The final results won’t be known for some time, but it’s clear the Seattle Transportation Benefit District Proposition 1, the $60 Vehicle License fee for transit, road, bike, and pedestrian improvements, is going to lose badly. There are a lot of possible explanations, but there aren’t a lot of polls and I think a lot of people are going to see what they want to see in the results. And of course, why people say they vote no and why they actually vote no can be two different things. In that spirit, I’ll lay out some possibilities without really picking between them.

  • Too regressive: I think this argument was factually oversold but politically very effective. Unfortunately, there are no other revenue options, and after this vote more authority from the legislature is a pipe-dream. So there’s not much constructive advice for transportation advocates in this analysis.
  • Too big: $60 is large enough that its regressive nature begins to bite. If the City goes smaller, it’ll have to focus on the least controversial elements, which are probably potholes, pedestrians, and faster transit; meaning less bikes, less planning, less trolleybus, and less “transit access.”
  • Too small: with a $200m total budget spread over every transportation interest group in the city, there wasn’t a signature project that everyone could rally around. If it had been more like a Sound Transit measure, with one huge program (say, $80 over 20 years to get HCT to Ballard) and a few smaller ones to provide some geographic equity, it might have done better.
  • Too McGinn: the Mayor is a lightning rod for bike and transit skeptics that Mayor Nickels never was, even with virtually identical policies. He wasn’t very visible in the campaign, but he’s fairly unpopular and voters saw him as driving this agenda.
  • Too vague: One reason to despise the initiative / referendum / proposition process is that complexity is the kiss of death, which is a terrible criterion to make policy. Regardless, there are three master plans and yet little sense of what projects would have emerged. Voters who don’t read STB mostly didn’t know anything about priority bus corridors. If the TMP had been ready in time*, the measure could have actually promised to build a specific set of them and put them on a big map to mail out, rather than saying “trust us.”

If you have evidence for one of these beyond what your circle of like-minded friends told you, I’d be interested to hear it. My suspicion is that this is like most things and it’s a combination of everything.

* Council-induced delays in starting the TMP last summer look especially bad in retrospect.

104 Replies to “Prop. 1 Loses Badly”

  1. 100 percent correct. Great analysis. I would have put too vague on the top and expanded a bit more, but this is it. Please staple a copy of this article to the Mayor, his staff, and the city council. Or masking tape, your choice.

  2. I heard a lot of people complaining that they don’t want any more license fees- I don’t think many people really understood that this was the only tool available.

  3. As someone in far north Seattle, I didn’t see any real benefit from Prop 1 for the amount I was being charged. More than anything else, we need sidewalks. We’ve needed them for 60 years. And this was only going to give us a thimbleful of sidewalks compared to the vague “transit improvements” that overwhelmed the proposal.

    This felt like a bone being thrown Capitol Hill while the rest of the city got almost nothing.

    1. It doesn’t matter now, but as someone with a long bus commute you have the most to gain time-wise from speed improvements to bus corridors.

      I have no idea why you think these projects would disproportionately benefit Capitol Hill.

      1. …except it did very little for the parts of the city half the city forgets are part of the city. I voted yes, but with a very heavy heart.

        I’m tired of being expected to pay for things for communities with much more money. It wasn’t just Capitol Hill, but Fremont, Ballard, Queen Anne, etc all have plenty of nice things. We barely have sidewalks, and Streets for All didn’t do anything about that. Or the fact that the bus sits in traffic that isn’t going to be fixed by messing with signal timing. Or that we didn’t get more bus trips like we were promised to make up for people going around to avoid the 520 tolls because “there’s no funding,” and that’s only going to get much worse.

        It’s not self-interest to ask that communities that are not well-off got something from this. The utter lack of improvements for those of us whose neighbors would be hardest-hit ended up dooming the measure.

      2. The priority bus corridors are everywhere; unless you’re in a very low-density neighborhood I’m not sure what’s being left out.

        There were, in fact, pedestrian improvements. If a similar share of ped funding is just going to win zero votes and inspire complaining there isn’t more for walkers, maybe the answer is to zero out ped funding in the next package.

