Yesterday, I read a short piece in the Stranger that calls on Jay Inslee, governor-elect, to push hard in a few places he hasn’t yet shown much leadership. Part of their last section really caught my attention:

Use your power to push for mass transit that makes sense in the biggest county in the state—King County. It happens to be the county that just elected you, and it also happens to be the place where you can make a significant contribution to your real passion: environmental stewardship.

We’ve just spent eight years with a governor who’s been unwilling to lead on transit. She’s put forward road and highway expansion projects, but she has done no more than the bare minimum to support transit.

Jay Inslee ran as an environmental candidate. He’s talked a lot about green jobs and renewable energy, and worked in Congress to help promote both. But at home, the greenest jobs we can possibly create are those that build transit. And the most damaging jobs we can create are those expanding our highways, literally paving the way for climate change.

Jay Inslee’s values tell me he should be a leader on both transit and land use. How he was elected, and the people elected around him this week – like Jessyn Farrell and Jake Fey – tell me the voters want him to lead on transit too.

He’s not going to do it alone – we need to tell him what we want. Personally, I want a transportation package that fixes existing roads and bridges, builds bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure wherever it makes those repairs, and funds transit – a lot of it. What we found in 2007 with the failure of Roads and Transit is that people in Puget Sound don’t want more or bigger highways – and polling since then (and that whole 2008 Sound Transit 2 blowout) shows that there are two things we all agree on: we want to fix our aging infrastructure, and we want to build more transit.

If we’re going to have a dent in climate change, the package needs to be *mostly* transit – and mostly electric transit. It needs to fund Amtrak Cascades so we can get service levels up to a point where we can argue to electrify it. It needs to give Sound Transit enough revenue to speed up their projects and get ready for more. And it needs to keep our buses funded, and give local governments funding to make capital improvements so they’re more efficient.

Maybe it should tie some of these goals to land use, to encourage our agencies and governments to zone in order to make transit, walking and biking more successful. But regardless, it should not fund projects that will increase our emissions – only projects that will decrease them while improving our economy.

So to the governor-elect, I say: I want to see you lead with your values. Don’t support projects that make our future worse. If you need our help, ask, and we’ll be there to support you.

146 Replies to “What We Need from Our New Governor”

  1. Ben;
    The counting is far from over. My friend Rob McKenna can win and likely will, Jay Inslee has a lot of nervous days ahead.
    P.S. I love this: “If we’re going to have a dent in climate change, the package needs to be *mostly* transit – and mostly electric transit. It needs to fund Amtrak Cascades so we can get service levels up to a point where we can argue to electrify it. It needs to give Sound Transit enough revenue to speed up their projects and get ready for more. And it needs to keep our buses funded, and give local governments funding to make capital improvements so they’re more efficient.”

    1. “While we all understand the McKenna camp’s desire to spin a positive story, the numbers do not lie, and he isn’t going to win.” –UW Prof. Matt Barreto

      1. Avgeek, the votes are cast. No more need for spin.

        Here’s the Seattle Times’ take:

        “But barring a big turnaround, it appears he will fall short of breaking the Republican Party’s 32-year losing streak in gubernatorial elections.

        McKenna would need to capture 52 percent of the more than 1 million ballots remaining as of Wednesday night, a Seattle Times analysis found. McKenna is currently getting 48.8 percent of the vote.

        Roughly 35 percent of the remaining ballots are in King County, where Inslee led with 63 percent of the vote to McKenna’s 37 percent.

        If the split in King County stays the same, McKenna would need 61 percent of the estimated remaining votes outside King County to pull even. McKenna is currently getting 53.4 percent outside King County.”

        To put it more succinctly, in the last million votes, McKenna needs to outperform the first two million votes by a whopping three percentage points, and he needs to accomplish that even though a full third of the remaining ballots are in a county where he’s getting spanked 63%-37%. Which means this is indeed “likely over,” but not for Jay Inslee.

        No offense, but weren’t you also the dude calling a Romney win “very likely” just a couple weeks ago?

      2. I punched some numbers and based on where the outstanding votes are by county, assuming mckenna beats his current showing by 5 percent the rest of the way he will still fall short. The only disclaimer is that assumes that the remaining vote totals reported are accurate which they may not necessarily be. But not a good sign.

    2. I am hearing from sources inside both state parties that each party’s respective voter model shows it winning the race by a small fraction of a percent. This is going to go on for a few days.

      1. McKenna is also in the Republican Information Bubble (see my comment below). I feel kind of sorry for him. There are a lot of decent people who have gotten trapped in the Bubble; if they could break out and see reality, they’d be more helpful to all of us. (They’d probably also become independents, like Charlie Crist did.)

    3. Joe, the remaining ballots are primarily from places where Inslee is leading. Given that, it doesn’t make sense that a nearly 50,000 vote lead would diminish significantly.

      1. No one here has been disrespectful. You’re being highly sensitive – you’re ALL OVER these comments going after people for making a perfectly reasonable judgment. Stop it.

      2. Well you could help by stop assuming Jay Inslee is going to win until almost all the votes are counted and remove any claim he’s the Governor-elect until the AP calls it or McKenna concedes. Thank you.

        [rant]Whether you like it or not Ben, we conservatives matter. Furthermore, by dissing us on the Right you don’t help those of us in the minority of the conservative movement who actually do stick up for transit. We can’t do a better job and then get hated on, and see our nice guy McKenna get slammed like this by people who want to disrespect not just him & his campaign but the process.[/rant]

      3. Joe, nobody dissed you. It’s not “dissing” you to assume that the person in the lead, and the statistical math about ballots coming in, are correct. You’re making things up now in order to take offense, and you need to stop.

