53 Replies to “Primary Election 2011 Open Thread”

  1. I voted for the referendum. A state highway can’t just be funnelled onto surface non-highway streets only to be funnelled back onto the highway once past the waterfront. The only alternative to the tunnel is a viaduct rebuild. And what city today in its right mind would build such a structure on a great waterfront? That’s what they did unquestioningly in the 1950’s but today it wouldn’t “fly”.

    1. 167 and 900 are state highways too, and some parts of them are highway-like and other parts are boulevard-like (Rainier Ave and MLK).

    2. A state highway can’t just be funnelled onto surface non-highway streets only to be funnelled back onto the highway once past the waterfront.

      Really? That’s exactly what Vancouver does for every highway that otherwise would have gone through city limits, and it seems to work just fine. In fact, this is part of why Vancouver is a transit paradise; they saved money from not building freeways in the city, and there wasn’t a preexisting constituency who thought that the existing freeways made transit unnecessary.

      The only alternative to the tunnel is a viaduct rebuild.

      As above, I wouldn’t call that the only alternative. But I do agree with you that a viaduct rebuild would have been even worse. So I guess that’s a silver lining.

  2. As I post this, Ref 1 is being approved at about 60%.

    I live on Capitol Hill and work downtown in a design agency, and no one i’ve talked seems to be in favor. This reminds me that the urban bubble I live in is not a microcosm for the city as a whole.

  3. Ben Schiendelman, spokesman for the anti-tunnel campaign, said, “60-40 is pretty conclusive. I don’t think it’s going to change. The other side had ten times as much money because they had big corporations donating. This was corporations vs. people and the corporations won.”

    Dismissive and patronizing – that’s the way to convince them! Can’t be that any of us exercised our own judgment; we’re just tools of moneyed interests if we don’t take *your* side. I am having a hard time keeping from using bad words to describe how I feel about that comment.

    Meanwhile, Mike O’Brien takes a different tack that raises my estimation of him: “Frankly, I’ve been outspent on a lot of other fights. I guess their message resonated better than ours.”

    1. Ben is correct in that the corporation (road builders and property developers) won. But I also take issue with the manner in which the “anti” campaign was waged. Rather than seek a broad based political coalition including labor against the tunnel, the group seems to have chosen a “gadfly” campaign and a social media campaign that failed to reach even a small percentage of the voting public. I saw lots of tweets from them but I’d venture to say 98.5% of Seattle voters did not see those messages. Further, the “stunt” of aligning with the anti-toll Tim Eyeman was cynical and did not resonate with the voters.

      Further, the prevailing consensus was shaped by PR forces so effective that the momentum would have been hard to overcome. It was interesting to observe that lots of people are “mad at the Mayor” but when you asked questions, it became obvious they didn’t really know why other than he “didn’t play ball” or other MEME’s that the pro-tunnel forces have arrayed against him. When presented with real facts about the Mayor’s performance and his position on the tunnel, a number of people softened their stance on the Mayor.

      Part of me wishes that the tunnel gets built on time and under budget with flawless execution. Part of me begs for the schadenfreude of endless delays, skyrocketing costs, soils problems, damaged buildings and in the end the gridlock they sought to avoid.

      And I also think those that are enthusiastic for the hefty $80+ car tab fees should take pause from the ref 1 defeat. Not everyone inside the city limits share the same values and sense of purpose about urban planning and mass transit as many members of this blog. Our transit community should be careful of political over-reach or any position that deliberately inconveniences car owners/drivers or raises their costs. Despite what Norman says about the inflation adjusted price of gas, oil prices are trending up and it will be more expensive in the future. We can continue our strive for density in our city and in the other cities in the region because that is the solution long term to shifting our transportation modes. I think those are fights we can win more handily.

      1. Over the next few decades, the inflation-adjusted price of energy, including oil and natural gas, will trend generally downward. At the same time, the energy-efficiency of the U.S. auto fleet will increase greatly.

      2. While it is true that the fuel efficiencies of vehicles will improve, it will not be enough to offset increased worldwide demand and dwindling “cheap” supplies. The price of oil is going up and even at double the mileage economy it will be more expensive. But, there are other things that come into play as the price of oil rises such as fuel cells and electricity that will help out. But as a country, our best strategy is to reduce the reliance on road infrastructure and create walkable communities.

      3. Over the next few decades, the inflation-adjusted price of energy, including oil and natural gas, will trend generally downward.

        Please provide a citation to support this assertion.

