After a series of comments that challenged the STB consensus on various Sound Transit-related issues, I asked Sen. Murray to explain his positions in more detail.
In the email exchange reproduced below, Sen. Murray says he doesn’t support governance reform anymore, expresses his support for ST3, and explains why he thinks Seattle would do better without subarea equity:
1) Can you explain what exactly your vision for transit agency consolidation is? What agencies would merge? Are governing board members appointed, elected in districts, or elected at large? By what criteria would it allocate resources? Would it have responsibility for roads or zoning?
Unlike those who believe that transit planning is a zero sum game, where a benefit in one jurisdiction necessarily means a loss to others in the region, I believe that Seattle will benefit from better transit service via a cooperative relationship with our growing, increasingly dense inner-ring suburbs. Every day tens of thousands of people enter Seattle from the suburbs, and vice versa, travelling from homes to jobs and other destinations. Our goal must be to maximize the number of these trips that are made via transit rather than single-occupancy vehicle, while also supporting transit usage in Seattle between neighborhoods.
So, I have long believed that smart regional planning and cooperation, based on forward-looking transit and land use policy principles, is something worth encouraging. Until a few years ago I thought the best way to achieve that cooperation was through creating one consolidated transit agency that was dedicated to maximizing the efficient allocation of our transit dollars to move the most people in the Seattle metropolitan area. The other factor for me that heightened my interest in consolidation was that in the past there was poor coordination between transit agencies, particularly between Sound Transit and Metro, something that consolidation would obviously have been designed to address. Many successful cities around the country have vibrant bus and rail systems that support and complement each other to create near seamless experiences for the riders. Seattle has a robust bus system and a growing rail system that also must be coordinated to the maximum benefit of the user. Fortunately this issue is being addressed and the agencies now work together and coordinate much better than they did even a few years ago.
However, after watching the debates around governance reform evolve – what started as an idea championed by pro-transit progressives morphed into a stalking horse for some anti-transit elements – and after feeling some of the backlash (including from places like STB), I realized a few years ago that my approach was wrong. It is not that I have changed my opinion about the importance of regional cooperation, or my belief that a stronger alliance between Seattle and our inner-ring suburbs is the right way to build up our transit infrastructure most effectively; I have not. But I realized that these divisive and polarizing governance reform debates were not the way to get this done. I realized, rather, that regional cooperation must be an organic, incremental and evolutionary process, as Seattle and suburbs like Bellevue become more like one another in terms of urban culture and land use principles.
My goal today is to make our transportation system work better – all aspects of it – including public transit in Seattle. Agency consolidation may no longer be necessary, but the coordination and integration of our transit agencies remains important. My approach now is to focus our attention on continuing to improve coordination between the agencies – and building collaborative regional ties – to put together the next round of transit investment and to earn the public’s support for ST3.
2) Would you support Sound Transit 3 if it retained the current governance structure?
Yes, absolutely. We need to move forward on expanding light rail. My goal is to see ST3 on the ballot and approved by voters in 2016 with significant light rail investment for Seattle and the region. Other mayoral candidates will say the same thing, but I am the only one with a proven track record of success. I fought the political battles and overcame huge obstacles to build an effective bi-partisan coalition to pass Marriage Equality in the state legislature. I believe we can – indeed, we must – build a similarly broad coalition in support of our next major leap forward on transit. We need a Mayor with this record of success to get ST3 done, not a mayor who has failed to deliver on promises.
3) What about the politics of the Seattle region makes you believe that it would accept a greater of portion of resources going to Seattle projects?
My goal is to create a public transit system that works for the needs of Seattle, our suburban partners and the region as a whole. We are not in a situation where regional players are unwilling to look beyond their immediate, parochial self-interest – with the right leadership we can come up with better solutions that benefit Seattle and the entire region. If the former were the case, suburban elected officials would never have agreed to change the misguided 40/40/20 policy that governed Metro service decisions. But because of the leadership exhibited by King County Executive Constantine, they did agree to change that policy, and our bus transit system is better as a result.
The basic question is not whether the region would accept a greater portion of resources going to Seattle. The question is whether the region is willing to prioritize investment in transit dollars to build projects quicker, where they are most needed and will move the most people with the most benefit to the overall transportation system. A significant problem with the current scheme for financing Sound Transit projects is that the projects are not built with the support or the financial capacity of the full district, but instead are limited to the financial support of the sub-area. This both limits the scope of projects in each sub-area as well as how quickly the projects can be built. By prioritizing projects based on clearly articulated policy principles focused on demand and smart land-use decisions instead of political geography we enable the Sound Transit Board to create a better ST3 package for Seattle and the region. The Board should begin this discussion to design a new policy approach in preparation for ST3.
4) You said earlier this year that Seattle “can’t afford” light rail by itself. If the legislature authorizes ST3 but retains subarea equity, is it your opinion that it is unaffordable for Seattle?
The benefits of light rail for Seattle and the region are clear. Light rail will turn a twenty to thirty minute bus ride between UW and Downtown Seattle into a six-minute trip all day everyday regardless of traffic. We need more of this fast, reliable grade-separated transit service, and we need it now to better connect Seattle neighborhoods. But at the same time Seattle does not exist in a bubble, and to pretend it does – to pretend Seattle can address all of its needs alone – is a fool’s errand. Thousands of Seattleites commute to jobs outside of our city each day to Redmond, Everett and Bellevue. Our transit system must be designed with the needs of Seattle and the region in mind. This is why I support creating an ST3 package for the ballot in 2016 that prioritizes investment of our precious transit dollars to move the most people in the most efficient way connecting Seattle neighborhoods to each other and the region with fast, reliable, grade-separated light rail. Seattle can’t afford to go it alone because to do so would jeopardize the creation of the regional system Seattleites depend on. The Sound Transit Board should have the ability to create an ST3 package that provides the most benefit to transportation in our region, which will inevitably benefit Seattle. We should be building a transit system from the inside out that maximizes ridership and benefits smart land-use decisions. We don’t want to create an inefficient transit system based on a balkanized political geography.
5) Lastly, all the Sound Transit reforms we have discussed are matters for the legislature. In your time in the legislature, you never achieved any of these reforms. What makes you think that a legislature without Ed Murray in it will make any of these changes?