      4. Joe, pointing out statistical facts are not insulting or ‘dissing’ anyone. Is it possible the McKenna can still win this? Yes, but extremely implausible at this point. McKenna will concede soon. Who does it hurt to start talking about our plans moving forward today instead of tomorrow?

      5. Objectively looking at the numbers and drawing our own conclusions is not being disrespectful of anything. Who cares if the AP is taking its own sweet time? Good for them. They haven’t called Florida yet, either, but anyone with any sense could see it was going blue for good about three hours after the polls closed. There is no remotely justifiable reason for us to avoid stating the obvious just because news organizations are holding off on official projections or because you and McKenna are in denial.

        Claiming that any of this is classless or personal or mean-spirited or partisan is frankly absurd. I’d say the exact same thing if McKenna and Inslee were in opposite positions. Your guy is getting spanked in King County, is going to keep getting spanked in King County, and to offset that spanking he would have to win about 62% of the remaining votes outside King County. He’s currently getting 53% of the vote outside King County. A nine point jump is not happening, barring a miracle. That’s not spin, that’s reality.

        In fact, the only partisan comment I see here is you staring at these returns and calling a McKenna win “very likely.” Channel Karl Rove much?

        And none of us are assuming anything. We’re doing arithmetic.

    4. It’s over, and it will be obvious to even McKenna pretty soon.

      Inslee will be a better governor, and I voted for him, but I was sort of looking forward to having two of Sir Dr Olson’s students duke it out 4 years from now. A McKenna–Constantine contest would have been a hoot.

      But, yes, Inslee should be good for transit, and he certainly will insist on LR on the CRC project (McKenna would have blocked it).

      So I’m happy, and we have some good opportunities ahead of us.

      1. Joe,

        I live in Vancouver and know very well how my wingnut neighbors think. For heaven’s sake, they chose a narcissistic, sociopathis multi-millionaire for the County Council over a sensible Republican who has been a State Senator in the past.

        The truth is they just don’t want to ride the Yellow Line to Portland because it has a lot of black transfer riders from Lombard and Killingsworth.

        It’s not that they don’t want the development in downtown Vancouver that it will probably bring; and it’s certainly not that they don’t want Uncle Sugar’s largesse. It’s that they think it’s “Loot Rail” and “LRT will bring crime to Clark County” (as if there isn’t enough home grown already with all the Meth labs).

        There’s a very good reason Portlanders call it “Vantucky”.

        So, if Jay is elected and wants to ram LRT down our throats here in William Clark County, I say “GO FOR IT, Gov! You really don’t need our votes! (And probably wouldn’t get many of them except in the 49th no matter what you do)”

      2. Joe,

        Come on. This is the city that wants to change its name to “Fort Vancouver” because they are annoyed at being mistaken for an internationally recognized, large, cosmopolitan city. The rest of the state might chuckle at what goes on down there, but it certainly won’t sway any rational governor into stepping away from sound environmental and transit policy and siding with the crazies instead – particularly when the other funding partners are thinking more clearly and bringing funding to the table.

        And besides, one can always argue that the vote was against the tax and not against LR per say. LR will be included on the CRC project, and Clark County will be brought along whether they like it or not. It just makes too much sense to include LR in the project. It will happen.

      3. Good luck guys. Me living up in Skagit, right now I count my blessings we got some control over the fringe element sadly running things in Fort Vancouver/Vantuckey.

        I mean that, good luck. 99% of commenters here do want transit to succeed for the long term.

      4. The one upside is that the Vancouver, WA vote on light rail is perceived as a rejection of the Columbia River Crossing (which, y’know, it actually *is* a rejection of).

        The CRC is a monstrosity, ineffective at every stated purpose other than the light rail, and also not the best way to get light rail into Vancouver, WA. At this point, it basically seems like it was a scheme to get “transit/rail” funding and support for a really poorly thought out superhighway project.

        So if the CRC is stopped, maybe in 6 years a more reasonable light rail project will pass. I know, I know, that’s not a wait we want to have, but that’s the silver lining viewpoint.

    5. Stick a fork in it, McKenna lost. If the vote margin was reversed Inslee might win based on King Counties ability to “find” ballots like they did in the Gregoire Rosi race. But it’s over an McKenna acting like a spoiled sport brat will only eliminate him from any political future in this state.

      1. Watch this 1st and change your tone:

        Team McKenna can win and I don’t appreciate the mean-spirited postings. It’s NO way to advocate for transit.

        Sort of like how a certain blog wants to help transit but when Republican councilmembers bucked their own base didn’t get a sincere thank you…

        Practical question: Do you guys just want it to be the Democratic Party versus the Taxed Enough Already Party in a few years, is this it? How is that going to help transit users who primarily use the same buses McKenna supports?

      2. That math is insane.

        It’s Thursday. The mail is fast. There are NOT 1/4 million more ballots out there that have yet to arrive in the hands of election officials.

        McKenna is getting crushed in King. Lots of outstanding King votes is bad for him, not good.

        The good news is that whatever the guy in that video is smoking is presumably now legal.

      3. Joe,

        McKenna spent his entire adult life preparing to become governor and I can understand his disappoint at not achieving his goal. Realistically this is his best, and probably only, shot at the Governor’s mansion, but that doesn’t change the math. As vote counting continues he is losing, he’s not making up any ground, and there is no indication of any trendlines in the data that would point to a turn-a-round.

