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Locally, the election story is pretty good for transit advocates. Seattle voters decisively supported more bus service 59% to 41% and the monorail revival is losing by 60 points. These are both victories for the local political establishment and, in our opinion, transit riders.

In the legislature, all of our endorsed candidates are winning except Matt Isenhower in the 45th. The bigger picture, however, is entrenched Republican control of the Senate and the probability of no action on most issues. The good news is they may block bad highway projects the Democratic majority supports; the bad news is they may make the path for ST3 that much more difficult.

Nationally, as you’ve probably heard, Republicans retook the U.S. Senate. In our world that’s mainly notable for Patty Murray no longer being chair of the Budget Committee, where she has been very effective delivering federal money for local projects.

172 Replies to “Election Results Roundup”

  1. Beyond all else, I think it is hilarious how badly the monorail initiative did. Getting flattened by 60% has to sting a little.

  2. What are the chances of the Puget Sound going it alone for ST3? How dependent are Eastern Washington highways on Western Washington money? I have to assume taxed apples and wheat can’t cover it all.. The tax from each Boeing jet sold alone probably covers a good section of eastern Washington highway maintenance, and one would think EW politicians would realize this. The Puget Sound transportation system can’t be held hostage by rural agricultural interest. They are clueless to the perils of trying to navigate Aurora, I-5, I-405 and the connecting arterials. Hopefully Prop 1 will give us the impetus to go it alone.

    1. They (E.Wa) are generally clueless about a lot of things related to the Westside, but Washington politics has always been described as, “East vs West and everyone against Seattle.” Even if the politicians in E.Wa were sentient enough to realize the importance of investing in Pugetopolis, they would never do it because they would be voted out of office. There simply is no upside for Seattle in having E.Wa and the R’s control the State House and Senate.

      The problem in that is that we can’t go forward with ST3 until the State gives us the authority to levy the taxes to pay for it. Basically the R’s would need to raise the tax ceiling enough to allow ST to fund ST3, and that aint going to happen with the R’s running the show.

      That said, the best thing we can hope for is that the existing mega projects soak up enough of the State transpo dollars that the R’s can’t find a way to start any new boondoggles. Mega project overruns coupled with court intervention over State intransigence on the culvert issue might just tie the R’s up in knots on transpo.

      1. @les,

        You really want to run these big revenue packages in presidential election years because of the large voter turnout. If you run them in an off-year you typically only get the older, more conservative, more angry voters to turn out and they always vote “no” on taxes.

        So 2016 would have been good, next good opp is 2020.

        Doing it in 2017 would garner a “no” vote and a ding to ST and ST3 credibility — not what you want if you are pro-transit.

      2. 2018 isn’t as good as 2020, but it is better than 2017 or 2019 for ST3.

        2018 there will be a statewide US senate race which will be good for voter turn-out.

      3. Best medicine for the divide is same as best US course for international division: use our money and advancement as source of power.

        Channel financial assistance eastward on condition it go to building industries that create working class jobs. Union jobs.

        If simultaneously publicized in their districts, suspect even the worst of the legislature would contest too hard.

        A lot of east-to-west hate is from same frustrated rage that gives rise to stupid monorail proposal. It’s been about three decades since a fair number of working people east of the mountains had a single decent paycheck.

        “Liberal” might cease to be a sweat word among people who owe the most to liberalism if liberal generosity didn’t currently end at the income level just above working class.

        Anybody else notice how long it’s been since the Democrats have used the words “working class” in a campaign speech?

        In 2010, one candidate told me that “middle class” has so much more “resonance.” Answer: so does an exploding oil-train.

        And same for the temper of a long-unemployed sawmill worker. It takes a lot of time and effort to build a State, and a lot of benefit resulting.

        Possible and advisable to stitch up the divide. It’s not as if the whole Cascade range went from dormant to live.

        Mark

    2. Just to be clear – the Sound would always be ‘going it alone’ on ST3 because only the ST district pays the taxes for ST.

      We only need the State Leg to give authority to tax ourselves even more.

      It’s too early to start throwing in the towel in ST3. There’s a case to make that letting Puget Sound tax itself at a high rate lessens the tax burden elsewhere in the state – a message Rs can get behind.

      There’s a

      1. ST has not asked the legislature for anything yet. The ballot measure won’t be written for a year and a half. ST is planning to ask both in the 2015 and 2016 legislative sessions if necessary. So it’s not time to give up until/if both say no. And if that happens then we’ll really have to push for regional autonomy because I don’t know what else we can do. But if ST3 Link opens on time in 2031, I’ll be just shy of retirement age. So waiting any longer than that means I’ll be in my 70s or dead before it opens.

      2. Unfortunately, in the modern world of campaign soundbites, a vote to allow someone else to raise their own taxes to pay for your stuff gets twisted by campaign opponents (especially by Tea Party Challengers in the Republican primary) into a general vote to raise taxes. Even if nobody in the relevant district is affected, it doesn’t matter.

      3. Well frankly if that’s the state of our republican democracy where folks in Eastern Washington and Southwest Washington will get all angry over letting ST3 go to a vote…

        Then what state do we have?

      4. When the campaign opponent gives soundbites like “my opponent voted to raise taxes 57 times”, you had better believe it that a vote to authorize ST3 would be one of them. From a politician’s standpoint, once you get labeled as raising taxes, you can’t just respond “but it’s just allowing Seattle to tax itself, and my district is unaffected”. Not only is the argument too nuanced for the average voter to understand, but in conservative eastern Washington, once you’re opponent gets you labeled as a tax-raiser, nobody will trust anything you say.

        Rightly or wrongly, from the perspective of a state legislator from eastern Washington, voting for and ST3 authorization entails a certain amount of political risk. If there is nothing for your district to gain to justify taking that risk (e.g. highway pork), there is no reason to justify taking that risk.

        I’m not familiar with the balance of power and, perhaps there’s some chance of mustering up a majority in the state house and senate if we can get all the representatives from the Sound Transit district united behind the proposal, but even then, I’m not sure. And, of course ST3 is going to have to contain a lot of marginally-useful extensions on the suburban side in order to get the suburban legislators willing to vote to authorize it.

      5. asdf, I don’t think compromise on ST3 will be the end of the Earth. In fact, I think ST3 will be part of a compromise deal.

        We will get the best deal we can but with a deal, we will smile, we will take our ST3 and we will run with it. Or I am out.

        I also think we learned last night voters are smarter than you give them credit for. Many conservative leaning voters voted for 594, voted against the WEA initiative with no funding stream, I can go on.

        So if we have to accept highway pork as you so aptly put it to get ST3, so be it. That’s the constitutional republic our troops & First Responders defend – debate, compromise, bold decisions, the action.

      6. Then what state do we have?

        A state in which a political party driven by irrational animus more than any coherent political philosophy controls a key legislative body.

      7. @asdf – though nuanced, I don’t think a message has to be too complicated for voters if you framed it something like:

        “Let’s let the people who want transit pay for it and, and not make people pay for it that don’t want it.”

        Either half of the sentence could be used alone for a nice dumbed down soundbite.

      8. Well put Frank. Very well put.

        It’s time for State Legislative Republicans to come to the table with their own ideas and solutions for transit.

        Otherwise everybody will get nothing but more congestion.

        There.

      9. The more I think about it, I think this should be our view on transit funding at STB:

        “Let’s let the people who want transit pay for it and, and not make people pay for it that don’t want it.”

        There. Don’t want transit, vote transit down at the ballot box straight up – and don’t get in the way of those doing the work that needs to be done on transit for Seattle, Paine Field, Skagit, etcetera.

    3. Boeing basically doesn’t pay taxes, FWIW. No sales tax is collected on Boeing planes. Boeing has been exempted from most, if not all, of the B&O tax. Boeing might be paying property taxes on its buildings, but that is a drop in the bucket compared to the other two.

      1. point being, a much larger amount of funds go into the state coffers from Western Washington sources then Eastern Washingon

    4. Ah, there is nothing more Seattle than some good old ignorant nonsense about being held back by eastern Washington.

      1. when transportation projects/funds are voted down by 1 or 2 votes and the majority of rural washington votes are ney then yes. CRC is a classic example

      2. The Republican votes in suburban Seattle and Portland are likely easier to get. Their constituents actually care about urban/suburban transportation.

        Even so, like anything political the key is to find reasons for those on the other side of the aisle to vote for what you want. Some will be hard-cases and never support what you want no matter what. Others can be persuaded either by making the case on how it helps their district or by cutting a political deal.