My record on transportation in the legislature speaks for itself. In 2003 I was appointed Chair of the House Transportation Committee at a dark period for the state’s transportation system. Republicans were in control of the state Senate, and Tim Eyman’s Initiative 695 had effectively repealed state funding assistance for public transportation programs and local transit agencies. Over the next three sessions, I worked to win over conservative Democrats and Republicans to rebuild state support for transit, restoring tens of millions of dollars into transit and transportation alternatives. While conventional wisdom in Olympia was to narrowly focus transportation spending on freeway expansion to serve the suburbs, I successfully fought to make significant investments in a comprehensive transportation package totaling close to one billion dollars in new multi-modal funding. This included close to $60 million for safe routes to schools and more than $300 million for transit through the Regional Mobility Grant Program. I also funded a new stand-alone WSDOT Public Transit Office with a direct report to the Secretary of Transportation to help elevate the importance of transit in our state.
Frankly, the biggest impediment to accomplishing more has been the fact that Seattle elected officials have been divided and prone to bickering amongst themselves, rather than presenting a united front, when they come to Olympia. And we have had leadership in City Hall, particularly the current mayor, who has alienated key leaders in Olympia, making it very difficult to push forward a reform agenda.
I know that we will never be able to wipe out all the anti-Seattle sentiment in Olympia, but with a new mayor we can improve the climate so we can start making progress again on transit. As Mayor I will build on my Olympia successes and leverage the strong relationships developed over the years to secure the tools we need to make ST3 a success in 2016 and expand light rail in Seattle. No other candidate for mayor has relationships, and the record of success, to stand by that promise.
87 Replies to “Ed Murray on Transportation”
I’m confused, Ed is running for mayor of Seattle not Puget Sound, right?
This too confuses me. I understand a close cooperation with the suburbs would be beneficial for the region, but he’s running for the mayor of Seattle, not Bellevue, Renton, or Kent.
The posturing makes sense. It sounds good on paper (though maybe not to many Seattleites, or anyone who seeks to interrogate his position), but most importantly it helps with:
1) currying favor with the Seattle Times
2) currying favor with his colleagues in the legislature for endorsements, fundraising, and general political support
3) fundraising in general with non-Seattleites.
That’s my guess, at least. And it emphasizes his talking points and downplays his weaknesses by focusing on work in Olympia rather than true understanding of Seattle politics and policy.
WRT the Seattle Times, it’s long past time we stop giving politicians a pass for saying dumb things for this reason. Political scientists have looked for evidence that newspaper endorsements have an impact on electoral outcomes, and they can’t find it. Much of their searching was done in an era when newspapers were much more widely read, and made up a much larger portion of people’s available information than they do now.
The Seattle Times’s editorials favored Eyman’s 1053 initiative. However, to be fair, I believe they did endorse ST2 as well.
asdf, The Seattle Times did *not* endorse Sound Transit 2. Quite the opposite.
Maybe you’re thinking of Sound Move, which the Times endorsed in ’96. NPI used the endorsement of that ballot measure to hilariously and brilliantly refute the ’08 editorial against ST2. As Dan Savage said during the campaign: Required reading!
Like me, many Seattle residents actually need quick and easy transit outside the city in order to work. We matter, too, right? And like it or not, many people who live outside of Seattle would benefit from being able to get here quickly, for work or play. This is good for Seattle, too. Don’t you want to make it easier for people to come and spend money in Seattle? Of course the mayor of Seattle should place a premium on the interests of its residents, but this is consistent with a regional transit focus. Our interests may even mandate a regional focus, because of our regional economic interdependence. And, in any case, thinking about transit regionally doesn’t preclude providing better neighborhood to neighborhood transit options.
Unless you live downtown, a fast train to Kirkland or Lynnwood won’t mean squat to you if you still need to spend half an hour on a bus averaging 6 mph to get to the train.
I guess I missed the point where Murray said that connecting neighborhoods was not a priority. Oh, wait, that’s because he said the opposite. So, I’m not sure what your whole chicken-little routine is about. I want to be able to get from Ballard, where I live, to Downtown. Hell, I want to get across I-5. I hate meandering through Queen Anne on the “Rapid Ride”, and Market/45th is like an upper circle of Inferno. Murray is clear about also wanting these sorts of neighborhood connections. Jesus, read his answers! He also wants regional lines, for obvious reasons that actually matter to many Seattle residents.
If you have some principled argument that shows that adopting transit solutions to serve the most people, or balancing municipal and regional transit needs, will end up totally undermining transit in Seattle proper, then present it.
If you live in Ballard, you should be first with the “Chicken Little routine.”
In the end, this ends up being a fight about where ST3 investment should go.
The combatants are the Ballard Link line that ST is studying and various extensions of the current suburban lines. A hint: “regional” is not referring to the Ballard line. The subtext of Ed’s answers is that he wants the real money to be devoted to lines that connect different jurisdictions, with neighborhood connectivity done on the cheap by SDOT. For you, that means “rapid streetcar” via Fremont, or just more service on RR D.
If you want Ballard Link, don’t vote for Ed Murray unless he changes his tune.
Nothing Murray wrote indicated any sort of opposition to the Ballard link. Murray actually *wrote* this:
“We need more of this fast, reliable grade-separated transit service, and we need it now to better connect Seattle neighborhoods.”
“…I support creating an ST3 package for the ballot in 2016 that prioritizes investment of our precious transit dollars to move the most people in the most efficient way connecting Seattle neighborhoods to each other and the region with fast, reliable, grade-separated light rail.”
The Ballard Downtown corridor has been highlighted in both the Seattle Streetcar Study in 2008, the Sound Transit Long Range Plan in 2005, and the City Council’s Transit Master Plan. Two different agencies are studying Ballard Downtown options right now. Everybody knows it’s needed, and that it’s needed more than a fast train to Kirkland or Lynnwood.
So, Murray explicitly endorses connecting Seattle neighborhoods with grade-separated light rail (not streetcars, not more RDD bullshit), and he is committed to maximizing impact, and everybody (including Murray) knows that a Ballard Downtown link is exceptionally important.
I don’t see any spooky subtext here. Just an explicit commitment to what we want, and a recognition that there are broader regional interests that interdependent with our own local interests.