      3. I saw several complaints that the measure promised to install sidewalks but would only add an estimated nine block faces per year. I think it would be far better if the measure didn’t promise any sidewalks at all, rather than deliver something so meek that it won’t garner any support.

        I love sidewalks. I want to see the entire city covered with sidewalks. Every last block. I walk to buses along sidewalk-lacking arterials in Greenwood and it sucks and makes me not want to take the bus there.

        But I think people grossly underestimate how much it costs to install new sidewalk somewhere (it’s much larger than the add-on cost when you’re already building a road). Enacting even the first phase of the Pedestrian Master Plan would cost $840 million and there would still be thousands of block faces left without sidewalks after that. And if we had spent 100 percent of the Prop. 1 money on pedestrian improvements, we’d only be able to get a quarter of that phase done after 10 years! The full proceeds of a $60 car tab would only cover the stage after 40 years, and leave us with lots of streets that still lack sidewalks.

        Meanwhile, I can think of ways to spend $204 million that would benefit a much larger number of people (such as priority bus corridors). Let alone $840 million or the billions required to actually achieve full sidewalk coverage.

      4. Martin, dw’s comment is exactly what I was saying. “For the amount I was being charged.”

      5. Meh on the sidewalks-as-social-justice meme.

        Sidewalks are great, but the cost:benefit ratio is abysmal in most of the places screaming for them. They’re asking for a massive and disproportionate subsidy from every other city resident, and that cannot and should not be whitewashed.

        I pay $432 more annually than I did 5 years ago for a transit system that remains grossly inadequate, despite the fact that I also pay a square-footage premium to live in the center of a prominent urban village. I pay ever-increasing sales taxes on necessities and other very basic purchases, just to maintain increasingly skeletal government services.

        So why should I pay any amount of money (much less a significant amount) for sidewalks that have quite literally no use to anyone but the 7-15 residents of some Bitter Lake cul-de-sac? (And even then, only on the rare occasions that they will actually walk somewhere.)

        It’s just a bad investment, and not one that I should feel obligated to prioritize.

      6. The pedestrian and bike improvements should be focused in the same corridors getting transit improvements. So sidewalk money should be focused on any TMP corridors that don’t already have sidewalks and on major routes for accessing those corridors.

      7. d.p.,

        Look at the Pedestrian Master Plan. We’re not building sidewalks on Bitter Lake cul-de-sacs. What little money we have for new sidewalks is going to arterials, transit access and safe routes to schools projects.

    2. If the city wanted to throw a bone to Capitol Hill then they would have paved our streets, which have to be the worst in Seattle.

    3. We really need to work on understanding that new sidewalks are tremendously expensive, and figure out a way to pay for them. Or decide that we’re willing to redesign our residential streets to provide walking capacity without the expense of curb/gutter sidewalks and the required drainage work ($$$). I grew up in a neighborhood without sidewalks, and believe me I understand how much that sucks. But we could have put all of the dollars Prop 1 would have raised into sidewalks, and we still would only fund 25% of Tier 1 projects in the Pedestrian Master Plan. That’s $200 million in new sidewalks, folks. Not that such an alignment would have ever got through the CTAC folks to get on the ballot in the first place.

    1. LID is pretty much the only way the streetcar will be expanded. There are other ways but the LID would be the easiest.

      $18 million to study for streetcar routes though… Way too much money when there are several analyst already done… Do the 4/5th Ave Couplet, kill the 1st Ave Streetcar (I’m basing this solely on traffic congestion/reliably, not the waterfront streetcar) and extend the FHS to Aloha.

      And yes, sidewalks are needed greatly… It is amazing how many communities don’t have these simple things that should have been built from the get-go…

  4. I’m a transit blogger and carless urbanite, and even I barely voted yes. It may have been the only tool we were given, but it was still the wrong tool, and (however unfairly) it easily reinforced combative models of cultural subsidy…us vs them… ad infinitum. Asking for new taxes is like branding…you should do it sparingly and you should do it well. No peanut butter hodgepodge project list is worth losing dear political capital over.