        A lot of the ‘east vs. west’ and ‘everyone vs. Seattle’ idivide in the state s pure identity politics on both sides.

      3. Les,

        The west side of the state has been holding up the north Spokane corridor for over 40 years. It isn’t a one way hostage situation.

      4. @Possibly Ignorant

        Actually, you’d ave to be totally ignorant not to know that the N-S Freeway (old name) is currently under construction and is already in partial use.Y a, it isn’t “finished”, and not all lanes are open, but that is hardly the fault of anyone on the west side of the state.

        The issue with the N-S Freeway construction time-line had nothing to do with Western Wa holding it hostage (what on earth would we even hold it hostage for?), but instead had everything to do with there not really being a valid case for it.

        Traffic really isn’t that bad N-S across Spokane, and in 50+ years of talking about “traffic” on these routes the city of Spokane hasn’t even taken the baby step of timing their own traffic lights to help the flow. It’s just not that hard to time traffic lights across one corridor, but they never did it.

        The other problem with the N-S Freeway was the cost kept going up. Every time they would identify a corridor the developers would dense pack it with planned development. It’s how we got places like Carriage Hills and Camelot. I know, I lived it.

        Na, the motivation behind the N-S Freeway was outer burb development and had nothing to do with traffic need or congestion. If Spokane had been able to make a case on actual need it would have happened, but they never could and the project never rose to the top of WSDOT’s priority list. It only got started when WSDOT saw it’s pipeline of projects drying up elsewhere (What are we going to work on now??), and even then only got started on a 25 year timeline.

      5. Les:
        Two years ago, Okanogan County actually voted to raise the sales tax to fund a bus system. It’s not a giant system, but it’s going to be better than nothing. Scheduled to begin in 2015.

    5. If Republicans are going to control the state senate for the longer term, then we should push for more autonomy for the counties and regional entities (i.e., Sound Transit). It shouldn’t be Yakima’s business how much Puget Sound taxes itself, and we can return the favor by letting Yakima County keep its taxes low (and, crucually, services low). That’s the kind of libertarian principle that Republicans supposedly support. And Tim Eyman can move to Yakima County where he’ll be away from any nasty taxes.

      ST3 needs only legislative authorization to put a higher tax rate up to a Puget Sound vote. It’s not the state voting on ST3. What was going to be a statewide vote was the Metro funding authorization in 2013, but that didn’t get to the legislative floor so it never made it to the ballot. The transportation bill was going to let some highway projects pass with a single statewide vote (paid from the gas tax fund), and also allow King County to hold a second vote for Metro funding. So that’s where Metro would have had to get Yakima’s permission and face two votes, while the highway projects would have faced only one vote. But the transportation bill died on the way to the floor, and it remains to be seen whether 2015 will have one. The legislature will be busy funding Constitutionally-mandated school quality and mental-health beds, so that may suck all revenue and time from anything else.

      Regarding regional autonomy at the national level, I wrote a bit about this on Page 2 a month ago.

      1. I agree. The argument for restricting districts from taxing themselves goes away if you don’t want any taxes at all. If, for example, you don’t want the state to pay anything for educating anyone, then you shouldn’t care in the least if Seattle, or Mercer Island, or Medina, or anyone else wants to tax themselves. If anything, it helps your situation. That way, they won’t be coming back in a couple years (if and when they do have a majority) and tax everyone to pay for something. It will already be paid for already.

        So, unless these Republicans are demagogues, then they should absolutely allow the region, if not Seattle itself, to fund expensive transit programs. Once you establish this as a precedent, it is unlikely that taxes in other parts of the state will rise to pay for transit. After all, everyone here is worried about ST3, and no is talking about the far more sensible approach of simply having the state fund big ticket transit programs in Seattle.

      2. @Ross,

        The reason they don’t see it the way you do — and the way you do is eminently reasonable — is that they want to continue extorting monies from the people they despise in Puget Sound. That’s the name of the game. Point set match.

  3. I’m not sure I would classify it as “pretty good for transit advocates” given that ST3 is in serious danger of being shelved for years. That’s kind of a disaster for the city and the region, I say.

    Does anyone who knows more about the inner-workings of Olympia politics have an idea of whether approval to allow ST3 to go to the ballot could be negotiated somehow? [Maybe the Mayor can use the magic abilities to working with the legislature, which he told us so much about, like he did with MVET funding approval for Metro. Oh, wait.]

      1. er, same. And does this mean ST3 is more likely a stripped down version of the proposal discussed last week (e.g., Ballard to U district (but not downtown; BRT for West Seattle)?

      2. e.g., Ballard to U district (but not downtown; BRT for West Seattle”

        MDNative, there’s already BRT to West Seattle. No matter how much one may wish that Metro had built RapidRide of a higher value “metal” (Silver maybe instead of Bronze minus?), between the last station on Avalon and downtown, RR C is no different than any “BRT option” ST might propose.

        So far as Ballard-UW, if ST funding will not be coming, how about a combination of upzoning along the route, especially at the stations, a LID in the upzone district, and a local property tax assessment for the neighborhoods between the ship canal and 105th west of I-5? Such an assessment would be a very reliable revenue stream for bond amortization and shouldn’t be too onerous if the LID’s are reasonably aggressive.

        Everyone in those neighborhoods will benefit from better access to the U-district and its growing employment opportunities, and even with a double transfer the neighborhoods from Stone Way to I-5 will get downtown faster using a bus intercept.

        Obviously such a line needs urban station separations. And please, please, please don’t make them palaces. Center platforms with a pair of low ceilinged transverse mini-mezzanines at each end are completely adequate.

        In the meantime — such a line won’t come until 2022 at the absolute earliest — signal priority and a hybrid mini-BRT stopping only at cross-lines would be welcome along 45th. Once the subway is in the mini-BRT would cease.

      3. >> there’s already BRT to West Seattle.

        I wouldn’t call it that. I don’t think a rating agency would either. I think they have a category (below the metals) called “Not BRT”. Since the West Seattle line slogs through downtown (and has plenty of other failings) I think it would be in that category.

        >> RR C is no different than any “BRT option” ST might propose.

        Sadly, I believe you are right. Sound Transit seems confused on the BRT concept, or they feel like throwing out an acronym onto an unknowing public. Their proposal for BRT basically would have dumped the buses right onto the downtown streets. Even their report said they were worried about congestion slowing down the buses and causing unreliability. Exactly, which is why it isn’t BRT, guys. Not even close. Build a bus tunnel, add more lanes to the West Seattle freeway and you could have BRT (along with off board payment, flat boarding, etc.) but until then, stop trying to call a donkey a horse.

      4. Sound Transit does know what real BRT is. One of the proposed alternatives for West Seattle-Burien-Renton (B2 I think) had a separated busway for the downtown-Burien-Renton section. Basically it was ‘rail ready BRT’.

        The downside is it isn’t much cheaper than rail in the same corridor.

        For whatever reason ST and Metro (with the exception of the DSTT) have been unwilling to look at BRT similar to Brisbane or Ottawa.

      5. Chris,

        What value does a busway have that SR99 and the Spokane Street bridge with bus lanes does not? Really. Unless you’re going to have bus lanes on First Avenue, some sort of half block detour around the stadiums, and a few stops down First Avenue in order to get some “urbanity” out of the “BRT” line, what is better than the existing C-Line route?

      6. Anandakos,

        I’m speaking of the South King line for B2 which has a separate bus ROW extending South from Busway down along the 509 corrididor to Burien and then to Renton.

        The portion to the Alaska Junction and White Center was very similar to today’s C line.

        I only pointed this out to show ST knows something other than freeway expresses and watered down RapidRide style BRT.

        Also to point out that high quality BRT can easily approach rail in cost.

      7. Chris,

        OK; my apologies. Howeverm when you say “down the 509 corridor” do you mean hard by 509 or parallel to it but at some distance through some corridor in which people live? Because if it’s “hard by 509” the only thing that needs to be done is bridge over the First Avenue South/East Marginal/Michigan intersection. The freeway itself has plenty of capacity; it might need a “climbing lane” between Olson and 112th, but everywhere else it flows pretty freely.

        At least, I’ve never been delayed on it, but admittedly I don’t use it often.

      8. Anandakos,

        I’d have to look at the corridor study again to see exactly where they were proposing separate ROW. I agree exclusive ROW seems like a waste for most of the Downtown-Burien segment.

    1. All that has happened is that a stand alone ST3 authority bill’s chances have gone from slim to none. Now the only way it gets through is tied to a highway package.

