On Saturday the Seattle Times published an editorial opposing placing ST3 on the ballot. For a well-done and more profane takedown, read Heidi Groover’s great piece on Slog yesterday.

Here are some high(low?)lights of the Times editorial:

There’s no silver bullet, especially not the complex and evolving $54 billion plan Sound Transit is rushing onto November’s ballot. Voters should be given more time to consider alternatives, such as a smaller, more incremental plan.

Slow down. A November ballot measure is too soon. Sure, the agency has provided much promotional fanfare around the Christmas list of expansion and new services. But there has been little discussion of other options for investing tens of billions in the region.

The board should pause and give voters time to understand and respond to the region’s largest ballot measure.

ST3’s cost is another moving target. Sound Transit last year pitched a $15 billion project, but extended it to $50 billion in March so it could build for decades without needing another vote. Then it kept growing.

It would also take forever, figuratively, to reap the benefits. Even under the accelerated schedule, the light-rail spine from Tacoma to Everett won’t be complete until 2036.

A blank check raises accountability questions. Sound Transit should be subject to voter oversight periodically.

A hallmark of concern trolling is to wrap values arguments in process language in order to appear neutral on the projects in question, and responding to such disingenuous concerns is a tiresome business. The editorial’s process objections do not stand up to the slightest scrutiny. The idea that this is being “rushed to the ballot” is false a priori and laughable on its face.

Consider rail from Ballard to West Seattle: if ST3 passes, the long saga to Opening Day will have winded its way through the Bogue Plan 105 years ago, the failed Forward Thrust initiatives in 1968 and 1970, the 1997-2005 failure of the Seattle Monorail Project, a yearlong Corridor Study process in 2013, a yearlong Long Range Plan update in 2014, and a yearlong System Planning process this year.

Or consider the spine projects to Everett and Tacoma, which for whatever their merits were in the 1996 Sound Move documents as a a founding goal of the system, a ballot measure the Times endorsed. In the past three years, layers upon layers of studies and open houses and public comment periods have beaten to death the question, “Should we build to Ballard, West Seattle, Everett, and Tacoma?” The public’s unprecedented response has been a resounding, “What’s taking you so long?” In this context, the classic “slow down and study it” approach the Times prefers is breathtakingly out of touch with the regional electorate.

Like in its vote against ST2 in 2008, the Times again believes, incredibly, that the plan should be slowed down because the projects take too long. In 2008, it was:

Vote NO on Proposition 1, Sound Transit light rail and buses. The latest proposal is a bad plan. It costs too much and achieves too little. This plan is being marketed as the solution to immediate needs but only a few buses and commuter trains come soon. The light-rail part of the package happens later, some of it in the 2020s.

Buses are cheaper than rail and more flexible. A few buses and commuter trains come soon, but most of your money would go to light rail not fully open to you until the 2020s. It is not ‘Transit Now.’

Then, on Saturday:

It would also take forever, figuratively, to reap the benefits. Even under the accelerated schedule, the light-rail spine from Tacoma to Everett won’t be complete until 2036.

Either out of ignorance or journalistic malpractice, the Times then makes it appear that Sound Transit’s costs have spiraled out of control by deliberately conflating an authorized tax rate with its cumulative take over the lifetime of the package. The deliberate obfuscation here – $15B became $54B! – ignores both inflation and the increased project scope driven by public demand. The state’s authorizing legislation approved a trio of tax sources that provided $15 billion in year-of-collection dollars over a hypothetical 15-year package. The $54B figure year-of-expenditure figure is surely massive, but the latter years of the package are when the biggest projects come online and when inflation takes its biggest bite. A 2016 dollar is worth only $.56 in 1991 dollars (78% inflation), and a 2016 dollar will likely be worth nearly $2 when ST3 finishes its work.