        But bottom line? If you support transit then you really should be against McKenna, and this blog was right to call out that position. Just like this blog was right to call out a position against Haugen. Sometimes you need to vote the “bums” out, but usually it is better not to vote them in in the first place.

      4. A thought for Randy Pepple:
        “Is this just math that you do as a Republican to make yourself feel better or is this real?” –Mygen Kelly, Fox News Anchor

      5. It is fine to say “I prefer not to concede until all the votes are counted, as a matter of principle; but I understand that it does seem that I am losing.”

        However, instead we see what amounts to self-delusion on the part of many Republican candidates (not just McKenna). This is not a good thing and I think it’s due to the creation of “their own set of facts” in the Republican media world.

    6. Avgeek, you seem to be succumbing to the Republican News Media Bubble. Please, get out.

      Stop listening to the right-wing media; they lie. There are millions of Romney supporters — including Romney! — who were certain he was going to win, even though every hard-headed analysis of the numbers said he had very little chance. This is because of the reality-denial bubble — the same one which denies climate change, the same one which denies evolution, the same one which claims that cutting taxes on billionaires helps the economy (it doesn’t, as historical evidence shows) — this same bubble also now denies statistics and polling.

      It’s very dangerous to get into an information bubble, and folks like Roger Ailes at Fox News have done their best to create one. The information bubble is the first step to a cult. Get out of it!

  2. May I suggest that you re-frame this article as an Open Letter to Jay Inslee and post it here and send it to him via twitter and other means and encourage people to re-tweet/post?

      1. It would be a waste of paper/electrons to send such a letter to McKenna — he has his (anti-transit) mind made up.

        Inslee will be a lot better, a lot more progressive.

      2. McKenna is a friend and is pro-bus. You guys can be a lot nicer and patient.

        Just makes us more divided when stuff like this happens. Makes it harder for Republicans to support transit without support when they buck their own base to stand with us – and I think most of you know where I’m going with this.

        Me, I’d just wait a week. Both campaigns have a path to a narrow victory, but if and when McKenna wins you can count on me to stand up for transit to my friend Rob.

        Thanks guys for your understanding.

      3. Joe, McKenna has never been pro-bus. Back when he had a chance, he was anti-transit. He’s only pro-bus when that’s the alternative to light rail.

    1. We’re going to work on some more specific priorities, then we’ll write that. Hopefully early next week.

  3. One huge benefit to electrified Amtrak Cascades: electrified Sounder. Lower operating costs, lower environmental impact. Big issues: What to do south of Portland and North of Seattle? Engine changes would be a problem.

    1. It’s not like this is an unsolved problem. Metro-North and LIRR have dual-mode engines that transition between third-rail and diesel on a daily basis.

      1. Is that what the large locomotives out to Montuak do? I was curious because I noticed a third rail for a while and then it disappeared. Diesel locomotives could also run on electrified tracks, just not using the third rail.

      2. If we want high speed rail, we should have catenary, not third rail. NJ Transit has dual mode locomotives that use catenary and diesel (although I’ve heard they don’t perform well).

      3. Dual mode engines destroy most of the savings. Extra weight and mechanical complication, which is why it’s not very common in Europe.

      4. Why would dual-mode locomotives be particularly inefficient when locomotives are already diesel-electric? It seems like all you’d be adding to a diesel-electric locomotive would be some transformers and a pantograph.

      5. Electric trains are lighter, cheaper, and require far less maintenance than diesel electric. That said, I don’t think there’d be a large efficiency hit – heavy isn’t the end of the world with a train thanks to those smooth tracks they run on. Though there might be some conversion losess if diesel electrics run on a different voltage internally.

      6. Guys, instead of fighting over a currently nonexistent technical problem, how about uniting to support planning electric rail in the first place?

      7. Because “We’re with you Ben” doesn’t make a very exciting discussion.

        But we’re with you, Ben.

      8. Hahaha. Okay, fair enough. :)

        I see SEA-PDX being entirely electrified, and through trains switching to diesel there.

        I want to point out that because we have FRA weight requirements, we have a big block of concrete in one end of the train already. Putting a diesel locomotive there and running it south of PDX would work.

      9. Tim: yes, Montauk service from NY Penn Station uses the dual-mode locomotives, as does service on the Oyster Bay and Port Jeff lines from Penn Station.

        But many Montauk trains come from Flatbush Ave or Long Island CIty/Hunterspoint Ave, which permit them to run full diesels. There’s a forced change at Jamaica to the Montauk branch for many NYP customers, or at Huntington for many Port Jeff customers.

      10. Another common solution to the problem is to run electrified trains on the electrified segment, and a shorter number of diesel through trains for the whole corridor. For example, you could imagine that 80% of trains are electric and go between SEA-PDX, while the other 20% are diesel and go from Vancouver to Eugene.

        In practice, this isn’t as crazy as it sounds. It’s kind of like the difference between Cascades and Coast Starlight. People making short trips tend to gravitate towards the Cascades, since it’s got better amenities for the short trip, and they’re more likely to get a seat. But the Coast Starlight is still there, in case it happens to come at just the time you need.

        New York is somewhat of a special case, since Grand Central and Penn Stations are strictly no-diesel zones. Therefore, all trains must have some degree of electric capability to enter the city. Seattle, with its open-air stations, has no such constraint.

      11. I would actually advocate electrification all the way through to Everett, with engine changes there for service to British Columbia (what little there is).

        There’s actually a solid case for electrifying the Cascade tunnel anyway. The two places where electrification makes sense first are urban areas and mountainous areas. Think big.

