johnfoxOn Monday, the Seattle City Council postponed a vote on a resolution to endorse King County Proposition 1, at the behest of John Fox, Coordinator of the Seattle Displacement Coalition. Mr. Fox wants to put conditions on what Seattle’s share of Proposition 1 revenues can be used for in the endorsement resolution. In particular, he has been urging folks to ask the City Council to mandate that the city’s portion of Proposition 1 revenue be used for “bus hours only”.

Mr. Fox graciously agreed to an interview regarding this proposal.

He clarified that he has no problem with Proposition 1 revenues being used for bus capital improvement projects (e.g. bus lanes and signal priority), sidewalks, road maintenance, and bridge maintenance, “as long as they are related to bus service”. This is largely in keeping with his stance supporting sidewalks, road maintenance, and bridge maintenance when he vocally opposed Seattle Proposition 1 in 2011, although at that time, he didn’t insist it be related to bus service.

Fox’s drop-dead condition is that “Not one dime of Seattle’s portion of Proposition 1 revenue can be allowed to be spent on rail.” Nobody had even brought up the idea of spending any Proposition 1 money on rail projects until Fox raised the issue.

But he added an additional word that could wreak havoc on bus service in Seattle: “neighborhood”, as in “neighborhood bus service”. He doesn’t want Proposition 1 money to go to downtown bus routes, unless the neighborhoods ask for their share of money to go there. He believes that “Downtown businesses should do more to subsidize downtown bus service.” The problem with this approach is that most of the overcrowded bus routes happen to serve downtown, and desperately need service hours added.

What would King County Proposition 1 advocates gain from the City Council meeting his conditions? He says if he doesn’t get the language he wants in the city council resolution “I would be much more likely to actively campaign against Proposition 1.” He couldn’t promise that the Seattle Displacement Coalition would endorse Proposition 1 even if the City Council accepted the language he is requesting. According to Fox, SDC is very strongly opposed to regressive taxes, but its membership understands that the funding mechanisms of Proposition 1 are the only options allowed by the state to save bus service.

Various pro-Prop-1 groups have bent over backwards to minimize the regressiveness of Proposition 1. These efforts included a successful campaign to institute a low-income fare for Metro bus service, and a rebate for low-income car tab payers. Low-income bus riders will end up saving a lot more in bus fare than they would be paying in a car tab or the 0.1% additional sales tax. Failure of Proposition 1 would mean the county would almost certainly have to ditch the low-income fare program for lack of funding. A constant refrain among the members of the Low Income Fare Options Advisory Committee members was that the low-income fare program should not be funded by cutting bus service.

So, it comes down to this: Is John Fox willing to burn the whole house down to prevent even an outside chance that one penny will be spent on rail?

60 Replies to “John Fox on KC Prop 1”

  1. What does “neighborhood bus service” mean to the “Displacement Coalition”? And, not to put too fine a point on it, who Is he worried is being displaced, existing residents from gentrification or poor people in general?

    1. Well I read the website and it’s pretty clear that the whole thing is a bait-and-switch thing to “protect” rich old white SF homeowners. The noble “poor” and “homeless” are sock puppets.

      1. When it comes to defending the right of the homeless to exist, Seattle has not had a more tireless champion than John Fox. Take a look at this article from 2001, when John was practically stalking the Mark Sidran for Mayor campaign. John was backing pro-growth Greg Nickels in order to stop the obsessively anti-homeless city attorney Sidran, and poured his lifeblood into the campaign.

        But scan down this article for “monorail” and you’ll come across this historically ironic quote from Mr. Fox: “‘This [Sidran] is a man who compared the monorail to the Bubbleator not long ago,’ says John Fox, a housing advocate who helped organize the demonstration outside the Westin.” Yes, Fox was a monorail booster, and I forgot to ask him about that when I interviewed him. My bad.

  2. Well, so much for the simple 60/40 split between transit and roads for this one. It will be interesting to see all the special interest groups lobby city and county councils for their favorite pet project from the 40% pots.
    With regard to the appeasement of the low income groups, exactly how is this new taxing district (really just KC Council), going to ‘means test’ all those below the 200% of the poverty level, or about $47,000 income (or is that AGI), for a family of four. Should we send in our tax returns along with our claim for a $20/car rebate? Maybe this is an interesting way for KC to get an income tax going. If the state Dept of Revenue is going to do all the paperwork, maybe that’s the Trojan Horse – which isn’t a bad thing, and certainly less regressive than piling on more taxes on the poor.
    ?? Portland uses employment based taxes to fund transit. If I recall, KC and Transit districts have some flexibility in that arena, but choose to not go there. WHY NOT, or did I dream KC and/or ST had an employee head tax option, but have never used it.
    RCW ref. anyone?

