The mayoral general election has largely been bereft of detailed transportation and land use policy proposals, with the exception of Mayor McGinn’s 2014 transportation budget. One might interpret this as a lack of significant policy disagreement, or as a campaign playing it safe. In the past week, however, a couple of events have allowed us a peek at how a Mayor Murray might govern.

First, in a “vision speech” broad enough that few in the Seattle mainstream would disagree with it, this interesting idea:

And even more vitally, I will – finally – develop and implement a Move Seattle transportation strategy that integrates bike, pedestrian, transit and freight plans. If our transportation plans don’t work together, our ability as a city to work together is seriously hampered.

Instead of ongoing, exhausting, unproductive wars between the various modes of transportation, let’s make sure that people have choices about transportation by create linkages among the modes. That includes making sure we have affordable and expanded bus service throughout the city, an expanded light rail and street car system, and better streets and bridges.

The second paragraph is mildly interesting in that he reaffirms support for all the modes. The first raises interesting questions about the existing Transit, Bicycle, Pedestrian, and Freight Master Plans. All but the Pedestrian plan have either been thoroughly redone, or are about to be, under McGinn. Intermodal connections have not been a regional strong suit, so in that sense the idea of emphasizing this is attractive. I asked the Murray campaign what the “Move Seattle” plan meant for the projects in the existing plans:

The current modal plans are valuable in that they identify important investments for each mode and involved a lot of stakeholder and public input into what should be done to improve biking, walking, transit, etc in Seattle. The Bike Master Plan update and new Freight Plan, as examples, will provide valuable and timely information and current thinking that we can make use of. What’s missing is how the plans work together to make transportation better in the city for everyone. The Move Seattle Strategy would integrate the plans into one comprehensive vision and build on them, prioritizing the best parts of each plan with project sequencing, perhaps based on 5, 10 and 15 year goals. The priorities would be based on agreed upon outcomes and matched to funding opportunities.

I take this answer to mean that the existing documents would cease to have a separate existence. Adding priority and schedules to the current approach might bring all the disparate forces into a common course of action; on the other hand, focusing too much on the priority list and timetable may leave Seattle insufficiently open to new opportunities from specific funding sources and the like.

Later last week, there was a stir about both candidates’ answers to a debate question about the merits of a city-only measure to fund Metro operations. In the event the legislature does nothing this fall, either county or city could use revenue sources not earmarked for transit (a flat vehicle license fee or city property tax, respectively). From PubliCola:

Murray said he [was not enthusiastic about] a Seattle-only measure, and that he would support a King County transit tax that was more regional in nature.

Talking to PubliCola this afternoon, Murray said, “If we go it alone the system won’t get money by itself. I really do think we can get this issue solved, but … we need a regional, countywide bus system” that serves people who commute in and out of Seattle, not just within it, Murray said. “People who live in Seattle work on the Eastside. We need a regional, countywide bus system that works for them too. I believe that if Seattle acts unilaterally without solving the countywide problem, we won’t solve the problem.”

Aaron Pickus of the McGinn campaign told PubliCola:

“We would want to talk to stakeholders about what people think is the best approach—whether it’s a city vote or a county vote. … We would want to talk to transit advocates, including Metro and other stakeholders, before choosing a specific policy.”

But Pickus said McGinn would be open to the idea of a Seattle-only transit funding plan.

The Murray campaign, when they spoke to me, didn’t rule out the possibility of a city measure if the county one were to fail, though they would strongly prefer the county. Sen. Murray is certainly right that the system is better off with a comprehensive county solution than a city one. Furthermore, there are many routes that are not clearly “Seattle” vs. “suburban” (150? 271? 358?), and a city-only plan threatens to either let these critical routes fall through the cracks or have city dollars bleed into suburban subsidy that takes the pressure off the rest of the county. Lastly, I would like to see a shift in resources to bus capital projects, cities’ traditional responsibility, and bailing out the countyon operations is a distraction from that.