        As for engines, there are several ways to do it:
        (1) dual-mode locomotives;
        (2) engine changes;
        (3) an electric engine on one end and a diesel on the other;
        (4) run diesels in electric territory for trains which go past electric territory, reserving the electric locomotives for the all-electric runs

        The third sounds stupid, but since the FRA requires very heavy cab cars, it suddenly doesn’t seem like much of a weight penalty to simply have an engine on each end. Different services can use different combinations.

        The fourth is simple operationally but is going to become less and less attractive as the price of diesel rises.

        One thing is clear though: use overhead catenary electrified at 60Hz 25kV. (Or 25-0-25, which is very similar.) Anything else is gratuitous incompatibility.

    2. You’d run an electric train the route you have electric wires, and a diesel train where you don’t. Like buses in Seattle.

      1. That is probably the best solution. Timed transfers so if someone wants to do Eugene – Vancouver, BC, it is still possible in one day. Shorter trains for Eugene – Portland, Seattle – Vancouver, and longer trains in the middle. Delays would not propagate down the line, but missed transfers would be possible. Overall, I think it would be an improvement.

      2. Portland is a nice place to transfer and has enough tracks. The Portland-Eugene route isn’t getting electrified without a fight with Union Pacific (BNSF is at least electrification-curious, UP isn’t), so it will probably end up as a transfer point if electrification starts.

        I’ve made my suggestion of running electrification all the way to Everett — and Leavenworth — already. :-)

      3. Oregon has studied an alternate route that could get it away from UP between Portland and Eugene. Interestingly, the route is called the Oregon Electric (it’s not now).

      4. aw: so far, the proposals have involved using the Oregon Electric route south of Salem. To ignore UP completely, you’d have to use it from Salem to Portland too, and that has a whole lot of problems. Even if you continue along the route all the way into Portland, the separate right-of-way runs out before Union Station. The Oregon Electric originally went on streetcar tracks down 10th Avenue, which isn’t a viable option now.

      5. Nathanael, the study I had seen involved some new trackage on a viaduct and eliminated the Oregon City station. I haven’t found the report I previously read, but it may have been integrated into the Oregon Rail Study here:

        This describes a segment using UPRR trackage between Willsburg Junction and Tualatin. This shares some trackage with WES. They also talk about moving the suburban Portland station from Oregon City to Tualatin or Willsonville.

    3. Spoiler Alert: we don’t own the tracks! And you can be double-damn betcha certain that BNSF is not gonna’ want to have a bunch of 12,000 volt spaghetti hanging over their very valuable and busy freight infrastructure.

      1. Well yeah, restricting double height containers isn’t going to fly. But does public financed transit really want to take on overhead wire maintenance? GN had that over Stevens years ago and abandon it. Maybe 10-20 years from now it makes sense but it’s not today’s fight

      2. BNSF has considered full-system electrification (due to the ever-rising price of diesel) but decided it was too pricey *for now*. BNSF would actually probably be happy if “someone else” paid for the most expensive bits of electrifying its system.

        There’s no particular problem in hanging the electrification over the top of double-stack clearance, or even over the top of the even higher aircraft parts clearance. Pantographs will go up way high. It does, however, mean raising bridges and increasing the height of tunnels, and that’s pricey.

        Of note, BNSF was perfectly happy to have overhead electrification along the Fastracks Northwest Corridor in Denver — but combined with doublestack clearance, the number of bridges which needed to be raised caused sticker shock at Denver RTD. But BNSF was perfectly happy to *do* it if someone else paid for it.

        UP, now, UP would just say no — UP is hidebound.

      3. Nathanael,

        The Boulder/Longmont route to Cheyenne carries almost entirely coal trains. North of Cheyenne it winds through a projection of the Rockies foothils to a junction with the secondary line through Casper to Billings, a few miles west of its junction with the Powder River Basin line.

        If there are double-stacks on that track, they’re there because of an outage on the high-capacity parallel line through Fort Morgan and Brush. If BNSF demanded double-stack clearances on the line through Cheyenne, that was just a clever way to look civic-minded while scuttling the project.

        Yes, “pantographs will go up way high”, but not at high speeds.

        Anyway, for one train per hour in each direction it doesn’t make economic sense. And we’re probably not even going to reach that level of service in the next fifty years. Washingtonians are too taxaphobic.

        We may be reliably progressive on all the social issues (lowest average church attendance in the country), but we like to rub our dimes together.

  4. We also need to focus on “the last mile” we can’t run trains to every nook of the county. So some funds to connect bicycle paths to neighborhoods to transit stations will help both modes of transport and be good for the environment.

    1. We need full funding of the bicycle master plan in Seattle to begin with. And we need state-driven requirements for zoning and access around HCT stations. There was a bill to do the zoning not long ago – we need to bring it back and win.

      1. What the governor can do is help the 520 project be “bicycle friendly” that will help the Seattle Master plan as well.

  5. Problem with a one-party state, the Guv doesn’t need to cater to King County, it will vote overwhelmingly to anyone with a (D) after their name for that position. So if you are always going to get that vote then you focus where you need to get a vote. So I expect transit improvements in ….Spokane and Vancouver

    1. If we convince ourselves not to go fight before we even start, then we really will get what you say. But Inslee won very narrowly – he needs to play to his base to make us turn out for his re-election. Obama won’t be at the top of the ticket.