      The question for transit advocates is how much highway money are we willing to stomach and at what ratio of maintenance v expansion.

      1. I’d be willing to give the “Dogpatch USA” crowd a lot of highway money, e.g., North Spokane Corridor, to get our ST3.

      2. We take what we can get and we back ST3. Period.

        No whining, no complaining, we get ST3 or this thing called transit expansion is done.

    2. Hoping everyone doesn’t give up on ST3 in 2016 as a possibility. Political pressure in the form of phone calls, e-mails, old fashion letters, and SoundTransitBlog articles should be directed to Andy Hill (Redmond), Joe Fain (Auburn), Steve Litzow (Mercer Island), Bruce Dammeier (Puyallup), Mark Miloscia (Federal Way), etc. It’s not in their constituents best interest to stall ST3. Plus, these senators come from purple areas, and it would be politically beneficial of them to show bipartisanship, and how they can work across the aisle. We all have colleagues, friends, family that live in these areas, it would be helpful to get them to also press their local elected officials. Not giving up on 2016! I don’t want to be an AARP member by the time rail reaches Tacoma, Ballard, or West Seattle! But hey, maybe I’ll get a fare discount.

      1. タイラーさん、面白いユーザ名ですね。

        I agree that it is worth applying political pressure in the near term, it certainly can’t hurt. Tell your friends and neighbors… especially if any of them live on the east side.

        In the mean time though I think we need to start thinking of what Seattle can do on its own and to get started as soon as we can. We can’t afford to wait until 2016 to see if we can get ST3 on the ballot. We need to have whatever back up measures we can manage locally already in the wings well before 2016 rolls around.

      2. Charles, I agree. When the going gets tough, the tough get going” (first Wikipedia meaning…)

        For a suggestion, see a few posts above.

    3. It’s way too early to assume ST3 is dead. The legislature has always been more supportive of Sound Transit than of the local transit agencies. That’s probably because the state sees ST as an alternative to the state highways, which the state does care about, so it’s kind of a “complete streets” approach to highways. Whereas local transit is seen as a subsidy to the poor.

    4. It’s also too early to assume ST3 will be scaled down. What the legislature generally believes now is not necessarily the same as how it will vote on a specific issue in the future… especially when the PSRC supports it and it doesn’t affect statewide taxes. As of last week ST was leaning toward a large package. There’s no reason to believe they’ve changed their mind… or that legislators would think $15 billion is unacceptable but $5 billion is acceptable. It will probably rise or fall on the nature of ST and the necessity of Pugetopolis trunk transit, not on the amount. If the swing-district suburbs are asking for it then it’s not just “for Seattle”. In what universe is $5 billion “small” compared to $15 billion “big”? Both have the “b” word and both look like “raising taxes”. And ST is leaning toward asking for more than it needs, so maybe it’ll ask for $20 billion and the legislature will cut it down to $15 billion. Then it can say it’s raising taxes less than the agency wanted, and suddenly $15 billion appears small.

      1. The Republicans keeping the Senate was pretty much a foregone conclusion even when ST was drawing up these plans. They are going to try for it regardless so its too early for us to fret about anything.

        That being said Iet’s all keep in mind that we do need to have that plan B in the wings so we can hit the ground running if we actually fail to get ST3 on the ballot for 2016.

  4. So what happens now to Transit funding? The now republican controlled US senate will likely be led by a vehement opponent to TIGER grants, transit funding, and gas tax increases, and with a transportation bill coming due in May it will be the first major piece of legislation that will be shaped by a republican house and senate majority.

    We could see federal funds for transit dry up as soon as June and it will be very interesting to see how we fill in the new gap with yet more local funding sources…

    1. The senate will have to decide between highways and not raising taxes because they can’t have both. Transit grants may be slightly or majorly reduced, depending on how much the senate pays attention to them. Amtrak may be on the chopping block, except for those rural senators who love Amtrak. Perhaps they’ll spin off the northeast corridor as a separate company so that it can sink or swim on its own, and congress would just subsidize the national service. But with oil trains filling the tracks in the northwest, the Empire Builder may remain subject to 8-12 hour delays. I’m glad I rode it when it was on time.

      1. Amtrak is probably going to get the same budget it did this year and the year before last for the next two years again. There is still a working Senate majority for Amtrak, and the House is still voting to fund Amtrak at the same level, although usually with some sort of mild attack amendment. (The last ones attempted to kill food service — but it would not have worked — and attempted to knock out the Sunset Limited, which frankly isn’t very usable in its current state anyway.)

        Amtrak has sufficiently strong grassroots support that even the hardcore right-wingers usually decide to keep it limping along. PRIIA means that most of Amtrak is being funded by state governments at the moment, with a few routes (like the NEC) being operationally profitable.

        If you dig into it deeper, you realize that most of Amtrak’s costs are actually overhead (central office, ticketing, maintenance shops, etc.). The states are funding a fair amount of the overhead too, now. If you strip out the overhead, most of the “long-distance” trains east of the Mississippi require miniscule subsidies and some are already profitable. More will be profitable if Amtrak can buy a few more cars to lengthen the trains — several of the eastern trains are currently limited by seat capacity, but a lot of of the costs are the same no matter how long the train is.

        Due to the fixed-cost-intensive nature of the business, Amtrak fundamentally needs to expand: more service per day on the same routes, longer trains on each trip.

        At this point, federal funding for Amtrak is used to support the following four things:

        (1) Debt service — they’re going to keep funding this. It’s also taking less out of the federal subsidy each year as Amtrak’s debt is refinanced with lower interest rates, and some is paid off every year.

        (2) Core overhead. This is very large. Roughly $440 million of this was allocated to the “long-distance” trains back in 2012 (about half in the east and half in the west), with even more than that allocated to state-supported services and the NEC. Basically, there’s over a billion a year in overhead. Most attempts to kill Amtrak focus on shrinking it so small that the services can’t cover the core overhead. However, with pretty much all routes doing better financially every year, and with more and more state routes contributing to overhead, the federal subsidy needed to cover the overhead becomes smaller and smaller. This will probably continue to be funded. One of the things which allows for attacks on Amtrak — even when each elected official supports Amtrak in his own district — is basic ignorance on the part of elected officials as to how much of Amtrak costs is core overhead.

        (3) Capital improvements on the Northeast Corridor — these are very badly underfunded (since there’s stuff from the 1920s and earlier which is due for replacements), and the Republicans have a desire to hurt the Northeast, so these are likely to stay underfunded. Unfortunately.

        (4) Operations on the Western long-distance trains (west of the Mississippi); most of these have strong support from Senators of the states they pass through, with the notable exception of the Sunset Limited, so they’ll probably keep getting funded. These, jointly, need about $100-$150 million per year. The Empire Builder is the best of these financially by a large margin, doing almost as well as the worst of the Eastern “long-distance” trains. As a group, the Eastern “long-distance” trains basically break even already (with some cross-subsidizing others) before the overhead is allocated.

    2. I am glad that U-Link is nearly done and that Northgate Link is basically locally funded.

      I am worried about the other projects though…

      1. I’m glad that the most critical parts of regional transit were in ST2. If we don’t get ST3, at least we’ll have a lot better mobility than we did in 2007. And those going to Everett or Redmond can at least take fast/frequent transit as far as Lynnwood and Overlake, which is most of their trip and most of the congestion.

      2. Assuming we don’t get our federal funds cut for Lynnwood Link, Folks coming from Everett can take express buses and transfer at Lynnwood until we get the rail up to Everett.

        Unfortunately Snohomish County has a number of bottle necks that can effect the buses even before the park and ride.

        In the mean time, ramping up density near the existing park and rides would be a good idea. From what I saw last weekend, it looks like Lake Forest Park is already taking that idea to heart.

      3. Lynnwood and Everett will be fine. If they really want to improve things, they will simply change the HOV 2 lanes to HOV 3. But if understand the stations, then it will be trivial for express buses to interact with the station to the northernmost station. You could easily make a case for that anyway, regardless of future funding. Just let the buses interact at a good northern station and be done with it.

        Likewise with the southern end as well, although I’m not sure if the last station is close enough to a freeway.

        The east side is doing pretty well, too. East Link takes care of 90% of the needs of the east side (along with express buses).