Your argument would be very reassuring if it didn’t altogether ignore the implications of Ed Murray’s opposition to subarea equity. He’s not a dumb guy; he knows who’s on the ST board and what the effect of abolishing subarea equity would be. That, together with all the heavy emphasis on “regional” connectivity from someone who should be very focused on Seattle interests, is more than enough to present a convincing case that there are better alternatives than Murray for Ballard Link or other capital-intensive transit improvements within Seattle.
In the end, he may be “for” something like Ballard Link in the sense that he likes the idea, but he sees it as second or third priority for funding.
Look, everybody, including STB, knows that subarea equity is bad policy. It shackles us here in Seattle, is not density driven, and creates artificial constraints on transit planning and funding. Again, everybody agrees with this. STB is on record saying this very thing.
Murray is claiming we should get rid of a policy that objectively sucks, and replace it with an ST policy that actually directs funds to where they’re needed. This is what he wrote in the Stranger piece that got everybody all riled up:
“Sub-area equity needs to go. And it needs to be replaced with a more sensible policy that stipulates that Sound Transit dollars will be spent efficiently to add light rail where it will have the maximum impact in terms of moving people, i.e. in denser cities like Seattle and our growing inner-ring suburbs. Such a policy would ensure that Seattle’s transit needs are better accommodated – particularly our underserved West side Green Line communities including Ballard and West Seattle – while also ensuring that hundreds of millions in taxpayer dollars are not diverted to building light rail in outlying areas where population densities are insufficient to support strong ridership.”
So he is on record opting in favor of building the Ballard link, rather than building light rail to the suburbs. In fact, he thinks that getting rid of subarea equity makes this more plausible! And yet you still think that his comments about regionalism indicate that his priorities are reversed.
You may think that rejecting subarea equity is politically naive. That’s an argument we could have. But you have made it clear that you are arguing in bad faith here. It’s just disingenuous for you to claim that Murray is going to sacrifice Seattle interests to regional interests. His rejection of subarea equity is based on the importance of Seattle interests, for Chrissakes!
In any case, as Goldy has pointed out in the Stranger, no ST3 package is going to be approved without massive support from Seattle proper. And that support will not happen in the absence of plans to substantially invest in neighborhood light rail connections. So, if you want to ensure that Ballard never gets a link, then please continue your support of subarea equity. The voters in Seattle will just love a plan that holds our transit infrastructure hostage to folks in Lynnwood.
Bennett, first of all very rarely does “STB” come out on one side or another. If it does the post will be clearly marked. 99% of posts are the author’s own. The writers are a collection of transit advocates/writers that share general principles (more investment in transit is good, lines should be generally straight and high frequency, grade separated rail should form the backbone of our network, etc. etc) but often disagree on other issues.
HOWEVER, that said, to the best of my knowledge most of the writers both now and in the past agree that post ST2 messing with Sub Area Equity is a risk with very little pay off:
If Ed Murray had just fallen off the turnip truck, I’d believe you that his “Seattle will do better without subarea equity” argument was made in good faith.
But he’s been around this scene a long time. He understands the consequences.
And if he wanted to argue “Look, I know this will hurt Seattle in the short run, but in the long run we need to do it for the sake of good policy,” I wouldn’t be hammering him so hard.
But instead, he’s arguing that doing away with the policy will somehow (magic?) inspire a suburban-majority board, whose members’ constituents are mostly anti-Seattle, to steer more money to Seattle in the near term. That’s just craziness. It’s a bill of goods. As JesseMT pointed out below, coming from someone of Murray’s experience, it’s either disingenuous or reflects a delusion that Murray can bring about that improbable result “by sheer force of personality and his amazing deal-making skills.” Either way, that’s not someone I want to have as mayor of Seattle.
As mayor of Seattle, just voluntarily giving up subarea equity, which is Seattle’s biggest transit funding cash-cow, is poor advocacy for the city. It’s in fact the opposite of advocacy for the City.
There are plenty of ways to improve regional movement without giving up subarea equity. Building improved lines to city limits is one way. Loans from one subarea to another to expedite key suburban lines is another. But there is no way that the potential Mayor of Seattle should be arguing to just give that money up to the suburbs.
Bullshit. Goldy is wrong. ST3 will be decided by low-information voters who are partial to any kind of transit investment and will (at least in the City of Seattle) vote for nearly any transit package put in front of them. All it needs in order to pass is some token spending for Seattle. Subarea equity is the only way to guarantee ST3 will include significant investment inside city limits.
Right, so the arguments here to keep a policy universally recognized as awful are based on the cynical premises 1) nothing can convince the ST Board to allow transit dollars to go where they’re most needed, and 2) local voters are so ignorant that they’ll approve anything with ‘transit’ in the title.
Good to know where you stand.
Let’s flip this around… and remember that I’ve acknowledged, elsewhere in this thread, that subarea equity is terrible in the abstract, but necessary in this situation.
What you’re saying is that 1) the magic persuasion fairy can persuade suburban ST board members to act against their own entirely rational and understandable interests if we abolish subarea equity, and 2) Seattle voters, with a demonstrated and overwhelming pro-transit bias, will reject a package that has lots of cheap transit goodies. Both of those are implausible at best given the historical record.
Bennett, it is not universally acknowledged that sub-area equity is terrible policy. I, for one, disagree.
“subarea equity … is not density driven”
Not directly, but higher density will tend to lead to higher sales tax collections. Seattle may also benefit from attracting people from other areas to entertainment and employment opportunities, leading them to spend money in the city. On the other hand, relatively affluent areas may raise more revenue than needier areas. Finally, the car tax peversely will raise less revenue in car-lite areas which may need more transit.
No, I’m saying neither of those things. I’m saying, and have been saying throughout this conversation, that you are jumping to unjustified conclusions, and that your interpretation of Murray’s motivations are inconsistent with his actual positions and what he’s actually wrote here and elsewhere.
I think that if you are concerned about the political plausibility of achieving our transit goals in the absence of subarea equity, then you should be after Murray to give a detailed account of how he can advance these goals given the current construction of the ST Board.
And it is no surprise that in the absence of any real transit options, local voters would have opted, historically, for whatever they could get. That doesn’t entail that voters can’t distinguish between better or worse plans, that they are irremediably ‘low-information’, etc. That’s a cynical view.