That said, the city’s available funding source (property tax) is more progressive than a vehicle license fee; and the prospects of a Seattle-only transit vote have historically been better. The Murray campaign told me “we are confident that the voters of King County will support new funding to preserve Metro bus service. We have a very strong case to make that these investments are critically important to the future of our region, and we believe the voters will understand that.”

40 Replies to “Ed Murray’s Recent Transportation Comments”

  1. Your article seems not to mention Murray’s specific positions on already existing projects including the Westlake cycle track, the Burke Gilman connector, and our trolleys. Plus the fact that he spoke at a fundraiser billed as “anti-bike.”

    1. In particular, he proposes additional study for the missing link segment of the Burke Gilman multi-use trail. Look at the post on the subject at Seattle bike blog. While that blog is cycle centric, the BG is a multi-use trail that provides access and improves mobility to many users other than just cyclists across a key east west corridor.

      1. As I understand it, this has already been studied multiple times and further study is nothing more than a political delaying tactic.

        I’m sorry to say, but this candidate has made it clear he is no friend of urban transportation nor of the city of Seattle’s unique position to lead the region on this.

        If his election is a forgone conclusion, then the results will be tragic.

      2. A Murray win will be no big deal for transpo in this area — you won’t even notice the difference, and it’s highly likely that he would be able to actually work with other parties (City Council, State, etc) and get more done than what we have seen the last 4 years. Because despite all McGinn’s talk, he really hasn’t accomplished much more than launching a bunch of studies and splashing some paint on the ground. He hasn’t even got the Broadway Ext funded. It’s embarrassing….

      3. What is Murray’s record o. Getting state funds for transit, bike and ped funding for his home seat here in Seattle. I can only recall a series of failures as he “plays well with others.”

      4. A Murray win will be no big deal for transpo in this area — you won’t even notice the difference

        So, if Murray wins, we will continue to press full speed ahead with rail lines to the suburbs, while leaving city neighborhoods with “BRT” that largely consists of TSP and new buses? I’m not sure your message is as positive for Murray as you mean it to be.

        Right now, the difference between the two candidates is that McGinn has said he is committed to solving transportation problems within the city, while Murray has not said anything specific at all about in-city transportation problems, Everything specific he has said since the beginning of the mayoral race is about “regional” transit.

        He could easily reassure many of us by telling us in the most general terms what he would do about transit-starved city neighborhoods, and that has been pointed out to him ad nauseam, but he has doggedly continued to avoid the subject. Is it any wonder people are skeptical?

        To be clear, I don’t know that Murray is hostile to city transit. I don’t know anything about what he thinks, because he won’t say anything! But I am comparing him to McGinn, who I know is friendly.

      5. Murray is beating McGinn without saying anything specific about anything.

        Given that he is winning anyhow, what upside could there possibly be for his campaign if he was to start getting specific about policy? All he needs to do between now and taking office is to not stub his toe on something, and that means staying away from details.

      6. lazarus, that is all correct. But why does it mean that we should all just trust that with Murray everything will be OK? His legislative record doesn’t offer particular reassurance; it’s relatively solid on regional transit and pretty much nonexistent on city transit. His public statements (to the extent he’s made them) are exactly the same.

        Again, I’m not inherently anti-Murray and would welcome reassurance. It wouldn’t even have to be all that specific — just an unequivocal statement that grade-separated rail has an essential role in connecting Seattle neighborhoods would be more than enough. The fact that he’s not even willing to go that far is a bit alarming, because the only constituency that would find such a statement hard to swallow is the anti-transit “war on cars” constituency. If Murray sees pleasing them as essential, that’s bad news for Seattle transit under his administration.

      7. Based on yesterday’s Burke-Gilman “second look” statement — which was as egregious as it was ignorant of history — Murray intends to make a regular habit of pleasing obstructionists.

