One of the more underappreciated outcomes of the election is the vacancy in Attorney General-Elect Bob Ferguson’s old seat on the King County Council. Of all the various levels of government, the County Council is probably the most important legislature for determining how transit actually operates, as it exercises tight control over King County Metro and approves the Executive’s appointments to the Sound Transit Board.

To fill the vacancy, Executive Dow Constantine will soon nominate three candidates, and the Council will pick their next colleague from that list. To find out what we’re in for, and allow readers to tell their representatives what they think, STB asked all seven contenders simple questions about their views.

STB’s endorsement will come in a few days. If you live in District 1, you should let Executive Constantine know who you want to represent you. If you live in one of the other districts, tell your councilmember how they should vote in this process.

Briefly, the candidates are: Kenmore Mayor David Baker, real-estate attorney Rod Dembowski, Shoreline City Councilmember Will Hall, Shoreline State Rep. Cindy Ryu, former Futurewise attorney Keith Scully, low-income housing activist Sarajane Siegfriedt, and King County Deputy Ombudsman Chuck Sloane. Mr. Dembowski was the only one who either did not check his publicly available email or chose not to respond. [UPDATE: I now have responses for Dembowski, who was able to see his opponents’ responses before sending his.]

We’ve summarized all the responses in the chart below the jump; they are my characterizations . The names in the header row link to a pdf of their full replies.

Question Baker Dembowski Hall Ryu Scully Siegfriedt Sloane
1. Should King County Metro obtain new revenue to maintain existing service levels and/or add new service? Y Y Y Y Y Y Y
2. Is your support dependent on the revenue source not being regressive? Y  N N Y Y Y Y
3. Is it important to you that any tax increase for King County Metro go before the voters? N N N N Y N N
4. Please rank your priorities (1 being highest priority, 4 the lowest) for the King County Metro budget:
– preservation of one-seat rides to major job centers 1 3 2 1 4 2 5 (seniors #4)
– better local connections to high-capacity, express, or RapidRide lines 3  1 1 2 1 1 1
– capital expenditure to speed up service in important corridors 2  2 3 3 2 3 2
– expansion of service to outlying areas of the county 4  4 4 4 3 4 3
5. Do you support Sound Transit’s current plans to construct light rail to Lynnwood, Redmond, and Des Moines? Y  Y Y Y Y Y Y
6. Would you support additional taxing authority to allow Sound Transit to continue building the rail in their long range plan? Y Y Y Y Y Y Y
7. If so, what areas of the county would be your priorities for these projects? Redmond, Issaquah Federal Way, Tacoma Fremont, Ballard, Renton 520 Federal Way Federal Way? Federal Way
8. Is it important to restrict development in unincorporated areas of King County? Y Y Y Y Y Y Y
9. Do you think tolling is a good revenue source for transportation? Y Y Y Y Y Y Y
10. Should toll revenues be (a) restricted to the roadway being tolled, or (b) should some be used to fund transit? Transit  Transit Transit Transit Transit Roadway Transit
11. Around suburban rail stations, is it MORE important to have (a) park-and-rides so that a wider area can access it, or (b) transit-oriented development so that housing and jobs are nearby? TOD  TOD TOD TOD long term, P&R short term TOD Waffle TOD
12. At park-and-rides that are full, does it make sense to charge people to park to manage demand? Wants Study  N Y Y N N Y

In retrospect, I think several candidates thought that question #6 referred to ST’s 2023 plan, rather than the “long-range plan” that includes lines to Ballard, West Seattle, Issaquah, Everett, Tacoma, and so on. The lack of clarity is my fault.

45 Replies to “King County Council District 1: The Candidates on Transit”

  1. Excellent work. Although no one gave the right* answer to number 4, Will Hall seems like the best fit. Chuck Slone did well also.

    * right = my answers. 3 2 1 4

    1. I wrote down 3 1 2 4 for my right answers but I think both are right. It’s interesting but not surprising that the first question, preserving one-seat rides, has the most spread.