        It is Seattle that is screwed. There is simply no way you can call what is being planned right now as being adequate. UW to downtown was essential, but you also need UW to Ballard. UW to Ballard is a dramatic improvement in service, the likes of which we haven’t seen since we built the bus tunnel. The HOV lanes get crowded (whether from Bellevue, Kirkland, Lynnwood, Tacoma or the U-District) but generally speaking, they move. They probably average well over ten miles an hour, if not twenty (or higher). But Ballard to the UW averages in the single digits. In that regard, they are like buses pushing through downtown — slow as molasses. Ballard to UW underground rail would mean an enormous improvement in speed, reliability and frequency. It would be one of the few areas where taking mass transit is much faster than driving, even in the middle of the day. This is huge, and it is why Seattle desperately needs it.

      4. Screwed in the sense of not having something additional. But better off than we were before, which means slow progress. I want rents rolled back to below $1000 too. Does that mean we’re “screwed” if it doesn’t happen? No, it just means life is more difficult and un-optimal, which is the American condition.

    3. In some ways, a Tiger budget of zero might actually be better than a Tiger budget of a token half a billion, spread out over the entire country.

      The reason being that the overhead of preparing the grant applications would be eliminated, and also cities would start looking for local solutions to fund their projects immediately, rather than wait 5 years for Tiger to turn them down, only to be right back where they started.

      For instance, perhaps if Tiger did not exist, an alternative funding source for the Northgate ped bridge would have been found by now.

      1. Soooo accurate. Well, Democrats finally got control over some nominations a year or two ago (proving that the 60-vote rule was a big fake all along). But as far as legislation, yeah.

  5. I for one hope that the Sawant/Spear movement is over, or at least significantly diminished, and that we can focus on making Democrats more progressive instead of politics-by-inflammation. Spear got the same percentage of votes (16%) as GoodSpaceGuy did against Dow in 2003.

    1. Yep. She got half of what Sawant did against Chop in 2012.

      Looks like seeing an actual socialist in office, and her being the left wing version of the Tea Party (more about crusades and grandstanding than governing) has tarnished their image significantly.

      1. Let’s not let Ms. Sawant tarnish the otherwise good name of Socialism. Transit, police, firefighters, social security, medicare, parks, etc…..all basically socialist in nature. This country loves it some socialism, even though they may hate the word.

      2. Ryan,

        Everything you just listed is woefully undefunded, and is almost always first on the chopping block when budgets get out of whack.

      3. I wouldn’t count Sawant out. She is the most popular member of the City Council and has shown excellent political skills.

        Nothing against Spear but she just isn’t as able to get people excited as Sawant.

      4. I think you’ve been misled about Sawant’s popularity. She has the second highest favorable ratings on the council. I am a supporter. I am not a member of SA, but I’m happy to see a politician who gets in and fights for issues. In !1! year she got a $15 minimum wage deal done. I was a fan of Conlin, but he was the normal type of Seattle politician. He “supported” issues. He didn’t go to the mat for em.

      5. Spear highlights that Sawant is an unusually canny politician for a 3rd party sort. Spear doesn’t have a clue about politics.

    2. I don’t think Sawant’s success is because of the “socialist” label. It’s in spite of the label. Sawant has a knack for smart political strategy (putting the $15 movement at the center of her campaign was genius), retail political talent, and bucketloads of charisma. Spear has none of those things, and with her we saw how well the “socialist” label actually does even in a place as liberal as Seattle. Sawant will be the District 3 councilmember for many years, but she is not a sign of larger success for her movement (thankfully, in my opinion, as I agree that it is about grandstanding more than governing).

      1. She also out-hustled her opponent. I supported Conlin, gave him a little money and never figured out how to get a sign from them (to put in my yard). Meanwhile, Sawant supporters knocked on my door and asked me for their support (I don’t think Conlin supporters ever visited my neighborhood). Conlin’s heart wasn’t in it, and he never tried very hard.

      2. Absolutely. I don’t think it makes any sense to draw any conclusions about the momentum of a “Sawant/Spear movement” because while they may see themselves as such a thing, the reality is they’re too very different politicians, and voters certainly don’t see them as interchangeable.

    3. One of the best ways to make Democrats more progressive is to have actual competition for progressive votes.

      Yes, Spear got stomped. She’s not the same caliber of candidate or leader as her protege. But Sawant’s citywide approval rating is one any politician would gladly take, and her in-district approval rating is even higher. So to say the Sawant movement is over is just weird. It might not lead to a socialist takeover of local and state government, but I highly doubt she’s leaving the Council anytime soon.

      Sawant’s accomplishments and legislative priorities are also firmly in the progressive camp; more transit, fighting against conservative reforms to Seattle Housing Authority, higher minimum wage. I totally disagree with Sawant on density issues, but that makes her just like almost every other council member.

      It’s time to stop lobbing bombs at her from the cheap seats and instead view her as a potentially strong ally on our issues that we should develop a working relationship with as a community.

      1. On transit, she doesn’t really have a record yet, except to express general support for “more transit.” She has studiously avoided getting into specifics of transit issues.

        The fear is that she will share the transit-related views of many members of her electoral coalition, who tend to support transit planning based on short-term ideas of “social justice” rather than an effective long-term vision for an effective transportation network. With Prop 1 we have gotten ourselves into a place where the city council could, if it wanted to, significantly micromanage Seattle bus service. Many of Sawant’s coalition partners support various bits of the old, slow, infrequent, broken spaghetti network, usually in the name of providing “a bus to everyone’s door.” Hopefully she won’t act on their behalf. So far, we don’t know.

      2. I totally disagree with Sawant on density issues, but that makes her just like almost every other council member.

        This elides important differences. The council is not, and has never been, equally bad on density. (And Conlin was one of the better ones, sadly). Even though I would have voted for Conlin, I’m retroactively glad she won because of the success at minimum wage success, but going forward I worry she’ll slowly give back that extra income in the form of the rents she’ll help transfer from Seattle’s working class to incumbent landlords.

      3. I attended a rally about climate change in September but was irritated that the whole thing was really a socialist (Alternative) party rally featuring Spear.

        I voted for Sawant for 2 reasons. 1) Conlin, as stellar of a councilmember that he was in every other respect, did the unforgivable thing of usurping the Mayor’s prerogative by signing the Memorandum with WSDOT committing the city to supporting the Deep Bore Tunnel and funding cost overruns (which as we know are already approaching $176 Million). This was the corrupt thing that in previous generations of Washington State politics would be frowned upon as unethical. I suspect for some people, that was a factor in Conlin’s loss.

        The second reason was, while I am not a socialist in the vein of Sawant I felt her inclusion on the council would effectively move the discussion(Overton window) to the left. And that she has accomplished with flying stars.

        I was particularly pleased when she shamed her fellow councilmembers for going on a retreat with the Chamber of Commerce. I viewed that retreat as highly inappropriate and if not an illegal violation of the State open meetings law, it should be. If the chamber and its members want the attention of the council, they can sign up to speak for 3 minutes JUST LIKE THE REST OF US.

  6. Now the real behind-the-scenes fun begins.

    In the wake of Prop 1’s passage, there are two things for Seattle transit watchers to keep their eyes on, to the extent possible.

    First is the progress of negotiations between the city and Metro with respect to the interlocal agreement that Prop 1 requires. This agreement is going to have a lot of bite. It’s going to be the principal protection against non-Prop 1 money being shuffled to the suburbs. It’s going to determine who will be responsible for interpreting the Service Guidelines to determine what additions to service should take priority. It’s going to determine whether the city has any ability to compel, or block, Metro restructures. The terms of the agreement are critically important and we will be watching, as much as we can given that there is no requirement for any part of these negotiations to be public.

    Second is the continued drama in the County Council, which Prop 1 and the election didn’t change at all, about whether any or all of the June 2015 cuts will take place. The arguments are the same as ever — the Dembowski side thinks Metro and Dow Constantine want to build up unnecessary reserves, while Metro for its part thinks the Dembowski side is setting Metro up for future broken promises in even a mild recession. This will be a difficult argument because each side feels its position is mandated by Metro’s existing spending policies.

  7. 1. My comment above should read NOT contest- left eye fixed soon.

    2. Does anybody know projected date for ST3?

    3. Let’s file a Truth-In-Advertising complaint to force Boeing to admit to being more socialist than Leon Trotsky.

    And demand that execs be forced to wear Kruschev era Russian suits Yugoslav civil war right-wing-politician-James- Dean haircuts, and drive Yugos and Moskviches.

    And also wear “Hero of the Soviet People” medals with bright red ribbons. Will also help defend Europe and Ukraine by embarrassing Vladimir Putin re: former KGB leadership.

    BTW: go online to see a “Bear” bomber. Like a restored 1954 Cadillac. Swept wings and counter-rotating propellers. Ought to put one in car museum near Freighthouse Square!

