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There is a certain type of anti-transit writer whose perspective can be summarized as: “For every agency proposal n, the agency should instead do n-1.” When rail proposals are on the table, such writers often make substantive and seemingly pro-transit arguments for bus rapid transit (BRT) as a superior alternative for less capital cost. When BRT proposals are advanced, their arguments generally shift to either a defense of the sufficiency of traditional bus service, or to a more transparently anti-transit stance that focuses on impacts to general traffic.

In Spokane, the city is set to go it alone the Spokane Transit Authority (STA) is set to try again this fall after voters defeated a larger regional proposal by less than 700 votes last April, asking voters to raise the sales tax by .2% to fund transit improvements including the Central City Line. To many efficiency-minded conservatives, Spokane should be a model case; for years it has studied a higher-capacity transit service connecting its urban western districts (such as Browne’s Addition) with downtown and its University District (serving WSU-Spokane, Spokane Community College, and Gonzaga). The agency has dismissed light rail and streetcar options as prohibitively expensive, and has a solid plan for an electric trolleybus alternative that would carry 900,000 riders per year. What’s not to like?

Plenty, if you’re someone like the CATO Institute’s Randall O’Toole. Writing in the Spokesman Review, O’Toole describes the project as a deliberate waste of taxpayer dollars intended solely to win federal grants:

Spokane Transit Authority’s proposed tax increase isn’t about attracting millennials to the Inland Empire. Instead, it’s about using your tax dollars to match federal grants that will be spent on projects that won’t necessarily improve transit ridership or transportation in Spokane.

For example, STA wants to buy giant, 120-passenger buses for $1.2 million each, more than three times the cost of an ordinary bus, to operate on its proposed Central City bus route. STA planners predict that, if they run these buses 316,000 miles per year, they will attract people to ride them 1,077,000 passenger miles per year.

Do the math: that means each bus will carry an average of 3.4 people, and probably no more than a few dozen during the busiest times of the day. Why should taxpayers shell out $1.2 million for humongous buses that will mostly run empty?

The sleight of hand here is quite transparent, with O’Toole deliberately conflating passenger-miles with ridership. The 1.07m passenger-miles would be taken by an estimated 890,000 riders using 30,000 annual service hours. That’s roughly 30 passengers per service hour. That wouldn’t break any records in Seattle (equivalent to the off-peak Route 26 in 2015), but is a healthy number for Spokane.

Next, O’Toole attacks STA’s choice to run electric trolleybuses:

The agency wants to… buy super-expensive battery-powered buses whose environmental benefits are questionable because it takes almost 4,000 BTUs of energy to generate and transmit electricity to charge a battery that provides just 1,000 BTUs of power.”

There are at least 3 lies of omission in this single sentence. A 25% efficiency rating is intended here to sound wasteful, and it depends on O’Toole’s omission of the similar waste of internal combustion engines, which range from 25% efficiency for gasoline to 40% for diesel. Second, there is no mention of the fuel source, which in Spokane is 56% renewable thanks to hydro, wind, and biomass, a clear winner over diesel fuel. Third, environmental benefits are more than just aggregate factors such as CO2. In urban settings, local environmental benefits matter. Electric buses are infinitely cleaner to the lungs of anyone in their immediate vicinity, saving citizens from breathing the particulates and more than a dozen carcinogens in diesel exhaust. On top of that, the noise reduction electric buses afford markedly improve quality of life, making all sorts of urban activities more pleasant, such as sidewalk cafes.

Finally, O’Toole says that STA should eschew any capital improvements and instead focus on increasing frequency via privatizing services:

Rather than giant, battery-powered buses or immobile transit centers, experience has shown that the one sure way to increase transit ridership is to offer more transit service. STA can do this without raising your taxes by simply contracting out bus service to private operators.

Contracting out buses could allow STA to greatly increase service at no extra cost to taxpayers. Spokane voters should be skeptical of any plan that costs more money until STA has saved money by contracting out its bus service.

