Martin is correct that the media will likely spin a VLF defeat as a vote against taxes, but from the (normal, non-transit) people I talk to, the VLF’s largest problem isn’t that it’s a tax, but that it doesn’t do enough. Imagine if Obama had run on a campaign of “hope and a little bit of change”. “We’re not going to do all that much, just a little”. No one would be surprised a candidate with that slogan could not make it past an early primary. Why would we be surprised if the VLF whose slogan is essentially that goes down to defeat?
Martin also mentions that the $100 VLF is all the state has given the city to work with for transportation, which is sadly true. I tried to make the point in my post the other day that Seattle should be more aggressive in getting taxing authority for transportation. I think there are a number of reasons to go for this approach, including Seattle’s unique transportation needs and its willingness to approve large projects.
Seattle has different transportation needs from other cities in the state, particularly when it comes to transit, walking and biking. As I said the other day, if the city doesn’t going after taxing authority we’ll never get the transportation systems we want. Even if we let Sound Transit do all the heavy lifting for rail transit, we’ll still have to wait decades to get the correct amount for Seattle, and voters in other parts of the Sound Transit district might decide they have the right amount of transit and stop approving new projects before we get to a place where Seattle’s needs are being met.
Seattle could build large projects if it wanted to. We know this because Sound Transit has managed to build Central Link, is currently building U-Link and will build North Link and the First Hill Streetcar with mostly funding from Seattle. Seattle on its own was able to build the SLU streetcar prototype, while not a big project, it showed that the city can build rail on its own. Similarly Portland, which is both smaller and less affluent than Seattle, has been able to build its streetcar with entirely in-city money. The funding capacity for more ambitious projects are here in the city limits. It’s just a matter of getting the authority from Olympia.
Seattle voters like large projects and usually approve them. I believe there is solid evidence that larger transit projects can be successful with Seattle. I hate to bring this up, but Seattle voted for the monorail project at least five times, and have voted for Sound Transit five times now as well. However, voters don’t really understand small projects, and while “a little money here or there” might make a number of small improvements, most people want large improvements and large ideas they can point to and imagine. I would not be surprised that ballot measure full of small transit projects would fail but a ballot measure to implement the entire Seattle Streetcar system would pass or a Second Avenue subway would pass.
Obviously, I think the VLF is a good idea and want the it to pass. I just wish our elected officials would be fighting with Olympia over our ability to build the projects we want. I’m sure if they did that would find the Seattle voters to be very willing to vote yes. It’s our duty to push our elected officials in the right direction to get what we want. Otherwise, they might here the wrong message and think we won’t pay for more transit.
 From experience in the ST2 fight, the media horse-race game is more annoying than meaningful. Roads and Transit going down was supposed to be a vote against transit, though transit passed on its own a year later.
 Of which $60 is under proposal.