    Still: from leftist point of view, proof that Boeing is socialist would FOREVER ruin the reputation of that political persuasion.

    MD

    1. ST3 dates. Basically ST will ask the legislature in winter 2015 and 2016. It will evaluate potential lines in 2015, and put together a “System Plan” in early 2016. The board will adopt a ballot measure in June 2016, and then vote in November 2016. Planning and construction will take 15 years after that, assuming the projects are similar to ST1 and ST2. That implies the last project would open in 2031.

  8. Is it time for Seattle Subway to start thinking about a 2016 ballot initiative to build a subway to Ballard with the taxing authority the legislature gave us for the monorail?

    1. It would need to be some fixed-guideway mode other than light rail, as that’s the legal definition given to “monorail” in the statute. Personally, I like the idea of using it for gondolas. Though if you could postulate a subway counted…

      Or, convincing the legislature to change that tax’s restrictions should be much easier than convincing them to pass ST3. It’s definitely something to try for.

      1. Using the monorail statute as it’s currently written to build a subway has its appeal, but I would guess that if the city or ST tried to build a subway using the taxing authority from the monorail statute, several years of litigation would follow over whether the proposed system was “light rail” or not. It took nearly 5 years after the passage of ST2 for the I-90 lanes/light rail lawsuits to be finally resolved. By the time all the legal wrangling over the interpretation of the monorail statute was finished, another 2 election cycles could go by.

    2. The leg gave the taxing authority for the monorail with explicit language included that forbids the authority form being used for LR. This was done at a time when ST was mired in problems both political and technical. The thought at the time amongst anti-ST and anti-transit types was that by getting monorail on the books they could completely stop ST.

      So the real purpose of the monorail legislation was to stop LR and ST. But since that was the goal, they also protected themselves by forbidding the legislation from being used for LR. It can only be used for MR.

      1. The thing is ‘light rail’ isn’t defined in the statute. Since what Sound Transit has been building is closer to a metro system than traditional US light rail systems you could make the argument for using the tax authority to fund LINK.

        One of the funding sources mentioned in the Seattle TMP was the unused monorail tax authority. Since what the city proposes is a ‘rapid streetcar’ it isn’t ‘light rail’. Ironically if built ‘rapid streetcar’ lines would be closer to what normally passes for light rail in most of the US than what Sound Transit is building.

        All that said i suspect local elected officials would be hesitant to use the tax authority for either LINK or streetcars without a legislative fix to the language.

        The monorail tax could fund heavy rail similar to Vancouver’s Canada Line without violating either the letter or the spirit of the statute. Perhaps the Ballard-U District corridor?

      2. Chris,

        A Ballard-UW line laid out in a “dogbone” formation could even be a monorail……

        As long as there are no turnouts in active revenue service (i.e. one route into two) the sluggish turnouts of monorails aren’t a problem. You could build Ballard-UW as aerial to about 3rd NW then tunnel it through Upper Fremont, Wallingford and the U-District then go back aerial out to the hospital,

        Now I realize that’s pretty Jetsons, and it’s a completely unrelated technology which would require its own maintenance facility and yard, but it’s a pretty good location for a monorail.

        I’m not advocating, just noticing.

    3. We shouldn’t do anything that gets in the way of Sound Transit’s assumed 2016 projects, meaning Ballard-south, Ballard-east, and West Seattle. That’s what the monorail initiative would have done: it would have made ST retreat from the north-south corridors at a crucial planning time before the 2016 presidential election. That’s exactly what ST did before, and it put westside light rail back fifteen years. (Think if Seattle had passed a Seattle Subway type measure in the early 90s before the tea party tax ceilings kicked in, and if we just hired ST to build and operate it alongside its own line. We’d have those lines running now.) Also, the city put the monorail in the transit master plan and assumed the west side wouldn’t need anything more, so when the monorail died there was no backup plan, except RapidRide which was coming in parallel but is a different level of service.

      If we do propose any Seattle-only projects, we should coordinate them with ST so that we’re not overlapping with anything ST is considering in ST3, and instead choose some corridors that complement them. Inexpensive smaller projects might be better. So how about that Denny Way gondola? And that Northgate pedestrian bridge. It’s OK to supercede things on ST’s long-term plan, but not ST3 things.

      1. I agree. It makes way more sense to build plans that compliment Sound Transit, even though we aren’t sure if Sound Transit will build things that they should build. Interestingly enough, when the monorail was proposed, that was the idea. Build elevated rail along the western corridor, a corridor being ignored (at the time) by Sound Transit. It didn’t work out that way (obviously) but that was the idea.

        It is possible that Sound Transit will end up paying (at least part) of the cost of the Northgate pedestrian bridge, but they won’t pay for gondolas. I would leave the bridge process alone (let it work its way through the city, with Sound Transit possibly chipping in some money). By the time the train reaches Northgate, we should know whether ST will chip in anything. We should also know if they will chip in for a station at 130th. If not, then Seattle can pay for both.

        Meanwhile, we should move on gondolas as fast as possible (since it is fairly cheap and ST has no interest).

      2. Actually I think the best course forward would be to pass the monorail taxes then hand the money over to Sound Transit with the mandate to build something in the City of Seattle with it. Doesn’t really matter if it is a stand-alone line or offsetting the difference between something cheap and Ballard-Downtown with a downtown tunnel all the way to at least IDS.

      3. Of course the voters wouldn’t be happy with a blank check so there would have to be at least a corridor. Though that can still be fairly vague while leaving the specifics and construction up to Sound Transit.

    4. As for a “backup plan” as suggested by Charles B, that may be worthwhile but it’s quite a different thing from a competing plan. A backup plan would have to defer to ST’s routing decisions so that it’s a real plan B. If we try to make it the pefect line (five stations instead of three, or a different route), then it may siphon votes away from ST3 and we’ll end up with neither passing.

      1. Mike, at some point the writing will be on the wall that ST3 isn’t happening in 2016. So, better to have it in our back pocket. I personally support Ballard to UW since it moves a whole lot of people at the best bang for buck than Ballard to downtown or W. Seattle light rail.

    5. Seattle Subway is working hard to make ST3 happen. Its still our best path forward. Please stay tuned for how you can help us push the legislature to make sure ST gets the revenue authority it needs to make that happen. If by the end of April 2015 ST doesn’t get the revenue authority it needs, we can talk about what Seattle Subway is going to do for 2016 in Seattle.

      To be clear on that last point, we have thought about it and have some very good ideas but are focused on plan A (ST3) at the moment.

    6. The “writing on the wall” point is sometime between January-April 2016, whenever it’s clear that the legislature will say no to ST. Keith says he’ll start talking about alternatives after April 2015. That’s a year ahead of the drop dead point. My only concern is that the alternative should not undermine the possibility getting the regular ST3 authority in 2016. It’s good to have a plan B but not if it undermines the Plan A.

      1. Absoultely Mike. That said, it would be too late to get support if we waited that extra year. We’ll start talking in April 2015 if the state leg session doesnt go our way so that we can be prepared to run a legitamate ballot campaign in April 2016 if we have to.

      2. Why April 2016? Wouldn’t it have to be November, if we want to take advantage of the increased turnout?

      3. William: April 2016 is when we would know, for sure, that ST3 won’t have funding (if it goes that way, which we are actively working against.) We would definitely be aiming for a November ballot. My point is that we would need a lot more lead time to get the momentum and work done for a November ballot if we started fresh in April 2016. We will start in April of 2015 if ST3 doesnt get a funding source from the 2015 legislative session with the caveat that we will STOP in April 2016 if ST3 gets a funding source in the 2016 legislative session.

      4. Ah, so you mean being prepared to start the campaign in April, not have it on the ballot in the spring primary. That makes much more sense.

    7. PS. I do support Ballard to UW first if we can choose our lines without undermining ST3. Because it would serve the most critical and congested corridor in north Seattle, the second-largest transit destination in the northwest, and it would simultaneously be competitive for Ballard-downtown trips. So if ST indicates it’s preferring Ballard to West Seattle without Ballard to UW (which it was looking like in the McGinn days but is not so clear now), then Ballard to UW would be a good candidate for an alternative. That way no matter whether ST3 succeeds or not, we’d get our highest priority. And ST might be willing to interline with it, since we’re really just paying to build one of ST’s projects.

      1. Just returned from a Sustainable Ballard meeting, the sdot folks were still backing Ballard to downtown, including the upper queen anne stop, more than Ballard to U district. Also, they were looking at possible stops~not just 15th, but 17th as well (and 22nd)

      2. Option D is what people want, but I don’t think it will survive the system planning process, its just too expensive and high risk. I really think DT to UW via Ballard is the minimum of what should be built by ST3. I don’t think there is a reasonable plan for the future that builds just part of that.