    1. mic,

      The $20 car-tab rebate for those earning 45% of the county median income or less actually came out of a state law passed last year. I have to give the legislature credit for doing *something* relevant to bus service. The estimate I saw was $820,000 to administer about $5.5 million in annual rebates, at least the first year, if all eligible individuals take up the offer. We knew it would be clunky and not cheap. But that benefit-to-administrative-cost ratio is quite good compared to, say, the administrative burden of the program giving out free tickets to the homeless … one … at … a … time.

      “this new taxing district (really just KC Council)”

      By George, I think you got it! This huge new bureaucracy you’ve been warning us all about consists of another duty as assigned for John Resha, long-time county transportation department staffer, who now gets the ceremonial title of “Director of the King County Transportation District” to add to his job duties. I would have gone to the union and insisted the word “executive” be thrown in there, but Mr. Resha is a humble man. Think of it like “Warden of the North” added under the title “Lord of Winterfell”, but involving hundreds of hours less per week, and an astronomically smaller chance of losing one’s head.

      If you know of other funding sources where the county chose not to go, please cite the section in RCW or elsewhere. I’d love to know them.

  3. Thanks for the posting, Brent. I needed some incentive to start keeping my promise to work for passage of Resolution 1. Would appreciate being stationed around Ballard, despite present exile from there. That way, I’ll get some ORCA time down on Route 40, which I think counts as a neighborhood route. Even if it does go Downtown.

    If I pick it up at my espresso stop in South Lake Union, maybe I’ll be forgiven for having to use either Sounder or LINK to get that far. Also a shame the streetcar is fastest way to Kakao Cafe than either walking or buses. Wait a minute- isn’t First Hill Streetcar a neighborhood route? Damn, City Council needs another resolution!

    But maybe city needs to start paving over the tracks right now, just to be sure Prop 1 still has a chance.
    Will also save the expense of adding the missing southbound wire if the battery cars start needing frequent “jumps.”

    My worst regret about relocation used to be that while I really regional transit service, trip time still takes half my day- which I’d otherwise spend in a variety of neighborhoods in Seattle. Looking forward to the new trolleybus purchase.

    But now, my worst regret is I won’t be able to vote against anybody on the Seattle City Council who’d hesitate to endorse the survival of their own city’s transit system over threats from an idiot. I’m getting senile too- goes with my green and white bus pass. But I’m counting on younger people, who now number just about everybody, to tell Larry Phillips and my other reps to have transit police escort me out of any meeting where I present anything as ridiculous as Mr. Fox’s efforts re: Prop 1.

    I may not have a reputation to protect, but would like to leave a better memory.

    Mark Dublin

    1. Please try not to make Fox’s case for him.

      The 40 is easily your fastest way to Kakao, despite all that is wrong with SDOT’s signal timings on 3rd and on Blanchard. At least once it gets to Westlake the 40 travels in a straight line, rather than bopping to and fro and cling-clanging to a halt at three stop signs in two longitudinal blocks.

      The future “connector” will, of course, attempt to tour every street downtown in every direction — crossing the 40’s path three times — as it “connects” Sounder to a zig-zag near your destination. For only hundreds of millions of dollars per mile.

      And the First Hill Street Car will charge a “premium” fare to perform a transit service more terribly than you who haven’t checked out its street geometry can possibly imagine.

      John Fox, woefully, has trouble imagining that efficient transit can be good for people of all stripes. But his distilled-to-its-essence assertion — that expensive-for-the-sake-of-being-expensive transit is bad for those who foot the bills — is fundamentally correct. You do his bidding when you confuse the two.

      1. d.p., if I need to get straight through Downtown from Jackson Street, which I often do, I’ll take the Tunnel from International District. Rush hour, often get off the 594 at Stadium, and take either bus or train, whichever comes first, through the Tunnel.

        Right now, while the 40 is good between, say, Whole Foods and Ballard, its present route takes it out of the way between Pine and Denny. Will be both more direct and better for both Fremont and Ballard when the streetcar is extended the whole way. And a whole lot more comfortable, especially for a standing load.

        If somebody wanted to ride the whole proposed route through Downtown, which based on experience a good many visitors will do on a streetcar but not a bus, it would definitely take more time than the Tunnel from IDS. Which has elevators and escalators, which do occasionally work. But for city travel, and especially for window-shopping and sight-seeing, street rail has the edge.

