROW for our buses on 3rd Ave. No, I don’t support having the SLUT extension built in non-dedicated ROW, but even if it manages to get dedicated ROW, it is still lower priority than telling the cars they don’t belong in the high-use downtown bus lanes, at any time.

    If you want to improve the SLUT’s image, install ORCA readers so it ceases to be a second RFA subsidized by Metro, clear the automobiles out of the track lanes, and give it signal priority. Make the SLUT less of a punchline, and people will be more willing to extend it.

    As far as the nature of this tax, it’s the right vehicle for the right uses. We have plenty of options for people to have access to a car without owning one. This tax *is* progressive because (1) It discourages a behavior we want to discourage (and does it throught a market-based mechanism); and (2) It increases based on number of cars owned and decreases as people opt to get rid of their cars. The city could look at some sort of waivers for the truly downtrodden who demonstrate a lack of other mobility options, but the vast majority of people who own cars do so by choice.

    1. *You* may be more excited about those things, but like I said, you and I are wonks. The majority of Seattle voters will come to the polls for trains.

      It is politically easier to build the 4th-5th connector and then use public pressure to give the SLUT its own ROW as its ridership increases than it is to try to push those things now.

      1. Polling done in many different markets by different agencies in different years over decades. Rail bias is real – as is the ability to frame a package by showcasing a particular project. Simplicity of message wins.

      2. I’m not against including streetcars in the proposal. I just think there are better ones to push than a redundant 4th/5th line that will antagonize the Downtown Seattle Association without bringing any blocs of neighborhood votes on board.

        And, the percentage for sidewalks needs to go up significantly. “Complete Streets” was the top priority of participants at every session I attended. The opposition can kill the package by pointing out how many centuries it will take to complete the Pedestrian Master Plan.

      3. Utterly incorrect, Ben. Read the charts and Martin’s posts again. 11,000 is total estimated ridership… 20 years from now… and including the current SLUT.

        “Net new riders” is estimated at 7,000, though that seems pie-in-the-sky considering the stated “0 minutes” savings over anything that exists now

      4. a redundant 4th/5th line that will antagonize the Downtown Seattle Association

        Why would it antagonize the DT Association. And how is this redundant if it’s the only connection between SLU tracks and the rest of the network? That said, I think it’s much more of a “want” than a “need”. Go get 1/2 the capital cost from Paul Allen and Amazon and I think you’ve got a shot at it.

      5. Actually, the DBA is pushing hard for this. They are more ambivalent about the 1st ave line, but they like this one.

        7000 new riders is very doable with this line. Remember, everyone badmouths the Portland Streetcar, but it is packed pretty much all the time. It may not go that fast, but most people don’t want to walk from one end of downtown to the other. It does not increase the distance someone is able to go, it rather increases the distance many people are willing to go.

    2. An $80 VLF is regressive, not progressive. The state may be limiting us, but let’s not put lipstick on a pig. A flat fee no matter how much you drive your car (thus incentivizing you to drive more)? People who work unusual shifts or in industrial areas transit can’t serve? I’d rather have a sales tax on gas. This isn’t progressive and will hurt people at the bottom.

      People will vote for sidewalks–SW, SE, and especially North Seattle have been dying for them for 55 years.

      1. None of those funding methods you recommend are legally available to the City of Seattle.

      2. “and that we want more, from a progressive funding source.”

        Well the $80/vehicle is NOT a progressive tax. That would be a MVET tax, ie poor people driving old cars, which they do, would pay less. Rich people driving expensive cars and more of them pay more.

        That’s one reason to oppose this tax. While as a bicyclist I am in favor of taxing autos and I’d prefer a sales tax on gasoline, it’s not a happening thing. A MVET is possible, if not under this law.

        However given the political reality of only having this flat fee available, I’d go with the $60 flat fee, and ask for MVET taxes for future funding.

      3. Gary, so do you want me to be able to push for a progressive funding source next year, or do you want to fight this into the ground and have no funding source? Those are your choices.

      4. Ben, I’d settle for a less than full $80 ie whatever it takes to get it to pass. BUT not for an unending funding. It needs to fund specific projects and then stop. And not be a pledge toward a bond which doubles the end cost to get the money up front. Long term transit bonding is killing our ability to expand the system in the future because we’ve doubled the cost of the project by financing it this way. Better to build as the money comes in.

    3. In fact, Olympia paired sidewalks with a parks vote in 2003 or 04, and the addition of sidewalks–to every block of every street–increased the number of yes votes. Sidewalks for All is a winning measure.

    4. It isn’t “progressive” as the word is meant by economists when talking about taxes. That specifically means that tax rates increase as income does, doesn’t have anything to do with political affiliations.

      I’d also take issue with the idea that the vast majority of people that own cars do so by choice. It’s pretty inconvenient for lots of people in Seattle to get around without one, especially outside of the inner neighborhoods, which are pretty pricey. Now, that’s a separate issue from the question of whether this tax is an outrageous burden… I sort of doubt it is, and the public benefits are almost surely worth the cost as I see it.

      1. Yes, it is CRITICAL to consider housing costs in different places along with this. Gentrifying the urban core while pushing low-income people to South King for “affordable” housing isn’t a solution. My Capitol Hill rent is 45% of my gross income–well above the 30% affordability limit.

      2. John, keep in mind that the 30% of income affordability definition assumes you are spending a large amount on transportation. The whole time I lived on Capitol Hill I spent 50% of income on rent and I got by just fine because I paid about $20-$40 a month for transportation (never even needed a bus pass, just used e-purse for occasional transit).

      3. You’re equating car ownership with income/wealth. Not always congruent. Not everyone can be chauffeured by their employer to and from work and not everyone can take advantage of public transit to get to and from their jobs AND do the other things they need to do.

        Right now in this city, transit is not frequent enough or convenient enough for most people to give up their cars. Our built environment is what it is. Today’s DPD meetings will help shape the long term future for how our city is designed but in the here and now, we have a city and region of suburban style living where people are making choices between a 20 minute comute by car versus 1.5+ hour transit trips.

        Very little in the plan outlined addresses real world comute patterns. My friends that need to get to Boeing Field won’t have better options, my friends that travel between multiple college campuses and juggle kids won’t have viable options. My potential comute to an upcoming prospective client boils down to 18 minutes by car, vs. 1 hour 47 minutes by transit (with 4 transfers) with no access to services during the day.

        I parked my car 4 months ago and have been taking transit everywhere at noticeable expenditures of time. But I’ll likely be cranking it up in the near future because my economic reality now requires it.

      4. I parked my car 4 months ago and have been taking transit everywhere at noticeable expenditures of time. But I’ll likely be cranking it up in the near future because my economic reality now requires it.

        I’m a big supporter of the license fee for practical reasons, but I admit that this aspect gives me pause.

        I’ve often complained on this blog about how most costs associated with car ownership are fixed costs. You can save a ton of money by not owning a car, but once you decide to buy one and keep it insured, it can often be cheaper to drive it everywhere than to take transit. We end up pushing people towards one extreme or the other.

        A much better way to collect this revenue would be with some sort of VMT tax. You only pay for what you use, so there’s no incentive to “go big or go home”. And the tax is directly tied to where you use your car, so there’s no incentive to register vehicles outside of Seattle and evade the tax that way.

        But having said that, I believe that the long-term gains from the projects paid for by this fee will be more than worth the short-term pain from the cost — *especially* for the poor and working-class.

      5. A lot of the objections about the time penalty of transit vs. car can be solved with a bicycle. For example:

        “My potential comute to an upcoming prospective client boils down to 18 minutes by car, vs. 1 hour 47 minutes by transit (with 4 transfers) with no access to services during the day.”