      3. Keith,

        Any possibility of a ‘plan A+’? What I mean is using the tax authority you are using for ‘plan B’ (I assume these are the ETC/Monorail taxes) to supplement whatever Sound Transit is planning for ST3.

        Some possibilities might be to give them enough for Ballard-UW (assuming they only do West Seattle-Ballard) or to select Option D for Ballard-Downtown rather than one of the less expensive alternatives.

      4. Chris – I’ve heard that idea before. It has some merit, but might lead to some voter confusion if the + part is a separate measure (it would have to be) and relies on plan A passing. Still – worth looking at – We want the next package to be very large in Seattle – we clearly need it.

        West Seattle is #3 on the priority list – so the extra funding might go to that or to general quality upgrades.

      5. Keith,
        I don’t necessarily mean that ‘plan A+’ would nene to be voted on the same year as ST3. Given the planning horizons for any new rail going a year or two after ST3 would still let Sound transit incorporate the funding it it’s north King plans.

        A lot depends on what ST plans on putting in ST3. If they skip Ballard-UW in favor of a Ballard-West Seattle that would be an obvious place for the money.

        OTOH as we saw with East Link waiting may be useful. If we run into a situation similar to the Bellevue downtown alignments it would be nice to have a large source of local funding available.

  9. The other big takeaway from this election. American voters just do not care about the climate. At all.

    1. I think the bigger takeaway from that is that old voters don’t care about the climate, they only their about their financial well being. Younger votes simply don’t care about voting.

      1. Pretty accurate. It’s not like voting *works* most of the time. You vote for Obama, you elect him, and you get the same damn policies as G W Bush. This is a very good way to convince young people to spend their time on something other than voting.

        Third party candidates like Sawant may have a chance of reversing that trend, if their parties aren’t already tarnished by a reputation as sellouts.

    2. Elections were never going to be the way to solve the climate issues anyway. If we don’t burn oil/coal/etc, China, India and Africa will. It’s nearly a zero-sum game.

      The only way to reduce carbon emissions it is to have renewables become cheaper than fossil fuels.

      1. I’m not sure I agree with that idea, but if true then part of the solution is to make the production and transport of fossil fuels more expensive. That moves the fight to things like fracking, pipelines, oil transit, etc., which are very much in play in domestic politics.

      2. Actually, Andrew, there is another alternative, but you probably don’t want to take it: economic collapse following ecosystem destruction and famine.

      3. Even if renewables were cheaper, there are a bunch of advantages to fossil fuels in certain applications. They have great energy density, don’t lose energy when stored and transported, and don’t require users to be “on the grid” at the moment of use. By contrast batteries lose power quickly when stored or don’t have the energy density to be transported efficiently. If you rely on transmission lines you rely on the electrical grid being up. That’s the importance of technologies like fuel cells, since they can can plausibly avoid the storage/transportation disadvantages of batteries and transmission lines and can plausibly transmit renewable energy (which hydrocarbons, to this point, cannot).

        But then even for electricity generation, power plants are a big investment, so you’re only going to adopt renewables as fast as old ones go off the grid unless renewables are so massively cheaper that fossil fuel plants aren’t even profitable anymore.

        Here are a few things that are true about fossil fuels:

        1. Most of the oil/gas/coal mined every year is going to be burned pretty shortly afterwards, whether it’s cheap or expensive. This is true now and will be true for a long time. Demand for fossil fuels won’t go down until there’s an alternative that’s both cheaper and has all the storage and transportation properties that work for fossil fuels.

        2. A lot of energy is used in Asia today to build products that will be consumed in Europe and America. A growing portion going forward will be used to build products fueling the growing demands of Asian consumers, but it will still be the case for a long time that Asian emissions are in service of western consumption.

        What are the consequences of these?

        – Increasing costs and restrictions on the mining of fossil fuels should be more effective in reducing carbon emissions short-term than any attempt at demand destruction.

        – The world’s richer nations have large impacts beyond their own borders because of their status as large importers. It is their right and responsibility to set standards and levy tariffs for global environmental impacts on goods they import. WTO might disagree, but WTO is nothing but its members, and if it lost all the world’s major importers it would have all the relevance of the League of Nations.

      4. “economic collapse following ecosystem destruction and famine”

        Don’t forget revolutions. Governments would be replaced and constitutions rewritten if such monumental changes take place. The results could be better or worse, but in many countries they have been worse. The US is being held together by an enduring habit of deferring to a document written two centuries ago by fathers with a mindset so different they couldn’t get elected to Congress or the Presidency now. It’s also behing held together by a fossil-fuel supported economy. If either of these habits or supports go away it’s likely to fly apart. Unless the catastrophe causes people to ditch their polarization as occurred in the Depression and WWII.

      5. Martin, which part don’t you agree with? We might frack our gas, but China will frack it’s gas.

        The fact is if the US stopped using fossil fuels today, we’d still have climate change if no one else stopped. There’s more than enough fossil fuels just in China or Russia, or where ever, to burn up the whole world.

        And it’s not going to work to tell some guy in India or China, after we’ve been blazing up for a century, “sorry, mate, you don’t get to be rich because of climate change”.

      6. Al, hydrogen fuel cells have similar energy density and transport properties. And there are other possible innovations. The issue is just that fossil fuels are fucking magic. You dig up a rock or put a stick in the ground and with a bit of work you’ve got jet planes and rockets. It’s bananas.

    3. Amazingly, a very large % of Americans believe the economy is still in a recession.They also think that Ebola is the #1 threat to America, closely followed by ISIL teaming up illegal immigrants to sneak across the border. There are a lot of paranoid, uninformed voters out there worrying about the wrong threats (witness how the DoD is taking criticism for identifying climate change as a security threat).

      Climate doesn’t win any votes, period. Sadly raising the gas tax has become the other third rail of American politics. Somehow when Saudi Aramco, ExxonMobil, and Chevron raise the price of gas $0.10, the public reaction is “meh” but when it is a gas tax (which benefits the general public) there is intense opposition. We end up raising the car tab tax (which has no climate benefit – only raising the fixed cost of driving) instead of the usage-based, pro-climate gas tax.

      I’d love to see the state allow a local gas tax (say $0.10/gallon) for road maintenance. This would allow SDOT to attack its huge repairs backlog while freeing up some non-gas tax funding for transit infrastructure improvements. Cities already get gas tax money within the framework of the state constitution. If it was statewide and conservative areas didn’t want the cash, they could rebate it to their citizens with lower property taxes. So, only a tax increase for the areas that want it.

      1. “Amazingly, a very large % of Americans believe the economy is still in a recession.”

        That’s because everyone below the to 10 or 20% is in a recession.

      2. Amazingly, a very large % of Americans believe the economy is still in a recession.

        When you look at the contours of the recovery and what is has meant for the economic prospects of everyone below about the 90th percentile, this isn’t amazing at all; it’s perfectly rational. Why would normal people feel compelled to use the technical definition of economists, rather than “is my economic position getting worse or better?”

  10. The bigger picture, however, is entrenched Republican control of the Senate and the probability of no action on most issues

    This is the fundamental problem with “presidential” (or gubernatorial*) systems. There’s no guarantee of any group majority control, which makes governing extremely difficult if not impossible in split-situations. In the long run the system will prove to be untenable on the national level, which will probably result in us changing it at the state level as well.

    In the mean time we’ll just sit around in a broken system, which means even though there are things voters definitely want, ST3 for example, we won’t get because the legislature will be stuck.

    * Ugliest word in the English language?

    1. “The other big takeaway from this election. American voters just do not care about the climate. At all.”

      Seems “Americans” I experience don’t care about much of anything outside themselves.
      If they did, I believe there wouldn’t be as much complaining as there currently is……

    2. This can also be a problem in parliamentary systems with enough parties to require coalition-building.

      1. Yeah, but if you can’t build the coalition, you hold another election until it works out. In our system, if the divided government can’t come to agreement, you wait two years and hope it comes out better next time.

      2. NJL is right here. There are generally two ways to force the coalition issue, and different countries do it differently. In the UK and Australia (and probably Canada, etc.) if no coalition is formed, the queen’s representative (governor general in Oz, the Queen in UK) invites a party leader to form a government. At that point you’re solid. You may not pass many laws, but you have every minister you need since you can just outright appoint them. This is not ideal and I don’t know if it’s happened in the UK. Something sort of like that happened in 1975 in the Oz.