      1. I agree with your order. First we fix our network, then we spend capital speeding it up.

      2. Yeah that was my thinking. If you create the correct core network, with frequent service then speed and reliability measures are a natural next step.

      3. I think we need to move ahead with S&R improvements now, with whatever capital we can throw at them. It’s not like the final network will use different arterials than the current one does, and S&R improvements would dramatically enhance the usefulness and popularity of the current network while also benefiting the network we want to build.

        I’m disappointed that no one put “1” on the S&R item. I’m with Matt the Engineer on the ranking.

    1. A transfer to another bus/train is required to complete the entire trip (home to work).
      There is a penalty to pay for transfers in ridership, so in a perfect world all trips would be one-seaters. Making the transfer palatable is the key to success.

      1. I think mic meant to have a NOT in his first sentence. A transfer to another bus/train is NOT required…

    2. We often use the term around here to refer to commuter routes that are very expensive to run, and where the service could be provided much more efficiently by a local connection to a high-capacity transit spine. A good example is the old 225/229 in Bellevue, where the service is now provided more efficiently by local buses connecting to the 212/554 at Eastgate.

    3. A “one seat ride” is a complete trip from A to B that does not require transferring to another bus.

      The issue with one seat rides is that in order to provide this door-to-door service (particularly for long trips), buses are given slow, meandering, indirect routes that are more expensive to operate. The end result is often several infrequent bus routes that go everywhere.

      A common argument is that the areas are better served by consolodating several infrequent “one seat rides” into a single fast & frequent trunk line, with connecting service available to all the varied destinations.

      When exactly that type of consolidation is warranted is a matter of some debate, but the current legacy KC Metro system favors the “one seat ride” heavily.

      1. As a transit rider mostly during peak times, of course I prefer the one seat ride. The data seems to support the notion that others have this preference. However, I will concede that transfering to a spine is probably more efficient for the system as a whole. The problem in Ballard of course, is that the “spine” is the D line, and we know where that gets us.

      2. One-seat rides are basically only good if you work downtown 8-5 (peak), or if you’re transferring downtown anyway. Their existence sucks up service hours that could help the large percentage of workers who don’t work downtown, or people who would rather have frequent service to the nearest urban village or shopping center.

        In an ideal world the trunks (or spines) would have frequent/fast service between the largest pedestrian destinations (downtowns, urban villages, airports, shopping centers, stadiums, etc), which would all be conveniently located on a straight line. Frequent feeders would connect these stations to areas not directly on the line.

        In the real world, geographical barriers, bad locations, and substandard service get in the way and lead to tradeoffs. For instance, it has been heavily discussed on STB to truncate the 101 and 150 at Link stations in exchange for making them more frequent (15 minutes full time). But that would add some ten minutes to the travel time, and it’s questionable if Metro would really make them sufficiently frequent. Likewise, the 43 could be replaced by a more frequent 48 and an east-west route. But again, Metro’s track record at frequency is less than stellar, and without frequency you’d have a long — and some would say unsafe — transfer at 23rd & John which is mostly residential and has few pedestrian destinations. So the issue revolves around which tradeoffs are acceptable to get closest to the trunk-feeder-and-grid ideal.

  2. I never received an email or call from Seattle Transit Blog. Working on transit issues is a top priority for me. I am the only candidate in the race who has made a seeking a seat on the Sound Transit board a priority, to help lead its expansion throughout the region and particularly on the north through District 1 . I would be happy to answer the questionnaire if given the opportunity.

    1. Has Foster Pepper made any money off of Sound Transit since 1996 (legal, real estate or bond sale transactions), and if yes, about how much.
      Could your seat on the ST Board, and decisions to borrow more money well into the future be biased by that relationship?