        Frequently being part of standing loads previously aboard the 40 and now on the 594 south, and the 512 north, railcars win hands down for passenger comfort. They also load and unload faster and easier than buses.

        Rolling on either rubber or rail, any transit vehicle in general traffic is one more big, slow automobile. Reserved lanes and signal pre-empt will speed up both modes. Politically, overseas it’s easier to get right of way for trains than for buses. What happens is that because buses can (theoretically, but not in heavy traffic) get around obstacles, nobody cares if they have to.

        There are signs in Stockholm that say essentially: “Yield signs don’t apply to streetcars.”

        What makes my point about Mr. Fox rather than his is that he talks as if he really does believe that our transit systems deliberately go looking for systems that cost the maximum amount of money- and steal most of it directly from poor people. A few decades ago, same argument could be made against integrated sewer systems rather than giving the poor shovels.

        If he were talking about the civilian interests that force hugely expensive things on the military that the officers say they don’t need, or certain highway projects, he’d have a point.
        Same could be said for certain parts of the consulting industry, though full disclosure is that I’ve done it, though it was forced on me by poverty, bad character, and espresso addiction.

        Give me back my trolleybus, or front seat on a railcar, and I’ll never do it again.

        Mark Dublin

      2. Ah, the old “politically it’s easier…” I love “politically it’s easier…”

        As the First Hill Streetcar sits for three light cycles behind a backed-up lane of traffic, just trying to reach the platform to open it’s damned doors so that it can miss the light again.

        As the hypothetical “more direct and better” streetcar turns at Virginia, waits at four consecutive painfully long reds, and goes literally nowhere near the tunnel.

        Seattle street rail has already failed twice, at great expense. Your romantic rail delusion doesn’t give the right to be counterfactual, any more than John’s noble-poverty narrative bestows that right upon him.

        Give me a fucking break.


      3. John Fox, woefully, has trouble imagining that efficient transit can be good for people of all stripes. But his distilled-to-its-essence assertion — that expensive-for-the-sake-of-being-expensive transit is bad for those who foot the bills — is fundamentally correct. You do his bidding when you confuse the two.

        There’s a difference between people who primarily argue against expensive transit, and people who primarily argue for cheap transit.

        It’s easy for the John Foxes and Normans and Kemper Freemans of the world to talk about how all the rail projects we’re building are way too expensive for the mobility benefits they would bring. But you never see them proposing alternatives. For John Fox, a world with no Link is strictly better than a world with Link, even if nothing else is built in its place. That’s just not a vision I can get behind.

      4. But, wait. Kemper’s anti-rail front group, the Eastside Transportation Association, is campaigning against Prop 1. So, if you follow their ideology, buses are better than trains, and fewer buses are better than more buses. It seems pointless to go into the transitivity.

  4. Brent deserves a lot of credit and respect for interviewing someone who holds an opposing viewpoint. It’s a nice change.

  5. a) Thanks STB for pitching in to attack. I can speak from both the heart and from personal experience that it’s always best for local folks to fight and fight hard through muckraking, public disclosure efforts and repeated strident sorties to get the best for your community. So I salute you!

    b) I suspect this John Fox is a clone of another John Fox. You might have heard of the latter, he coached two teams that lost to our Seahawks in the play-offs: . Both are also well-intended folks who just aren’t all that, er, bright and sunny and happy.

    c) Bring the heat guys! Win forever!!

  6. Where would the world be without people like John Fox. Someone has to protect us from threats which don’t exist.

  7. Given that the chance of any money from this being spent on rail was already essentially zero, isn’t even bringing up the possibility at all a not-too-obvious attempt to plant a red herring in the weeds?

    John Fox has already decided to fight this initiative. He’s just trying to invent a fake reason why he’s fighting it, so he that isn’t totally exposed as the two-faced anti-tax crony that he’s sadly become. It’s too bad too, because Seattle could use more genuine and effective advocates for the poor.

    1. Yep.

      I used to think you take the good with the bad for such a tireless advocate for the homeless. Now I just wish the city council would start ignoring him already.

      1. What exactly does “advocate for the homeless” mean? That he opposes “stop and frisk” and other sorts of humiliation for homeless folks that the cops already know? That he believes the city should provide taxpayer-funded homeless shelters? If so, where does he advocate locating them?

        I read his website as being little more than a BANANA plantation.