    1. You summarized my feelings exactly. I reluctantly voted Yes because of the few good projects funded by Prop 1, not because it was an overall well-put-together package. I am not surprised to see it fail, and honestly part of me is secretly happy that we won’t be funding dubious projects like the high-speed Westlake streetcar.

      We should’ve picked the worthwhile projects (trolley wire, 4th/5th streetcar couplet) and promoted them as their own, lower-cost VLF.

    2. I had to hold my nose to vote yes, but spent a ton of time explaining to “middle of the road” voters I know how the regressive nature of the measure was the Legislature’s fault, not the city’s.

  5. I, for one, didn’t vote for Prop 1, instead choosing the write-in option: “Remove I-5 and institute a $10/gal gas tax.”

    Oh, wait, that’s not actually an option on the ballot, and the state wouldn’t let us do it if we wanted to. Maybe I should start an initiative campaign…

    1. Fortunately, it wouldn’t cost anything to dismantle I-5, developers could immediately start building on the new real estate, and the soil would be clean enough for urban farms.

  6. I think all those things played a role (at least for some voters too big/too small) but I think the economy is what really did it.

    In an environment where government is laying off social servants right and lift and social safety nets are evaporating and people are worried about their finances and jobs, I think many people said felt that it is important to preserve funding for basic services (thus the passage of family/education levy), but felts that it is over reach to expand funding for transportation.

    Seattle has a long record of passing tax packages for transportation, and it will continue to do so, but in the mean time the need to invest more in transportation will be eclipsed by the struggle for government to maintain basic services.

      1. Maybe we wouldn’t have if the measure had included $60 car tabs to pay for it.

        It’s one thing when your elected leaders assure you there’s enough in the coffers to pay for something. It’s quite something else when they ask you to pay for it out of your own wallet.

    1. I disagree. If it was about tax revolt, the much larger Families & Ed levy would have been defeated, or at least close. It won by the same margin Prop 1 lost by.

    2. I said on the election open thread that I wouldn’t be surprised if this came off even to transit and bike supporters as a pet project of transit and bike blogs. Part of that, of course, was spreading the pie too thin and being too vague.

      1. That’s why I said we needed real capital projects when I editorialized for the full $80.

  7. I ended up voting no because I didn’t feel the split of spending priorities was worth the increased taxes. The final straw for me was seeing the current city budgeting for next year cutting back maintenance enough to completely negate any benefit of this proposition.

    I’d be interested in seeing new transit systems submitted as a separate fully funded measure rather than partially funded studies with no clear indication how a project would be fully implemented i.e. I doubt SoundTransit could have passed in phases. We needed as a region to fully commit to get it going.


    1. Actually seeing another measure that would dedicate funding to social services and parks would have been welcomed. given the reduction in community center hours, wading pool closures, and general cutback in parks maintenance, a companion measure addressing that may have helped Prop. 1.

      instead it came across a “pile on” on top of King County’s increase…

  8. I think “Too Vague” was the biggest factor followed by “Too Regressive.” The lack of a clear project list and difficulty differentiating these funds from what Bridging the Gap will/might/should fund made it a tough sell and adding on the streetcar planning decreased the urgency of the street maintenance backlog message.

  9. Two critiques are correct: Too regressive and Too vague.

    Even I couldn’t spin the regressive tax that had Bill Gates in a Limo paying the same as a janitor in a junker.

    And I still could not explain what Prop 1 was supposed to be for.

    But your other points are incorrect, and a bad attempt at personal vengeance.

    1. You’re saying nobody could have believed those things? Or you don’t believe them? I don’t quite get what you’re trying to say since they’re just suggestions for some possible problems people might have had. And he specifically says they aren’t all true…

  10. Give the voters an ala carte choice. $20 for road maintenance and repairs. $20 for transit improvements. $20 for bike/pedestrian improvements.

    1. I could agree with this but I would have voted against it if it contained anything for bikers… Sorry guys…

      1. As a biker, I’d vote against transit, street cars are a menace, buses block my way and run me down on 3rd ave, but road improvements, well I ride on those so I’ll vote for that… sorry guys.