If “better transit need not cost more”, the same could be said of highways. I look forward to O’Toole’s proposal to revert our Interstate Highway system to gravel, remove all wasteful electronic message signs, and eliminate wasteful flyover ramps in favor of at-grade crossings on all freeways. The reduced maintenance costs could be reinvested into wider lanes, providing more service to all of Spokane’s drivers.

In all seriousness, getting people on the bus doesn’t mean that the quality of their trip doesn’t then matter. It is quite sensible for Spokane to seek to provide more reliable service that boosts capacity and helps its citizens breathe easier. It is legitimate for agencies to use transit as part of a planning toolkit that responsibly directs growth. And it’s ok for things to be nice. 

44 Replies to “For Anti-Transit Writers, the Answer is “Always Less”: Spokane Edition”

  1. And we thought The Seattle Times Editorial Board was bad. I hope see people see through these lies.

    1. O’Toole is a specialist in attacking transit, he normally writes for the Cato Institute. Omitting information is kind of his signature.

      1. O’Toole exists solely to attack rail projects, and routinely lies (including completely falsifying numbers, and adding apples to oranges to get bananas) in order to do so. The oil and gas companies who fund Cato seem to like to fund his dishonest propaganda.

        There’s one other guy who does the same sort of thing routinely, and is paid by the same oil & gas companies: Wendell Cox.

        It’s also worth ignoring anythiung by Joel Kotkin, but he isn’t a paid shill. He’s just a personal obsessive fan of automobile-dependent suburbia who will tilt his interpretation of anything to favor it and to oppose cities and oppose rail.

        Cox and O’Toole are *professional* rail-haters who get paid to hate rail.

    2. Wow. This is the pot calling the kettle black. For STB, the answer is always MOAR – no matter how expensive, how poorly conceived, or how ugly and dehumanizing (as in 33-story buildings in the U-district).

      1. Kevin, what you’ve just said is one of the most insanely idiotic things I have ever heard. At no point in your rambling, incoherent response were you even close to anything that could be considered a rational thought. Everyone in this room is now dumber for having listened to it. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul.

      2. Considering this blog’s skepticism of many suburban rail proposals over the last couple years, I have to wonder if you’ve been reading carefully.

      3. Give us one example, Kevin. However many stories any building in the U-District has, I don’t think either Metro, Sound Transit, or STB owns it.

        But come to think of it, maybe you mean University Street downtown. On the Southwest corner with Second Avenue, crewmen told me that utilities were being prepped for a 33 story building that will destroy a graceful older and much smaller building.

        I know where you’re headed, though. So, if University Street Station was really to blame, the ugly dehumanizing replacement of something exactly its opposite wouldn’t have waited 25 years to get built.

        Also, could be I’m either hardened by misfortune or in the pay of STB (Hey, Zach, where’s my check? I’m not gonna keep on dehumanizing on my own dime!) but 8 minute LINK ride in from UW left me feelling a lot more human that half hour bus ride down Eastlake used to.

        Maybe EastLINK will bill high enough to dehumanize people, but only if it sinks like it did last time. When WSDOT was in charge of it. When that happens…at least let women and children get into the lifeboats- which all trains will carry to increase the costs.

        Mark

      4. Mark,

        Crosscut just put out an article not more than 3 days ago about a public meeting in which it was insisted that zoning be changed in the U-district around the new LInk station to allow 320-foot high buildings. Theoretically, that could result in 40-story buildings. Needless to say, people in that neighborhood are up in arms. It is one thing to have 6-story buildings dominate a neighborhood, as we now see in Capitol Hill – IMO it makes sense. But, I suspect that most Seattleites, contrary to many on this board, do not want to live in neighborhoods dominated by 30+-story skyscrapers. If you want to live in a mini-Manhattan, move to Vancouver.

        As for skepticism about suburban rail proposals, William C., the vast majority here still recommend that we must suck it up anyway and vote for MOAR!

        Finally, HuskyTbone, if my two sentences are considered rambling, then I imagine, without naming names, that you want to ban a lot of the posters on this board.