Since you’re already against subarea equity in the abstract, why not figure out how Murray would go about ditching it in a way that’s consistent with getting what we want? Seems like a better option than rejecting his position out of hand, attributing bizarre subtextual motivations to him, etc.
Ditching subarea equity may not be bad policy for the region as a whole.
It would, however, be bad for the City of Seattle, who gets a direct financial benefit from it.
Murray is not running for a regional office, he’s running for Mayor of Seattle. It will be his job to be an advocate for the city and the city’s self-interests, and to make sure that Seattle’s slice of the transit pie is as big as it can possibly be.
Voluntarily giving up these dollars to surrounding areas is not an appropriate move for an elected City official. It is something that should be done reluctantly, if at all, and only after a great deal of bargaining and horse-trading, to ensure the City gets something significant and worthwhile in return.
“And we have had leadership in City Hall, particularly the current mayor, who has alienated key leaders in Olympia, making it very difficult to push forward a reform agenda.”
Ed Murray knows a thing or two about alienating legislators in Olympia. Is he making the case that someone other than the current Mayor, or Ed Murray, would be better?
Thank you Senator Murray for taking the time to really answer Martin’s questions. This post was much more substantive than your rebuttle posted on the Slog.
I am glad you no longer support agency restructuring, but your desire to remove subarea equity scares me. 2016 is not that far away, especially when you start backwards planning. We honestly don’t have the time to do all the work that goes into such a major reform. Staff time should be focused on figuring out what to include in ST3 and the board focused on pushing the measure through Olympia.
You say you’ve done a lot for transit, but you ignore the fact that Metro is in the hole it is in b/c the legislature took away our stable funding. Why did you not put this back during your time in Olympia? Why was the CRC only for 2 years? Why doesn’t 99 mitigation money go through the entire project?
Right now the majority of Metro’s short term problems lie at the feet of the legislature. When are you going to try and explain your record?
But his record speaks for itself!!!!!
What a wildly self-serving set of responses. My inclination to take Murray seriously for mayor dropped a couple of notches today…
Ed, thank you for responding, as always. It’s to the credit of any political candidate or official to engage directly with STB.
But some of your statements are hard to accept at face value.
We have a Republican Senate majority (well, the functional equivalent of one) every one of whose members can make hay and gain votes by threatening to punish those stupid Seattle libs. We have suburban Democrats who are all too happy to form a solid pro-highway, anti-transit majority with Republicans, and who would face wrath from their constituents if they allowed “their” transportation dollars to go toward building rail in Seattle. We have all of that, and you think a little internal sniping in Seattle is the biggest problem Seattle transit interests face in the Legislature?
The regional system is not in jeopardy. A solid foundation for it is already funded. North Link, Central Link, and East Link as currently funded will serve almost all of the largest regional transit corridors. The Sound Transit board’s first priority is to expand north and south, which will take care of another couple of major regional corridors.
Once ST2 is complete, the transit corridors that need the most help in the short term happen to be in Seattle. And as a candidate for mayor of Seattle, you need to address how you are going to deal with that. Abstract promises of regional cooperation won’t give suburban elected officials any more incentive than they already have to support light rail to Queen Anne, Ballard, West Seattle, or the Aurora/Greenwood corridor. There is no way that they–a majority of the Sound Transit board–will allow a non-separated pot of Sound Transit cash to be used for funding those projects, at least in any greater amount than would be available under the current subarea equity policy. Instead, we would get projects that would benefit more of their jurisdictions but would serve far fewer transit riders–projects like I-90 Link, expansion of the south spine to Tacoma, or a UW-Kirkland line.
I appreciate that you are trying to improve relations with neighboring jurisdictions and the legislature. But in the end, if you want to be mayor of Seattle, you have to recognize what is in Seattle’s best interest, not only that of other regional jurisdictions. And it’s a dangerous game to argue that removing subarea equity, in a suburban-dominated political landscape, is in Seattle’s best interest.
“Once ST2 is complete, the transit corridors that need the most help in the short term happen to be in Seattle.”
Spot on, David L. I’m not sure what Murray is really talking about – the lines to Redmond, Bellevue, Sea-Tac and Lynnwood are underway; the lines in Seattle are severely lacking, especially on the west side of the city. Is Murray advocating more lines to the suburbs before Ballard/West Seattle?
If Murray’s answers were supposed to entice votes, well, he failed in regards to mine.
I think his point is that light rail needs to be one cohesive system, not with Seattle running some lines and Sound Transit running others, but it’s easy to reach the conclusion that what Ed Murray really wants is even more suburban lines.
I thought his point was that Seattle has some of the biggest needs in the short term and it would be great if we could spend money from suburban sub-areas to accelerate construction here. I agree with that in principle, but have serious doubts that such a Seattle-centric package would have any chance at the ballot box. Thus I support sub-area equity because it at least ensures that Seattle gets no less than what we put in.
@Morgan Wick: I don’t think anybody is seriously suggesting that Seattle run its own light rail lines. Streetcars yes, but not light rail. The idea is that we could choose to self-fund additional light rail lines which ST would build and operate.
If you read between the lines, his positions are actually very consistent. He wants more suburban rail, and he wants to get rid of subarea equity because that would get us more suburban rail.
I parse this post as supporting a 520 light rail line as the highest priority in ST3. It connects Seattle neighborhoods (especially if it continues west to Ballard) and it supports regional commuting (to/from the Eastside).
…And with the FIRST lake crossing predicted to garner negligible modeshare, after having proven a poor enough investment to be ineligible for any federal funding, a SECOND crossing is guaranteed never to happen.
So can we please stop getting any and all hopes for real urban transit wrapped up (and drowned in a sack) with that total fantasy, please?
I’d take the lake crossing (preferably only as far as downtown Kirkland, which actually has the most hope for transit of any of the suburbs) if it would get us a full Ballard-Children’s crosstown line as part of the package.
But without a Seattle presence willing to stand up publicly for Seattle interests, why would the board have any incentive to build more than just the lake crossing?
Again, the I-90 Link crossing — on repurposed lanes already in existence — had too terrible a ROI to qualify even for the FTA’s heinously new-suburban-commuter-focused funding algorithm. They didn’t even apply, lest the project (which even I fins necessary, though botched) be tagged with a politically-unseemly “not recommended” rating.