        No, seriously really that’s why we have a Republic instead of a direct democracy, we do a bit of horse trading to each get a bit of what we want.

        For me the worst thing about this tax was that was totally regressive and out of proportion to the damage each vehicle does. (Garbage trucks and buses do way more to destroy roads than cars do.) And what was up with that Bicycle Master plan? They haven’t finished with the last one.

  11. I think every point Martin makes is valid, it seems that are just debating how much weight to attribute to each one, which is really a question that can’t be answered with any certainty in the absence of detailed polling data. So in a sense, it doesn’t matter, because all of these points will have to be addressed in any future measure, and we can’t say much more than that.

  12. As a commuting bicyclist I see up close how poorly the city maintains it’s side streets. I’m not a Seattle Resident so I don’t get to vote, but clearly the city needs to get out with the tar/sealant truck and seal up the cracks before more water gets in and breaks up the pavement worse than it already is. Yes greenways are good for bikes, but smooth roads would help everyone.

    We didn’t need a study to do the basics that are already on the books.

    Also as a bicyclist I hate street car tracks. They are a menace to riders. Folks at my office have fallen after riding across them even though they’ve been warned.
    As a service, the SLUT is a failure (cost/time saved benefit) The short distance it runs negates any time savings it has speed wise. Not having signal priority also slows it down unnecessarily. And being an able bodied person, I can walk faster than it runs. Extend it a few more miles to say the UW or Freemont and then it might make sense but for now, what a waste of our transportation dollars.

    1. If you can walk faster than the SLUT (assuming you start at the same time) for more than a couple of stops, you walk far quicker than the average person, an observation confirmed by the routine heavy loads the SLUT carries in the peaks.

      1. [ad hominem]

        Oh on timing, I’m accounting for the fact that the street car runs every 15 minutes which gives me on average a 7 1/2 minute lead as I don’t wait for it to leave Westlake.

      2. Headways on the SLUT could be better optimized. If I had my druthers I’d cut Sunday service on the SLUT and use the money to run at 10-minute headways for an hour or so in the AM peak, just as now happens in the PM peak. This makes transfers more convenient and helps minimize the start-time disadvantage for short trips.

    2. Tracks are not a menace – they aren’t out to get bicycle riders. This entire summer I rode down the “sidewalk” of East Marginal way from about 16th ave s to Boeing Access Rd 2-3 times a week. I chose the sidewalk because traffic on East Marginal Way goes about 40-45mph and drivers routinely honked at me if I was taking a lane.

      On the west side of the street you have to cross railroad tracks about 4-5 times as the “sidewalk” weaves back and forth. I never once fell down on them. Maybe I’m wrong and they are dangerous, but what am I doing right that others aren’t?

      I agree with you on the speed of the SLUT – too slow. That corridor with that level of investment deserves faster service. I don’t know what can be done about it, other than perhaps more effective signal preemption. Good thing it was heavily subsidized by non-tax dollars for construction and operation.

      1. I claim “menace” because even crossing the tracks at a 90 degree angle, at my office we’ve had bicycle commuters fall. And the tracks weren’t even wet. Nevermind the folks riding parallel to them who have ridden their tires into the track grove tossing them onto the pavement in front of traffic. I could call them a public nuisance but they do more damage to people on a regular basis.

      2. [Brett] Just because you’ve been lucky, doesn’t mean they’re not dangerous. A lot of people get hurt every year from tracks. That said, streetcars and bikes can play well together with proper design (generally: don’t let the two interact, except at right angles).

      3. The Lance wannabees really need to stop trying to ride around the city on their 19mm wide carbon fiber razor blades and get some sensible tires (or a more sensible bike if they can’t fit sensible tires).

        28mm is about a bare minimum for city riding and 32mm is better. Those are still on the narrow side but usually about as wide as you can go on most road bikes.

        If you’ve got the room go for 38mm, 42mm, or even 50mm tires. I’ve got 42mm tires on my cross and love them.