        On the face, this statement appears false. The cost of oil extraction is going up as newer sources of oil are more remote and expensive to extract, and demand is increasing rapidly in emerging and developing countries. What has kept the price of oil in check si the worldwise recession in the developed countries. The prices of natural gas has also been depressed by the recession, and be the relatively new technique of shale fracturing, which has increases supply, but natural gas has limited applicability as a transportation fuel given the volume required for the amount of energy storage and its relatively greater explosive danger.

  4. I don’t understand why Seattlites voted for McGinn – whose main campaign position was arguing against the tunnel – but then voted against this position two years later.

    1. Maybe because right before they election, McGinn said he would not fight the tunnel if he was elected mayor???

    2. Seattle hated Nickels, and kicked him out in the primary. That was largely a vote against Nickels, not for the other two guys.

      Then, the guy running against McGinn (don’t even remember his name) was just really incompetent in his campaign. I don’t think Seattle voters ever really liked McGinn. They didn’t know anything about him. They just voted against his opponents.

      1. I’m one voter who chose McGinn because his values parallel mine. He may not turn out to be the best politician because of an unwillingness to compromise and make deals, but I still tend to agree with his stance on most issues.

        I think Charles’ comment hits home: When people don’t like someone but can’t say specifically why, its because they’ve been told not to like him by the media and others who are able to get their message out.

        McGinn will not get re-elected, not because he is a bad guy or has bad policies, but because other people with political power or monitarily-derived clout don’t like his anti-car pro-city positions (Not a fact, my opinion).

  5. I’m even more convinced now that you guys took the wrong approach with the tunnel. I’m thinking a better approach would have been to advocate for more/better transit facilties downtown and on the waterfront in addition to this project. Knowing full well people are going to divert to avoid tolls, now could have been your chance to ask for x million to rebuild 3rd to better accomodate buses full time, improve transit facilities/lanes on 2nd and 4th, restore the Waterfront Streetcar and improved connections inbetween the waterfront and downtown. Keeping your projects seperate from the tunnel so that if the tunnel project fails the transit improvements happen anyway.

    For future projects, this stupid Sseattle process needs to die. The whole trying to stop a project, studying a project to death, after a deal is made the whole referendums, and more studys. Honestly, if this project could have gotten started a few years back i’m sure Seattle would have came out ahead as labor and materials would have been way cheaper but in true Seattle form…

    1. “For future projects, this stupid Sseattle process needs to die. The whole trying to stop a project, studying a project to death, after a deal is made the whole referendums, and more studys. Honestly, if this project could have gotten started a few years back i’m sure Seattle would have came out ahead as labor and materials would have been way cheaper but in true Seattle form…”


      I think Bryan Johnson of KOMO said it best: “In Seattle, people will fight after the fight is over. It would be nice to think tonight’s vote on the tunnel will resolve everything. In Seattle it would also be naive”

      –Bryan Johnson, KOMO

      1. I’m also not saying that for a project of this size, the extremly pro transit types should get walked all over either. I think for something like this a give and take method is a lot better than all or nothing. The extremely pro transit types should have been working for the waterfront streetcar, for transit improvements on 2nd 3rd and 4th as mitigation for the diversonary traffic, some kind of funding from the city to improve bus service for those who dont want to pay tolls, mabye accelerate the RapidRide line, etc. But the whole all-or-nothing attitude plus a somewhat confusing ballot measure (and not the only ballot measure on the subject over the years) helped do them in.

      2. Except that because the process was corrupted, it was very much worth fighting against the tunnel. The idea that “the fight was over” is false and it is a MEME that was spread by the PRO forces. It is the same PR BS that said our Mayor was “not a team player” or our Governor saying that opposing this highway was being against progress.

        I’m glad that the citizens of this city and this state have the tools to at least challenge our government when they succumb to corrupt forces. The tunnel was very publicly listed as the worst of the alternatives studied, but suddenly that’s the choice we’re going with. I’m glad it got put to a vote. Now the voters of this city will be accountable for the success or failure of this project and the direction of our transportation planning.

        We however, need to redouble our efforts at educating the public about land use and transportation. But we also need to understand who we’re up against. Vested interests are very much arrayed against our values and we need to play some hardball if we want to win the next fights ahead.

      3. What Charles said.

        We could have had this vote a year ago if the Powers That Be had allowed it. We vote on light rail projects, stadiums, and other highways; why shouldn’t we have the right to vote on this highway? Instead a lot of energy was wasted on campaigns (both pro-tunnel and anti-tunnel) for a year until the vote finally came.