      5. Theoretically, that could result in 40-story buildings. Needless to say, people in that neighborhood are up in arms.

        No, it’s not “needless to say” in the slightest. The U-district is within walking distance of a huge school and massive number of jobs, and will be a >10 minute frequent transit ride to an even bigger one. To state the obvious, anyone who cares in the slightest about the future of the planet should want as many people as possible to be able to live adjacent to work and mass transit. I don’t really care much whether buildings near my home are 3 or 30 stories–a city is a city–but even if I did, the importance of my aesthetic preferences pales in comparison to the other issues at stake here.

      6. What do you fear about taller buildings? How will they hurt you? Vancouver is a pleasant, attractive, and extremely functional city.

        I think that for many anti-height activists the answer is really “the tall buildings will improve the supply of housing in my neighborhood, reducing my property-value windfall.” That is a lot easier to understand than the nonsense they spout in public.

      7. Woo-hoo! David Lawson nails it again. “NIMBY”‘s should really “NIMBAC”‘s: “No Impact On My Bank Account”. If you’re concerned about your “back yard”, folks, surround it with shrubbery and make your own little park. It takes a few years but is enormously satisfying.

      8. I lived in the U-District for 23 years and I support 40-story buildings around the station. The U-District has long been Seattle’s second downtown and this is a natural extension of it. Northgate would also be a good place for 40-story buildings.

        I don’t think NIMBYs in this case are thinking so much about property values as about a particular aesthetic they prefer, like their Mercer Island counterparts in the open thread. Highrise apartments are a different real estate market from the regular apartments and houses in and around the U-District: some people can’t afford the highrises and others don’t want to live in them, but others can and do. There is some overlap between the highrises and existing housing, but it’s dwarfed by the population surge. That’s the elephant to which the highrise is an ant.

      9. Living in a highrise is the most isolating living experience available. That is why I call it dehumanizing. I know all my neighbors where I live now. Even have dinner with them occasionally. That is rarely the case in a highrise. I can go out onto my deck or into the yard, and smell, listen to, and interact with nature. Can’t do that in a highrise. There are real drawbacks to highrise urban villages. Great European cities like London, Paris, Berlin have managed to be green and transit-oriented without skyscrapers. Why can’t Seattle be the same? IMO, Capitol Hill’s zoning is a nice compromise.

        As for Vancouver. It is very pleasant, but I find it quite ugly – not attractive. And its functionality is questionable.

  2. I vote in Seattle and not Spokane, but I am generally against any proposal that would result in more people going to The Elk Public House — it’s busy enough already.

    That said, O’T is a master at contorting facts, and I’m sure he gets paid well for it. Hopefully clearer heads will prevail.

  3. O’Toole is one of the greatest n-1 anti-transit folks of our time. Want to invest in light rail? He comes in spewing the benefits of BRT. Want to invest in BRT? Bring him in to talk about reform of the existing transit agency. Want to make existing transit not suck? Cut transit and invest in cars as transit use is in decline.

    When he was railing against Albuquerque’s now under-construction BRT system, he was using similar bizarre and obscuring facts and figures. Some facts and figures were 10+ years old. And I see he did the same favor to Spokane as well.

    “Increase congestion by encouraging the construction of high-density housing projects along transit corridors.”

    No mention of SR395, the $2.5 billion Spokane freeway project that’ll increase congestion by encouraging people to live farther away? Then finally relating PDX Millennial growth to the proliferation of microbrew pubs? F’you O’Toole.

    1. “Some facts and figures were 10+ years old.”

      Ayn Rand’s novels don’t change. What they said in the 1950s they still say today. The problem and the solution is always the same.

      1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ayn_Rand

        Really not fair to compare Ayn Rand with the Cato institute or any of its employees. Including because her most famous novel, “Atlas Shrugged” had all its action center around a railroad.

        And at least she worked hard to develop her own philosophy. But her way of dealing with any idea, I think, is very familiar to a Russian of any persuasion. Alexander Solzhenitsyn is another good example.

        Throughout that culture’s history, ideas are unbelievably important in themselves. Practical applications are ‘way down the line. Which used to be the case in the rest of Europe before the Renaissance and the Enlightenment, which have yet to happen in Russia.