  8. Isn’t the whole point of this Proposition mainly to save current service? Does John Fox want to implement all the cuts Metro has planned if it doesn’t pass for all routes that serve downtown? That’s what he’s saying.

    1. I think it all comes down to what the neighborhoods want. Supporting only the non-downtown routes (8, 30, 31, 32, 44, 48, 50, 60, 75, 128, the routes out of Northgate, and probably a few others) would lead to a heavily skewed network that leaves out vast numbers of people and neighborhoods. I can’t believe he literallly wants that, or that he’s so ignorant of the bus network that he doesn’t realize that supporting the 5’s north Seattle segment (for instance) necessarily means supporting its downtown segment. Unless he wants to split all such routes, but that’s not in the cards with so little money.

      The neighborhoods are the riders, at least for Seattle residents, so at least at one level it makes sense to defer to them. Many STBers have said Metro is too downtown-centric and is neglecting crosstown service and adjacent-neighborhood service. So Fox may be saying the same thing there. If so, there are two problems with his approach. One, you can’t make such a major reorganization when there’s a gun to your head and the extra revenue is so minimal, it has to be done in a more strategic manner; e.g., by gradually implementing Seattle’s TMP. The other problem is that neighborhoods does not imply all citizens equally per capita, but arbitrary social units of different sizes, with various organizations claiming to speak for the whole neighborhood. This often leads to single-family, commuter, anti-density, P&R interests predominating, and urban-minded residents being ignored.

      1. Of _course_ Metro is downtown centric. Metro is still operating routes that originally debuted in the 1960s and have changed minimally (or not at all) since they started. The original–and still primary–people flows are into and out of downtown, for sure, but Metro also gets absolutely steamrolled every time it tries to make anything beyond a minor change. The reaction to the 2012 service change was loud and unequivocal: don’t ever do that to “us” ever again. Unless Metro wants to add one-seat rides to everywhere, Delridge to Northgate; Lake City to Des Moines, appeasing people versus getting it right is going to take a long slog or years of incremental shifts.

      2. The fact that a route happens to go downtown doesn’t mean that it’s oriented around downtown.

        I’m no fan of John Fox, but I think there’s a more charitable way to interpret what he’s saying. He may be objecting to one-way peak express buses; the kind of buses that are really, truly only useful for people going to and from downtown. A bus like the 5 — or even the 2, or 3, or 10 — may spend a lot of time “downtown”, but it’s still a broadly useful way to travel along a corridor. But a bus like the 218 is not.

        I mean, maybe John Fox really has such a poor understanding of the bus network that he thinks it’s possible to rebuild it so that no buses go downtown at all. Or maybe he thinks that the downtown business community is so desperate for bus service that they would happily pay for Metro’s entire operations budget for the portions of routes that go downtown. But without more detail, it’s hard to say what he really thinks.

      3. John Fox is not a rookie neighborhood activist who may make perfectly understandable mistakes in terminology. He’s been through this rodeo many more times than you or I have, and he’s an able political operator who knows, or at least should know, what he’s talking about. When he carefully draws a distinction between “neighborhood” and “downtown” bus service, I think he deserves to be taken exactly at his word, and his proposal evaluated accordingly, as Brent ably has.

      4. 70% of the crosstown routes I listed didn’t exist 25 years ago, so Metro is making progress. (And maybe 80%, depending on when the 60 started.) I was originally planning to say 95% of Metro’s service is downtown buses but when I started adding up the crosstowns there are quite a few of them now.

      5. ” I think he deserves to be taken exactly at his word, and his proposal evaluated accordingly”

        If we don’t know what he means; e.g., whether he’d consider the 5 as a good or a bad route, then there’s a fundamental question of what his word is. Certainly the people taking it from Greenwood to Fremont, or from Broadview to Greenwood, or to transfer to the 48, would think it’s a neighborhood route.

      6. “Downtown businesses” is a very narrow way of looking at why people take the bus downtown. There’s the library, ferry terminal, city hall, Seattle Center, transfers to all over the region, and evening/night trips when the businesses are closed. Should the downtown businesses be paying for all of these? Should this transit be eliminated because it’s outside the scope of downtown businesses?

      7. Here’s another interview Fox did recently, which includes many direct quotations:

        SSU: Why do you think that asking for reasonable limits on growth represents a progressive and environmentally-responsible position?