        In Japan, OTOH, if no one can form a coalition, the guys in power before stay in power and another election is held. This could theoretically mean you might have a few elections in succession, but voters tend to wise up and stop voting for nader if it doesn’t get them anywhere.

      3. Absolutely, but with parliamentary systems, at least you know who to blame. That is what is crazy about this election. So many people voted “against Obama”, but he wasn’t running. More to the point, Boehner’s strategy worked perfectly. Avoid compromise and try and slow everything to a crawl. The president will get the blame, not congress. They will then vote “against the president”, and they have — by giving the party that is responsible for most of the problems more power.

        Not to say that aren’t reasons to vote Republican. If you want lower taxes, then vote Republican. If you are really worried about inflation, then vote Republican. But if you want the government to actually do something about unemployment, then vote Democratic. A subset of America is too stupid to realize this, and that is why the election happened as it did.

        Not that America is any smarter when Democrats win. There are three groups of voters in America. Those on the left, those on the right, and those that are too ignorant to know the difference. These are the folks that vote for Obama because he represents “change you can believe in”, or “hope”. This is crappy platitudes that represent nothing, but are enough to sway these folks.

        Think I’m exaggerating? Consider how many of the voters would answer the following questions:

        True or False — The world is over a million years old.
        True or False — Most economists believe that increasing the deficit can reduce unemployment, but increase inflation.
        True or False — Most climate scientists believe that global warming is real and caused by human activities.
        True or False — Experts in the Pentagon have produced reports saying that global warming (if it occurs) will likely increase instability in the world.
        True or False — The U. S. spends more than 10% of it’s budget on foreign aid.

        I could go on, but you get the idea. Some of these really don’t matter (like the age of the world). Others can be easily looked up (like what the country spends). But the latter shape public opinion, and are extremely important. If you think the government is spending most of its money on X, but it is spending most of its money on Y, then a lot of what has been proposed in the past (such as balancing the budget without raising taxes or cutting Social Security, Medicare, military or security spending) is impossible. This allows politicians to run on ridiculous policies, and never pay the price.

      4. For reference, true, true (with the caveat that it only increases inflation if unemployment is very low), true, true, false (unless you count bombing and invasions as foreign aid).

        ” This allows politicians to run on ridiculous policies, and never pay the price.”
        This is indeed our main problem.

  11. I’m so glad that we’re finally going to fill in frequency gaps and address overcrowding/unreliability that I almost don’t care about ST3. That’s almost of course: a human reaction to a near-term benefit compared to a long-term benefit. But none of the other Metro expansions the past thirty years did this. RapidRide came closest, filling in evening/weekend frequency, but that was only five routes. Meanwhile San Francisco’s, Vancouver’s, and Chicago’s inner-city frequency never go below 10-20 minutes until after 10pm, so you can really use it to go to events and back without basing your life around the schedule, or foregoing things because it would take an hour to get there and back on the bus.

    This expansion could start to turn the tide and make Seattle more of a transit-riding city, which in turn would reinforce the need for full-time frequent transit and priority lanes.

    1. Mike,

      Let Seattle build Ballard-UW using it’s own resources (a LID and a neighborhood tax assessment for the well-to-do neighborhoods north of the ship canal who would directly benefit). ST2 is getting the most important part of the spine completed: Lynnwood to West Kent and Seattle to Overlake.

      The truth is SoundTransit just released a document which is ridiculous on its face. It’s time to focus on Seattle.

      I’ll even shut up about the Duwamish bypass, because if Link goes only to Highline, it will surely not be necessary.

    2. I’m so glad that we’re finally going to fill in frequency gaps and address overcrowding/unreliability that I almost don’t care about ST3…This expansion could start to turn the tide and make Seattle more of a transit-riding city, which in turn would reinforce the need for full-time frequent transit and priority lanes.

      I’m thrilled that Proposition 1 passed, but aside from the problems in the DSTT during peak, Link is the only transit service in the city that I trust to show up on time and get me where I’m going in the time forecast on the schedule. With any of the buses, I usually have to budget extra time under the expectation that it will be late or will get stuck in traffic after I board. This is especially true when I need to transfer.

      Within the past month I’ve used the 7, 8, 10, 11, 12, 41, 43, 48, 49, 66, 67, and the 71/72/73, and at other times I’ve also been a frequent user of the 44 and RR C- most of of which will have service hours added, but it’s already common for many of those buses to be 5-15 minutes late and then bunched together when they do show up. Adding an extra bus or two an hour on those routes should reduce overcrowding, and will hopefully reduce average wait time a bit, and some of that should trickle down into more evenly spaced service, but a lot of these routes need capital improvements to make a frequent transit network reliable enough that potential riders can depend on it to reliably get them to their destinations on time.

      1. Philip,

        You’re right about the need for capital expenditures. Get behind Councilmember Sawant’s proposal to levy a head tax — completely allowable under current legislation — to yield $18 million a year, and use it for capital improvements, not service enhancements.

        Then the yadda-yadda chorus can’t say “well it’s just giving money to the county” when the improvements will be the intersections within the city.

        By the way, drivers will benefit from the upgrades to the signal controllers too.

    3. PhillipG: Before the 2008 crash Metro had standby buses that could step in when a bus broke down or was severely delayed. That’s why reliability has gotten worse. Another factor this year was the shortening of layover breaks, which doubled as a buffer if a run was delayed so that the following run would be on time. These are the kinds of things that “reliability improvements” mean, beyond just the additional runs on certain routes.

      1. PhillipG: Before the 2008 crash Metro had standby buses that could step in when a bus broke down or was severely delayed. That’s why reliability has gotten worse.

        Mike/others in the know:

        Is there a chance some Prop 1 money might be used to bring back the standby buses? How much of a bit would that take out of service increases?

      2. What they’ve said is one group of routes will get more frequency and relief runs, and another group will just get reliability improvements. They haven’t said specifically what that means; these are just examples of what it might be.

  12. The failure to retake the State Senate is a disaster. But it should also be a lesson to transit advocates: if we don’t have a case to make to the suburbs, then we will never get anything, ever. It sucks, but Seattle does not have the legal authority to build more rail on our own. We need to bring the suburbs along, and that means getting out of the city and figuring out what it will take for suburbanites to demand something like ST3.

    If that means park and rides, well, it’s a small price to pay as far as I’m concerned.

    1. We would prefer to avoid park and rides, but the ones going on in Lynnwood Link are not the end of the world. Mountlake Terrace is at least increasing density near theirs. I think we should encourage that as much as possible.

    2. Seattle has the resources it needs to improve its bus service. It just passed a levy for $40 million a year and Councilmember Sawant is proposing levying an $18 million “head tax” on employers in the city. Between them Seattle can apply signal priority, identify bus lane segments, build more bulb outs and generally improve rubber-tired transit throughout the city.

      It has the authority to create local improvement districts and capture some of the direct increase in property value from HCT stations and it even could create a long-term levy on the well-to-do neighborhoods north of the Ship Canal to fund a Ballard-UW subway.

      It can be done.

      Sure, give the leg a chance to step up. The suburban representatives may be more forthcoming now that they see that Seattle is willing to go its own way, thanks to Prop 1. But in case they aren’t, let’s get cracking on a plan for an important east-west transportation artery.

  13. I do not think that an ST3 measure would pass.

    That being said, I like Sound Transit. I think it provides good service. I ride it occasionally, but not for commuting purposes. What I think should actually happen is that all of the agencies around Puget Sound get conglomerated under Sound Transit, and Olympia and Lacey get added and Intercity gets folded in as well. Combine the operations, smooth out the fare structure, and eliminate parallel levels of management.

    The biggest reason that people who live in Suburbs are going to vote No on any ST3 measure is that they are tired of their sales taxes going up. I know I am. Funding transit with sales taxes is about as regressive as it gets. It impacts lower income citizens even more than making them pay full fare would. I know that I am certainly tired of paying more for less… I plan on voting NO on ST3.

    1. Considering that a low-income persons’ biggest expenses (food and housing) are exempt from the sales tax, I don’t think it’s nearly as regressive as many people think.

      Granted, the purchase of a car is not exempt, but a large part of the purpose of transit is to make people not have to buy cars in the first place, and people that for already bought their cars, it doesn’t matter anyway. Meanwhile, auto insurance and gas is exempt from the sales tax (except when it’s bundled into the price of a rental through Zipcar or Car2Go).