        To Karl Marx, first necessity for Communism, followed closely by the enterprising capitalist mind-set to him only present in Germany and the United States.

        “We the Living,” Ayn’s first-hand depiction of what losing a war does to educated civilians, and also being lectured in brotherly love by the founders of the Russian mob, tells a lot about her bad-mouthing altruism.

        The weird thing about her philosophy was how much traction it got among Americans, who mostly can’t imagine even having an idea that doesn’t have an immediate practical use.

        Especially Americans who should have known better because they actually did know about business. Like Alan Greenspan.

        http://www.noblesoul.com/orc/bio/turbulence.html

        And most especially in America when Eisenhower was President, when “Atlas Shrugged” came out. Very interesting that the only believable characters in the book were evil ugly sanctimonious bureaucrats.

        Good guys with names like “John Galt”, she made up . But no doubt she really knew “Wesley Mouch.” Who had “eyes like pale egg-yolks.” Since she’d gotten into screen writing, he was probably modeled on some critic.

        Nobody at all named, or resembling Dwight D. Eisenhower. I also really think that in her naming scheme, and personal assessment, “Randall O’Toole” would be Wesley Mouch’s office boy.

        Mark

      2. “We the Living” is the Rand novel I know best, and I like her literary imagery which seems to be a Russian writers’ trait (e.g., like Pasternak and the 19th-century writers). It’s interesting that Kira’s older relatives refuse to work under the Soviet Regime — they won’t get an employment book similar to a passport. But Kira (Rand’s alter ego) does not object to cooperating with the regime at that level; she gets an employment book and regular jobs. this echoes some experiences in the US. I read that Laura Ingalls Wilder’s relatives stopped working when Social Security was launched because they objected to the compulsory payroll tax. And conversely, Rand took Social Security benefits because if the government offers it she’ll take it and it’s a way to get back what’s rightfully theirs from the moochers and elites.

        As for the high-speed train, I think that’s a 50s era thing. When Americans flocked to the suburbs in that era, they still expected to work downtown and shop at downtown department stores, and they expected the existing high level of trains and buses to remain in the future. The passenger rail golden era was followed by and overlapped with the Greyhound golden era. Their new suburbs weren’t transit-accessible but they assumed the existing transit and intercity trains/buses would remain, and an intercity high-speed rail is an extension of that. The interstates and airports led to the collapse of transit and intercity ground transport, but I don’t think most people in the 50s really foresaw that. They were still thinking, “One car per family, maybe two in the future, and one for the rare scrapping teenager who saves up for it, and we’ll still work downtown.” But in the 70s the jobs and shopping followed to the people to the suburbs, suburb-to-suburb travel grew, and transit’s downward trajectory was well on its way. A generation grew up with interstates and airlines, and high-speed rail was unfathomable to them. Also in the 70s private passenger rail failed and Amtrak took it over, and that of course is as communist as Social Security, and inefficient because it’s government-run with a guaranteed subsidy that doesn’t depend on fares.

        That taint spread to all passenger rail projects, and most conservatives/libertarians turned decisively against them if they weren’t before. Because rail requires unrealistically high fares or a subsidy, whereas roads are just roads and the cars are privately owned and the roads are paid by a “user fee” (gas tax). Except when they aren’t, when the gas tax is too low to maintain them, or when they forget and start trying to eliminate the gas tax because it’s a tax.

        Ironically, I think libertarians would still see trains as a sensible solution to airport circulation, uptopian towns, and private island-cities that are large enough to require transport. Science-fiction towns often have them, with people using them in the city and driving in the uninhabited areas. And they may say they work somewhat well in Europe and Asia. But somehow that doesn’t translate to the US in the current era.

  4. This guy isn’t even consistent. He rails against government planning then is literally the media’s go-to guy to espouse the government’s creation of converting normal streets into a timed greenlight wave one way network. He claims to be the utmost authority on the free market until the pesky free market gets in the way of motorist convenience and suburban values. Everything suburban is somehow the “natural order” and everything urban is social engineering. But of course the government’s promotion of suburbia through policies, infrastructure, taxes, subsidies, etc and blatant stated policy after WWII of dispersal of urban populations couldn’t possibly be social engineering!