This second crossing of which you speak, semi-redundant and on no preexisting infrastructure, is NOT. GOING. TO. HAPPEN.
d.p., just to be clear, I hope you’re right. And the staggering cost of the project means you’re probably right. But it seems there is no hurdle too high to jump, and no cost too great, where a project will bring “regional” benefits (i.e., give bragging points to multiple sets of local officials) in the mindset shown here by Ed Murray.
Meanwhile, there is no room in that mindset for the tunnel under Queen Anne Hill that you, and I, and everyone else here have been concluding is Job 1 for the future since the passage of ST2… because it’s not “regional.”
“Again, the I-90 Link crossing — on repurposed lanes already in existence — had too terrible a ROI to qualify even for the FTA’s heinously new-suburban-commuter-focused funding algorithm. ”
I believe, correct me if I’m wrong, that that was largely due to the requirement to construct entirely new HOV lanes to “replace” the lanes being converted to rail. Have you noticed how much money is being sunk into that? It’s a lot, but nobody’s been talking about it.
The new outside HOV lanes are fairly basic adjunct components to the floating bridge, and use existing shoulder space in the tunnels and other roadways. It’s an expense, but it’s not what killed the ROI on East Link.
That fiduciary felon would be the engineering retrofit of the rail-supporting lanes themselves, combined with the expense of the rest of the rail right-of-way, combined with the stupid station locations and all-around lackluster land usage of the areas served guaranteeing only 23,500 users of the line per day in the medium-term future.
Gee? The government won’t endorse $3 billion to carry 23,500 riders, almost entirely at rush hour, and only marginally faster than the current highway buses? Those bastards!
Gosh, what a bold series of statements.
“The Sound Transit Board should have the ability to create an ST3 package that provides the most benefit to transportation in our region.”
So, let me get this straight. Ed Murray is in support of a functional Sound Transit? Quite the position.
Seriously though, it was hard to read all of this. So much frosting, so little cake.
One big difference between 40/40/20 and subarea equity: 40/40/20 was repealed by elected officials who can afford to – in fact it’s their job to – look beyond parochial interests. ST3 would have to be passed by voters who only care about their taxes going up to fund something that doesn’t benefit them.
Murray said: “If the former were the case, suburban elected officials would never have agreed to change the misguided 40/40/20 policy that governed Metro service decisions.”
Hardly, it was change at the end of a spear by suburban cities that kept getting promises of more service in relation to their local contributions, but watched Seattle pols suck up all the gravy saying here’s a few scraps from dinner.
It served it’s purpose to avoid disharmony aboard the ship, and then went away. Seattle still enjoys marked advantages at the pleasure of suburban cities, so count your blessings.
Pendulums still swing back and forth.
Misguided? Yes. It was a naked conversion of many transit investments from useful to pork. Just because a problem exists doesn’t make any conceivable response to it well-thought-out.
The fact that we run empty buses all over the Eastside, even at rush hour, while people keep getting passed up in Seattle is a legacy of 40/40/20.
Whoa David. Before you throw a big ass party in Seattle with all that suburban cash, you might want to check your facts on who’s paying for what.
If you drag a date to the prom, you should at least offer to dance with her sometimes.
Which is more important to the well-being of the whole county? Providing mobility to those who will use it most, or giving politicians talking points?
You are usually very focused on efficiency and whether our transit investments are actually giving us bang for the buck. So I’m surprised to see you, in effect, saying that keeping dollars in the jurisdiction where they originate is more important than actually using them effectively.
Efficiency is usually my bottom line, but acknowledging the simple truth that ‘one size does not fit all’ is based in reality.
A suburban route 164 to GRCC will never compete with the 3/4 to Seattle U., just like route 2 to eastern Washington will never compete with Hwy 99 in N. Seattle. We need both.
I fought hard in the 90’s along side GRCC in the 90’s to get that route, which is one of the most efficient in the suburbs.
Should it be cancelled, and those hours given to Seattle to provide more trollies?
Sure, if Seattle wants to pay for all of their service, and leave all the suburban sales tax revenue alone.
Seattle gets screwed if that happens. Careful what you wish for.
The 164 is exactly the sort of suburban service we need more of. It’s efficient and well used. I’d advocate expanding it and the routes like it.
I’m talking about things like the 201, the 224, off-peak service on the 246, the northernmost part of the 241, the southernmost part of the 249, and so forth. They would not exist if it weren’t for 40/40/20. These are buses that rarely if ever have more than five people on board. Yes, I would advocate taking those hours away and giving them to service elsewhere that is oversubscribed.
Cities and suburbs and rural settlements have different needs. Cities need more transit per capita. Suburbs and rural settlements need more fire stations per capita. That’s just a fact of life.
What’s more, it’s a well-documented fact that urban areas subsidize rural ones (at the state level), and that urban states subsidize rural states (at the federal level). If Seattle were responsible for all spending within its borders, but it also got to keep all the tax revenue raised from within its borders, then McGinn could change his name to Scrooge McDuck, because the city would be so rich that he could spend all day diving in his giant money pit.
The great irony of our time is that urban liberals are more than happy to subsidize the wastefulness and inefficiency of suburban and rural living, but suburban and rural conservatives won’t even less us tax ourselves to pay for the services that we desperately need.
Long-winded answers and never-ending discussion among regional entities is a prime example of the so-called Seattle Way, the old recipe for more process and less progress. Transit planners can minimize route reconfiguration options based on their advantages, impacts and cost. Cut the crap.
OK, my earlier snarky comment aside…
It seems like Murray is very much in the mindset of creating a regional suburban network that is designed to deliver suburban working commuters from other municipalities into downtown thereby driving increased tax revenues and the perception of a bustling business city at the center of many other cities.
In some ways his view of the future is more aligned with the 1950s concept of transit as a substitute or relief valve for freeways and a tacit approval of the regional sprawl model that freeways have promoted.
I think that it is a view that fundamentally runs counter to the kind of system most STB readers envision and advocate for — one where transit is first used to facilitate higher-density (already happening) and less reliance on cars (also already happening) in Seattle. Right now we are actively creating and encouraging density in distributed areas of our municipality without the proper high-capacity infrastructure to support it.