        JVF: … It means more evenly distributing jobs and housing around the region and concentrating them into our region’s existing underutilized activity centers, or along now-nonexistent transit routes serving those centers. And it means accompanying that growth model with the creation of bus, car, van pool, and/or personal (Lyft-like) systems that run along corridors serving those other activity centers. Yet we lack the transportation dollars to do this because we’re pouring billions into creation of expensive rail systems running into and out of Seattle and its downtown – a system that at best will serve about about 10 percent of the region’s commuters.

        I think this quote makes it more clear that John Fox is explicitly opposed to any bus service that goes into or out of downtown, which would mean that he would oppose routes like the 5. In other words, I was wrong.

        It’s very interesting to hear Fox say that he wants to “concentrate [jobs and housing] into our region’s existing underutilized activity centers”. Where exactly are these underutilized activity centers? I’d like to hear him name even one activity center in the region where he feels that growth would be appropriate.

      8. It does sound Bailoesque.

        And Link does not just take people downtown! It will cover the entire eastern half of the city from end to end. Last week I went to Highline Community College from north Seattle. A 2 1/2 hour trip that will be 1 1/2 when I can transfer to Link at Roosevelt and take it directly to Highline. Also last week I overheard a guy on the bus saying he goes from the U-District to Seward Park each day and it takes 2 hours each way. Link will bring that down to 1 hour, assuming a transfer at Othello. These are the kind of benefits that won’t happen “in a world of no Link… if nothing else is built in its place”:

      9. Here’s another point of irony: Crosstown service will soon mean routes that serve light rail stations, from which one can transfer to go downtown. It is light rail that is making his dream of more crosstown service doable.

      10. Increasingly, downtown is a neighborhood, too, particularly if you include Belltown and SLU. It is also, of course, the “neighborhood” where a lot of the people John Fox claims to represent live in and spent much of their time in. Is that “neighborhood” to be ignored? I hated the idea of devolving political power to the “neighborhoods” in the last election. Yes, downtown may be better served by transit than the rest of the city, but that doesn’t mean it’s overserved. Like it or not, the geography of our “bow tie” city means that most buses are going to run through downtown.

      11. They aren’t mutually exclusive, densifying Seattle and “concentrating [jobs and housing] into our region’s existing underutilized activity centers”. We should pursue both. But not with the limited funding of Prop 1. To use a gym analogy, Prop 1 is like a weight belt or hand straps to relieve pressure on the joints when doing squats/pullups/boxing. That’s different from long-term muscle growth (regional infill), but is just as necessary. There’s also the core muscles vs outer muscles. Many atheletes ignored the core in the 80s and 90s, but now most recognize that a strong core is vital to everything else they want to do.

        However, the SSU interview raises more unknowns. Which places does Fox consider underutilized, and what kind of development would he accept there? For instance, we’ve talked a lot about Kent East Hill, but every time I recommend more housing and density there, Bailo protests, “No! That would gentrify it and displace the poor.” — exactly what Fox says about Seattle. We can turn to White Center or Federal Way or Lynnwood, but the exact same issue arises. So where would Fox allow development, and what kind? Would he allow it dense enough to support full-time 15-minute bus service, to make non-driving a viable alternative?

      12. Aleks,

        “Bellevue”. “Shoreline”. “Kenmore”, “Burien”, “Renton”, “Kent”, “Auburn”, Issaquah”, and “Federal Way”. Those are “our region’s existing underutilized activity centers”. (Note the exclusion of Redmond, and the U-District the other places where those snotty tech kids who used to play on his lawn get jobs).

      13. The idea that Link serves downtown interests over those of neighborhoods is ridiculous. It is the opposite. Metro does a pretty good job getting people to downtown (especially in the morning) and back (especially in the evening). But Link will greatly improve the ride from neighborhood to neighborhood. Consider Roosevelt, for example Pretty soon, you will be able to quickly get to Northgate, the UW, Capitol Hill, Beacon Hill and the Rainier Valley from there. You can get there now, but it is usually really slow. In many cases, it requires switching buses downtown. Which is another reason why his statement is nuts. Buses go downtown in part because it is a logical hub.

        I don’t see the Rapid Ride system benefiting downtown interests more than neighborhoods, either.

        The only system that I see that might fall under his category is the streetcar, which is a city thing. I think the streetcars aren’t worth the money, but the funny part is, the SLU was paid in part exactly the way he wanted — with taxes on local business. Link is building the other one, but only because voters approved it (by proxy, since the original plan was to have a station on First Hill). Maybe he doesn’t want new streetcars. I don’t either, but I sure wouldn’t oppose this measure if they did. If you think Metro is mismanaged, vote for different county council member. Opposing this because you don’t like the way things are run reminds me of idiots who don’t like the way the schools are run so they oppose a levy. Vote for a new school board, fool!