      4. Come to think of it, perhaps the size of your bicycle tires have something to do with it. I ride a commuter bike with tires that are slightly wider than a typical road bike. Also, I’ll admit the tracks I so frequently crossed are little-used and not nearly as polished/slippery as the SLUT tracks.

        Still, I think “menace” is the wrong word and as Matt points out a little engineering and thought can go a long way to keeping bicycles and tracks from mixing at angles of incidence that are less than 90. Streetcar tracks do not need to be at odds with bicycle riders; it is a very solvable problem.

      5. Yep easily solved. Elevated tracks.

        At a minimum, move the tracks from the Right lane to the center lanes.

        As for tire size, you have to go bigger than 35mm to not fit into that grove. That’s a Mt. Bike tire designed for off road use.

        And wet tracks are still slippery as heck, even crossing them at a 90 degree angle.

      6. I absolutely hate the streetcar tracks, as my only interaction with them is on a bike, never on a streetcar. I had one fall a few years ago and now, I’m super cautious. I avoid riding down Westlake whenever possible and, when I do, I ride in the left lane and let cars pass me on the right because it’s safer than tripping and falling over the tracks. And when I take Stewart St. into downtown, I treat the streetcar tracks at 5th Ave as a virtual stop sign, even if the light is green.

        Gary is absolutely right that the SLUT line, as it is, is too short and too slow to be useful. When wait time is taken into account, it’s only barely faster than walking if you’re traversing the entire line. Even without considering wait time, you can easily keep up with it on the sidewalk by jogging or skateboarding. The SLUT should never have gotten built.

  13. I voted yes but knew it was destined to failure. I think the regressive argument is weak and that it mostly failed because there wasn’t a single shiny project to show a picture of. Granted, the underlying problem (as many have pointed out) is that it was the wrong taxing mechanism to start with.

    We should have put a $30 tab fee with the promise that we would build two of Matt The Engineer’s gondola lines, maybe Queen Anne -> SLU -> Capitol Hill and West Seattle to Sodo station lines! Still unlikely to pass, but it would have had the shiny part covered ;-)

    1. That $1.15 / week tax on cars was too burdensome! So, anyone using that line working to restore the old manner of value-based tab fees? I haven’t seen a word about that anywhere. Guess regressive taxes are fine as they are.

      Glad to see more enthusiasm for Matt’s idea, I think it’s great. But then, I thought the monorail was a good idea with a terrible funding mechanism, think about everytime I’m downtown and listen to it pass by with half the sound of a bus. Too bad the 4 elections until it loses one model isn’t going to be applied to the damned tunnel.

      A sidewalks for the whole city program might get traction if implementation was done over a not quick ten years or so, but as a north city walking resident it seems there are a fair number of homeowners that consider the lack of sidewalks a feature- more free parking and fewer strangers (neighbors) walking past being their property.

      1. I’m not a huge gondola/tram fan, but installing one between Pioneer Square station and Harborview along Jefferson makes a heck of a lot of sense.

        As for pedestrian infrastructure I’d focus on arterials and routes to schools. This gives the most benefit to the most people and is less likely to run into those who don’t want sidewalks.

      2. We already are implementing sidewalks on arterials and for safe routes to schools. We’re just on a 60-year plan to get there.

  14. I think the biggest thing is that the cost was very specific $60 (or $120) for you, and the benefits were way too diffuse (some bus stuff, a couple of potholes, etc.).

    No one wants to pay $60 for some vague thing.

  15. I’m a fairly regular reader of this blog and a causal follower of other transit/transportation forums, but I may have missed something…

    What’s the source of all the “anti-bike” sentiment that seems to have motivated some folks to vote against Prop 1? Is this a long standing, festering issue that finally found an outlet in Prop 1 or did something happen more recently that caused this sentiment. Is it just another variant of McGinn backlash?

    1. 1. Every road diet the city has enacted, over the past 40 years. They work – they increase safety without significantly reducing traffic flow – but are hated by drivers, who see a car lane going away to be replaced by a bike lane.
      2. McGinn. I have no idea why he’s so hated – I think the guy’s doing a great job considering the circumstances (hostile council, for one).
      3. Critical Mass (does this even happen anymore?). Bikes riding slowly once a month, getting in the way of cars.
      4. Crosscut and the Seattle Times. Both have strong pro-car opinion pieces regularly, as if we’re required to make a choice between cars and bikes.