      8. I’m not sure if that is how I would interpret it, d. p. He has already rolled back that statement (see today’s Bike Blog). More than anything, he has shown that he really doesn’t seem to understand the issues. His statements actually sound good on the surface, but if you dig into the political and legal details, you realize that it would be a disaster if we went down that road. I find it interesting that Murray has basically ran on the idea that he is experienced enough to know how to handle the issues of the day, while at the same time, a better manager and less abrasive guy, so he will be able to accomplish more. If anything, every time he opens his mouth and talks about a specific difference with McGinn, he shows that he is completely ignorant of Seattle (and even regional) politics. This is the scary part. This is why people often vote for incumbents. I really don’t want to see the enemies of a new trail, or a regional transportation system, or (an even more contentious) progressive zoning change lick their chops and delay everything for Murray’s first term while he gets busy trying to please everyone and learn how things work.

      9. Oy, that “rollback” is even worse.

        He reiterates the Fox News-style seeds-of-doubt argument that a trail passing by industrial properties raises “real safety concerns”. Never mind that the safety problem exists today, that a trail is by definition designed to delineate spatial uses for the purpose of engendering safety, or that the trail already does precisely that through Frelard.

        Then he calls Shilshole “a narrow roadway”, which it emphatically is not.

        Finally, he reopens the possibility of alternate “solutions” to be determined later, with emphasis on the needs of the obstructionist and public-ROW-usurping businesses (even though he doesn’t even have a clue which waterway they’re on).

        I think we’re both right: he’s a shill for establishment interests and he doesn’t know what the hell he’s talking about.

        I also agree with the commenter who doubted that Murray had ever been to the parts of Seattle outside his legislative district.

    2. Exactly—Ed Murray seems to pay plenty of lip-service bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure, but when it comes to specific proposals he doesn’t support anything at all.

    3. Martin really shouldn’t be trying to play “balanced reporting” when Ed is intrinsically anti-urban, anti-transit. Cover the real Ed, Martin.

      1. Stephen,

        I play “balanced reporting” when I really don’t have a strong opinion as to whether the underlying policy is a good one or not.

        This is not a space where you’re going to find negative ways to spin good or neutral Murray proposals.

  2. Murray’s lack of detail is what concerns me most. I can’t tell if he’s doing this as a ploy to bring the anti-transit/bicycle lobby to his side when he supports our issues, is trying to reassure us when he plans to undermine our issues or doesn’t support either side and will just keep the status quo (status quo is my guess).

    Since he’s apparently being intentionally vague, I have no good way of knowing what he really means to do. McGinn has made it pretty clear to me what he plans to do, and it aligns with my interests.

    Why would I be happy with someone who will not commit a solid position on these issues when there is already a candidate that aligns with what I want and is pretty clear about it?

  3. Do any of you folks think McGinn still has a shot at reelection? This thing feels over to me.

    1. So the old must vote for the winner trick. Right there on page 38 of the Public a Relations huckster manual.

      Haven’t you figured out that they want you to think Murray’s a winner and McSchwin is a loser? (See what I did there)

      WAKE UP!

    2. Beyond the ahistorical “plays well with others” meme, and the complete unwillingness to give specifics publicly on anything, the real annoyance of the Murray campaign is how it has played the inevitability card. Give up now. Come out with your hands up and your wallets out, and Ed will be merciful upon your interest group. Want to know where he stands on an issue? Throw a fundraiser for him, and then he’ll tell you privately.

    3. Yes – I suspect McGinn wins. Murray hasn’t released his internal poll, and there’s a reason for it.

      1. Actually you do release internal polls when doing so benefits you more than keeping the results secret.

  4. Murray’s remark about “linkages among modes” smells to me as a West Seattlite that we will have to live with bus connections to light rail, and possibly other city neighborhoods that may need LR as well will have to cope without.

    I also believe as has been mentioned elsewhere that the mayor’s office is a pit stop for Murray and he is burnishing his center right (blue dog?) bona fides for the Governor’s mansion.

    1. In all fairness, when was the last time a Seattle mayor went on to become a statewide elected official?

      There’s that one silver lining in the outcome Murray’s machine reassures us is about to happen. (Of course, it isn’t Murray’s machine. Now, he really will have to learn to play well with others who actually control the Machine, lest he get McGinned.)