  9. I’m confused. I thought the portion that was distributed to cities inside King County came from the 40% road portion. Why would that portion be spent on bus service? Isn’t that what the other 60% does? Road fixes and improvements that happen to benefit buses–like repaving or repairing curbs–aren’t “bus improvements,” they’re infrastructure improvements.

    1. The 40% goes to local governments, split according to population, for the local government to spend. There are strictures about the things they can be spent on having to be in master plans. It may already be the case that Seattle can’t spend the Prop 1 money on rail, but I’m too tired to look it up tonight.

    2. @lakecityrider: there’s road spending and then there’s road spending. I’d been given the impression (I don’t remember how — perhaps JF has been saying things like this for a month now, and I just missed the source) that Seattle’s intention had always been to spend the 40% on things like bus lanes, bus bulbs, bike lanes and sidewalks — all things JF has said he is okay with.

  10. John Fox logic: Rail might be attractive to people who aren’t poor. Anything that attracts people who aren’t poor is bad for the city because it increases housing prices. Therefore rail is evil.

    The number of factors this sort of logic fails to consider absolutely blows my mind.

    1. Oh, and the corollary to the logic above: “Only people who aren’t poor use downtown bus routes.” It’s enough to make you wonder if John Fox ever actually rides the bus.

  11. This sounds suspiciously like log-rolling and every other shifty political maneuver (at the state and federal level) we’ve seen in recent times. It’s as bad as the Republicans allowing the federal shutdown because they won’t get what they want over Obamacare.

    Frankly, if John Fox is willing to allow Metro to go through the most devastating cuts in its history just to prove a point, he has NO business being an “advocate” for the poor. I’d be happy not to be allied with him if these are his true colors…and I hope other low-income advocates see him for what he really is.

  12. It seems to me that Metro has a general purpose operations budget.

    How in the !!!! does he propose that the money from Proposition 1 go only to neighborhood bus services, when there isn’t really a budgeting separation?

    The claim could be made that Proposition 1 funding was being used to continue service on the Magnolia section of #24 and #33 (and Magnolia seems to consider itself a neighborhood) while already existing funds are used to fund the rest of those routes.

    So, other than spending a bit more administration in juggling funds around to prove that the money from Proposition 1 go only to neighborhood bus service, I don’t see this requirement really accomplishing much.

  13. So, who is this John Fox guy, and why does he get to single-handedly get to make the city council pass special language just for him? Where does he get all this power from?

    1. He has long opposed replacing old buildings with denser buildings with more units, because he thinks the way to stop rents from rising is to not allow any construction. He doesn’t have special powers over the city council, he’s just a prominent activist.

  14. Mark Dublin
    d.p. says:
    March 22, 2014 at 11:35 pm

    Ah, the old “politically it’s easier…” I love “politically it’s easier…”

    As the First Hill Streetcar sits for three light cycles behind a backed-up lane of traffic, just trying to reach the platform to open it’s damned doors so that it can miss the light again.

    As the hypothetical “more direct and better” streetcar turns at Virginia, waits at four consecutive painfully long reds, and goes literally nowhere near the tunnel.

    Seattle street rail has already failed twice, at great expense. Your romantic rail delusion doesn’t give the right to be counterfactual, any more than John’s noble-poverty narrative bestows that right upon him.

    Give me a fucking break.


    d.p, which two failed streetcar lines are you talking about? The George Benson line operated, and was very popular, for around thirty years, before the officials charged with its operation jointly blew the chance to keep it operating for the last ten before it would have had to be shut down for Viaduct demolition. Maybe the only Route 99 you ever saw was the miserable bus that replaced it. Failure, and how, but nothing to do with the streetcar line.

    The South Lake Union line? How many years has it even been running? For the first several, the business district we call South Lake Union. Now that Amazon is there, trains are packed at rush hour.
    No surprise, or failure, trains occasionally get stuck. The city shut down signal pre-empt over construction traffic on Mercer, leaving trains to get stuck along with everything else.

    The average new freeway is nowhere near capacity for its first years- and the average old one is a parking lot with pieces falling off its bridges. Which period would you say is the worse failure?

    Now, “counterfactual” is an interesting accusation to make about a particular delay on a streetcar line that doesn’t even have trains yet. Detailed description, too, even to the number of lights it’ll be trapped.