      1. theres something to be said also for everyone to have some “skin in the game” too on a tax benefiting something they use. everyone loves to have everyone else pay for their services and will give every reason why they shouldn’t have to pay in

      2. That is very true. Omit food, housing (and pharmaceuticals) and you’ve excepted about 60% of a low-income person’s expenditures. Maybe more.

        But you’ve only excepted 20-25% of a wealthy person’s, because she or he considers “housing” to be yet another investment. And it is.

      3. There’s something to be said for everyone having an adequate income so that the “skin in the game” does not force them to choose between food, medicine, rent, and electricity.

      4. Mike,

        Of course that’s true in an idealistic sense, but the truth is that some people — often through no fault of their own — simply do not add enough value to an enterprise to cause it to hire them. It’s not the “bundle of work” fallacy; if everyone is sufficiently skilled and mentally coherent, economic growth can produce more work for more people.

        But if people are not particularly skilled or are not coherent, there will be no work for them.

        As a humanitarian I don’t want them to starve or freeze, but that doesn’t mean that we can waive a magic wand and make a non-trivial cohort of our society economically valuable.

    2. Understood. So, as part of pushing for a Sound Transit 3, let’s also push for property tax authority to be included. Our property taxes here are rather low compared to many other places in the country and property owners directly benefit. We pay for things like Bridging-the-Gap with property taxes, let’s fund transit like that, too.

      1. I agree. I think a property tax measure would be more popular than a sales tax measure for many reasons, not the least of which that it more progressive (or at least less regressive).

    3. I do not think that an ST3 measure would pass.

      Out of curiosity, what sort of evidence has prompted you to believe that the Sound Transit electorate has become at least 15% less pro-transit than it was in 2008? The case seems incredibly difficult to make, when you consider that the young people added to the electorate are, demographically, far more likely to be pro-transit than the old people they replaced.

      Of course anti-tax sentiment will lead to no votes in the suburbs. But it’s not like those voters’ attitudes about sales tax changed dramatically starting in 2009. They were a factor in 2008, and ST2 still won by 16 points.

      1. I think ST3 will have a tough time just because we already paid for the obvious stuff. I have no doubt that Seattle will vote for light rail to Ballard (in all its forms) but less sure about the suburbs. The biggest things suburban commuters needed are already paid for. Run express buses to the trains and be done with it. I think there is a strong argument for that position, and I think it will get plenty of support. But I wouldn’t count out ST3, completely. I think they are a very popular agency, and people like light rail in general (e. g. folks in Everett want it a lot). I’m just not sure they will like the idea as much when they see the price tag.

        Depending on the proposal, there is also likely to be a Seattle contingent that will want it to fail, just so they can pursue a Seattle only solution. I think you can make a really strong argument that subarea equity with proportional funding no longer makes sense, and will no longer be popular. A Seattle worker can get to Bellevue or Redmond by train as well as the airport. Thus a Seattle resident could care less about adding light rail to the suburbs, and doesn’t want the projects tied together. I’m not saying that is a sensible reason to vote no (since there is no guarantee we will ever have the funding authority to go it alone) but i’m saying the argument will have more weight now than it did with ST2.

      2. I think ST3 will have a tough time just because we already paid for the obvious stuff.

        This attributes an excessive level of nuance to voters. a) There will continue to be plenty of unmet transit need, and b) voters are generally just “pro” or “anti” (transit, taxes) to varying degrees for reasons that have little to do with details.

    4. Why do so many people lock themselves into a corner predicting whether a measure will pass in two years? We don’t know what the economy will be like, or what will be in the package, or how well University Link’s launch will go, or the First Hill Streetcar, or how many major traffic jams will occur in 2016, or how many snowstorms, or how the public mood might change, or how many jobs will come and where, or what gas prices will be, or whose names and what initiatives will be on the ballot next to it.

      “people who live in Suburbs are going to vote No on any ST3 measure is that they are tired of their sales taxes going up.”

      I know for a fact that some people in the suburbs are more concerned about transportation than sales taxes, and other people have other priorities. I don’t care about sales tax. If it went up to 20% I might care, but not if it goes from 9.5% to 9.6%. I’m saving a lot of money by having no income tax and low property taxes, and overall taxes should be higher to fund things the government is neglecting. Yes, sales tax is regressive, but we’re operating within the tax sources and caps the state allows us. So direct your gripe at the legislature. Voting no on transit causes further and longer-lasting harm than living with a sucky sales tax.

      The lack of comprehensive transit makes people think transit is non-viable and not there when they need it, so it entrenches the car culture and parking demand with lasting effects for decades, which then makes buildings larger to fit the cars, which makes it harder to walk from place to place, and establishes a two-class culture where drivers can get around easily and take jobs that non-drivers can’t, but everybody has to pay thousands of dollars a year to have the requisite car. So we must never miss the chance to improve transit incrementally, to at least make it better even if not excellent.

      As for agency consolidation, that’s an attractive long-term goal, and a model that works well in other countries. But it’s a long complex process with many details, and it’s unclear that the region is ready for such a large government entity when, as you say, you don’t think even ST3 will pass. “Smoothing out the fare structure” means some fares will have to go down and others up. How will you replace the revenue for fares that go down? The existing agencies don’t have money for that, so lowering fares would require cutting service, but all the agencies have severe unmet demand. Also, there’s often an assumption that consolidating the agencies will save money in administration. Maybe, but we need a concrete analysis of how much where and what the impacts would be, not just a blanket optimistic assumption. And how would the results match each city’s goals compared to the current system? For instance, Everett might lose service compared to Everett Transit, but Everettites might prefer Everett Transit’s level of service and autonomy over its routes. And Seattlites often talk about restoring Seattle Transit (seceding from Metro) to get more urban service and focus on its routing priorities. So there are movements going both directions, both for a single agency and for splitting from existing agencies. In that enviroment, we can be glad we have a common monthly pass, which the Bay Area doesn’t.

      1. I agree that trying to predict whether ST3 will pass or not is crazy without knowing what ST3 will have. But I do think ST3, just by the nature of our system, will be a tricky proposition. By my estimation, Seattle needs way more expensive service than the other regions (and that is assuming BRT to West Seattle). I’m not saying it can’t be done, but I think it is tricky. If the legislature eliminates proportional funding, but keeps subarea equity, then I think it would be much easier. This would allow each area (via its representatives) to pursue projects that are the appropriate cost for their constituents. If the east side (or the south end) wants BRT (or just express buses) but Seattle wants a lot more light rail, then so be it. Either way you keep the same agency (which has representatives for various regions) in charge of approving a project before it gets put to voters.

      2. Mike,

        The way to ameliorate that “two-class structure” is by wholesale adoption of signal priority buying buckets of that rubberized red paint to make bus lanes. Give the buses the attention they need and people will convert.

        Of course, that means that more operating funds must be raised, but fortunately the capital investments make each new bus using an upgrade route cheaper than the previous one.

    1. What’s with the routes that have “reduce overcrowding” but not “increase frequency”? Since this can’t buy more long buses, how do you reduce overcrowding without sending more buses on the route, which would necessitate a frequency increase?

      1. “Increase frequency” here is shorthand for “increase frequency during at least one full category of service.” (That is, peak, daytime, evening, night, weekend, etc.) “Reduce overcrowding” typically is a smaller commitment, requiring the addition of one or two trips at the peak of peak. The categories make more sense if you know the Service Guidelines.

    2. Thanks for the link!

      What’s happening with the “Improve Reliability” routes? Are they just getting added buses and/or standby buses, or are they getting changes in routing, bus bulbs, TSP, or something else? My understanding was that the funds from Proposition 1 could only be spend on service, not on capital expenditures.

      Somewhat related- with the passage of Proposition 1, will the Route 2 restructure go through as planned with the cuts, or will the current route be maintained?

      1. I suspect the opportunity to reorganize the 2 was lost again. The last thing the city council wants is controversy, or people voting against their district seats because they “took away the 2”. It would require another route change proposal, hearings, county council approval, etc. The bright side is this wasn’t the first time Metro tried to consolidate the 2; it’s the second, so Metro clearly thinks it needs changing and will probably keep trying. Or Madison BRT may end up superceding it.

      2. Mike,

        There is a perfectly sound way to provide service to Seneca between Eighth and Madison/12th. Use hybrids so that no new wire is needed, and run them between the 13th and Pine turnback and the liveloop at Second and Pike, using Eighth to move between Seneca and Pike/Pine. Have 30 minute frequency which is adequate to meet the needs of truly mobility limited patrons or those who are afraid to cross Madison.

        Then move Route 2 to Madison BRT.

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