    2. If a Democrat kicks his main constituents in the teeth like that, you primary them out.

    3. sure…..LR on the CRC. Inslee will certainly do that, as would any clear-thinker. It’s a no-brainer to tap into what has already been built on the Portland side of the river with other people’s funding…

  6. New cars are more energy-efficent than transit. And, by federal goverment law, new cars in the future will be far more energy-efficient than they are today. Already, electric cars get in the range of the equivalent of 80 to over 100 mpg. They are just too expensive now. But they will come down in price. And even gasoline and diesel engine cars can get 40 mpg or better, which again beats transit systems for energy efficiency.

    And, of course, there is the huge amount of greenhouse gases being emitted from building U-Link. That will never be made up, because new cars are more energy-efficient than Link, so there is no energy savings from people riding on Link trains vs driving cars. In fact, new cars are more energy-efficient than Link.

    In other words, transit is not “greener” than new autos. And new autos in the U.S. will continue to get greener and greener every year.

    If the new governor wants to decrease greenhouse gas emissions caused by the State of Washington, he should discourage anyone from moving here, by raising business taxes. It is population increase which has caused greenhouse gas emissions to increase. Stopping population increase is the most important thing to lower greenhouse gas emissions.

    The other thing that would really have an impact on greenhouse gas emissions is increasing telecommuting. Decrease the number of people commuting by any means, and get more people to work from home. This does not require any taxes to achieve.

    Building more transit is not going to have any effect at all on greenhouse gas emissions in our state. Telecommuting and electric — or other high-efficiency — cars and trucks could have an impact.

    1. “huge amount of greenhouse gases being emitted from building U-Link” And how much will be emitted from Seattle’s new car tunnel alone (not to mention the energy to run the thing once it’s built), ignoring all of the other roads and their maintenance.

    2. When will electric cars become cheap enough that a working-class person will be able to afford one? That means competing against used gasoline cars, not new gasoline cars.

      1. Compete on long distance trips over the mountains; not any time soon. Compete on a 5-10 mile commute trip where you don’t have to get on an expressway and do 60 mph; today. There are golf cart conversions that with government subsidies cost people from $0 to $5,000 to buy. When you start to look at operating cost they’re very competitive with what you can get for $500-$5,000 on the used market. But your range is limited to ~25-30 miles instead of virtually unlimited. You can also buy electric kit cars like the electric Bradley GT for a cost of a used Civic.

      2. Bernie,

        Can free golf cart conversions handle the counterbalance with, say, big bags of cat litter or compost? Not being snide. Serious question from a QA resident.

      3. In what would be a serious test of a clutch in an old Civic electric motors have a serious advantage with respect to their torque curve so my money would be on YES.

    3. Don’t forget to include the carbon footprint of manufacturing and disposal of cars, plus the paving of roads and highways wide enough for everyone to drive in a separate car, plus the paving of enough giant parking lots for everyone to drive everywhere.

      Finally, don’t forget that the private car isn’t the only vehicle that becomes more energy efficient with technology improvements. Buses and trains become more efficient too.

      1. The carbon footprint of manufacturing cars is MASSIVE compared to that of manufacturing trains, just because there are so many more cars per passenger.

        And the highways are actually MADE OF OIL.

    4. Electric trains simply don’t have emissions. I’m sorry, but new cars have made tiny gains, they’re still an order of magnitude more damaging. That tunneling is, again, electric, based on our almost entirely carbon neutral grid in Seattle.

      1. You’re making the mistake of arguing with Norman on his terms. (Or, arguably, responding to Norman at all.) :)

        IMHO, the best answer to this question is that it doesn’t actually matter whether the emissions per passenger-mile is smaller on transit than on private automobile. The strength of transit is that it allows us to build dense cities, in which we can have the same level of access to the destinations we care about, but with significantly fewer miles traveled on motorized vehicles.

        In other words, if everything is closer together, than many car trips get replaced by walking and biking. Transit replaces only the trips for which those modes are insufficient.

        Obviously, you (Ben) know this, but I think it’s worth pointing out for other people who might read this thread. If we start talking about whether a train takes less energy to transport a person a certain distance than a car does, the conversation quickly gets into minute details like the expected loads on transit vehicles at different times, or wear on pavement, etc. Those are important and interesting, but when it comes to transit’s effect on the environment and sustainability, it’s missing the point.

        Transit makes cities work, and cities are far more environmentally friendly than sprawl, full stop.

  7. One obvious thing he can do is clear the hurdles for ST3 to make it to the ballot sooner, though some of the other results suggest ST3 may not be as much of a slam dunk as past experience suggests.

    1. If we fund design and engineering for the next Seattle lines in 2013, it makes the lift lower for ST and the timeline accelerates – so they can offer a more aggressive package and win ST3.

    2. It’s much easier to win support for capital projects than for operating revenue. Capitol projects are big and exciting. People feel like they’re buying something with their tax dollars. Convincing people to pay more money just for more of the same is difficult, especially if they’ve perceived service getting worse (which is exactly what’s happened in Pierce County).

      I haven’t seen any evidence that enthusiasm for big transit capital projects has slowed down — have you?

      1. Maybe it’s because they are getting something significantly better with a capital project. Operational increases tend to be so small they’re hardly any improvement. Adding one or two runs isn’t going to make people run to sell their cars when the route really needs to double its frequency all day or get twice as fast.

  8. “… we want to fix our aging infrastructure, and we want to build more transit.” But the paradox is, the more people take transit, the less money the state will have (through the gas tax) to fix aging infrastructure.

    1. That’s not even an issue. They’re spending most of their incoming dollars on new capacity, not fixes. If they were only funded for fixing things and replacing things in place, we’d be fine for decades.