    Really is too bad both our comments are too far down the list for anybody to see either of them. Your discovery of time travel will soon result in a fleet of personal helicopters and private jets that will let you find failed streetcar systems all over the world, past, present, and so far in the future the rails will melt when the sun explodes.

    Any day of the week, your copy of the next day’s Wall Street Journal will fix it so you don’t need any breaks at all, including and especially the ones resulting in procreation.


    too bad both our comments are too far down the list for anybody to read them, because you’ve somehow discovered a major breakthrough in transit planning: being able to describe streetcar operations that haven’t happened yet.

    1. Time warps are destroying my ability to edit. Stuff I quoted should have been in quotes, and some paragraphs got repeated. It’s past midnight. Good thing everybody is probably preoccupied with tomorrow’s Open Thread. Which, being able to see the transit future, you already know.


    2. Last night, I watched as the freshly repainted Broadway trapped a line of cars at the corner of Pine, the busy intersection and atrociously-placed platform hemming in the lane so thoroughly that a mere handful of cars made it through per cycle.

      Your train will sit behind them. And sit behind them the next cycle. And be forbidden to open its doors until every last car has cleared its path. The trolley itself may not have been delivered, but anyone who is not a frothing moron can view its stuckness plain as day.

      Your trolley will also run with less frequency and span than promised (rail = predictability!) and cost more to ride for ten blocks than Link does for seven miles. So wheeeeee for Seattle street rail!

      And yet you insist on chiming in with your demonstrably false romantic claims about the efficient streetcars whisking the masses around and across Stockholm.

      Fact: Stockholm’s modern “street rail” is in its outskirts only, is nowhere near the congested environs of the city center, has lanes and medians and purpose-built viaducts anywhere crucial to the network, has cross-platform transfers to core services. These projects have literally zero resemblance to Seattle’s yen for slow center-city shit-transfer rail.

      Fact: Stockholm’s one “historic” streetcar exists only to connect to a tourist attraction. All other historic radial trams have been emphatically replaced by real, scalable transit, precisely because the streetcars weren’t cutting it.

      Fact:Trams are terrible at heavy-lifting, which is why 2,500 people per day crawling at 5mph in a non-core capacity on the SLUT suddenly appears a whopping “success” to witnesses.

      You’ve long had a flair for waxing fanciful, but this is the first time you’ve doused your text in the fraud that rail — any rail, of any kind, anywhere — will save us all. The slow, hobbled rail you now advocate for Seattle is the very artifact that the world’s best big cities have gradually, meticulously supplanted for decades with things that work better.

      The world wasn’t purer when streetcars roamed the earth and crossing even compact cities took the better part of a day. Such a claim is as fraudulent and ahistorical as anything Bailo has ever said about density.

      1. …keep that up and Brent may have to smack you down too!
        “By George, I think you got it! This huge new bureaucracy you’ve been warning us all about…” in response to a legitimate question of why our politicians go ga-ga over MVET and completely ignore Portland’s successful use of employment based taxing to fund public transit. I know ST has $2 per head employee tax they have never used, which doesn’t generate much, and reading through the RCW’s is quite confusing for me as it bounces around a lot between sections. There are references to using the B&O tax. My concern with creating new administrative districts is it only acknowledges the failures of the present ones. Perhaps it’s because actually asking employers/commuters to pay for the often touted benefits of public transit to deliver worker bees collides head on with our willingness to give large business’ a free ride on taxes of any sort.
        Once you cross the line into being critical of rail on STB, any rail, you suddenly invoke an immune system reaction more real than a foreign virus.
        I agree with d.p. that pouring hundreds of millions into street rails just for the sake of ‘its better, because’ is counter productive to being able to invest in more transit that actually works better, like trolley buses. John Fox has been around long enough to understand how money for one thing gets ‘derailed’ (sorry, couldn’t resist the pun) in something else. I consider his shot across the bow of the USS City Council as just a loud warning shot.

      2. Additional tax sources are worth pursuing, and if the county or Sound Transit have declined any we should rightly ask them why. But that’s not something we can resolve by June so the patient has to go to urgent care now.

        And when you do ask them, they will likely say, “The businesses and libertarians have enough power to block it and vote us out of office if we pursue it.” That’s the most likely reason it’s not being pursued.

        But things can change. Seattle Subway has shown there’s a latent constituency for much better transit, and willingness to pay for it. So far the Prop 1 side has failed to ignite that vision among potential pro-transit supporters. That doesn’t mean it’s impossible; it just means it hasn’t been achieved at thiis point.