  3. Mic –

    The firm has done some work for Sound Transit to help it build its system. I would take guidance from counsel to Sound Transit on any issues involving the firm, which I would have to resign from if appointed or elected to the County Council. I don’t believe that I would be biased in any way with regard to legal services to Sound Transit. I am biased, however, in favor of supporting Sound Transit, growing the Sound Transit system, and borrowing the money and raising the revenues necessary to do so. I have worked for years on a volunteer basis to support Sound Transit, especially several years ago when they were in real trouble. I’m proud of the role my firm played in ensuring that Sound Transit could use I-90 to expand East and in the work its doing to get the light rail system expansion permitted. I’m thrilled to see Sound Transit expanding and will do whatever I can to support its mission.

    1. I appreciate your reply, as too often candidates choose to ignore questions of intent or the appearance of a conflict of the public interest.
      It should be noted for the record, that Foster Pepper has been the Bond Council to the RTA and ST since early on. At up to 1.5% transaction fees on bond sales of about 1.5 Bil since then, it has been a really nice relationship, and I’m sure FP earns their money. Also providing ‘On-Call’ legal services and other contracts for legal services makes ST a significant account for the firm.
      Mike Vaska, a strong proponent of Sound Move, even spoke to the Board in ’96 after the successful election, of looking forward to a long relationship with the agency.
      I worry big money interest sometimes worry more about big money than they do what’s best of the public interest.
      Just my two bits worth when talking politics.

      1. mic, where are you getting your numbers, and if you had them already, why did you ask the question?

      2. I went on-line after my initial post and looked up Foster Pepper under Board Minutes of the ST website. That brought up all motions going back to the RTA, hence the numbers. Total bond proceeds are found in financial documents. Mike Vaska was a huge supporter and unofficial spokesman for RTA in the runup to election years, and also part of Seattle Chamber. His statement to the Board is contained in Board minutes.
        The last sentence was just my own opinion.
        Hope that about covers it.

      3. Thanks Mic. I’m happy to answer questions! It’s important for folks to know these things, and I appreciate you raising the point. I came to this law firm out of the UW Law School because it is committed to civic and community service. I worked with Mike Vaska when Sound Transit got into trouble, to help rebuild support in the business community for its mission. Ping me anytime with thoughts or suggestions. Best, Rod.

      4. Thanks Rod. It’s refreshing to hear candidates say what’s on there mind, and not dance around the question for fear of stumbling. Good reply, and best of luck with so many hats in the ring.

  4. Question 2 is kind of a litmus test for me. Our state relies almost exclusively on regressive taxes, so it’s fairly safe to assume that any new revenue source the county is given will be regressive. Realistically, a “yes” answer to question two means no support for any new revenue sources the county is likely to be offered.

    So that narrows my choices down to Hall and Dembowski, right off of the bat. They give very similar answers for the rest of the answers. In the budget priority ranking they are almost the same, but Dembowski ranks corridor improvements above one seat rides, so I’ll give the edge to him there.

    Then in the regional priorities, Hall gutsily brings up the Fremont/Ballard corridor (and Renton), while Dembowski goes with the safer Federal Way / Tacoma option. I support both, but my visceral response is to go for the Seattle Subway and Hall.

    And then there’s the P&R question – Hall pro-charge, Dembowski anti-charge. Charging for spaces at overloaded P&Rs could have a lot of repercussions and I haven’t really developed my own opinion on it yet.

    Hall’s government experience could be a plus on the County Council, but it was in Shoreline, and while I’m not familiar with the council dynamic there, I know they have not been particularly helpful or transit-positive recently.
    Dembowski has primarly worked in the private sector, but Foster Pepper tends to do a lot of government work so that experience could carry over well. Also he worked with Gov. Locke for a couple years back in the 90’s on GMA policy issues like transit and zoning, which is 100% relevant to this job, and might mean more than Hall’s 3 years of city council work.

    I look forward to finding out more.

    1. I’ve pretty much got it narrowed down to those two as well. Since this is for District 1, I’m interested to see how they can specifically address transit needs for this corridor.