    2. And there will be less wear and tear on roads, if people are driving less. Like it or not, highways and local roads are subsidized by general fund dollars. Reducing VMT will make budgets easier, not harder. The problem as of recent is improved fuel economy. VMT has stayed relatively flat, but revenues have gone down. Time to increase the fuel tax…

    3. “But the paradox is, the more people take transit, the less money the state will have (through the gas tax) to fix aging infrastructure”

      The lions share of the gas tax goes to build and maintain highways. Tolls will increasingly replace the gas tax as a funding source and will have the added benefit, especially with variable tolling, of decreasing peak demand. Get used to it – all “free”ways will eventually be tolled in the Seattle area. But don’t grumble too much, at least traffic won’t be as bad.

  9. “If we’re going to have a dent in climate change, the package needs to be *mostly* transit – and mostly electric transit.”

    A good start would be an fill-in package to electrify Seattle routes like the 48 and others that have been repeatedly mentioned here. For the cost of a bit of new wire and extra electric trolley coaches that we are about to order, we could dramatically decrease the amount of diesel we burn in the city. If you really want to drive down carbon emissions of our transportation network, focus on this before you get excited about all those streetcar and subway lines you want to build.

    “It needs to fund Amtrak Cascades so we can get service levels up to a point where we can argue to electrify it.”

    The head of BNSF has talked about electrification in the past. Sadly, this would make it cheaper for them ship coal through the area to Cherry Point for export. Proceed carefully here, my friend. You’d hate to find out down the road that you got money for Amtrak Cascades only to aid carbon emissions at overseas coal plants.

    1. Something a bit hinky with that graphic. It shows the Space Needle and the Smith tower being less than a 1/2 mile apart when in fact they are over a mile from each other. A pizza that’s 1 mile in diameter is 4 times the size of one that’s only a 1/2 mile in diameter.

      1. I think the first graphic was illustrating the height of the pile compared to tall downtown landmarks. The second graphic shows the breadth of the pile better.

    2. If you electrified the 48S, the 8N, and the 11 (or Madison BRT corridor) — the only three currently diesel routes that make sense as trolleys — you’d replace about 30-35 diesel buses with trolleys. That’s great, but it’s not going to be a serious start to solving the problem. To replace hundreds of diesel buses with electric power, you need more Link lines in the very highest-volume corridors. North Link by itself will convert more diesel passenger-miles to electricity than you could hope to by adding trolleybuses.

      1. However, those are still “quick fixes”. Especially with new battery backup meaning that new trolleybuses don’t need extensive special work at intersections, hanging trolley wire could be a significant “quick fix”.

      2. This isn’t a bus vs. rail rant. I’m simply pointing out low hanging electrification fruit that should be number one on the priority list. Metro is currently in the procurement process for new electric trolley buses so getting additional money RIGHT NOW would be helpful in many ways.

        I agree RE: Link replacing hundreds of buses – I drive one of them every day. But that build out won’t be fully implemented until 2023 at which point the new electric Trolleys Metro is ordering will have been in service for almost 8 years.

      3. The TMP also recommends electrifying the 48N, and “Corridor 3” (linking parts of the 49, 9, 60, and 36). That would remove a few more buses. But I agree with your broad point — it’s a good start, but not enough.

    3. The thing to do is to fight the coal terminal, and better yet, to fight the coal *mining*. Actually, if BNSF is offered the right incentives to make the Cascades route a *fast* railroad, slow coal trains won’t fit into it….

    4. It would make sense for BNSF to electrify a cross-cascades line for coal exports. Regen braking can capture a significant amount of the energy needed to lift another train to the summit. And it would make sense to have the line retrofitted be the GN through Wenatchee, because not having to expel the fumes from the Cascade Tunnel would significantly improve its throughput.

      Because it joins the north-south route at Everett rather than Auburn, the GN crossing is the best line by which to serve Cherry Point. The good burghers of Blue Ridge, Broadmoor and The Highlands wouldn’t want an endless parade of sooty coal trains from the old NP line marching by at the base of the bluff.

      However, the Wenatchee line is also by far the fastest and most-efficient route for double-stacks, and to pay for the wire and locomotive changes in Spokane, all of the increased capacity and more would have to go to the coal trains, pushing stacks off that line onto the much longer NP through Yakima and the Tri-Cities.

      Now the advent of Post-Panamax sailings direct from Kaohsiung, Yokohama, and Shanghai directly to Savannah, Norfolk and New Yawk may decrease landings in the ports of Seattle and Tacoma sufficiently that BNSF will be wanting those coal trains.

      However, it’s an additional six-days’ sail each way to Savannah (seven to Elizabeth) versus Seattle and those huge ships cost a LOT to operate for one day. So maybe twelve additional days’ costs added in will mean that the rail tariff doesn’t look so bad to the shippers. We really don’t know yet.

      1. It would make sense for BNSF to electrify a cross-cascades line for coal exports.

        BNSF runs the loaded trains along the Columbia. It’s only the empties that might go back over Stevens Pass. And then only if the Stampede Pass tunnel was open since Steven’s is pretty much at capacity. It used to be electrified but it was too costly to maintain and keep around special equipment for such a short stretch. Stampede already has height issues and Steven’s wouldn’t be able to run double stack containers if they put in overhead wire. Since there’s not a place to drop off the electric locomotives they would have to be hauled all the way over to the east side and then hauled all the way back west through the tunnel. Just to recover some of the power on the downhill grade? Doesn’t sound like a winner.