      I’m sure there’s more.

      1. Re:McGinn. Regardless of what you think of his politics, he’s a terrible politician. Among the many style issues (not substance) he has:

        * Very little consultation with other parties. He’s routinely sprang ideas on the city without talking to the other stakeholders first. This has created a lot more tension between him and the council than is necessary.

        * Disrespectful behavior. If you invite constituencies to a meeting, you don’t leave early after 20 minutes.

        * Organizational skills. Throwing out lots of initiatives that are immediately dead on arrival i.e. the merge of the 2 city departments fuels the impression that you’re ineffectual.

        * Interpersonal skills. See the council. Being polite and listening to the council members even when in disagreement would go along way to repairing the relationship. and he’s not going to get anything done if the council reflexively opposes anything he wants just because of a personality issue.

        That’s just off the top of my head.

      2. All complaints by the council, whined loudly and repeatedly, and listened to by their friends in the media. He’s not a political insider, and the institutional politicians hate that.

        He’s certainly being crushed by the council, and won’t make it to a second term. That’s a shame – I think he has good ideas.

      3. I would echo most Ben’s points about McGinn. I thought he night of the tunnel vote was a great example – he wasn’t available until later that evening and never went on camera and came off like a sore loser.

        I would compare his performance to that of Mike O’Brien, who did a great job of being the public face of the losing side and came off positive and ready to move forward. He seemed downright mayoral.

      4. McGinn is hated because he opposed the Deeply Boring Tunnel, and people think he either wants to outlaw driving or make it too expensive to drive and park in Seattle. I don’t buy the other complaints about disrespecting/not consulting the Council or others; it sounds like the complaints aren’t really about those things but about the fact that he disagrees with them.

    2. Change is another big factor. The days of easy to recover fossil fuel are over and that means an end to automobiling as currently practiced. We haven’t upgraded our electrical grid so electric cars aren’t the answer either.

      So when people like McGinn suggest that we should invest in transit and bicycling and walking, it’s a major threat to people. If you own a house a long distance (by foot, or bicycle, or with poor transit service) you are going to lose value in it. Because the next buyer will have to factor in the increased cost of living there. People’s houses are one of the largest assets they have and this news threatens that.

      Fairness is another big issue, and obfuscation of how roads are funded. Every car driver sees the tax at the pump and when they register their car. What they don’t realize is how small in proportion that money is toward the total cost of the roads. So they think they are paying more than their fair share toward roads and bicyclists and transit riders (who pay far less than the total cost at the fare box) are getting a better deal than they are. What they don’t understand is how much of the roads are financed by property taxes which everyone pays, renters included.

      Traffic is another issue. When you see someone weaving past you while you are stuck in traffic, you can blame them, and hate them for being not stuck.

      Rouge riders is another pet peeve. No matter that cars roll through stop signs, run red lights, and speed, it’s so common no driver sees it. But when a bicyclist does it, look out! Law breakers everywhere! I’m not defending anybody’s right to break the traffic laws but the response by drivers is way out of line with the consequences of the action.

  16. My rant about “vague”: Being vague is what I liked most about this bill. We, as an electorate, do not have the time to understand the cost effectiveness of every individual bus bulb, and should not be expected to vote at that level of detail. We hire experts that work for our city to do that for us. This bill was simply telling the voters that the city is underfunded to achieve its goals, and if we want better services we need to pay for them.

    Of course the real issue is that our state has a massive tax phobia, which leaves us with underfunded government. Under a proper government, sidewalks and bus bulbs would be funded by our general (sales, business, land, and income) taxes, and we’d save direct votes for large projects like light rail. But our city isn’t getting by on the crumbs allowed by Olympia.

    The real solution is tax reform at the state level. It’s a big hill to climb, and we have seemingly endless anti-tax republicans in our state, but it needs to be done if we want to improve our city. The good news is, if that tax reform includes an income tax, we can actually taxes can be progressive rather than regressive.