      I’ve brought this up before but I would love to see a Link extension from Northgate to Bothell via the 522 corridor. I don’t think it’s a higher priority than a line to Ballard, but I’d like to see it happen before I retire in 30+ years.

      1. Hall mentions that specifically – check the full responses (hopefully the management will get Rod’s full responses posted ASAP).

        Martin summarized this answer down to “Fremont, Ballard, Renton”:

        My priorities are to connect other areas with existing and planned transit-supportive densities, including Fremont and Ballard, and major employment centers such as Boeing in Renton. I support having light rail run from Lynnwood down the east side of Lake Washington, connecting Bothell, Kirkland, Bellevue, Renton, Tukwila, and Burien. Eventually, I would also like to see it connect from Burien north through West Seattle and to downtown, and I would like to explore rail as an option in the SR 522 corridor from Lake City to Bothell.

      1. I appreciate you coming on to chat with us, and agree with most of your statements.

        A couple more questions if you don’t mind.

        In light of the last election, what should be done about unincorporated urban areas of King County?

        What are your thoughts on the political nature of Metro? Do you feel that currently the KC Council has the correct amount of control, too much, or too little? If one of the latter two, what would you suggest be done?

        Thanks again for coming on here and responding!

  5. I’m a bit surprised that people representing the north part of King County are indicating that a light rail extension to Federal Way is their highest priority. Seriously?

    1. Agreed. You’d think they’d be focused on Lynnwood Link and on Seattle Subway’s Ballard-Northgate-Lake City-Bothell concept.

    2. I wonder how much of that is playing to an audience. They’re being elected by the council and hoping for support from us. They might have a different focus running among the people in their district.

      1. That’s some pretty lousy pandering (if it presumes the STB community agrees Federal Way is a pile of awesome).

      2. I think the Federal Way thing is one part the sense that they’re next in line, and one part confusion about what I meant by long range plan. FW is the only thing unlikely to be built from the ST2 plan.

      3. I think Federal Way is a safe answer for pandering to the council because, as Martin points out, it feels “next-in-line”. Their district is counting on the north-of-Northgate parts of Link being in the bag.

        I do think it’s weird nobody mentioned the 522 corridor at all.

  6. Will Hall’s answers are quite good. I would also have liked Ryu and Baker had they not made their support for new revenue conditional on whether it is “regressive” or not, though I would take issue with Martin’s phrasing the question that way. A taxing source may be regressive but if the outcome is progressive – meaning that the benefits go disproportionately to lower income people, as would happen from new transit funds – then I believe the entire package is indeed progressive and we should refer to it as such.

    As to single-seat rides, people here need to realize that we do live in a democracy. If people want a single-seat ride, then transit planners’ job is to find the best way to provide it. The public will not ever alter their habits just to satisfy transit geeks. It is a fool’s errand and detracts from the need to continue building broad public support for the kinds of major transit investments we desperately need.

    1. People want to get to their destination quickly and safely.

      Just b/c this region has historically lacked a trunk and transfer system (no HTC network to base it on) doesn’t mean it always has to be that. Especially as we roll out Link and hopefully Seattle Subway we need to transition to such a system so the most amount of people in this city have access to fast, reliable, frequent service to all neighborhoods.

    2. Sometimes, what people say they want is not really what they want. That’s why we have a representative democracy and elect leaders, rather than have citizens vote directly on everything.

      When people say they want a one-seat ride, what they really mean is they want a fast and reliable ride. The current system may be set up so any ride that isn’t one-seat is almost certainly not fast or reliable, but it doesn’t have to be that way. The key to making a transfer system work is to have each segment run very frequently and very reliably.