    1. American society went through a long laissez-faire period until the Depression. Then under Roosevelt the government started reigning in capitalism’s excesses and set up Social Security and labor standards to protect people. The antitrust work had been done a few decades earlier. It was much less than in western Europe but libertarians hated all of it, especially Social Security because it put a communist noose over every American. (Without Social Security there would be no Social Security Numbers, and thus no national ID to track citizens with, no Social Security payroll tax, and banks and employers wouldn’t know your SSN because it didn’t exist). Then WWII happened and the government became the direct employer of millions of conscripts. When the war ended, people were more interested in 20th-century progress and the American Dream than they were about libtertarian niceties. So people were all GI Bill and refrigerators and televisions and cars and highways and a country-like house for every (white) resident.

      As the decades went by, people forgot how highways and tract houses and zoning originated from a massive government intervention after the war. They thought they were natural order, proof of superior American capitalist values over stagnating Europe, that they had acquired their houses through simple working, and that zoning reflected natural property rights. So all these things were exempt from the “government is evil and greedy and unnecessary” mantra. This caused people to develop an anti-libertarian view on zoning without realizing the contradiction. The same in some ways on highways.

      1. Theodore Roosevelt did a bit of effort with his Trust Busting work, and attempting to reform land use. In fact his vision of good roads as a way of putting a check on railroad monopolies wasn’t such a bad idea – but of course required government road investment.

        So, there was some effort before the 1930s.

      2. You can’t have it both ways on “libertarianism”. If the government should not be allowed to zone, then why should it be allowed to do anything else that you hold dear to your heart – like redistribute wealth? You do realize that zoning is wealth redistribution? Same goes with highways. If it’s okay to tax everybody for transit because it accords with your value system, then why isn’t it okay to tax everyone for highways because people who value the incomparable freedom and flexibility associated with car travel want them?

      3. If the government should not be allowed to zone, then why should it be allowed to do anything else that you hold dear to your heart – like redistribute wealth? You do realize that zoning is wealth redistribution?

        This is bizarre. Obviously, virtually everyone, including libertarians, thinks that some government restrictions on individual rights are justified and some are not. They each need to be justified on their own merits. There’s nothing implausible or inconsistent about holding the view that restricting property rights for the convenience or aesthetic preferences of those who live in the vicinity is a tougher case than redistribution to prevent poverty or excessive inequality. Some might disagree! But each needs its own justification, and accepting or rejecting one need not entail a similar response to the other.

      4. @kevin I understand what you mean about can’t having the libertarian argument both ways. It does seem people on this blog can use libertarianism a bit opportunisticaly. They are using an opinion of an apponent for argument, something I think slightly dishonest to onself. But overall I think it’s pretty clear that all this blog really wants is dense city served by good transit. Contrast that with tea party types. They are on principal against big government. That is why them breaking from libertarian principles for zoning and highways so strange. I think that they aren’t as anti government as they think they are. I think they are all about the feeling of independence. Big government is often about not independence. Kids who couldn’t afford school get school. People who can’t afford health care get health care. People are getting from others if they can’t make it independently. Highways and zoning are government which is the opposite. It makes it so you can drive how you want when you want at high speed. Zoning restricts development, allowing the neighborhood to retain a feel of independent land and property. Not all, but many of the small government folk are actually feel independent folk, and their other arguments like governments are ineffective is likely more of self vindictive reasoning than what actually attracts to the philosophy.