      2. Another reason to run electric locomotives westbound through the Cascade Tunnel would be to eliminate the need to ventilate the tunnel.

      3. To electrify the tunnel they’d have to either make it taller which is prohibitively expensive and they can’t just shut it down for the length of time it would take to get that done or they have to go to a third rail system. That would mean switching from overhead to third rail which is doable but just not worth the effort. If it made sense BNSF would be doing it. They actually did some in depth studies back in the 70’s following the “oil crisis”.

      4. Agreed, it’s not going to happen for plenty of reasons. I was just pointing out another benefit of running the engines back through the tunnel beyond regen. braking.

  10. The greenest jobs are those that don’t require any transit or building. Just reuse of what we have. Walk.

      1. In the case of designing a transit system that doesn’t have a bus stop outside every door you will ever live/work/shop at, yes, it will make a huge difference in system efficiency and speed if people were willing to walk up to half a mile for faster and more frequent service.

      2. I’m saying, without any change in incentives – people won’t change. If you give them an incentive, though, they will.

  11. It needs to give Sound Transit enough revenue to speed up their projects and get ready for more.

    This message brought to you by Seattle/Northwest Securities and Foster Pepper.

  12. BNSF has already publicly stated they will not allow any sort of electrification in this corridor. Period. Once we drop this, the Cascades will move forward. The Cascades system will be dependent on diesel locomotives and those high speed locomotives will do just as good of a job as any electric locomotives. With only 13 planned trains, and if that even happens at this point, we will never have the justification to have electric trains. Without a 100% new ROW which will not happen due to to density, we are doing a disservice in promoting electrification instead of fighting for keeping what we have.

    1. Brian, please don’t argue against improvement. There’s no such thing as “Period.”

      1. DJR, come on. I know, it’s funny, but we don’t *want* to put more trains in the DSTT, because it would fuck us over on reliability and capacity increases.

      2. Ben,

        Until you understand that there is no chance in hell that BNSF will allow any sort of electrification on this corridor, then the actual improvements of the system will happen. There is zero, zero justifiable reasons you can come up with for electrifying only 13 round trips. If this was the Caltrain corridor, running 80+ daily trains, THEN it would make sense.

        And there is no one in our region that will justify spending $20 billion for 140 mile system that would include a new ROW and still, getting into Seattle from any direction would require BNSF ROW, unless you believe tunneling would be the solution, which will jack up the price even more.

        I would much rather focus on a more realistic goal of actually getting to 13 trains between Seattle and Portland, at 2 hours and 30 minutes, and NOT look at eliminating trains (513/516), like the State is already currently doing.

        I’ll be behind anyone that starts pushing for REALISTIC goals for us, however, dreaming up of separated ROW, speeds faster than 110mph, just isn’t going to happen, ever. End of story. Why? BNSF and Boeing, intermodal traffic, etc.

        It would be cheaper, faster to get Sounder and the Amtrak Cascades into Olympia proper than some idea such what you keep trying to come up with. If you want to continue making improvements, look into ROW straightening for BNSF that would have an even more positive impact for freight and the Cascades.

      3. Ben, instead of dismissing concerns about this, perhaps you should take some time to explain why this makes sense. I consider myself pro-transit and pro-Cascades rail, but it isn’t clear to me that electrifying this route makes sense.

        What is the fuel efficiency of the route now? By how much will electrifying improve it? Finally, what is the capital cost of that change versus the expected fuel savings? My hunch says this would be one of the worst ROIs imaginable.

    2. Here is a good discussion on why BNSF likely won’t electrify any time soon. They HAVE said in the past they are looking at it but for now, I suspect diesel prices are simply too low. And then, there is the possibility of LNG Locomotives which reduce emissions and may save on fuel costs as well. If natural gas prices stay low, look for more tests like this.

      Getting back on topic, I could see Jay Inslee being more accepting of some sort of carbon tax which would push technologies like this along faster. We shall see…

      1. The future of fossil fuel prices is a complicated manner. They will alternate between going up sharply, and crashing when people switch away from fossil fuels (“demand destruction”); this sawtooth wave is overlaying an an underlying price trend upwards, which will only end when demand destruction becomes total.

        The current natural gas glut is an interesting type of bubble — it’s driven by investment in fundamentally unprofitable drilling technologies which frontload production, allowing the wildcatters to scam the majors until the majors figure the facts out.

        Getting ahead of the curve by switching away from fossil fuels now is good business, long-term. Very few of our country’s large corporations ever think long term, and the railroads are no exception.

      2. Nathanael: A carbon tax, or a similar mechanism, would ensure that petroleum prices (whether at the high or low end of the curve) would more accurately represent the environmental damage that burning petroleum causes.

        We can control petroleum prices.

      1. I will get an statement from BNSF’s Gus Melonas, who was the person that told me this information.

  13. Ben, I appreciate that you have never much liked Governor Gregoire, but I think she has been a much better governor than you give her credit for and she has governed during a time of truly horrendous economic difficulties. She is also not really a governor for just the Puget Sound but has to think of the interests of the state as a whole. Thus I do not see how she can just be interested in streetcars or Sound Transit or buses in Seattle at the exclusion of wondering how best to improve the interstate highways – the I-5 and I-90. The I-5 has improved enormously south of Tacoma during her time in office and she has begun much needed work on the I-90 through Snoqualmie Pass. She heads the state, not just the Seattle area. Given the nature of the governors of some other states, we ought to be grateful that she hasn’t disgraced our state or set us up to be mocked by others.