        Assuming the car trip is mostly surface streets, doing it by bicycle can’t be that much slower than driving. Even when the car trip involves some freeway miles, bicycling can sometimes be surprisingly time-competitive. For example, I once biked from Redmond to Bellevue in the same amount of time as it took others to drive it (including parking), on a day with no congestion on 520.

      6. “I biked from Redmond to Bellevue”
        Yeah but did you “need a shower” when you got to Bellevue? Or did you sit 5 rows back in the theater? And what about the patrons who used your theater seat after you left?

        I bike to work every day, (32 miles rt) and today because I am sore, rode in “no sweat mode.” First to see if I could do the distance without breaking a sweat, and how much longer would it take me. The answer is the hills forced me to work and I needed a shower, and 10 more minutes of riding. So time wise it was ok, but shower wise bicycling still has problems.

    1. The mayor did early in his term but that was DOA. Haven’t heard talk about that since then.

  2. Here’s one good reason not to put the $80 measure on the ballot this November:

    It will almost certainly fail.

    $20-40 has at least a chance of passing as long as the story is compelling. THEN, in a couple of years, a new ballot initiative can be submitted for an additional $20-40. The voters rarely vote for a measure like this when they know exactly how much it will cost them. In this economy $80 doesn’t have a shot. You can sneak in higher voluntary tax increases by expressing it as $.50 per $1000 of valuation or some such. It’s simple psychology.

    1. People seem to forget that this is a Seattle-only fee! Most people in Seattle live in Urban Villages or Urban Centers, transit ridership is high, and cycling is getting more and more popular. If this was a county vote, it would definitely fail, but it has a good chance in Seattle.

      1. Especially if you can point to a marque project that it funds. “Potholes” isn’t a good lead in. “Street Car to connect SLUT and 1st hill”, “Cycle Tracks” & “Street Repair” is a winner.

  3. I’d vote for a $100 fee if I could. But, to be a broken record: $80 with the competing packages on the same ballot in this political and economic climate scares the frack out of me.

    And, no offense, but it’s troubling that it’s fallen to Ben and STB to pitch the sexiness. Rail is invisible in the mainstream coverage, potholes and bikes are not. If Rasmussen or O’Brien have slather-worthy streetcar renderings, they’re not getting picked up. All coverage is couched in terms of additional costs to car owners in a tough economy, and not much else. That’s telling.

    Couldn’t be happier to be wrong (and I’ll gladly buy some beers if I am), but the wise move is probably to shrink it or to wait. Going for the full $80 now, on top of Metro’s $20 and the ed levy, is tone-deaf and plays up to stereotypes in a manner that could be damaging down the road.

    1. Instead of letting it scare you into scaring *other* people, why not just come out in support? People vote for things that they feel like other people will also vote for.

      1. Ben, for most of us die-hard public transit supporters that see the potential benefits of the $80, it’s a slam dunk. But many people who are not so wonky about this subject and are stressed in the wallet will think twice about shelling out an extra $80. A lot of them may have memories of the car tab free for the not-constructed monorail.

      2. Because sensitivity today secures goodwill and votes tomorrow. Because the poll that showed support for $80 didn’t (correct me if I’m wrong) reference the rest of the ballot and wasn’t conducted after that swooshtag Eric Cantor ate Barack Obama’s sautéed balls for an appetizer to a chorus of national indifference. Because S&P dinged our credit rating since that poll and because every paper in the country has run a story about a double-dip recession since that poll. Because I haven’t seen anyone else in the media pitch $60 versus $80 as sexy-streetcar versus no-sexy-streetcar, so don’t have tons of confidence the case will be made plain to voters between now and the election. Because I don’t want even an itsy-bitsy chance of derailing Metro’s emergency funding. Because wins breed wins and losses damage causes. Because 2012 whispers promises of emptier ballots and a better economy.

        But not to get into a whole thing. I hope I’m wrong, and if the council passes $80 I’ll support it and try to talk my neighbors into it.

    2. I’m afraid that I have to agree with Jason on this. Even forward thinking Seattleites have their limits. $80 on top of the State and County fees will be bit much.

      1. Since when is $80 too much? We voted for much much higher fees for the monorail – hundreds. And lower income people will have a rebate if Mike O’Brien’s plan (the one with streetcar construction) goes on the ballot.

      2. We are in different economic times than when Seattle voters approved the monorail that never happened. And politically, it will be an over-reach. I’m more in line with “Jay H’s” idea of a $20-40 tab fee. On a state level, I’d like to see a move to a VMT tax but I doubt our legislators are that courageous.

      3. We’re in better shape now in Seattle than we were when polling showing the $80 would pass was done. Charles, I feel like you view everything through a lens of the poorest and most cynical – but there is no progress to be made there.

      4. Ben! Do you realize how you just sounded? Are you saying the concerns of the poor do not matter? I live near the Rainier Valley, I see poor people every day. I have an understanding that not everyone in this city lives a charmed life. I also have college teachers as friends who are not wealthy but decidedly middle class as in just getting by in providing a safe, comfortable home for their family. I also have lived the North side and Eastside life. I think I have a pretty good picture on what life is like in this city.

        I understand the vision of where this city wants to go but there are realities on the ground that need to be taken into account. Actions have consequences, often unintended or perhaps subconsciously. If you want Seattle to have diversity both culturally and economically, then you have to take into consideration the effect of fees and taxation on the least of our citizens.

        You can say: “They’ll be an exemption for the poor” but the reality of that is putting people through humiliating means testing usually by setting up a gauntlet of requirements that make it more difficult to obtain. People may make the choice to move out of the city over a “measly” $80 fee for each car because for that family it might make the difference between insuring their car or food or their medicine or simply their dignity. If they move to an adjacent city say Renton, that now further affects the diversity of Seattle both culturally and economically. Further, even poor people vote.

        I strongly feel that an $80 fee especially when coupled with the likely $20 CRC and existing State licensing fees reaches a psychological threshold that people will object to. The fee at this level is a political over-reach and will likely create resentment and a backlash. I also agree with Jason on the prevailing environment we find ourselves in today. Indeed, if we do not address our National political and economic challenges, our desire for more and better local streets, transit, ped and bike paths will be among the least of our worries. I think a smaller fee has a better chance because it would be below a threshold.

      5. You can say: “They’ll be an exemption for the poor” but the reality of that is putting people through humiliating means testing usually by setting up a gauntlet of requirements that make it more difficult to obtain.

        Amen. I know a number of people who’ve had to subject themselves to this process. Do you know how demoralizing it is for a judge to ask you, “Do you think you’ll ever be able to work again?”, and you have to say “no” because if you say anything else then you won’t get benefits?

        I long for a world where means testing is completely abolished, in favor of using a heavily progressive income tax as the primary revenue source for all levels of government.

    3. Outside of Seattle, funding for bicycles unless it’s a Rails to Trails project invites the “War on Cars” nut cases.

  4. Do any of the tab fee options offer a lower fee for motorcycles? A higher fee for vehicles over a certain weight? Increased fees when the vehicle:driver ratio in a household is over a certain threshold?

      1. And what tedious amount of documentation or bureaucratic gauntlet will have to be surpassed just to get that relief? Pissed off taxpayers vote and not always the way you’d like them.

      2. Why don’t you read Mike O’Brien’s blog, or talk to him, instead of just pushing cynicism that makes people frustrated?

      3. Ben, you work at microsoft, and are clearly not poor. I lost my job last year and now know first-hand the hurdles the low-income have to jump through in order to get assistance that my own tax dollars have paid for.