    2. I’m all for doing it sooner. But speaking as a general contractor (buildings, not tunnels), today’s prices are dramatically lower than they were three years ago. We’re buying at the right time.

      Sound Transit, WSDOT, and basically any public agency building right now is finding that out. Sound Transit has saved $100,000,000 on its currently tunneling alone ($300m vs. $400m). The other day, the 520 bridge assembly bid came in at $585m(?), vs. a state guesstimate of $600-750m. Some of that is public agencies being conservative in their estimates these days, but some is that things are cheap right now.

  6. I don’t think there will be a fight. Clearly we lost, and it’s time to move on.

    Nor is a fight needed: the play now will be to let the story unfold, and more or less tell itself. The endless construction, the likely hit to Seattle taxpayers, the cancellation or postponement of other transportation projects up and down the state, and then the very real question on Opening Day of whether it actually made any positive difference.

    This could very well be the Redmond Ridge of transportation policy.

  7. Declaring victory?

    The Monorail won too.

    I wouldn’t count your tunnels before they’re funded and built …

    1. Good point since they haven’t figured out how to toll 520 yet. When they do, the gridlock it will cause on I-90 will make people think twice about the tunnel.

      1. Gridlock on I-90 would drive a lot of drivers to 520, including some drivers who currently use I-90. By the same token, if the 99 tunnel is free-flowing due to tolls, that’ll attract some traffic that’s currently on the streets or I-5. These things have a way of evening out, particularly over the long term.

        Tolling often pushes traffic away of course. But frequently that can be pinned on parallel free alternatives that are nearly as fast, which won’t be the case here.

      2. “if the 99 tunnel is free-flowing due to tolls, that’ll attract some traffic that’s currently on the streets or I-5.”

        99 is already better-flowing than I-5, and people are already using it as a bypass. The main issue for 99 is that long-distance traffic and trucks they can get to the south end of the highway part via 599, but they can’t get to the north end (Aurora & Winona) without using local streets (e.g., Northgate Way), where lights and left turns and traffic become issues.

    2. Will,

      The lesson from the monorail is that transportation can’t be designed by initiative. If no government wants it, we can’t make the government build it.

      The tunnel is going to be built, or at least started. I don’t know what we should do if and when it runs out of money, but there are certainly ways to improve the effects around the project.

      For starters, if we want to mitigate for toll avoidance, then toll the new Alaskan Way waterfront boulevard, and toll it at a higher rate than the tunnel.

      Second, convince the city council that they *want* to make (are not pressured into making) Third Ave a 24/7 transit-only mall. For establishments that already have their delivery docks on Third (e.g. the post office), provided a grandfathered, non-transferable, special permit, but insist that deliveries happen outside of peak hour. That’ll impact places like the post office, but they’ll adapt.

      Third, see if we can get the state to help fund building Link faster. I realize there isn’t much we can do to speed up North Link, even with money, but there will be a lot of thumb-twiddling for East Link and South Link while ST waits for its coffers to fill up high enough to do those projects. If Federal Way politicians really want South Link built faster, and want it to reach Federal Way TC this decade, and lobbied to get it into the state transportation package, that could happen. Obviously, the state will need to find some serious transit projects to put in the package if they want it to pass.

      If they want the state to spend money on those projects, but feel blocked by existing law, they can change those laws, without needing a constitutional amendment. Just define trains as “vehicles”.

      Once Link is built out further, that will mean fewer buses on downtown streets, at least if the transit agencies will cooperate with each other, which will open up space for nice things like streetcars with their own ROW.

      Of course, if the city VLF doesn’t pass, then transit, bike, and pedestrian groups will have a hard time getting anyone to listen to them in Olympia.

  8. Now is the time to get over this debate and start designing a walkable, bikeable people friendly waterfront for Seattle with as little car/truck traffic as possible. A venue as such will bring more tourists and more residents to the city’s core, in itself reducing commuter miles.

    1. Alaskan Way (the surface route) will still be the freight route through downtown, even assuming the tunnel actually gets completed. So while I agree that a less-vehicle-filled waterfront is a great idea, let’s be realistic about freight traffic.

      1. It’ll be the freight route to Interbay. But the tunnel will carry a lot of trucks. Anything not explosive.

      2. Alaskan will carry a lot more truck traffic than the tunnel will, because north Aurora is a primarily residential neighborhood without shipping docks.