To put it another way: Murray’s idea seems like building the Long Island Railroad or NJ Path trains without the NYC Subway system to distribute all those thousands of commuters who get dumped into Manhattan every day. I cant imagine any reader here thinks regional transit is bad, but this is the SEATTLE transit blog.
It seems to me that if Murray has his way the commute from Bellevue to downtown would be faster than from Ballard, because in his outdated worldview a world-class city must have bedroom suburbs.
Bellevue, Redmond, Kirkland and Issaquah – among others – are much more than bedroom suburbs. There are a few employers on the Eastside. As for as Seattle v NYC, a significant number – if the not vast majority of jobs – are easily reached from King Street Station by transit or foot. Things work well when elected officials have more than a city specific parochial view.
Easily reached from King Street Station doesn’t mean much if you are on Queen Anne Hill, 4 miles away, and it takes you 25 minutes to get to King Street Station. Seattle is not a single regional node, but the “regional” mindset often assumes it is.
Wow! What a brilliantly succinct debunking of the disastrous “nodal” thinking that guides our urban and regional planners.
You can apply your retort to more than just Link, too. The nodal mentality is inherent in our “urban village” zoning, in Metro’s route structure, in the disproportionate dumping of social services in certain places…
I’m not sure if this is a reading comprehension issue, or whether you’re being disingenuous. But here is what Murray actually *wrote*:
“The benefits of light rail for Seattle and the region are clear. Light rail will turn a twenty to thirty minute bus ride between UW and Downtown Seattle into a six-minute trip all day everyday regardless of traffic. We need more of this fast, reliable grade-separated transit service, and we need it now to better connect Seattle neighborhoods.”
Whenever Murray mentions regional concerns in the interview, he always balances them against Seattle transit needs. And yet, through some strange psychological alchemy, you conclude that he wants to ignore Seattle neighborhoods in favor of extending transit options to bedroom suburbs.
He claims to balance suburban and Seattle transit needs, but then he favors a policy that will remove any incentive for the people who actually make the decisions — the ST board — to invest in Seattle.
So the ST board can’t solve collective action problems, is what you’re saying. The ST board is so parochial, and so practically irrational, that they would prefer an incoherent, balkanized transit system over one that actually makes people in the region, and Seattle, substantially better off?
What I’m saying is that the members of the ST board have little or no incentive to place the interests of Ballard residents over the interests of their own residents, who mostly want transit in order to have a fast, traffic-free peak-hour commute from their own jurisdictions to downtown (and, eventually, the U-district and downtown Bellevue). That’s not irrational, it’s perfectly rational.
And it’s why we are building S 200th St before starting on Ballard Link, and why the default starting point for discussions of ST3 is Lynnwood, Federal Way, and Issaquah, not Ballard or Greenwood. The mayor of Seattle should help counteract that, not reinforce it.
I think he’s planning on running for Governor as soon as he has a term as Mayor to demonstrate his executive credentials. Everything he says is aimed at making himself more attractive to the suburban voters in the Puget Sound area, where statewide elections are won. All he has to do is get through a divided primary as one of the top two, and then call in political favors. Then he can pose as a mayor who “stands up” against the progressives in Seattle for a more “realistic” statewide vision. Anti-urban resentment wins votes.
It’s cynical, but it’s the only thing that makes sense.
Spot on, I think.
Exactly. Beware the “professional liberal”……
Mcginn needs to do one thing to become Governor:
“STOP THE DBT MACHINE BEFORE IT’S TOO LATE”
Seattle will lose many Pioneer Square Historic District buildings and the Underground. Siltration, voids, sinkholes, sink-caverns, BOOM, GONE.
40-mile E/W faultline overdue for another Big One?
Alaskan Way NOT to rebuild a waterfront?
Beach idea NOT good for salmon?
Mercer West moves trucking from commercial corridor thru residential?
Give Mcginn that and say he fn earned it, you aholes & nincompoops.
Murray would make a great mayor of an amalgamated Greater Seattle that rings Lake Washington and combines the City with the Eastside and the Southside. Current Seattle … not so much.
Thanks Martin, STB and Senator Murray. Great interview all around.
It does seems like Murray would support connections to suburbs like Seattle to Kirkland say over Ballard/West Seattle, which is too bad. For somebody who lives in Capitol Hill, he doesn’t seem to understand very well how people in Seattle access the rest of their city. People in Ballard dont just commute to work downtown or in Redmond. We also work in and recreate in SLU, Capitol Hill, enjoy the restaurants in Rainier Valley, etc… Even not counting work, I go to other neighborhoods in my city multiple times a week. I go to Bellevue maybe once a month. (And once Din Tai Fung is open in U Village, that number will drop.)
Also, I still do not understand his subarea equity stance. One of two things has to be true: 1) he prioritizes rail investment in or to the suburbs over rail in Seattle, or 2) he thinks that he can get more rail investment in Seattle once SAE is removed just by sheer force of personality and his amazing deal-making skills. I almost hope it’s just #1.
It doesn’t really seem like he understands his own subarea equity stance either. In his follow-up “one question” in Publicola, he seemed to equivocate and walk back his previous claim.
It doesn’t look like he really have the time for this right now, but Ed really really truly needs to have a crash course in city issues. Every time I’ve heard him speak to transit and other policy points, he either talks in broad posturing statements or stakes out a confusing position that doesn’t hold water. He seems to know the issues only by way of the legislature.
Then again, maybe more casual voters won’t care. But it doesn’t play well to the more engaged local crowd.
I’ll listen to Ed Murray bloviate on transportation *after* he gets funding for Metro through the Senate.
Senator Murray’s answers sound very reasonable to me. The idea that he is in favor of getting rid of sub-area equity because he’s anti-transit or favors building suburban transit over urban transit is absurd. From a pure transportation planning point of view, sub-area equity is awful. We should be building transit where people will use it, not the same amount in Seattle as in the distant suburbs. The question then becomes a political one: can we get people in the suburbs to vote for a package if it has more rail in Seattle? I think it’s possible, by convincing suburbanites that high-quality bus service makes a lot more sense for their areas than grade-separated rail. But the refrain I keep hearing over and over again that Ed Murray is anti-transit is baseless and untrue.