        I’d love for you to go through an interview at DSHS to apply for assistance and sit there for an hour while the interviewer accuses you of lying with every statement, asks you repeatedly what job you’re doing, when you’re unemployed and generally makes your life hell just to get a little money for food each month. I’ve been acused of lying, hiding my supposedly vast amounts of money, been told I have a “mythical” IRA that I’m using to pay my bills, and been accused of buying new clothes every week. All ridiculous stuff that no one should have to go through.

        You just simply do not know what it’s like for those of us with no money and no job right now, so to blithly say that everyone can afford this fee, or will get a rebate is crap.

        A rebate doesn’t mean squat when I can’t fork over the money. If this passes, I will have to register my car out of Seattle, or risk not paying my tab. It’s that basic. Can you understand that?

      4. Look, sorry you’ve lost your job, but for Seattle the infrastructure it needs it has to raise money, usually in the form of taxes. Unfortunately the State restricts the ways Seattle can do this. A flat fee isn’t ideal, but it’s the best we can do. Then you have Councilmen O’Brien’s rebate plan. Is it perfect, no. Yes you will be required to do a bit of work to get the rebate, but it’s better than no rebate and damn sure better than not the infrastructure improvements at all.

        If you have a problem with this funding mechanism, feel that it is less than perfect, don’t take it out on the rest of the transit riding public, take it out on your legislator. Ask him/her why the City Council is so constrained in it’s revenue generation for transit.

      5. Except the path of least resistance is simply voting no on the fee. Because the economic climate has changed significantly I intuit that when there are additional car tab fees coming on line (e.g. CRC) the willingness of people to pay this is less than when the polls Ben alludes to were taken. A smaller fee has a better chance of wining approval at the ballot.

        But what is needed longterm is some form of tax base that can lead to a bondable borrowing source. I don’t feel car registrations are it long term. If you have a “substantial” difference in licensing fees between jurisdictions, people will either game the system or they will move, depriving Seattle not just of that car tab fee, but of the people who contribute to the city’s economy.

        I also find it interesting that there seems to be an automatic resistance to a bike registration program. Claims that it would not be profitable for the city seem strange to me. If there are at least as many bikes as there are cars in this city, then the city can’t help but have a major revenue intake from say a $15/bike/yr fee – might raise around $5 Million. That would be a nice chunk of change to maintain bike and pedways in the city. As for enforcement, SPD seems to be suddenly paying more attention to bikes these days. I’m sure they’re itching for more opportunities to make the city some money. And moreover, if the city got innovative, they could utilize some form of technology that would indelibly embed an RFID chip in the registration tag that would aid in recovery of stolen property.

        I think as a matter of equity a bike registration program is appropriate. It becomes even more appropriate as the mode share of bicycles increases.

  5. Unfortunately, I can’t be there because the Pedestrian Advisory Board’s monthly meeting is tonight.

    For one thing, my understanding is that what’s going to pass is not a permanent VLF but one with a time limit. At $60.

    For another, CTAC has recommended that just 20% of the revenue from an $80 VLF, or $5.4 million/year, be allocated to bike and pedestrian projects. That’s much too little in the context of $240M of unfunded Bike Master Plan projects and $840M in unfunded Ped Master Plan projects–just from Tier 1 (out of five). If tonight’s meeting hadn’t been scheduled at the same time as SPAB’s meeting, I’d be there imploring Council to dedicate more of this revenue to bike and pedestrian projects. I love transit, I love rail, I love streetcars, and I want the whole approved streetcar network built. (which included 1st Ave, not 4th and 5th) But Seattleites outside the urban core aren’t seeing improvements and won’t want to vote for a package they think has them subsidizing us. Moreover, people need good bike and ped facilities to get to and from transit. We have a huge backlog of walking and biking needs in Seattle, and while I see some political reasons, I don’t see the policy reasons for suddenly putting the streetcar network ahead of them. Dude, where are my sidewalks?

      1. Brent, if you actually came and fought for it instead of poking holes in what other people fight for, I’d have some sympathy. But seriously – shoe leather. You’re getting funding for free from activists like me.

    1. The city needs sidewalks and bike lanes. However, the city can’t function without reliable transit to get people to work and back again. I’m not saying bike lanes and sidewalk aren’t important — they are! But more money needs to be spent to improve the tax base, increase density, and get more people to more places of employment.

      1. But reliable transit can’t function without sidewalks, and if people can’t get to and from the bus stop, they won’t ride. Bike lanes too are incredibly important for usable transit. Biking a few miles is often the difference between a 30-minute half-bike-half-bus trip and a 60+ minute bus trip with multiple transfers.

        For example, for me, the quality of transit with 1/4 mile of where I live is extremely poor, but the quality of transit within 2 miles of where I live is extremely good. As a result, nearly ever transit trip I make begins by biking 1-2 miles, which I can do in under 10 minutes. Thanks to facilities such as the Burke Gilman trail, bike lanes, and sidewalks, I can do this quickly and safely. In many other neighborhoods, however, such trips are a lot more dangerous.

      2. I didnt say we shouldn’t fund sidewalks and bike lanes. I said we need to put more money into transit.

      3. So what you’re saying is that you refuse to bike on normal streets without bike lanes?
        Even though its perfectly safe if you remain attentive?

        Biking on city streets is not difficult. It is nice to have a bike lane, but it is not at all necessary. I don’t see why everyone is so desperate to get them (being a cyclist myself, though in Chicago primarily right now) People drive wayyyy scarier here, and I’ve yet to have any sort of conflict or accident(except with an oblivious pedestrian on the lakefront).

        In my opinion biking on the sidewalk is stupid and I don’t understand why anybody who has ridden a bike for more than two weeks would do it…

    2. I agree with Ben that if you dedicate a large amount to bike and ped projects, but also build the 4th/5th connector and do some road maintenance, that gives something for everyone and will get people excited about the vote.

    3. As a bicyclists if the city fixes the dam potholes I’ll be richer not having to repair my wheels as often and safer not flying about on the road uncontrollably when I hit one. I don’t mind that the city repairs the roads. As long as the bicycle master plan is in place, when the city repaves a road they will have to deal with the bike lanes that are supposed to be there.

      1. I don’t see anything at that link that would change my thinking. Putting a large percentage of the $80 back in the pocket of poor people would.

      2. ryan, what about funding transit dependent people isn’t putting $80 in the pocket of the poor?

    1. The rebate idea sounds ok…if that becomes a definite part of the package, I would vote for the $80 increase.

      1. The only way the rebate will happen is if you come tonight and fight to get Mike O’Brien’s $80 plan on the ballot. It won’t be part of any smaller option.

    2. This is starting to sound like an echo chamber. Did someone hand out the talking points? $40 is fine, but $80 will bankrupt the poor! That’s ridiculous–a tank of gas can cost $40.

      1. John Fox tried, but nobody showed up to back up his red-faced diatribe against using the tab money for anything but cars.

  6. Mayor McGinn is correct that the higher and longer-term fee permit bonding/building in a way that the lower and shorter fee do not, and he is correct to push the higher fee on those grounds.

    Ben’s map, meanwhile, is gorgeous and would reinvent this city if it were ever implemented as the text contained within it suggests — “at speeds competitive with any other mode… on facilities that allow high levels of reliability” (something which none of the present plans remotely do).

    Unfortunately, the two things have little to do with each other.

    Ben, if you think the 4th/5th streetcar is the definitive “simple” yet “exciting” project on which to sell people, then you need to get out of downtown more.

    So, it’s a downtown streetcar?


    A block from the tunnel?