Back when it was arguing against another transit measure  – Move Seattle – the Times said it was too small, and that it “should be chock full of big fixes, specific big projects and clear and measurable outcomes. Those are all needed because Seattle really needs to get moving to fulfill its role as a global city.” Yet it argued for a smaller package then, and it argues for a smaller package now. For a supposed watchdog against government waste, it then goes all-in on the least cost effective spine projects, while leaving Seattle to its Rapid Ride buses in perpetuity:

Board members should consider a leaner Plan B that would continue extending the system’s north and south spine. It should rely more on flexible, rapid buses and less on costly, fixed light rail duplicating current bus routes.

This would favor a sprawl-enabling system (maybe that’s what they’re going for?) whose crushloads would cripple the core transit tunnel, do nothing for surface congestion, and do nothing for the lives of Seattle citizens the paper’s name would suggest is in their interest to improve. And the Times (or one of its columnists) would be back with another forceful column the day that SDOT proposes taking the necessary lanes from cars to make the buses as fast and reliable as the Times says they can be.

Lastly, the Times decries that ST3 is a “blank check”, when in fact its funds are some of the most extensively earmarked checks you’ll find anywhere in the country. By board policy, Sound Transit cannot build projects unless they are in an adopted System Plan planned passed by majority vote of the people, nor can they even bring a project before voters that isn’t in the Long Range Plan. So any new project is at least two layers of multi-year public processes away from being funded, and even then voters always get the final say.

I suggest the Times go back and re-read its original Sound Move endorsement in 1996, in which they had a moment of clarity they would do well to repeat:

No one believes there is any more money, physical room or public acceptance for major new highways and freeways.

If they truly believe that, then the choice is not whether or not to build transit, but how and where to build it. Building it on the surface degrades transit riders’ experience, takes away the car capacity they treasure, and increases modal conflicts with bicycles, freight, and more. Grade-separated transit is expensive because it does something very hard: it builds genuinely new right of way in the heart of a city while taking nothing from any other mode.

If you want to oppose ST3, do so by believing it doesn’t build the right projects for the money. But the Times knows you wouldn’t be convinced by their “slightly faster buses” dreams, so they want to convince you of agency incompetence, excess, and ideological conspiracies instead. Don’t believe them. Let’s debate the future of our transit system on the merits, and then vote on it in November.

160 Replies to “Seattle Times: After a Century of Waiting, Let’s Wait Some More”

  1. And where is Frank blethen and his editorial board cronies when we’re trying to get exclusive ROW for buses? I don’t remember them supporting more bus only lanes for the Madison BRT, nor the Roosevelt BRT.

    This is nakedly an anti-tax stance – Frank doesn’t want to pay taxes for something he won’t be around to use.

    1. “Nakedly an anti-tax stance”? I think there are valid reasons for an “anti-tax” stance, like inability to keep up with the expense of this for retired people. We aren’t all as rich as Frank, and many of us are still making mortgage payments and are living on fixed incomes. Our property taxes are already increasing rapidly as our property values do, but unless we sell our homes, we get no benefit from the equity. This plan brings annual Sound Transit taxes on the average household to around $740, including a new property tax and sales tax. I’ve never voted against any school, housing or transportation levy, but there comes at time when you simply can’t afford to pay higher taxes. Tell me how am I going to pay these taxes for this and I will support this plan.

      1. King County has property tax exemption programs for seniors on fixed incomes.

        Only 1 in 100 of eligible taxpayers take advantage of it: http://www.kingcounty.gov/depts/assessor/TaxpayerAssistance/TaxRelief.aspx

        Although it’s questionable whether many of those 1 out of 100 should really be qualifying: http://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/data/property-tax-break-for-needy-seniors-granted-to-some-pretty-pricey-homes/

        The “seniors being taxed out of their homes” canard is hyperbolic.

      2. I’m with you Charles. An owner of a 3000 sq ft house pays more property tax than the renters of a 3000 sq ft triplex, ie, the taxes can be split up to 4 ways. Homeowners get gouged where as millenials get the discounted school lunch. I’m all for support of public transportation but do we have to tack on so much all at once? Spread it out over a few more generations.