    1. Our state has a moderate tax phobia. For a massive tax phobia, see Texas and Mississippi, and in between, California.

    2. “Being vague is what I liked most about this bill. We, as an electorate, do not have the time to understand the cost effectiveness of every individual bus bulb, and should not be expected to vote at that level of detail. We hire experts that work for our city to do that for us.”

      The problem is that in this country, we have very little trust in government to do what’s best for us as opposed to what’s best for themselves or their friends. This is also why this state is so anti-tax.

  17. Concrete cost, fuzzy benefits, cluttered ballot, crap economy—you name it. Bad idea, bad timing, badly written, badly marketed. Some business folks downtown were fooled by bad polling.

      1. This tax should have focused 100% on road repair. It affects all modes of transportation. It’s an easy sell, “if we repair the roads now, we’ll save on not having to replace pavement later.”

      2. If you’re content to make zero progress on all other areas, but then why have a measure at all?

      3. ’cause the roads are in badly need of repair. And the sooner the city seals the cracks, the less damage will occur, the lower the overall cost of maintenance/replacement.

        Once you break the cycle of high cost of repairs, you then have money to spend on other things.

      4. “was there a path forward”

        Yes, but it was 10 years ago. When Mayor Nickels forced an up/down vote on the Monorail, he effectively killed rapid transit from West Seattle to Ballard. If he had done what Sound Transit did when faced with cost overruns, restructure and replan, we’d have built a system that would have taken 40K people out of their cars.

        Then when the viaduct replacement/tunnel/surface option came up, we wouldn’t be looking at digging a $2Billion dollar tunnel as reasonable. We’d still have work to do to help move freight, but we’d already have built something to move people.

        And if we dug any tunnels we’d be looking at a second tunnel for Light Rail.

        As it turned out, we wasted ALL the money we collected and spent on that project.

        So yes, there was a “way forward.”

      5. Not sure there was a path forward for this particular election, Martin. Between the economy, the electorate’s mood, the family and ed levy, and the recent KC Metro car-tab fee, it was probably a task too tall.

        A narrower and more carefully crafted proposition anchored around a tangible project with good visuals and supported with better messaging would have had a decent shot now, and would have passed comfortably on a different ballot in a better economy. At least there’s a presidential election around the corner.

        My two cents, anyway.

      6. I would have campaigned against the measure if it had been all (or even > 50%) about road repair.

  18. “There were, in fact, pedestrian improvements.”

    A very, very small percentage of the package, and everyone knows that money would have been redirected anyway.

    1. “Everyone knows?”

      Do you have any basis for that? It wasn’t redirected for Bridging the Gap.

    2. More money than there was for bike projects, a fact the mainstream media and many commenters conveniently forgot. More importantly, who’s “everyone”? Pedestrian advocates certainly wouldn’t have let Council forget.

  19. I agree with all the people who say this was too vague. I don’t live in the city limits, so I didn’t have a say, but I would have voted for it if I did. But it was really hard to keep all of the improvements straight in my head even following the issue on STB regularly.

    The next step is a suite of separate improvements for 2012. One measure for road repair. Another for bus service. Another for sidewalks (really, we should have a dedicated multi-year fund to do just this, given the large number of north-end streets without any sidewalks at all). Another for streetcar funding. Another for bike facilities. I don’t think all of them would pass even with the more tax-friendly 4-year election electorate. But some of them would, and something is better than nothing.

    1. I’d hazard that would lead to voter fatigue. The initiative process is not intended to be an ad hoc budgeting tool. Its a valid means for getting a voter mandate on a general direction to take.

      Instead I’d argue that most of these items are regular budgeting items and instead the city ought to concentrate on increasing its general funds. I’d push on either increasing the B&0 or Property Tax rates (granted both difficult issues).


  20. I don’t see how anyone can claim Prop 1 failed because of McGinn support. He was if anything even more behind the family/education levy which sailed through. As far as opposition to bikes McGinn has made the issue front and center so I suppose all the folks that don’t realize bike riders pay property taxes and therefore the roads they ride on have become more vocal in response. Overall I think there are a lot more bicycle converts than new recruits to the war on bikes.