    2. I agree that Marray often sounds like he’s trying to position himself for something bigger than Mayor of Seattle, but what? It’s difficult to believe that Mayor of Seattle could seriously be considered as a positive stepping stone to statewide office, or even to be honest, King County office. Nor do I think that Mayor of Seattle is a big enough job to really serve as a believable step on the path to a federal level executive branch appointment. What about the 7th district? Otherwise, I think this impression may simply be an attempt to put a name on a vague uneasy feeling, and not actually reflect reality.

  5. Is there anything he’s good on? As far as I can tell Ed Murray’s vision for Seattle is concrete trucks racing back and forth from West Seattle to Ballard, unimpeded by people.

  6. If Murray somehow delivers weak tea center right third way governing (discipline?) to Seattle, he could potentially be more appealing in a governatorial or some other statewide race than the usual hard right hacks the Republicans put up. The key being that if he continues to play nice with the powers in Olympia during his mayoral race, he gets their support for running for statewide office.

    After all, on surface glance, Murray seems as safe as Locke and Gregoire, and not eccentric or argueably somewhat goofy as Lowry.

    1. I guess this is where we start the mudslinging and torpedo that apocalyptic future. Too bad this city will have to suffer in the interim if he’s elected Mayor.

  7. Hey, he’s not even mayor yet and already the speculation begins as to what higher office he will aspire to? Isn’t it embarrassing to Seattle that being mayor of the city is not somehow enough of a job to satisfy? Perhaps Murray WOULD be satisfied, but judging from the comments here…..How I dislike political job hoppers (a la Hilary Clinton, whom I supported last time but will not ‘next time’).

  8. I simply dislike any candidate who lacks clear and detailed policy vision. I have only imperfect information to judge this. A candidate who has the best interests of Seattle in mind should focus on Seattle and not the region in their comments on transportation issues. Ed Murray may oppose coal trains, but does he have a plan for fighting climate change at the local level? McSchwinn at least knows that walking, biking, and electric transit that is made competitive with cars are the future. Meanwhile the data shows that in Seattle they are the present. I want someone who doesn’t have to be paid in order to agree on those points and naturally, already want to push on those points. McSchwinn it is.

  9. Sounds like Ed Murray wants to be County Executive or…a useless Legislator. Excuse my while I puke a little.

  10. In presidential politics, you can’t become president unless you stand for something (which is why there hasn’t been a President Dole, Kerry or Romney). It appears to me that Murray is being deliberately bland and vague– knowing he will not get the transit vote– but he has made the calculation that as long as he is Steinbrueck-esque, they can’t outweigh the anti-McGinn vote.

    Native/Longtime Seattlites– can you win the mayoral race by saying “I’m not _____” without saying what you are in favor? Any recent examples?

  11. The most convincing explanation I’ve heard for the constant antipathy to McGinn is that he’s not a machine politician. He’s like the inverse of Bloobmerg – rather than the CEO type, he’s the anti-establishment activist type, but neither one “paid his dues,” coming up through the party, etc. Murray’s the consummate loyal soldier and plays well with others.

    I don’t blame Murray for the totally dysfunctional nature of Olympia. I think he’s an advantage in securing state funding for projects in the establishment pipeline that don’t piss off the business community. I think that the Portage Bay part of new 520 is more likely to happen in a timely fashion and include more trees and other gold plating if/when Murray wins, for instance.

    I fully expect to see the city’s streetcar efforts dissipate, though. The Seattle way of death: sent back for more “study.” And serious bicycle infrastructure built only where no sympathetic small businesses’ ox is gored.

    But given the structural bias against Seattle in the legislature, we need all the influence we can get. If playing nice with the establishment gets Lake City/Ballard/QA/West Seattle light rail done quicker, I’ll take that trade off.

    1. Where was he for SR 520? Where was he for SR 99? Where was he for Metro? Where was he??? This guy has thrown this city under the Olympia superliner coach repeatedly. He doesn’t play nice. He doesn’t even represent his own city. He’s not some treasure that if we take him away from Olympia, the Party suddenly stops shunning the city. It just means we have one less DINO in State Government for the moment. Yuck.