The concern he hasn’t answered, and that you aren’t answering either, is that getting rid of subarea equity would mean funneling even more ST dollars into suburban projects. There are two reasons this concern is at least plausible: 1) a substantial majority of the ST board is composed of suburban officials, and 2) the board has already consistently demonstrated a single-minded focus on “the spine” between Everett and Tacoma — the remaining portions of which are entirely suburban, except for one or possibly two more stops in North Seattle — regardless of what corridors actually need investment the most.
No one is saying he’s “anti-transit.” What people are saying is that he favors the suburbs over the city, an absurd position for someone who wants the city electorate to vote him into city office. With the current composition and tendencies of the ST board, getting rid of subarea equity is a pro-suburb position. Of course it’s a terrible idea in the abstract, but it’s also the only thing standing between us and an ST3 made up of Lynnwood Link, Federal Way Link, I-90 Link, and Kirkland Link.
Beware the “professional liberal”. Portland just made the colossal mistake of electing corporate trained-seal Charlie Hales as mayor, because his genuine progressive opponent Jefferson Smith did some stupid things as a U of O undergrad. The folks in Oregon who drank the “Charlie Hales is a liberal, too” Kool-Aid are finding out that the guy yelling from behind the curtain was drinking something stronger and more expensive than Kool-Aid. Served up with a smile and a schmooze by Portland’s polluting elite.
Apparently Murray started out with his heart in the right place: representing all the poeple, not just business interests. However, life in a state legislature is one opportunity for minor corruption after another, and far too many people who go there become hypnotized and narcotized by the sycophancy and little bribes. They forget who they were, or at least, they forget who they wanted to become.
McGinn may be a social jerk, but he’s not afraid to speak truth to the money boys, at least some of the time, even when it hurts.
Long-term, I actually think a consolidated transit agency is what we need. Furthermore, if it had a mandate to serve Seattle and its metro area (not King County, a collection of arbitrary lines nor Puget Sound, a body of water) that would be so much better than the current situation. Countless major cities with successful transit have one agency in charge of all transit, including but not limited to New York, Boston, and Washington. Not to mention probably the most relative example, our neighbor to the north, Vancouver, whose agency, TransLink, actually operates and manages its ferries and roads, as well.
However, as STB has pointed out, it seems pretty likely that a re-organization like this would be very disruptive to big projects (especially Link). Caught between a Lake and a Sound, true Seattle-style.
New York has one agency responsible for transit? That’s news to me.
@C It’s definitely more consolidated than us – two bus agencies (just for the city proper), a separate state ferries system, streetcar(s) owned by the city, monorail run by a private corporation, and that’s not counting the county transit agencies to our North and South. New York metro area has Long Island Railroad, NJ Transit, and the MTA. MTA serves the vast majority of New Yorkers. Fewer transit agencies total, definitely fewer per capita.
LIRR is part of the MTA, as is Metro-North.
The MTA is not by any stretch of the imagination one agency. Structurally and operationally, it’s at least five, if I remember correctly.
And yet when you transfer from a bus to a train, the fare is the same and carries over without hassle.
And when the weekend CityTicket was proposed to make use of excess Metro-North/LIRR capacity, they could make that happen.
And you go to the same website for all of your informational needs.
Because the constituent departments all answer to the same umbrella body and don’t ACT like representatives of EXPLICITLY COMPETING populations. The branding is the same, so each service represents them all.
The reason I don’t want consolidation yet is that it makes electoral politics very difficult for those of us who want to make real improvements to the transit network.
In New York and Boston, you have a solidly transit-friendly electorate in a substantial majority of the area covered by the mega-agencies. Not only that, funding plans do not rely as heavily on public votes because of differences in state law and tradition.
In DC, the mega-agency is a huge mess. We don’t want anything like WMATA here. The biggest reason why is that it relies on voluntary state and federal contributions for most of its funding. That means that WMATA’s interests are subjected to a hodgepodge of electorates, some extremely transit-unfriendly. Good old Jim Inhofe recently “held” a WMATA capital improvements funding bill for several months before relenting; the effect was that DC-area safety improvements were under the control of the Oklahoma general electorate. Bob McDonnell consistently makes a lot of anti-WMATA noise (although he is enough of a pragmatist not to follow through on the noise much of the time) in order to solidify his credentials with the Virginia Republican base.
Here, the ST electorate is more anti-transit than the King County electorate, which in turn is more anti-transit than the Seattle electorate. And big parts of the ST electorate are far enough away from Seattle to have an anti-Seattle bias to some extent. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that subjecting local Seattle transit improvement plans to the whims of the ST electorate is a dangerous proposition for transit in Seattle.
Well, DC is a special (specially bad) case, because DC doesn’t have control of its own government. Taxation without representation. Like it says on the license plates. It’s not as if the City of Washington, DC can just raise taxes for public transportation; their budget and their taxes are directly overseen by Congress, in which they do not have a vote.
I like how the first question to Sen. Murray is actually five questions.
I’m not sure I read quite as much into Murray’s general attitudes toward Seattle and its suburbs based on his remarks (I’m still not sure how he’d answer the question, “When you propose to alter ST, what specific places do you think deserve more consideration, and which less?”) but there are a couple odd things that stick out to me:
– Talk of “inner suburbs”. I think most of what could reasonably be called an “inner suburb” (a term that’s hard to define precisely) is actually within incorporated Seattle now. Greenwood, Georgetown, Beacon Hill, Alaska Junction, Wedgwood, Ballard, Mad Park, Magnolia, etc. Shoreline and White Center are seriously stretching it. LFP, Renton, and Burien are beyond that point. Lynnwood, Bothell, Redmond, and Issaquah are right out. Bellevue and Kirkland are something different entirely. Am I missing anything? I’m not slamming these places or denying their importance; the decisions they make will shape our regional future as much as anything Seattle does. But they aren’t inner suburbs.
– It’s very common for city and county boundaries to be harder to cross on transit than they should be because they’re common places for route terminals, fare boundaries, etc. The ST board, where various cities are represented, actually favors lines that cross city boundaries because they then they gain the support of multiple board members and can be tagged “regionally important” regardless of merit.
I think he was including Redmond in “inner suburbs”. Given the way the roads are laid out (and what parts of the respective cities you’re talking about), Redmond is about as close to Seattle as Kirkland is. Issaquah is too, for that matter, but it’s clearly not as urbanized as the others.