    Why isn’t the tunnel adequate, again?

    Well, we built the stations so huge that it’s kind of inconvenient to use.

    That was brilliant.

    Also, the mixed train/bus operations is making it kind of unreliable.

    Good job. So who will run this parallel streetcar again?

    Same people.

    But at least the thing will come constantly, right?

    Nope. You’ll wait 10-12 minutes for it. 15 at night.

    Wow, I can walk the whole route in that time.

    But this route isn’t isolated. It will connect the SLU streetcar and the First Hill streetcar.

    So let’s say I choose to take it all the way from SLU to First Hill. How long that take me?

    30 minutes. Plus the wait.

    But those two places are a mile apart. In fact, I can walk between the two in 15 minutes if I have to. There’s this major street called Boren that connects the two directly.

    Shhh… Boren’s a bit of a sore spot.

    Come to think of it, the lights on Boren are already weighted 4:1 over Pine, Pike, Seneca, Madison, or any of the other cross streets. Come to think of it, why does Boren have no transit on it whatsoever?

    Now, tell me how excited you are about the 4th/5th streetcar!!

      1. Boren carries no transit north of Madison, excepting a handful of commuter expresses that run twice a day and hop on the highway before connecting to anywhere. Nothing of use to the corridor.

        The part about the 4:1 light cycles is true, much to the detriment of 10s, 11s, 49s, 43s, 14s, 2s, 12s, 3s, and 4s all day long.

    1. Um, if I live, say, at 8th and Jackson, and I want to get to SLU to work, or if I live in SLU and want to get into downtown to work, I would use this. [ot]

      1. If you live at 8th and Jackson, you’re four blocks from the subway. And if you live in SLU, you knew the SLUTs shortcomings when you moved there.

        In both cases, you’re the very definition of not a “new rider.”

        There’s nothing evil or inherently wrong with the streetcar. It’s just not that important! Which happens to undermine this entire post.


      2. It’s a downtown circulator, dude! Just like the Portland Streetcar, which happens to be insanely popular, even though MAX is a few blocks away! And it got lots of people to live downtown, and got developers to build more apartments!

        I think you don’t understand the point of a downtown circulator. It is not meant to be the fastest way from point A to B. It is a way to comfortably extend your walking radius. It’s easy to say “I can walk up Boren in 15 minutes,” but how many people would actually do it? Not many people want to walk from one end of downtown to the other, and the tunnel was not built for that purpose–it was built to serve commuters from other parts of town.

      3. I absolutely agree with d.p. The streetcar is an extremely lousy way to “expand one’s walking radius”. If you care about mobility, which Jarett Walker defines as how many places you can get to in a given amount of time, the lowly bicycle is much, much more effective. Biking a 12 mph (a very low effort level) means traversing 1 mile in 5 minutes or 2 miles in 10 minutes. However, unlike a streetcar, with a bicycle, you can make the trip at any hour day or night with no waiting, plus every minute of travel is putting you closer to your destination.

        A streetcar, however, will only take you in the direction along the tracks, which means you still have to walk the portion of the trip in the perpendicular direction. Which means if you have a 1 mile trip, only half of which is in the streetcar’s direction, you’re waiting 5-15 minutes for a line that’s only taking you a half mile. At this point, you’re no better than if you just walk the entire mile instead.

        Two common objections:
        1) Steep hills, especially in the east->west direction.
        While downtown does have a few spots of steep hill, these spots are fortunately very short. If you can’t ride a bike up a hill, just walk it up. Big deal. The distance is short enough so that the hills would cost you less than a minute and since any streetcar wouldn’t flow in the steep direction, with a streetcar, you’d still have to walk up those hills anyway.

        2) Safety/fear of getting run over. If we had the will, we could bike paths through downtown, similar to what Copenhagen does. Yes, it would cost a little money, but far less than a streetcar line. Yes, it would take some road space away from cars, but a streetcar with an exclusive right-of-way would take away at least as much road space from cars as bike paths.

        I highly support transit for longer trips where, sufficiently fast buses and trains can actually safe time over human-powered transport. But for stuff under a mile or two, it is simply not possible for transit to compete with the bicycle at a reasonable cost.

      4. @Eric, 12mph is not low effort. 12mph while you’re pedaling on level ground is perhaps easy but when you figure in stops for traffic lights, slow downs on hills which you don’t even realize are hills when on a bus or in a car 12mph is an average speed that most people who don’t already do a fair amount of bike riding will find challenging to meet. 12mph is about what I average going to work and I’m passing more bikes than being passed.

      5. Zef,

        The world is full of rapid transit systems that are just as convenient to use for two or three stops as they are to use for a dozen. And that make transfers so painless that one would think nothing of switching lines two stops into the journey.

        That anyone thinks this connector “necessary” speaks volumes about the DSTT’s design flaws and about the wisdom of a connecting mode that runs 15-minute default frequencies.

        The Portland Streetcar is mostly packed because it too has insufficient frequencies, and if you’ve tended to try to ride it at the hour of peak demand, you’ve noticed it doesn’t take many people to pack it. It serves unique destinations at its southern end and it’s more pleasant than the 15 at its northern end. It only intersects the north-south MAX once, and the North Park Blocks/USPS facility provide a psychological/literal barrier at the north end of downtown. (The Seattle proposal crosses Link twice, and there’s never more than two blocks between them.) Also, you’re certainly aware that the Portland Streetcar predates north-south MAX; would it have been built the same way if the order were reversed?

        I don’t have a problem with a streetcar extending walking radii. But this doesn’t really do that. Nothing new is opened up within downtown. It doesn’t solve the anywhere-to-First Hill problem unless you’ve got ridiculous amounts of time on your hands.

        It does, I’m convinced, make better-advised projects less likely to meet with voter approval down the line, or I honestly wouldn’t waste my time critiquing it.

    2. dp,

      For the whole time you’ve been commenting here at STB, I’ve never known you to do anything but crap all over every transit project discussed or proposed in the region.

      I suppose it’s possible everyone else is a moron and only you know how to properly build a transit line. Even if that’s true, you have absolutely no plan to get to the transit system that will scratch whatever itch you have.

      So, we can sit on our hands, wait for perfection, and live with the Metro status quo. Or, we can make concrete improvements that are possible with the existing funding authority.

      1. Yeah, I’ve gotten sick of dp’s pessimism too.

        It sounds like, reading the other comments, this isn’t really considered a “transit” package, and transit activists would be attempting to hijack it for their own goals.

        I had thought one way to connect the SLUT and FHSC was a line down 1st that would become the backbone of an eventual Belltown line; would the 4th/5th corridor not be redundant?

        Oh, and two of the lines on Ben’s map appear to anticipate future Link expansion…including the eventual Queen Anne-Ballard line swinging over towards Lake City. Unless this is something Ben or Oran came up with themselves, it looks like people have REALLY been looking ahead…

      2. Martin, Seattle transit advocacy reminds me of President Obama’s feckless approach to negotiating with Republicans last week: instead of proposing that which is desirable, in hopes of bargaining and cost-cutting down to something acceptable, we boldly propose that which is questionable and watch it whiddled down to that which is useless. In the end, it all costs a ton of money and no one particularly benefits.

        I’ve done my part for prior proposals. I voted for TransitNow and ST2. I voted for Deferential Dow. I pay my $81 or $90 every month, even though I find that number outrageous and might save half by abusing paper transfers. I’ve patiently explained to cranky one-seaters in my neighborhood why stop deletions are wise and why consolidating all service on 15th, if done right, could change their outlook on walking to transit.