  9. Tunnel vote was disappointing but not unexpected. On another topic-why do people keep complaining about politicians, gridlock, and dissatisfaction in government when they keep re-electing incumbents over and over and over and over? Insanity for sure.

    1. Amne – it seems to be an integral part of the “Process” that we seldom throw rascals, rogues or even milqu-toasts out of office in Pugetopolis.

  10. I think having McGinn’s support on anything right now is pretty toxic. And it didn’t help that both the Cascade Bicycle Club and Tim Eyman joined with McGinn on the “No” side. Those 3 supporters cost the “No” side a lot of votes.

    But it’s time to move on. The anti-tunnel folks are free to continue their fight (as Elizabeth Campbell says she will), but I don’t see how their odds of success are any greater now then they were a week ago.

    A collaborative approach with the DBT folks is the best policy moving forward.

  11. We still have the same surface and transit needs we have always had in this corridor. We should work to fulfill those needs in a world that also includes an overpriced, useless tunnel. It isn’t the first time we have wasted billions.

    1. Right. Link light rail is a waste of many times more billions than the deep-bored tunnel.

      1. It may seem like billions of posts have been wasted debating light rail with Norman, but it really is only in the tens of thousands.

      2. Maybe we should add a “Norman” feature to the site so that it automatically posts “Light rail is a boondoggle” whenever it sees words like “overpriced” and “useless”.

  12. Consider the silver lining on the tunnel: It will expend billions of transportation dollars on a project that will significantly reduce car-carrying capacity from what it replaces, and thereby stall many other proposals for new state highways by years or decades.

    A straight-up highway-only package probably won’t even get out of the legislature next year, since the Democratic majority still remembers getting burned on the deal they had with the Republican campaign committees not to use their votes in support of the last package as a campaign issue against them. Other than Haugen, all the swing Democrats will think thrice before agreeing to such a deal again.

    Meanwhile, the federal government will do a lot less giving out of money to states. Before the US lost its AAA credit rating, it was a better deal for taxpayers to fund lots of big projects through the feds than through state and local governments with lots of lower credit ratings. Now, the math has shifted.

    1. Also, we know that we’re not getting a viaduct rebuild (thank god!). And we’re definitely getting the street grid rebuilt across Aurora for a few blocks.

  13. Now is the time to press Jane Hague to push reforms of Metro that will create more efficiency without reducing funding or costing money. While she survived the primary, it looks like it will be a close, bitter November contest.

    The low-hanging fruit of a cash surcharge when boarding the bus, requiring RRFP users to use ORCA product rather than as a flash pass to pay with cash, and pushing the end of paper transfers (a push that needs to come from the suburbs since Metro sees these as primarily benefiting the suburban two-seat riders) would be great hood ornaments in her re-election campaign, if she has the patience to spend any more time on Metro issues. Our own urban county councilmembers show no interest in pushing anything that might rile up a social service agency. But if the issues are pushed, using the already-done report on fare consolidation that Metro has selectively ignored, then we can round up the votes.

    Pushing ORCA use is going to be key to preventing bus gridlock in October 2012, and is probably the only revenue-positive element of the list of changes to downtown transportation that need to accompany the shutdown of the viaduct.

  14. A couple facts and observations. The Times said that the county was expecting a 52% voter turnout, but as of yesterday afternoon it was only 20%. Of course a lot of people may vote on the last day, but it suggests that 80% of the voters don’t care enough about the tunnel or the councils to vote. (They could be away on vacation, but that happens every August.)

    Second, the next legislative redistricting will add a new district in Eastern Washington, and stretch Seattle’s districts further into the rural lands, to account for population changes. That suggests louder anti-transit, anti-tax voices in the Legislature for the next decade. (Of course, the trend has now reversed, with most growth occurring in Seattle apartments, but it’ll take ten years for that to be reflected in the districts, and it could reverse again.)

    Third, people like to vote for things they want without paying for them. So people want a highway and vote for it, without regard to what they can’t get because of the highway. They don’t want taxes or tolls so they vote against them, even though those could pay for the highway and other things they want.

    1. Third, people like to vote for things they want without paying for them

      I would really like to see a “no revenue-negative initiatives” constitutional amendment. The idea is that any initiative/referendum on the ballot would be required to offset any spending increases or tax cuts with spending decreases and/or tax increases. This could include debt financing, but in that case, it would have to include a long-term revenue source (or spending cut), starting immediately, that would eventually pay off the incurred debt.

      Of course, this would never pass in a million years. But I can dream :)

Comments are closed.