This is not to say that Totem Lake and Redmond Ridge qualify as “inner suburbs”.
Kirkland isn’t an inner suburb either. Just because it has an old walkable core doesn’t make it an inner suburb.
By analogy: Chicago suburbs like Elmhurst, Wheaton, and Hinsdale have old walkable cores but they aren’t inner suburbs. They’re separated from the larger urban core of Chicago by a greenbelt and primarily connected by highways and railroads and thus aren’t part of a continuous urban fabric the way Oak Park or Evanston are. Their development patterns and histories are completely different, so that when people talk about experiences shared and challenges faced by inner suburbs around the US, they aren’t talking about much relevant to Elmhurst, Wheaton, nor Hinsdale. Nor Kirkland; Kirkland has been separated from the urban core of Seattle by Lake Washington, connected only around Lake Washington until 520 was built, well after mass-motorization.
The same is basically true of Bellevue. Bellevue’s upward growth has been infill, but it grew around 405 with parking lots to the sky in the super-cheap-gas years. It has more in common with edge cities than inner suburbs.
And, again, I’m not saying these places are unworthy of transit service or cooperation with Seattle, nor that they’re “bad places” or whatever. It’s just that words have meanings, even when they’re vague like the meaning of “inner suburb”. Seattle’s inner suburbs are mostly places it annexed in the 20th century.
And, if you felt that way about a ST board member or a county executive or a senator (or even a transit advocate), that would be all well and good.
But Ed Murray is running for mayor of Seattle.
Given that he wants to represent Seattle, it ought to be drop-dead obvious from everything he is saying (as it is from McGinn or even Burgess) that his answer would be a list of the denser Seattle neighborhoods. We shouldn’t have to parse tea leaves that have an awful lot of equivocation and suburban code words mixed in, especially when they’re mixed with a policy stance that may be good policy in the abstract but is heavily pro-suburbs in today’s real world. But we do. Thus commenters like me making a bunch of noise.
I agree, the legal boundaries are often arbitrary. Much of Seattle, especially the parts annexed later, could easily fall into the “inner suburbs” definition. I live in such a place. When asked to describe it, I use the term “old suburban”. The streets are on a straight grid (not curvy) but not all of them go through (there are lots of dead ends, but no cul-de-sacs). There are plenty of places without sidewalks. Essentially, it was all farm land with really big lots when the city was being formed. Then the farms slowly got transformed into big lot housing developments. Not as dense as the old city lots, but denser than newer suburban lots. I live in Pinehurst, but most of the city annexed later falls into this category.
The thing is, most of the people don’t like to be called suburban. When I use the term “old suburban” some folks cringe. I can see why. They don’t see themselves as being part of suburbia (not classic suburbia, anyway). I think most of the folks would rather be called “trashy Seattle” rather than suburban. Not a bad description either, as it is a better description of the attitudes of the folks. No one complains if you put your boat or your rusty car out on the front lawn. In other words, folks didn’t move out here because they wanted to get away from the city to be part of some idyllic, green lawn paradise — they moved out here because they wanted to be left alone or couldn’t afford to live in the city.
People are also proud of the fact that they live in Seattle. They vote in the city and pay city taxes. From a development standpoint, someone from Lake City Way may have more in common with someone from Lake Forest Park, but I think a lot of them would bristle if you suggested it.
So, Murray, since he is running for mayor, meant areas like Shoreline, Bellevue and Burien (although Burien and the areas just south of Seattle are already well served). Personally, I think this is a flawed strategy. I don’t think you will somehow get folks in Bellevue or Shoreline to commit to a major Seattle infrastructure project (like a nice train in Ballard) because they somehow have the same “urban culture”. Bellevue, which is probably more urban than most areas close to the city, has trouble even doing the right thing with regards to their own line.
I think folks are trying to parse his answers to figure out if he really has different transit priorities than the bulk of Seattle voters and leaders. He doesn’t. He basically said that we need to have good, grade separated rail to serve various Seattle neighborhoods (especially Ballard and West Seattle). He said that we should prioritize based on overall need, rather than subarea. But he also said that we need to have some means to get out to the suburbs (like Lynnwood and Redmond). Golly Gee, I never thought of that.
Seriously, this interview shows how little difference there is between the candidates on a policy basis. Basically, all the candidates are running against the mayor’s competence, not his policies. Here is a typical interview question:
Reporter: “So, why are you running for mayor?”
Candidate: “I believe I can do a better job of solving the important problems of our city. I think we should do X, Y and Z.”
Reporter: “Isn’t that what the mayor supports?”
Candidate: “Yes, but I’ll do a better job.”
All these candidates jumped into the race because they felt like McGinn was stumbling as an administrator. Recently, things have looked better for him. As the other candidates try hard to demonstrate their managerial expertise, they tend to stumble (as Murray did with his pronouncement). It is a losers game. You can come up with some nice ideas to show you are smarter or more creative, but it is really difficult to demonstrate that you are a better manager unless you do some managing and make very few mistakes. Every idea you come up has the potential of suggesting you really don’t understand the realities on the ground, and strengthens the incumbent. The best way to run against the mayor’s managerial ability is to show how poorly he has run things. I think that will be very difficult to do given the low unemployment in the area as well as the lack of any big failure lately (he kept the plows running when it snowed). Essentially, at this point, it is McGinn’s race to lose and I don’t think he will lose it. My guess is that he wins by a comfortable margin that would have been unthinkable a year ago.
I’m glad to see “grade-separated” in his description of light rail, for having it at surface is a folly, I said this prior to it being built. As for regional transit consolidation, there should be some vs. several different, duplicative bureaucracies competing for the same pie. ORCA is a success in general (forget about the website and the lack of outlets for the moment), but it cost millions of dollars in the way of meetings amongst high-level (paid) staff to coordinate this. If one agency, it would’ve cost less and taken less time.
What could be centralized? Securing and managing grants. Fares. Bus purchases. Transit facilities. Operationally, by county having separate organizations makes sense, at one per county. Sound Transit should be in the rail business vs. contracting out bus business, and shift the funding for their bus service to go directly to those who are providing it: Pierce Transit, Metro Transit, and Community Transit. And, of course, make everything transparent, major spending and revenues, meetings and planning, not marginal and varied as it is today, where we’re asked to send more money without having full accountability.
Comments are closed.