    1. It doesn’t matter that McGinn was trying to distance himself for Prop 1 – everyone knew it was his baby anyway. Just like when Bill Clinton tried to distance himself from Al Gore in 2000 – in the eyes of the electorate, a vote for Gore was a vote for Clinton. It’s the same here – a vote for Prop 1 is a vote of confidence in Mike McGinn.

      Given the result of the election, which frankly should not have been a surprise for reasons we have all stated, I do place a bit of blame on the politicians who wasted the time putting it on the ballet in the first place. They should have realized that it was going to fail up front and either saved it for a future year, come up with a list of very concrete, specific proposals, or scaled it back.

      Instead, we get a strong statement from voters that transit priority improvements and especially bike improvements are not something the city should be spending scare taxpayer dollars to pay for. While I like the principles McGinn stands for, I feel that as a person, he has unwittingly done his own cause far more harm than good. I can’t wait to see him go and I hope whoever replaces him can learn from his mistakes and do a better job.

      1. I think you’re missing the point. If McGinn’s endorsement was a death knell, then why did the family/education levy pass?

      2. Because it’s not a transportation measure. Because people feel strongly about schools and preparing the next generation. Maybe it passed in spite of McGinn rather than because of him.

  21. I just want to say this… the $60 car tab fee lost because we called it the $60 car tab fee (supporters and opponents alike). If we could have called it something based on what it built, it would have passed.

  22. Well, I don’t know the tens of thousands of reasons Prop 1 failed. But I do have some idea what I’d like to see different if we get a second shot:

    1. Make the existing streetcars (i.e. including FHSC) work better and faster, and reach Aloha St, before trying again to sell any extensions. (Indeed, Vulcan ought to be willing to pony up some money for the improvements for the SLUS.)
    2. More money for sidewalks. As an edge-city voter, I can show you plenty of places where missing pedestrian infrastructure is a strong barrier to getting to a bus stop. On that point, David Miller is right. The rest was just campaigning.
    3. Please do *not* make more bus hours part of any new package. The point, though lost in the debate, is to create new bus hours through efficiencies on existing runs, which means building the efficiency infrastructure where it affects the most runs (i.e. starting with downtown).
    4. Designate a portion of the road repair money for bridges. Some of this commitment should help leverage federal dollars.
    5. We may as well try for a property tax increase, since the success of the Children & Families Levy shows Seattleites have a strong tolerance for property tax increases. Some in that campaign may appreciate that we tried for a different (and greener, IMHO) revenue source, and return the love.
    6. Please, oh please, don’t insert any sub-area equity rules. That just backfires on the edge city.
    7. And please, no more refrains of “You should move closer to density.” I already walk to work. That hasn’t done wonders for my access to mobility.

    1. “Make the existing streetcars (i.e. including FHSC) work better and faster, and reach Aloha St, before trying again to sell any extensions.”

      Aloha Street is an extension. I don’t understand why it gets singled out here.

      Connecting the South Lake Union and First Hill streetcars would dramatically improve the utility of the whole system, and should be a first priority for any modification to the streetcar system.

      1. The Aloha streetcar extension is a vote-getter, as the idea is wildly popular on Capitol Hill.

        The technical numbers pencil out well on the 4th/5th streetcar couplet, *but* it draws the ire of many voters who are bound and determined to hate Paul Allen. One such Paul Allen hater was one of the two most ardent campaigners in the No on 1 campaign.

        Frankly, I’d be delighted with a measure that would simply do all the efficiencies we can (for a reasonable cost) for the bus system, with money for sidewalks solely for connecting to buses thrown in. We’ve passed all-transit measures before. If we go for a property tax increase, do we really need to spend any of it on pavement?

      2. Also, I’d rather wait until there are fewer buses on 4th and 5th before taking those lanes for a streetcar. The bus/streetcar interjam would be a loser of future propositions if the connector streetcar gets built too quickly.

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