      Also, when people say they want a one-seat ride, they really mean they want a one-seat ride for their particular commute to work, since one seat rides from everywhere to everywhere are cost-prohibitive. Do you want to operate 10,000 bus routes to connect 100 origins to 100 destinations (with a practical budget, each of these routes would have to operate no more than like once a week)? Or do you want to try to connect all 100 origins and all 100 destinations with one single route that zig-zags all over the place and takes forever to get anywhere? Of course not. So what people really mean when they say they want a one-seat ride is they want Metro to pick and choose the specific origin-destination pairs they believe are most important and they want Metro to prioritize their commute over other people’s commute. This approach is fine if your goal is to simply focus on trips downtown and ignore everything else, but if you want to do much better than that, it simply does not scale. A transfer-based system, where every segment is very fast and very reliable is the only way to build a transit system that scales.

  7. It’s great to see that we have a number of candidates who are interested in improving our transit system, but looking at the details provided in the answers, Chuck Sloane appears to be the candidate who is most familiar with the frustrations that county residents now face, and with the ability to find the best solutions. It is important to have a county council member who not only supports more revenue for transit, but someone who knows how to message the issue in a way that will convince the voters to support more revenuet.

  8. Rory, I agree Chuck Sloane has a knack for messaging and he may have a promising future in politics. I’ve talked with him about transit before Bob’s council seat opened up. He’s not a regular bus rider – he “carpools” with his wife to/from downtown even though they live near good bus lines. Chuck seems to have had some good coaching for his answers to the questionnaire but still missed the progressive/regressive taxation issue. For local office like county council I’d rather have someone more policy oriented. I also think he’s exaggerating his “land use” experience, which is a problem.

    1. Ok – I don’t know if folks are interested in my personal transportation habits but just in case you are…

      It’s true, my wife and I typically carpool to work together in the morning. My wife’s job requires her to commute between a number of work-sites during the day and frequently entails late nights. To get home in the evening, I take the #41 then transfer to the #75 which runs regularly and tends to work out pretty well. I also regularly take the bus in/out of the city for meetings as I did last night to attend a candidate forum in Renton. I think a candidate’s personal transportation choices can be interesting and that might be a good addition to future versions of the questionnaire.

      In terms of my position on the regressive/progressive tax question, I believe that transit is not only a necessity but that it is a broad public good that protects the environment, supports economic growth, and triggers better land use decisions. With that in mind, I think our transit funding should reflect its importance and relying on sales taxes for 60+% of our transit funding simply doesn’t do that. In addition to the equity issues, sales taxes are unstable and relying on them for a majority of our transit funding means that when we experience an economic decline that we are forced to make dramatic service cuts at exactly the moment people are most reliant on public transportation. As we look at potential revenue sources (MVET, payroll taxes, tolling, another CRC, etc.) I will continue to push for a more progressive funding ratio for transit because I believe that will be more equitable and fiscally stable in the long run.

      I really appreciate the give and take here on the blog. If you’d like to discuss transit, land use, or anything else the county is involved with, feel free to shoot me an email: or give me a call (206-619-6200).

  9. 7. ST has subarea equity. All five will benefit in proportion to the revenue generated.

    Why did no candidate discuss ST Express Route 522 that serves District One and could have much improved off peak service?

  10. Hi! I also posted this in the “questionnaires now complete” thread, but this one seems to be where the ongoing dialogue is located. I wanted to give everyone my phone number and encourage you to call me at any time (or email) to talk in-depth about transit policy.

    The short answers we’ve all provided don’t do justice to the complexity of transit issues in King County (that’s just the nature of the beast!). For example, I think any long-term funding solution needs to be progressive. But short-term, I’ll absolutely support regressive solutions (like the congestion reduction charge) that keep transit moving. Priority one is maintaining and expanding Metro and ST service.

    And while I’d love to have funding decided by elected officials (I believe in representative democracy), that’s not going to happen in the short-term. Trying to get councilmanic action on tax and fee increases simply won’t fly, and my priority is getting adequate funding now. We’re going to have to go to the voters if we want the kind of revenue increase we need.

    My cell phone number is (206) 446 5491 – call any time.

    Keith Scully

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