        But where’s the optimism supposed to come from? Has anyone in a position of actual power spoken of fixing RapidRide’s deficiencies incrementally after its debut? So why delude yourself into believing otherwise? Do we have guarantees for true urban projects in ST3? So why believe that we’ll magically get them to supplement whatever mediocrity we’ve built in the interim? Sometimes, the mediocre really is the enemy of the good!

        I’m not as arrogant as you mockingly make me out to be, but never in my life have I encountered a culture that treats manifestly incorrect assertions as “valid opinions” in quite the way Seattle does. When someone argues that rapid transit must be reserved for regional services with essentially no walkable destinations at one end and an intentionally minimized walkshed at the other, or that 5-mile in-city journeys through areas of known congestion are best accomplished via “local modes,” I will call them out on it. Every time.

        The flagship proposal upon which Ben wishes to test the patience of the the transit-supporting voting public is a downtown connector estimated to carry 11,500 people (tourists? suburban transfers? free-riders?). In 2030. In a city predicted to have risen in population by 100,000 in that time. Few of whom will have better options that driving if this is how we set our priorities.

        Sorry if you think I’m a crank, but that’s pathetic.

      3. Even worse, I just realized that, with SLU streetcar ridership presently at about 3,000 (and easily at 4,300 by 2030 even if it’s connected to nothing), and with the 11,500 estimated ridership including the SLU segment, the 7,200 “new riders” doesn’t even mean “new to transit!”

        It just “new to the connector line.”


      4. Addendum to the addendum: I’m not someone who thinks that transit investments need to be all about attracting new transit users (sometimes at the expense of improving the lot of existing riders).

        But really good transit investments do get new people out of their cars. This one, probably not.

      5. One more thing, Martin.

        If you truly think that I’ve been devoid of constructive suggestions on this blog — from the fanciful (shallow Haifa-like funicular beneath Madison) to the design-philosophical (minor stations like Roosevelt shouldn’t need major headhouses) to the nitty-gritty (the 4-minute red light on the inbound 15/18 needs addressing) — then you haven’t been paying attention.

        But we live in a city whose primary transit provider has yet to do things as basic as implementing its owl year-old proposed stop reductions on the 44 and 8, or insisting that its most obstinate drivers stop ignoring the “rear door allowed” memos. Who gives a shit what new ideas we have around here?

  7. If the $80 fee passes, are they going to implement a more robust regime to thwart Seattle residents registering their cars elsewhere to avoid the fee? I live in Bellingham, and during the early days of the monorail fee it became something of a cottage industry up here for people to register a vehicle in Bellingham for a Seattle-based friend or relative.

    I never did it, and I am not condoning this behavior, but as I recall it was quite easy. From what I heard, the Bellingham resident would add the Seattle resident as a co-payer on a Bellingham utility bill. The Seattle resident then took the next month’s utility bill to the DOL and used it as proof of Bellingham residency to be able to register the car in Whatcom County with no monorail fee (and no emissions, I might add).

    Oh, and it wasn’t just Bellingham, Seattle cheaters did this with friends and relatives in other communities elsewhere around the state. I just saw it in Bellingham because I live here.

    Have they made it more difficult for cheaters to game the system like this? If not, Seattle stands to miss out on a lot of money. If an extra $80 fee passes, cheaters will have some serious motivation to try and cheat.

    1. Even if it “became something of a cottage industry,” it was a tiny proportion of Seattleites who registered their cars outside the city, and the people who do financial planning for the city are smart enough to correct for it.

    2. You don’t need to prove anything. Just tell the DOL where you want it registered and where you want the bill sent. There is no enforcement mechanism to force people to register a car at their primary residence. What if you have a jeep you leave at a friends property in Ellensburg or a trailer you keep parked at someone’s lake property. Now, don’t try falsifying anything with your insurance company; you risk losing coverage fast.

      1. Bernie, you kind of contradict yourself. The main reason NOT to do this is your insurance company. If you register your car in Bellingham, but drive it back and forth between Seattle and Redmond for work, they have the perfect excuse to not pay out for a car accident and then bump you off your insurance. That’s not a risk I’m willing to take…

    3. For most people this is just too much work. Contrary to what the Seattle Times and other anti-car-tab people claim, most people just don’t care. I remember paying tabs the last time I owned a car, and it was a momentary thing. It’s a small amount compared to a single trip to the mechanic.

    4. Cheaters already cheat. Just from a loose polling of people I know, I’d say about 1/4 of Seattleites have their registration out of the area, because they want to dodge emissions testing.

      Everyone willing to cheat is already doing it.

      1. Dodging emissions is an entirely different motivation than dodging $80-$120 in fees per car. Every new incentive to change will cause more marginal people to choose to register outside of Seattle. If you don’t believe that then you can’t believe in induced demand. Furthermore, once the psyche is estabished that “everybody does it” the floodgates will open. There is no legal reason that forces you to register you’re car where you live. Once that genie is out of the bottle it’s all over for Seattle car tabs. It’s a stupid tax and that’s why it was able to pass in Olympia.

      2. It’s not a different motivation. It’s about saving money. The “check engine” light’s been on since they bought the car and they don’t want to pay to have it diagnosed/repaired. They don’t want to pay the $15 emissions fee. They don’t want to replace their missing gas cap.

        Car insurance rates are also based on where the car is registered – rates in the city are close to double what they are in Cle Elum.

        There’s already a hundred financial reasons to register your car outside of the city, this is just one more.

      3. Eventually a straw breaks the camels back. Going from $20 to $120 is more like a bail of hay.

  8. So this $80 Seattle fee is going on the same ballot as the $20 KC fee? Brilliant!! And they are both car tab fees? Brilliant!!

    Ya, even in tax happy Seattle voters tend to modulate their “Yes” votes when presented with multiple tax increase proposals at the polls. People tend to pick the one they like best and vote “No” on the others. The end result is that the “Yes” vote tends to get diluted across all the ballot proposals and the odds of any one of them passing gets depressed.

    Ya, the polling might show that the $80 fee is passing now, but I bet that polling didn’t consider an additional $20 KC fee.

    But the 4th/5th couplet is a good idea. I’m just not sure it is a good idea to put the $80 fee on the same ballot as the $20 KC fee.

    1. Nobody has put the $20 KC fee on the ballot yet. It’s unclear if the votes exist for it.

      Also – there’s absolutely zero evidence for your assertions. Seattle voters routinely fund multiple projects on a single ballot.

      1. Rumor has it the KC council may just approve the fee without a vote. Apparently one or more of the suburban members is having a change of heart. Something about pitchforks and torches would be my guess. Or maybe it is just a tough re-election campaign.

      2. There’s at least enough council votes for it to be on the ballot. Our hope is that it is passed Councilmaticly.

      3. It was ironic that the postponed their decision till the last day or second-last day of the primary election. Did they not want their vote to go on record during the election? But this forces people to vote based on what they think their councilmember will do, even if it turns out to be wrong. It would be ironic if Hague gets turned out on her ear but ends up voting for the fee anyway before the results come out.

    2. I’d rather have the $80 VLF and build something lasting than a $20 two-year band-aid for Metro.

    3. Wow, that’s funny, because in every election I can remember Seattle voters approved every levy on the ballot. It drives the Seattle Times crazy, and every time they say, “this time the voters will say enough’s enough.” And then they’re wrong.

  9. “Since when is $80 too much?”

    Since I’m unemployed, but not getting unemployment, buddy. I’m sure this sounds great for those of you who have jobs, but I, and many of my friends don’t, and yes, $80 is more than any of us can afford.