      3. What about the zero income tax? That’s why property taxes are so high. The state could also enact a wealth tax covering mostly the 1%, who are making huge windfalls and can easily afford it.

      4. Feel free to sell your house and move into one of those triplexes, if you can afford the “discounted lunch” rent.

        ST3 won’t be complete for over 20 years. It already is being spread out over generations.

      5. @David Seater I own both and prefer to live in the house. The argument that renters will be paying for it is hogwash.

        And just because Seattle was slow to the start doesn’t mean it needs to finish recklessly.

      6. In relative terms, property taxes in the Puget Sound region are laughably cheap! Illinois taxes are about 75% higher!

      7. Les:

        We already pay the 6th lowest total taxes of the 50 states. If the 300 million people paying more than us can find a way to make it work, so can we.

        Also, your parent’s and grandparent’s generation paid for most of the nation’s current infrastructure. By your reasoning, you got a much bigger “discounted school lunch” than the millennials will.

      8. “An owner of a 3000 sq ft house pays more property tax than the renters of a 3000 sq ft triplex, ie, the taxes can be split up to 4 ways.”

        Whose responsibility is it that one building has one or two income-earners, while another same-sized building has three households with 3-6 total income earners? That’s the same argument as “Children are expensive” and “3000 sq ft houses are expensive”. I do think we should support families better or they’ll become an endangered species which impacts all of us. But why should I sympathize with the owner of a 3000 sq ft house? Why don’t you sell it for a 1000 or 2000 sq ft house? The normal house size in the 1950s was 800 sq feet, then it went up to 1000, 1500, 2000, 2500, and now it’s 3000? When family sizes have fallen from four to 2.2?

        “Homeowners get gouged where as millenials get the discounted school lunch.”

        Renters are having trouble finding apartments within ten miles of where they want to live, and if current trends continue they’ll be homeless in twenty years. What discounted school lunch?

        “I’m all for support of public transportation but do we have to tack on so much all at once? Spread it out over a few more generations.”

        What do you want to open when? What level of mobility should people expect in 2030, 2040, 2050?

      9. Also, the tax burden is based on the relative value of properties. Homeowners in West Seattle two blocks from California Avenue are complaining that their taxes have skyrocketed. That’s because the house is two blocks from California Avenue! They want the benefit of a single-family house adjacent to an urban village and the windfall when they sell it, for as little taxes as a house in Highland Park or Northgate (north of Northgate Way) or Broadview?

      10. Who cares what taxes are for other places. The fact is homeowners here don’t want to get jacked for anymore taxes. 15 billion is tough to swallow let alone 54 billion.

      11. “The fact is homeowners here don’t want to get jacked for anymore taxes.”

        By the ST poll, it sure looked like most homeowners, such as myself, don’t mind paying if it is going to good use.

        To live in a developed society, we must pay taxes for infrastructure to facilitate that developed society.

      12. Lets see. If it isn’t Sound Transit it is the City of Seattle that wants to raise taxes, And then you have King County and the Seattle School District and every other special interest group that wants to do to same thing and they all think that the taxpayers are ATM’s with unlimited funds.

        Well we are not as I am retired and on a fixed income except it isn’t a fixed income as my income stays the same but my expenses keep going up. Just this year my property tax went up $400, my license tabs went up $60, the City of Seattle keep raising my water bill, my light bill and other utilities. And then you people keep putting us retired folks down when we bring this up.

        Well let me tell you something. All of you will want to retire sometime and I wish you all the luck to be able to do so because if these taxes keep going up along with other expenses. You keep saying that these taxes are spread out over years which means that you will be paying them at the same time you will be living on a fixed income. Good luck with that.

        In the past couple of years I have NO on every levy on the ballot and I didn’t care what it was for and I will vote NO on Sound Transit. Enough is enough.