    This said, I do agree with you that she has not facilitated better commuter rail in Washington State. She has certainly lagged on support for Amtrak with only one additional train to Vancouver, BC which had an uncertain birth and one or two extra trains to Portland to show for her eight years. This isn’t a good record but we are on track to get extra trains by 2017 which is a long way out but we have to build the Point Defiance bypass first. She hasn’t stood in the way of this, but hasn’t much helped it along either.

    On funding issues for Sound Transit, yes, she hasn’t helped get these projects done quicker but that is more the responsibility of the Puget Sound area, not really of the governor per se. She would argue that someone in Wenatchee or Spokane doesn’t much care about whether or how East Link makes it way through Bellevue. We do obviously as we live here but it is unlikely you find much interest in the issue outside of King or Pierce Counties and certainly not much east of the Cascades. They are likely to be more interested in whether the governor can open the North Cascade Highway quicker each year or even to have to close it at all. Actually, I would be interested in this too but that’s another story!

    I do think we need to better fund Sound Transit and maybe some things can be done at the state level but probably the best way at this point would be toll more area roads – such as the I-90 floating bridge and other high capacity bottle neck roads – and get the state to allow us to siphon off some of the funds to help Sound Transit. We cannot realistically ask Spokane to necessairly help us out with higher sales taxes. Then again, for the greater good of the state as a whole? I don’t know. Do we have any readers in Eastern Washington who could weigh in here?

    1. I know its a hard sell to folks in Yakima to raise taxes to fund a project that only Seattlites will use. I dont know how to make it more sellable. I really wish I did. I pray that someone finds a way.
      That said, I think most of these situations are due to a misunderstanding about where tax revenue comes from in this state, and where it goes. If people in Seattle had that Yakima attitude, “we dont want to pay any tax money that wont be used on services for us” the eastern part of the state would fall apart.
      As a Seattlite, I want to pay taxes that pay for Yakima’s roads and hospitals and police etc, not because I will use them, but because those folks out there are my fellows and I want them to have a good life.
      I just don’t think they know how much we scratch their back. I want a back scratch too.

      1. See my comment below, but the way to get Eastern Washington to support statewide transit funding is to fund transit in Eastern Washington (on a population-proportionate basis).

        For example, lets scrap the Spokane N-S freeway (which is not fully funded) with Spokane-Couer d’Alene commuter rail and N-S light rail.

      2. Spokane-Coeur d’Alene bus service should happen ASAP, but right now there’s a 5-mile gap in service between the Liberty Lake Park & Ride and CityLink’s first stop in Post Falls. Have Idaho CityLink (ICL) and STA ever looked at a contract agreement for commuter service, maybe an extension of STA’s 174 Express to Coeur d’Alene’s Riverstone Park and Ride? I know ICL is funded only skeletally by the feds and the Cd’A tribe, but having lived in Coeur d’Alene for 18 years I know that there’s solid commuter demand from Idaho (cheaper housing and a prettier environment) to Spokane (higher wages). The distance from Spokane to Coeur d’Alene is only ~30 miles.

      3. I hope my comments about the State’s responsibilities are not misunderstood. I am more than happy to support Yakima, the Tri-Cities and Spokane with whatever transit initiatives they might care to develop, but given the reality that virtually all of the Eastern part of our state is heavy Republican territory, I don’t see how politically, their representatives will welcome raising the taxes necessary to fund our projects even if they do accept that Seattle is the economic and financial engine for the state as a whole.

      4. If the Easterners (and Southwesterners truth to tell) can be genuinely reassured that all Puget Sound wants is the right to tax itself, maybe they’ll agree to it. But most of them don’t know how much they are dependent on Puget Sound for their schools funding, and most of the kids over there are the children of their Hispanic farm-workers so school funding isn’t all that popular anyway.

        So let’s just say that they start any discussion “skeptical”.

    2. Tim,

      I know this is somewhat silly carping, but please, please, please don’t get Washingtonians started on that stupid LA tic of referring to freeways by “The”. The proper nomenclature is “I-5”, not “the I-5″. There’s only one.

  14. Thanks, Ben, for getting this conversation started.

    WSDOT ranks near the bottom of the list of State DOTs in regards to percent of funding towards transit. Washington is now a majority urban state, and transportation spending priorities should shift to reflect that. 80% of the state population lives in metro areas 200,000 and up: Seattle-Tacoma, Spokane, Vancouver, Olympia, Bremerton, Yakima, Tri-Cities & Bellingham.

    I’d love to see a spending package that focuses gas tax dollar on highway maintenance (fix-it-first), and provide significant new funding for rail throughout the state (annual revenues sufficient to bond $25B in capital construction over 20 years). Divide the transit funding up by population: 50% to ST to accelerate their projects, another 30% to the other 7 metros in the state to build light rail, streetcar or commuter rail, and 20% to subsidize rural transit agencies. It’s a win-win-win-win. No region will turn away nearly a billion in free state money to build light rail.

    Building rail transit in all our metro areas would be a transformative measure, preparing all Washington cities in advance for the demands of the 21st century, and align with Jay Inslee’s green energy reputation.

  15. I’d like to see a reworking of transit agencies from Metro/Sound Transit to a newer more robust Washington State Transit agency that could do things like build a Renton/Kent East Hill/Covington/Black Diamond corridor. Or keep pushing Sounder south to Olympia and Centralia. Or fight for real high speed rail from Tacoma to Inland Washington.

    These issues have grown beyond one city or county to deal with and the interface with the Feds should be consolidated to help each and every member of Washington State.

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