    If you want my money, take it out of the $400 I had to pay for the monorail a few years back. That was sheer robbery, and I have no idea what happened to that money. Back then, I could afford to lose $200 twice. Right now, even an extra $20 would be an unfair burden on me.

      1. Don’t insult me, Martin. I can afford my car because I paid it off years ago, and my insurance is low because it’s an old car and I’m a good driver. It’s actually less expensive to use my car than to take public transport (yes, I’ve done the calculations).

        There are many things that I can’t afford right now, so don’t be so f*cking snarky. If I could pay this off at $7.00/month, that would be one thing. But it’s not a monthly fee, it’s coming up with what is now a lot of money at one time.

        I hope you never have to face the financial crises that I and many others are facing right now, Martin.

      2. Anita,

        If people who need the bus to get to work or to interviews, or wherever, lose their bus service, that will be a far bigger hurt than an $80 tab.

        Help us get the waiver put into the proposal.

      3. @brent The $80 fee isn’t for existing bus service. That is provided by the county for which we will likely be paying an additional $20 on car tabs.

      4. @Charles, I know the difference between the two potential ballot items. But the CRC will not restore 100% of Metro service hours. Cuts are still going to happen. Fewer cuts will happen in Seattle, and maybe even some progress made, if both items pass.

      5. Yes, cuts are going to happen and they are supposedly in the name of efficiency and are happening regardless of the funding outcomes. The $80 fee might buy NEW service within the city (and some day maybe the fancy map Ben put up might come to fore) but isn’t going to restore the efficiency cuts Metro is imposing.

    1. “Sheer robbery”? Not quite… Voters made a poor decision, as many now regret; and they may do so again on the tunnel referendum.

  10. As an ex-Californian, the fear of car tabs is strange to me. I used to pay hundreds of dollars for a car tab there, and we had a state income tax (even though our sales tax was about the same as it is here). But the roads were smooth and bikeable, and I could hop on a streetcar, bus, or BART and get anywhere in the city quickly. As they drill into you in driver’s ed: a car is a privilege, not a right. You get what you pay for in this world, and WA’s fear of tax is leaving our roads potholed, our cities with poor transit, and our schools underfunded.

    I’m with you Ben (though sadly halfway across the country, so I can’t make it tonight).

  11. I’ve tried to find it, and he mentions it on his blog. However, that is not part of the current fee structure. And by definition a rebate is money that is taken, then returned. What I’m saying is that I, and many others cannot afford to pay this fee and be out this money right now, even it it possibly may be refunded to me at some later date. Besides, what kind of paperwork is involved in proving income level? If you haven’t had to deal with DSHS and other entities, you have no idea how ridiculous the process is to prove that you have no income.

    And as for the arguement that using public transport is cheaper than running a car – bullsh*t. For the few trips I make, it’s cheaper to run my car than pay for public transportation. At $2.25 – $2.50 per ride on Metro, it’s cheaper to use my car, AND pay for parking than take the bus.

    It doesn’t even make sense that this fee is not based on the value of the vehicle. Why should I pay the same for my 12 year old car as my neighbor who has a new porsche?

    In better times, I would vote yes because I do believe in public transport. But this is not that time, and I will vote any increase down simply because I need that money to pay rent and job hunting expenses.

    1. It doesn’t even make sense that this fee is not based on the value of the vehicle. Why should I pay the same for my 12 year old car as my neighbor who has a new porsche?

      Because of Tim Eyman, and the people who voted for I-776. (As usual.)

    2. Try running the calculation again after:
      1) Replace trips under 2-3 miles with biking rather than public transit (the price will be much lower).
      2) With regards to the car, be sure to factor in insurance and repairs, not just gas. A broken transmission or fuel pump can cost a whole lot more to replace than an $80 car tab fee.

      Put differently, someone who can’t afford the $80 fee might be able to afford to drive their car in the short term, provided it’s already been paid off, insurance coverage is minimal, and everything’s working. But all it takes is one major repair bill or one accident and the car becomes no longer affordable.

      1. In most cases, the greatest costs for a car are either capital costs and depreciation (for a new car) or repairs (for an old car). It sounds like this might not be the case for Anita, though — she may have a reliable car that has very low market value.

      2. Anita’s banking that no major repairs will occur during her unemployment. I’ve been there done that, and fortunately had a car that worked during that time. Bicycling is cheaper to get around, but you need that car for getting to the interviews and shopping at the least cost places like Costco etc.

        And yes DSHS sucks rocks. Nothing like feeling like scum to put you in the right frame of mood to keep job hunting.

      3. When I said I did the calculations, I meant all of that. And the trips I make are to the grocery store, library, etc, combining many stops with lots of bags. I couldn’t do that on a bike. I used to do this on foot until I was injured while walking up my hill with bags of groceries.

      4. Sorry to hear that in addition to losing your job you also injured yourself.

        As for combining lots of trips & bags, it is possible if uninjured, it just a) takes longer but you are unemployed. b) is more of a workout. My paniers hold about 4 grocery sized bags. But I’m working so I can afford bicycle paniers.

        Here’s an extreme example of what “can” be carried on a bicycle if you have the will power and the patience of Job.

        But and this sucks for bicycling, you need a decent lock otherwise you won’t have bike parts when you leave the store. That’s a good U lock and a 6ft cable to connect the other wheel & seat, and go around the post.

  12. Before we start giving these agencies more money, how about they find a way to cut their labor costs? Before we give WDOT more money, how about those public employees take a cut in their salary? I know most of us have had cuts in our salary and benefits but the public employees still seem to think the piggybank is full. When I go past a road construction site, whether on bus or in my car, I see 5 people standing around and only one or two people doing any actual work. Don’t say that it is only a few seconds that I see because I see the same thing when I am waiting at a bus stop and see a road construction job across or down the street. Cut the labor costs, show me those savings, and I will be far more excited to say vote YES on these new tax increases.

    1. 1) WSDOT has nothing to do with this.

      2) Public utility labor unions have been taking reasonable pay cuts.

      You are obviously just expressing your anti-labor sentiment without regard for facts.

      1. Citations:

        Here’s the Times story about city employees’ unions cutting their annual pay raises from 2% to 0.6% from 2010 to 2013: http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/localnews/2012865189_citycola11m.html

        King County Metro employees gave up their raise for 2011, and reduced their raise from 3% to ~1.3% for 2012, among other concessions: http://www.kingcounty.gov/exec/news/release/2010/November/19transit.aspx

        State workers actually cut their hours by 3% for the 2011-2012 contract: http://www.theolympian.com/2011/02/18/1548241/worker-group-oks-cut-in-pay.html

        On the whole, labor costs have gone down.

      2. Too bad you don’t know me, Kyle. I work in a union myself. I have not had a raise since June of 2008 AND have had to pay more for my medical benefits. What kind of anti-labor sentiment am I supposedly spewing when I expect public employees to actually work during their shift and also suggest that ANY pay raise for them is too much at this time??

      3. Cinesea,

        Isn’t the best way to control labor costs to increase efficiency (e.g. passengers/driver)? That seems like a much bigger savings than fighting over 1% on wages.

    2. Did Bill O’Reilly link to this blog or something? Right-wing talking points everywhere!

  13. Time for bike riders to have licenses and pay tabs. I do not want to pay 80.00 more if any of it is for bikes. Remember the bike riders who sued the city because they didnt know bikes can go on tracks. REALLY

    1. This keeps getting brought up, and people keep ignoring the fact that the city would lose money if it tried to enforce a license program for bicycles.

      Our streets are for everyone, not just for cars.

      1. First of all, it’s not cars that are paying, as cars are inanimate objects. It’s car owners, which amounts to 75% of the city. Most cyclists, pedestrians, and Metro riders are also car owners. So it really is everyone—well, 75% of everyone—who is paying.