      3. “That vision”:
        I don’t mean Seattle Subway’s particular vision, but that level of vision. A vision of the benefits of preserving existing transit, and of small reorganizations like the Route 2 proposals.

      4. Thanks for the thoughtful reply Mike. Portland funds their transit system with about half from employee payroll taxes, 1/4 from the farebox and the rest from various federal and state grants. They have also been doing a better job of providing service with cost per rider 46% lower than KC Metro and half that of ST. Cost per vehicle mile are also much lower.
        If Prop 1 goes down, and I think it will not sit well with motorist getting hit with tolls and ever increasing vehicle taxes and fees, then it’s time to look beyond Seattles ‘GoTo’ tax streams for transit.

      5. The reason TriMet has a lower cost-per-rider is that:
        1) Their system is infrequent and slow
        2) You are comparing apples to oranges, treating all the capital costs of building existing MAX lines as sunk, while judging the capitol costs of ongoing Link expansion projects (which are more expensive and more useful than ongoing MAX expansion projects) against current ridership on existing lines.

      6. Actually I didn’t include any sunk capital cost for any of those comparisons. It’s just the Transit Data Base 2012 report for annual operating cost, divided by riders and passenger miles. A simple comparison, but I can see how you could jump to the wrong conclusion.

      7. asdf says:
        March 23, 2014 at 7:49 pm
        The reason TriMet has a lower cost-per-rider is that:
        1) Their system is infrequent and slow

        King County Metro is also a county affiliated service, and therefore has some routes that extend as far as places like South Bend. TriMet is a regional agency that doesn’t have a border that corresponds with county lines. Smaller cities such as Wilsonville, Sandy, Canby, etc. where there is much less ridership provide their own transit services – usually at very limited hours and frequency.

        As a region, Seattle has a much larger percentage of riders that use transit as opposed to the Portland area. We have a larger percentage of bicycle commuters over TriMet commuters.

      8. d.p. says:
        March 23, 2014 at 2:45 am
        Fact:Trams are terrible at heavy-lifting, which is why 2,500 people per day crawling at 5mph in a non-core capacity on the SLUT suddenly appears a whopping “success” to witnesses.

        I will agree with some of what you say. However, Strassbourg’s tram line was moving some 120,000 people per day last I checked. However, as indicated elsewhere in your post (and the part I agree with) is that Europe has figured out how to make these tram lines much faster than what is happening in the USA with streetcar lines – which attracts more ridership.

        I’m not even sure the way “modern streetcar” lines are built in the USA now would even meet yesterday’s capacity standards. During the peak ridership period of 1905, Portland’s streetcar system was averaging about 6 million riders per week, and there were parts of the network that had one car every 30 seconds. Today’s Portland streetcar would probably choke badly on anything more frequent than one car every 4 minutes or so, and sometimes struggles with 15 minute headways.

        So, trams in fact can do the “heavy lifting” of a transit network.
        It’s just today’s “modern” USA implementation of them that can’t.

      9. The streetcar fad-pushers and their enablers always have a favored European example, one which “proves” street rail can whisk the masses across a nexus of charm and modernity if only we give it a chance.

        What these examples always have in common is that they point to TINY cities.

        Strasbourg has 750,000 in its entire metropolitan area. It makes Portland look like Tokyo. Moreover, that entire metropolitan area stretches ten miles by six miles. To its most remote extremities.

        Simply put, no one in Strasbourg ever needs to go that far or that fast. And not being at a nexus of millions simply means less inherent city-center congestion — less competition from parallel modes or interruption from perpendicular modes. Add to that a consistent density across the built environment that aids the consolidation of transit into just a handful of intensive-use (and thus easily prioritized) corridors, and you have the perfect set of conditions for expedited street rail.

        But get any larger or sprawlier, and the wise cities know to avoid city-center surface rails like the plague. As noted above, Stockholm uses them only as feeders and circumferential transit, holding them far from the city. Core network investments have only taken forms that can heavy-lift without compromise.

        And Stockholm is hardly a megalopolis — at just over 2 million in the whole metro area, its a hair smaller than Portland. But Stockholm you can cross on transit. MAX’s downtown errors ensure that in your town, you can’t.

        Human Transit wrote an entire post — — on the the Strasbourg trams’ urban geometry and why one should be wary of trying to transpose them to dissimilar circumstances and still expect they could function as core pieces of a transit network. He also makes sure to point out that while most of the digital fawning over Strasbourg shows the trams mingling with pedestrians in city-center squares, the vast majority of the network runs on medians and includes strategic underpasses and fits squarely with the American concept of Light Rail.

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