        Personally I’m about efficiency and efficacy. I lean libertarian because government has little control on how inefficient and ineffective it gets. Voters will often demand particular items, but will very rarely demand effectiveness. Even when they do, voters have no way of easily verifying. That being said, some things are important enough that the greater risk of inefficiency doesn’t matter (yeah, and sorry die hard free marketers, I’ve seen some ridiculously ineffective business too). Schools for example of something very important that every one gets but wouldn’t get without government solutions. Then there are things where the government solution is likely more efficient, such as transit in dense city. That’s why I’m pro transit. That is also why I hate the ST3 draft plan. Even though some projects are efficient, there are also inefficient ones. On aggregate it’s still decently efficient. So now I’m conflicted about it. I want to vote no because it has clear inefficiency, but I also want the efficient parts to happen

      5. “It was much less than in western Europe but libertarians hated all of it, especially Social Security because it put a communist noose over every American.”

        I painted libertarians with a bit too broad a brush there. I was a libertarian in the late 90s from some family influences, but I gave it up in early 2001 when I saw George W Bush implementing half the libtertarian agenda while ignoring the other half, and I felt like we have to stop the destruction (of government programs and the social-safety net) and find a better long-term strategy. Then the past six years as the tea party and Koch influence and the Pauls have come to light, I started feeling somewhat duped: was all that talk about freedom for everybody really a shill for a billionaire oligarchy? But there may still be libertarians like I was, and I may have underestimated them or how diverse the movement is.

        But the biggest issue in this context is zoning. The debate of whether STBers or libertarians are consistent on it points to a larger issue. That is, there’s no public consensus on what zoning is or what it’s for. That’s a complex issue, and I wonder if there’s some kind of history of zoning that takes all these viewpoints into account. The most complete one I’ve seen so far is in “Dead End: Suburban Sprawl and the Rebirth of American Urbanism” by Benjamin Ross. He traces it from the 1800s although he has a pretty specific viewpoint and we should probably look at other views too. But he says in the late 1880s when the Olmstead-era suburbs were established, private covenants were used to exclude blacks and working-class people, by requiring large houses and lawns and curving roads and allowing only useless animals (dogs and cats, not goats or chickens) — only people with money and a private car (horse carriage) could afford to live in them. In the 1920s cities started standardizing these rules, to segregate industry and undesirable people and enforce an aesthetic. It’s often claimed that zoning is needed to prevent a polluting factory next to your house, but Ross says cities could already do that on public-health grounds. The courts took a dim view of zoning because it deprives people of their property rights to build whatever they want. The courts said you can’t zone certain neighborhoods and not others because that’s unequal: the zoning must be part of a citywide plan that looks like a reasonable distribution of activities rather than exclusionary everywhere. He also says that zoning hasn’t really been tested in court, and cities have tried to keep it out of court in case it would get struck down in toto. So they try to litigate only side issues, not the core of zoning. So zoning does have its origins in exclusion, and some of that is/was racist, and it’s a government taking of property rights. That seems to contradict a libertarian vision of a small government that mostly enforces property rights and contracts and personal rights (e.g., the right to not be assaulted, since your body is your property). But proponents of low-density limits seem to have evolved an opposite view, and that’s worth examining in context. I don’t know of any specific work that does so.

  5. In the ’70’s, there were a couple of UW professors who held that every form of line-haul transit was obsolete waste of money, and that the future lay with “paratransit”.

    Which turned out, disappointingly, not to be painted Viet Nam era camo with a gold parachute on the door. Now, we’ve got a lot better transit and cars with purple mustaches. Which would prove to the professors that they would’ve won if “Uber” hadn’t sounded like something out of Wagner, and “Lyfft” (however you spell it ) a pathetic attempt to use Olde English incorrectly.

    In addition to the purple mustache, which in the 1970’s nobody had yet, these being the years of chartreuse polyester leisure suits and Sonny Bono porn-star mustaches in regular colors.

    And gold chains with those squiggly things. Good thing oil prices are down so we can afford the polyester, because evidence now shows that all these things are precursors to expensive, and good, transit. Where are the Captain and Tennille when we need them?

    Wonder if Randall still wears that ’70’s look. But since Cato himself was known to be cruel even for a Roman slave master. Maybe standard Institute office dress code is as a cruel glutton wearing a bedsheet with a ring of leaves on his head.

    Though his Institute would have doubtless scolded its namesake for overpaying his workers, and admonished him on value of 0-1 nothing for food.