        Furthermore, a large portion of SDOT’s budget doesn’t come from fees and taxes attached to vehicle ownership or use. I don’t have the budget numbers on hand, but I have cited them in the past.

      2. Yeah, a car tab fee is pretty universal as fees go. I would happily support an income tax or payroll tax or anything else, but this is what polls well and this is one of the few options the legislature gave us. Cars also do most of the damage to the roads and cause the most congestion.

      3. Cars cause almost all of the congestion and pollution, and take up half the city’s real estate for parking. Non-drivers are being part of the solution. They’re also paying with their time in terms of waiting for transfers and riding on slow buses, and jobs they can’t take because there’s no transit to them.

    2. I absolutely agree. Bike riders need to pay their fair share. I’ve never understood why Seattle doesn’t have licenses for bikes. When I was a kid in the midwest, I had to pay for a liscense for my bike. It not only raises revenue, it helps identify them when they do the stupid things they do.

      1. Anita, do you not understand that bikes do not damage the road, and furthermore do not pollute? Before you bring up bike lanes, I will remind you that it is paint. When cars need more capacity, it requires major construction.

      2. Zefwagner,

        If people are expected to pay for each of their vehicles, then a bicycle–which rides on the same pavement as a car/truck–should also be included. Now, the rest of you, don’t start mouthing off about wheelchairs or shoes also being a vehicle, because I know that’s what you’re thinking.

      3. Sidewalks aren’t free. Why should drivers pay for sidewalks? You can’t drive your car on them. I say license shoes! Damn freeloading commie pedestrians sponging off red-blooded American drivers.

      4. Show me a video of a bike creating potholes, and we’ll have something to talk about, Anita. Or, I’ll settle for a video catching them spewing carbon monoxious fumes.

      5. Licensing car drivers and registering cars hasn’t exactly stopped drivers from doing the stupid and deadly things they do. You’re still more likely to die from a car accident than any other means. At least when bikers do stupid stuff, it’s usually just themselves that get hurt.

        I don’t own or ride a bike. But the nonsensical proposal to license bikers is just a right-wing talking point that keeps rearing its ugly head, with no analysis of the impact of or justifications for doing so.

        Also, drivers are hardly paying for everything. I pay a huge amount of income tax to fund the naval escorts that bring the oil from US-controlled countries on the other side of the planet, so that you can get a cheap tank of gas. I also pay sales tax and rent (and therefore property tax) that goes toward roads.

        Car drivers don’t even pay their own way.

      6. Anita, one more thing: People *are* walking in the middle of streets… because a large chunk of Seattle neighborhoods don’t have sidewalks. On this point, I think the package needs to shift percentages a little, to pick up the support of groups like the Mapleleaf Neighborhood Association, which had a representative testifying tonight that more sidewalk money needed to be added to make the proposal supportable.

      7. You’re still more likely to die from a car accident than any other means.

        False. Only for a very narrow demographic is this even close to true.

      8. Where in the midwest did you live?
        They don’t require them in Chicago(where I live now) They do however require free online registration as a crime prevention thing.
        Also, as a primary mode cyclist, a cyclist license would kill MY budget. I ride a bike because it has no fixed cost (save the occasional tune-up) Surely based on your complaining here, you must understand this. minimum wage college student who lives 5 miles from school.

  14. Any reason that graphic doesn’t show several stations and changes the name on others. No Beacon Hill, no stadium, no University St., Pioneer Sq -> Colman Dock, Sodo -> Lander.

    Sorry, this is unimportant to the topic, but I’m curious about it.

    1. It looks like they’re using old working names for the stations before they were finalized. Of course, the names north of Westlake still aren’t finalized.

  15. “First of all, it’s not cars that are paying, as cars are inanimate objects.”

    Duh. Stop being so literal, it’s really stupid.

    1. It’s actually a valid point, since you were the one who is equating people with their favored mode of transportation. That type of language gets people thinking of people as “motorists” or “bicyclists” or “bus riders,” ignoring that most people own and use cars and bikes, and also take public transit occasionally. Different modes for different situations. It doesn’t have to be a part of your identity.

  16. I am a huge supporter of transit, but building a new street car line to negative impressions of another line is the most ridiculous reasoning I have ever heard of. A fifth avenue street car duplicates what the bus/light rail tunnel corridor offers and is a waste of dollars and resources. A better option would be to use street cars to reach more areas that aren’t currently serviced by rail of any sort, ie connecting queen Anne/Ballard/magnolia to the existing SLUT

    Duplicating existing corridors for the sake of PR and public perception is the wrong way to Build a functional and efficient rail system.

    1. “Duplicating existing corridors for the sake of PR and public perception is the wrong way to Build a functional and efficient rail system.”
      I’d counter that building streetcar lines that end at the edges of downtown would be equally as wrong. Let’s not repeat the mistakes made with the SLUTram.

      1. Yes, this time, let’s work with the bike community to address safety issues. This time let’s run it down the middle (or wherever it won’t get blocked), with its own ROW.

    2. The tunnel is going to be at full capacity by the time any proposed streetcar comes online. A 4th/5th streetcar is complementary.

      1. Maybe, but it’s going to be a difficult decision for your average Ballard, Fremont, Wallingford, Belltown, or West Seattle voter to fork over $80/year to start to fund a streetcar network with a line that parallels Link through downtown.

    3. Bill, extending a streetcar that ends at the edge of downtown to the rest of the places downtown people want to go is so blindingly obviously beneficial I didn’t feel I needed to put it in the post.

  17. It’s hard to add a tax to seattle to support mass transit for just one group (in this case, car owners) Political points asside, not everyone who owns a vehicle is going to use these transit features, and therefore, will never vote on it. If the city is smart, they need to craft something that shows those individuals that others will pay their share too. Right now, if you live in seattle, use transit, and don’t own a vehicle, you are relatively immune to any tax increases for new transit capital projects. I personally live on the eastside and take an express bus to seattle daily which I wouldn’t mind paying more for, but the point is, while I won’t be financially effected by any decision of these projects, I could still potentially use these facilities. The city is really stuck in a corner, taxing vehicle owners soley will be a hard sell, taxing property owners is also a hard sale, (Dare i say) a citywide income tax would be a deathknell for any politician. Is a city wide sales tax the best way to pay for this? Also hard to sell as it could potentially drive customers out of the city and over to Kemperland or other retail destinations.

    Point is, this board should serve as an idea engine for finding out ways to pay for this. Saying that “everyone can afford $80” is a bit of a stretch, $80 is different to everyone, and in the same way that someone may be very wealthy and not own a car, someone who is down on their luck may own a car because that’s the only way for them to get to work. Before any of these projects get out of the starting gate, a way to get people to vote for a tax increase, in whatever mode it is, must be determined otherwise any map with colored HCT lines drawn is a waste of time.

    1. Everyone who can afford a couple tanks of gas can afford $80. People who can afford legally-mandated insurance can afford $80.

      Everyone knows that Metro service flat out sucks. The system is terrible and the service unreliable. My wife has to schedule 2 hours for her morning commute, which is on paper a 45 minute 1 seat ride. Even with these shortcomings, buses are still crush-loaded in the city center, because there is serious demand for transit here. The county can not and will not fix transit in the City of Seattle, not when they are beholden to suburban and rural constituencies, who resent even our shitty urban service, and are bickering about how big of a cut Metro should get next year.

      It’s time for the City to step up and take over, to build the system that the county can’t/won’t. To make a serious, hardcore investment in local human mobility. To make going car-free a serious option.