  12. I really don’t think you are likely to get anything very specific with regards to transportation issues. To a large extent, our hands are tied. For example: “We should have a light rail system that focuses more on the core of the city, with stops every half mile or so — like most cites. BART is a lousy model, but it seems to be what we are building.” That would thrill many folks, but it will piss off the rest of Sound Transit, and what would be the point? That ship has largely sailed.

    On the other hand, talking about the little stuff, like multi-modal transportation makes a lot of sense. We should have another station (or two) between the Husky Stadium and downtown, but we have what we have. We should see to it that it is really good. We should have bike lockers so folks can easily get there by bike. We should make it easy for people to get across the street (to the hospital). We should make it easy for folks to get onto 520 buses from there. These are all things that we (Seattle) can do, without requiring ST to do anything. But compared to site selection (which requires cooperation with the rest of the ST board) it is minor stuff.

    On the other hand, there is simply no excuse for his weak, vague polices on zoning. I could write up a policy paper about zoning that talks about all of the advantages and disadvantages of the various restrictions and it would take me a couple hours. My conclusion: get rid of parking requirements, restrictions based on the number of units (beyond the health and safety of the residents) and greatly liberalize our mother in law apartment rules. Take a moderate approach when it comes to building heights and preservation. Pretty simple, really. But Murray hasn’t spelled that out, even though it seems like the most important issue in the city. Neither has McGinn, but he is the incumbent. I know what he has done, and how he wants to move the ball forward in this respect. With Murray, I don’t know what I’ll get, which is why supporting the incumbent is really easy.

  13. So far, all I’ve seen from Murray regarding transportation is lip service for bicycling and disturbing comments about transit that seem to prioritize the region over his own city. While regional needs are important, Sound Transit has plenty of people on their board representing the region, but a mayor of Seattle should be consider Seattle’s needs first, not the needs of Bellevue, Lynnwood, or anywhere else.

    While Murray will probably oversee a few token improvements for non-car mobility when it’s cheap, convenient, and completely uncontroversial, everything I’ve heard from Murray strongly suggests that if there is ever a trade tradeoff between allocating space towards cars or transit, parking or sidewalk, with Murray, the cars will win nearly every time.

    Murray will never stick out his neck to push for anything like a road diet on Nickerson, dedicated transit lanes through downtown, or giving up parking to build a cycle track. His comments on the Missing Link, more than anything, reveal where his interests truly lie,

    While not perfect, McGinn at least seems to care about people who want other ways besides driving to get around.

  14. Doesn’t anyone remember then-Rep. Murray’s tirade in the ST board room? If they cancelled the First Hill Station, they’d have to go through him, or that he’d oppose ST’s ffpga? Imagine for one minute that McGinn pulled the same stunt…

    Murray is a guy who plays well with others and can get things done? Hardly!

    1. So here’s where it gets complicated.

      He was right on First Hill. ST saved, by most estimates, $350 million. But instead, we’re spending $150 million on a streetcar that will suck. And because Seattle is the City of Throw Good Money After Bad, we’ll probably spend hundreds of millions more on a downtown streetcar that connects nothing to nowhere. And after all of that same $350 million has been spent on uselessness, it will still be 100% terrible to get to a crucial downtown-adjacent urban area from anywhere.

      On the other hand, Murray’s tantrum was all for show. He didn’t return to Olympia on a mission to close the funding gap on an emergency (or better yet, structural) basis. He didn’t employ media savvy to shame the ST board into doing the right thing for the city’s future. He didn’t do anything.

      McGinn sometimes strikes me as too clueless and fad-happy to achieve optimized results. But I don’t think Murray cares about achieving results at all. He only seems to care about his own career.

      1. The issue with the First Hill station wasn’t the $350 that was saved by not building it, the issue was with First Hill station U-Link was at risk of not getting any Federal New Starts money.

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