    Mark

    Mark

  6. Zach –

    You call it trolley bus service, but don’t argue on his claims about battery buses – are they planning trolleys, battery powered, trolley with major off-wire capability?

    All of the above are cool. All of the above also come with massive fuel savings that easily offset the initial cost of investment. And all of the above use electric motors, typically 95% efficient at converting energy into motion.

    His efficiency numbers are highly suspicious – he seems to include transmission losses in his estimate, which is sort of fair, if you include well-to-wheel figures for gasoline, which is course he doesn’t. And I’m guessing he is including inefficiency in coal/gas burning powerplants, which Zach so nicely points out, isn’t quite the main story in the PNW.

    But most of all, the figure Zach cites for the energy efficiency of combustion engines is what you get if you measure the output of an engine and the energy of the fuel going in – not actual driving. For highway driving, it isn’t too far off, but for city driving, you have to think about braking. You use a pile of power to build up speed, and then hit the brakes for a stop light and get rid of it all.

    Buses have terrible vehicle fuel efficiency for this reason – it’s like city driving on steroids, stopping for lights, traffic and passengers. (Of course the relevant question is passenger miles per gallon, which is why we bother to have buses in the first place. But they suck on vehicle miles per gallon).

    Electric buses have regenerative braking, which helps lead to efficiencies of 17-22 MPGe (proterra website) vs 3.3 mpg (department of energy) for a non-hybrid bus and 6 mpg for a New Flyer hybrid.

    So…. Yeah. But I do want to know what type of electric Spokane is hoping to make its very wise investment in.

    1. O’Toole’s numbers are generally simply fraudulent. He goes and searches for out-of-date numbers from botched studies until he finds one that makes public transportation look bad.

  7. Zach, a small correction – the Spokane measure is still region-wide and the sales tax is an initial 0.1% followed by an additional 0.1% which kicks in after a few years. Thanks for rebutting this ridiculous op-ed.

  8. For a few years Inlived down the road from O’Toole. There’s lots I could say that would not be appropriate here.

    However, I’ll tell you just enough for you to understand the mentality here.

    Up until 1998, he lived in the Oak Grove area of Clackamas County (aka Clackistan), south of Portland. There is no city government there so zoning is administered by the county, and they don’t have a lot of limits. It’s pretty much a libertarian paradise. For example, a number of the streets flood regularly up to several feet deep due to unrestrained development in wetlands areas and no consideration of what obstacles placed in streams do to houses upstream.

    Bringing a different meaning to the word “strip mall”, the area is filled with strip malls with topless coffee shops and nude dance halls. Also, lots of used gun stores. One strip mall has installed a 50 foot tall model of the Statue of Liberty in their parking lot. No height limits on such an object exist there.

    So, into this Libertarian Utopia comes a developer wanting to build an apartment complex, and there’s no real reason or zoning to stop it.

    It’s also very close to where O’Toole lives.

    That someone would build whatever the hell they want wherever they want right next door pisses O’Toole off so much he moves to Bandon. They have a city government there and zoning controls to prevent such things.

    1. …pisses O’Toole off so much he moves to Bandon

      That was a sad day for cranberry growers worldwide.

    2. Thanks for that. You know, I’m a really strong advocate of wetlands protection and drainage laws, and I don’t think I could stand to live somewhere where such irresponsibility caused the street to flood several feet on a regular basis…

      …but it would almost be worth it for the topless coffee shops, nude dance halls, and 50-foot-tall replica of the Statue of Liberty.

      O’Toole, by contrast, is obviously a hypocrite.

      1. You’d love a certain section of Arista Drive. It floods so regularly it now has a beaver family as well as wood ducks.

        You can’t get too much more pro-wetlands than turning your streets into marsh habitat.

  9. Too often, word “libertarian” means demanding the “liberty” to avoid the freely- adopted agreements between one’s fellow voters upon which one’s own liberty completely depends.

    Whatever the rhetoric, for the last forty years or so, no act of Government tyranny has prevented majority of voters from unburdening themselves of the weight of schools, road repair and decent mental hospitals.