      This is the only funding source we have available. We need to take it, and make it permanent. Go big, and build a system the city can be proud of. Stop suffering under Metro’s reign.

      1. Ain’t been around here for long, have ya? Metro was formed because Seattle Transit needed suburban dollars as a life line. Seattle is beholding to suburban tax revenue to maintain it’s current level of service.

      2. The suburbs as a funding source didn’t turn out as well as we’d hoped, I’d say. Mostly due to their opposition to ever paying for anything.

        There’s the political will to raise revenue locally now.

      3. What Lack said. Circumstances are different now. Given how ridiculous the politics are around here, I would happily pay more taxes in return for Eastside residents no longer getting veto authority over Seattle transit service.

        In general, I’m the first person to say that we need to think regionally. But I’m beginning to think that our regional politics are simply too dysfunctional for that to be practical right now. Seattle can’t let itself be held back just because a bunch of suburbanites don’t want to let us pay for our own transit.

      4. Seattle Transit needed not to have a shrinking population – caused by suburban subsidization in highway spending.

    2. Way off.

      In addition to the substantial fare increases over the past three years, we pay sales tax through the county to support Metro and ST and pay property tax through the city to support additional transit service and infrastructure.

      Sales tax falls disproportionately on the poor, and therefore on transit users.

      1. Sales tax exempts food (and candy bars and bottled water but that’s a different discussion). It also doesn’t apply to gasoline. If you shop for cloths at garage sales you don’t pay sales tax. There’s no sales tax on rent. Make the case that as implemented in Washington State the sales tax is regressive.

      2. Brent,

        You’re right that you don’t pay sales tax on food, gas, or rent. Rich people don’t pay taxes on those things either. And you also don’t pay sales tax on vehicles or homes, things that rich people are more likely to spend their money on. If you’re truly at subsistence level income, you might be nearly right about the tax not being too regressive. But everyone in between who buys a decent number of things but isn’t rich enough to own a home or invest a significant amount of their money in other ways ends up spending a greater share of their income on things that ARE subject to sales tax. Those people lose a larger share of their income to sales taxes than richer people; hence, regressive.

      3. d you also don’t pay sales tax on vehicles or homes, things that rich people are more likely to spend their money on

        WRONG Loss of Real Estate excise tax is probably the main reason governments in this State are in such a pickle and vehicles are one of the only other things I can think of where you pay sales tax every time it’s sold instead of just when it’s new. Obviously you don’t own (or didn’t have to buy) a car.

      4. Brent,

        Okay, sure, there are taxes on car sales. Since I’ve never bought a new car, and haven’t bought a used one in about 8 years, I don’t recall how much they are exactly. Looking here though, it seems much lower than sales tax (6.5%): http://dor.wa.gov/Docs/Pubs/ExciseTax/FilTaxReturn/MajorTaxes.htm. And it seems like you’re agreeing with me on homes, a much larger purchase. There are certainly taxes and fees associated with buying/selling, but they don’t come close to 10%.

      5. Regardless, the point remains that lower and middle class people spend a higher proportion of their income on sales tax than rich people. Regressive.

      6. Shane, note that you’re arguing with Bernie, not Brent. :)

        Bernie, I cite the ITEP’s analysis of the tax systems of each state in the US.

        I’ll let you read the full report, but the basic intuition (which is well-documented in this and other articles) is that a consumption tax is equivalent to an income tax which exempts all savings. But savings rises directly with income; in fact, many lower-income households actually have a negative savings rate. Thus, a flat-rate sales tax is roughly equivalent to a regressive-rate income tax.

        I’ve long maintained that the optimal way for all levels of government to raise revenue is with a local-option income tax. Essentially, when you fill out your federal tax return, you indicate where you’ve lived and for how long, and then your tax rate is adjusted accordingly. You only have to fill out a single form (which is actually better than the current situation for people who live in states with a income tax); the IRS would automatically keep track of how much revenue needed to be distributed to each state and locality.

        Yes, there are problems with this system, but those problems are mostly technical/logistical, whereas the problems with our current system are structural.

  18. I have voted to raise taxes for transit every time they have been on the ballot for the last 30 years.

    I’d vote NO on McGinn’s $80 tax. He’s not being truthful (again) in his campaign for it. The guy simply can’t be trusted with more money. He’s not delivering with the money the City already has. Instead, he’s tying things up in knots.

    This $80 tax hike of McGinn’s would hurt old people the most. And, sorry to say, would not make any real dent to transform the city into a less car dependent place.

    McGinn $80 more for his transportation vision? No way.

    1. Mayor McGinn has no control over how the money from this car tax is spent. It is under the control of the Seattle Transportation Investment District, which happens to be identical to the Seattle City Council.

      Now, the question arises whether I trust the Seattle City Council… Oy!

    2. I don’t like that we’re starting to have people who are reaching conclusions (and sharing them with us) based solely upon their preconceived biases against this or that. Sounds awfully Tea Party-like. As noted by Brent, this was neither proposed nor McGinn nor does he have any power over how it’s spent. He just endorsed the $80 option because it does the most for transportation and transit. Perhaps that was a mistake, because there’s getting to be so many people whose knee-jerk response is to to oppose everything he supports. McGinn is Seattle’s Obama, alas.

    3. And this is why I don’t listen to Marge – she doesn’t even understand who puts this on the ballot.

    1. Ignore downtown, by the way – Im referring to the miles of low/mid-rise density that emenate from downtown. That’s what we need. We need better land use policies and incentives in places like SODO, Denny Triangle, Westlake/Dexter corridor to turn Seattle into a cohesive urban landscape like the one shown above.

      1. WE have decently high height limits in most of those areas, they just haven’t developed quite yet, Nickels did some awesome things for land use (IMO) I don’t really understand why we got rid of him.

      2. Because a lot of people thought Nickles was OK but they voted for McGinn or Mallahan in the primary thinking Nickels was sure to get the other slot (don’t incumbants always)? But too many other people did that too and Nickels ended up third place.

    2. As charming as San Francisco is, and I do enjoy visiting it, it is not quite the model that I would want for Seattle. One of the key differences between Seattle (and it’s immediate burbs) and places like SFO and Chicago is that it has managed to preserve significant amount of trees and flora adjacent to housing. You’ll notice in the panorama you posted that most of SFO is a wind swept sea of concrete with only the lucky/wealthy few who live near Golden Gate Park having any semblance of connection to nature.

      In Chicago, they have this bizarre thing called “Forest Preserves” where you have to travel (usually by car) to to connect to nature. Yes, Chicago has “some” tree lined streets that are beautiful in the spring but are barren dead zones for most of the year. Even the Forest Preserves in their winter barrenness exude more life than the streets of Chicago.

      Seattle by contrast has year round life oozing from every nook and cranny. Even Capitol Hill with its vaunted density preserves tall trees in many places and has acted to add new trees to balance the new density.

      So while I agree Seattle needs density, I do not for one moment want our city to be denuded of life.

    1. It wasn’t great. It was exactly the same people who show up to all of these, with maybe four or five new folks. We needed fifty.

      1. I would have turned out, if these things weren’t always scheduled so that only people who keep bankers’ hours can show up.

        Every goddamn public comment session that I care about is scheduled during one of my work shifts. Every. Single. One.

  19. Nobody arguing with the right wing talking points has brought up the operation efficiencies from connecting the streetcar lines. Seems like that might be a good argument against the “it’s redundant because we have a tunnel” crew.

    1. Martin mentioned this would save money overall in his original piece about the project. That’s why I’m so intolerant of the bullshit being spewed against it.

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