      13. Do homeowners want better transit? You’re acting like tax raises occur in a vacuum without the money buying anything. Some people have a hard time affording a car, or have to turn down jobs if they can’t get to them on the existing transit in a reasonable time, or need to fit several errands in different places in one day. When people complain about transit taxes without saying one word about what they’re buying, it sounds like, “I have my car and I’m going to drive forever and everyone else can too.” If you think the projects are too big or the wrong things, then say so, don’t just say, “Don’t raise taxes because I can’t afford them,” as if there are no other factors.

      14. “All of you will want to retire sometime and I wish you all the luck to be able to do so because if these taxes keep going up along with other expenses.”

        There are ways to deal with this such as a basic income, realistic Social Security levels, a progressive tax regime rather than Washington’s regressive one, and the city building a lot more non-luxury housing or facilitating nonprofits to do it.

        Changing the tax regime requires the legislature to do it. Right now it’s heavily based on property tax and sales tax.

      15. @Mike Orr

        It sounds like you have been drinking too much of the Sound Transit Kool Aid

        Realistic Social Security. Do you know how much most retirees get from Social Security. Lets put it this way that if you are dependent on that monthly income good luck. And who knows what the future is with that program.

        Hopefully you have a job that pays you a decent salary and one that allows you to contribute either to a 401 or an IRA because you will need that to retire with because more then likely you won’t have a pension since most companies have eliminated those.

        You keep putting us retired folks down but you do realize that you will be getting older and sometime in the future you will want to retire and when you do you will be walking in our shoes and finding out what it is like to be on a fixed income and when that happens you won’t like the idea of being put down when you bring up higher costs and higher taxes.

        You may not think you will be getting old but it will be here for you sooner then you think.

      16. Here’s what I’d suggest, Jeff: if you’re truly hurting, look up property tax exemption programs for seniors and apply for that. You’ll be excepted from all levys and get some more tax breaks. If you make too much money for that and still want to deny young people like me a future with transit in our city, then move. Just move. Stop being selfish and leave the city so we can have nice stuff without you having to pay for it.

      17. That’s what I said, Social Security should be raised. People should have a basic income that covers the necessities regardless of their job status (then you wouldn’t need Social Security). Since housing is the largest runaway cost, the city should build tens of thousands of non-luxury units that people on basic income can afford, or facilitate nonprofits and enlightened developers to do it. [1] Change the tax structure to be based mainly on a wealth tax (assets+property), income tax, carbon tax, and small or zero sales tax. (Do sales taxes do anything good?)

        All this would require federal and state cooperation, so it won’t happen anytime soon. But you have to know where you want to go before you can get there. In the meantime, Zach L showed how to get property tax relief if you’re elderly and low income.

        As for transit, in Europe this wouldn’t be an issue: they have much higher levels of transit and consider that the minimum for a well-functioning city or rural area, they have better social programs so people aren’t starved out onto the street, the rich pay their share, and they have real transit priority so streetcars aren’t stuck behind cars or waiting at lights.

        [1] Yes, there can be enlightened developers. The developer is just the builder, and can make money building non-luxury units. It’s the owners that are making a mint, and targeting the high end until they run out of high-end buyers. It’s scarcity that’s raising the land prices, and the land prices that’s causing house prices to go up, it’s not the building itself that’s getting more expensive.

      18. @Zach,

        Oh you may have your nice city but you probable won’t able to afford to live in it because of the taxes and other high costs. As far as me moving, no that won’t happen as I have lived here for about 60 years. And yes I will continue to express my opinions whether you like them or not and that you don’t agree with them.

        @Mike Orr.

        I don’t agree with most your last response but at least it was written with a lot of thought behind. I may not agree with some of it but I respect your right to express it.

      19. The way Oregon’s tax limitation measure works is that values are frozen at a particular assessed value plus a small incremental inflation rate. It doesn’t work well at all as it has gradually left insufficient funds for a bunch of stuff.