    Though, as is supposed to hold for every freely-adopted measure, voters who approve repair-avoidance have no grounds to complain about the results of these votes on their own freedom, safety, happiness and survival for fifteen minutes.

    However, I really do think that without consciously naming it, the United States of America daily proves the truth of anarchism. Americans have always been notorious workaholics. In the days of clipper ships, the US merchant marine was known for the world’s smallest crews.

    Because the sailors themselves were belligerently proud to be able to cooperate energetically and effectively without orders. Worst insult was “sojer”. Meaning “soldier.” Meaning having to wait for orders to get a hundred feet up a rope ladder at max climbing speed over waves the size of buildings. At midnight.

    If global warming results in Washington DC’s sudden relocation down he Potomac in a hurricane, the country will probably function marginally better. But around this huge country- truly united without an Interior Ministry Police-We the People will keep on pretty much as usual. Now that we’ve gone paperless, Social Security should still show up on bank statements too.

    Rhetorically, I wish the term “Cooperation” would come back into use. Meaning strong, independent individuals not giving up their liberty for “the good of the whole”, but combining their voluntary efforts to get themselves more of everything, including freedom, than they could get by themselves.

    Would also like to see more worker-owned transit cooperatives. Though one serious problem for these theoretically excellent entities: many people, including self-named Libertarians, resent the unpaid work required for running these things. Sad political truth: Socialism takes too many evenings.

    Mark

  10. To the merit of the proposal, I’m impressed how well Spokane has done following the performance dictum “eliminate turns”. Depending on which downtown option they choose they might have as few as seven turns in each direction, plus a couple of “wiggles” dictated by the physical street grid. To serve so many activity centers not strung along two or three streets, that’s admirable.

  11. You don’t need to be Randall O’Toole to question why we should spend money on building a BRT line that duplicates existing service and only is expected to have as many riders in the peak hour as KC Metro local route 26 has in the off-peak hours.

    Spokane has an excellent local bus service for a city of its size. Not all places need to have BRT/LRT/HRT like the big cities do. In fact, I believe that when a place like Oklahoma City builds a streetcar line even as its buses run every 60 minutes and stop at sunset it gives ammunition to people like Randall O’Toole. The transportation revolution of University Link is overshadowed by the incredibly poor performance of commuter rail lines in Austin and Nashville.

    1. I assume the local lines would be restructured to complement the BRT. The existing transit demand is proof that this is a good corridor and would do better with evenly-scheduled BRT than a spaghetti of overlapping routes, especially if the BRT is more frequent. “Ridership like the 26 off-peak” has to be viewed in context of the city’s size. Germany has successful tram-like light rail in cities as small as 300,000, which is not much larger than Spokane. (And Spokane would be bigger if it had annexed the entire metropolitan area as overseas cities often do.) Spokane had skeletal transit when I was there, and I’m glad it now has frequent service and late-evening service. BRT is just an extension of that, the next step in its evolution to a more transit-oriented city. The term “BRT” has a wide range of levels, so an inexpensive low-level BRT in one city is not the same as an expensive high-level BRT in another city. It sounds to me like this will be low-level like RapidRide. A bit of an investment for Spokane but not that much, and it also serves as an experiment to see how well it works there and whether more lines in the future would be warranted.

    2. Eugene doubled its ridership on the EmX corridor over previously existing standard bus service, and they are nowhere near as big as Spokane.

      Sure, sometimes investments aren’t desirable, but sometimes they are.

    3. If OKC’s buses only run every 60 minutes and stop at sunset, I’m not surprised they have low ridership!

  12. So is this proposed bus line a battery bus, a trolley bus or a hybrid trolley with off wire capability?

  13. Oh one more thing, you see O’Toole & Co. come out of the woodwork and target cities like Spokane (Nashville, Kansas City, Cincinnati, Albuquerque, etc) that currently have nothing (or barely anything) beyond a basic bus system to try to prevent them from getting that gateway starter line because from then on it’s a lost cause for anti transit forces.

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