        At the same time, I also understand where getting priced out of the market is a significant problem.

        It seems to me the thing to do would be to freeze the assessed value of primary residences plus a small inflation rate until a property is sold. The new sales price then becomes the new assessed value.

        That would help people like Jeff but also keep Washington from having the property tax sag that we’ve got here due to the rate increase limits.

      20. Seattle’s taxes are so low. Honestly name another major city with lower property taxes that isn’t some godforsaken place like Oklahoma City. On top of that you don’t even have income tax here. So honestly, if you are wealthy enough to own two properties, you are wealthy enough to pay your taxes without too much compliant.

      21. Something you can do about this, Charles. Get onto your legislators to make really rich people, which doesn’t include anybody commenting here, pay the taxes that for forty years they’ve been paying politicians to shift to you.

        Because these people are now legally allowed to bribe those politicians to give you even fewer goods and services than you’re now paying for, using your money to pay the bribes. So which ever way you vote on ST-3, make the Democrats get off their whining rear ends and fight for you, or find some Republicans who aren’t Southern Democrats.

        If you also make them stop calling you a senior citizen, you’ll start getting the respect you deserve. Because they know people our age vote.

        Mark Dublin

    2. Of course. Conservatives DGAS about anyone other than themselves. Frank just fires up the Mercedes whenever he needs to get someplace. Public transit is for the other people (who clean his house and pool.)

    3. Jeff:

      I understand your problem with your expenses. I am a Seattle native and have had many, many friends and family members priced out of town.

      Half the city is having a very hard time affording living here.

      If you really cannot afford it, do what everyone else does when they no longer afford their living situation and change your living situation.

      Seattle Senior Housing has some excellent properties in very desirable neighborhoods with surprisingly short waitlists with the rent adjusted to your income. (google it and look at the buildings)

      You dont have to like the need for such a change. The people who can no longer afford to buy a house with a middle class career dont like it. The middle class renters who can no longer afford the higher rents dont like it either.

      Why are you more entitled to afford to live here than everyone else?

      If the problem is you truly cannot afford it, go to Seattle Senior Housing. Dont sabotage the future of the City because of it.

      1. @Shoshana

        Thank your for the information as it is appreciated.

        But my problem isn’t just with Sound Transit and their transit package but it is with government and special interest groups that continue to come up with tax proposals and as you wrote it has priced many people out of the financial ability to live within the city limits or in many suburban areas.

        For right now I can continue to live in my home but it frustrating to see continual tax proposals without giving considerations on how much people can afford them. Yet when people like myself post comments about this we get blasted for being anti-transit and being told that I should move out of the city. For one thing I am not anti-transit and I have a Senior Orca card and I do ride light rail.

        But this Sound Transit proposal is enormous for the taxes being asked and I feel that the issue is being rushed without consideration being given to what it is going to happen to the tax base for other needs in the future. Keep in mind that the Legislature is under a State Supreme Court contempt order for not fully funding education and that needs to be resolved and when it does it will require some kind of tax. And what other future critical projects are going to come up that will require funding and that money has to come from somewhere.

        Some posters have said that the state needs an income tax but that will require a constitutional amendment requiring a vote of the people and in years past the voters have said no. There is was vote several years ago led by Bill Gates Senior to pass that amendment and it didn’t pass.

        I know most of you intensely dislike Tim Eyman and I don’t agree with most of his initiatives but many people do and vote in favor and the reason they do is that they don’t trust the legislature. Yes I am aware that the Supreme Court has ruled a number of those initiatives unconstitutional but there is a message being sent by the voters when they vote in favor of them.

        They vote in favor because they feel that there are too many legislators and local politicians that have never found a tax they didn’t like.

        Go back and look at the original ballot issues that Sound Transit had on the ballot and what they promised and they didn’t deliver on those original promises because they were completely disorganized. But to give credit where credit is due Joni Earl came in and straighten out the situation or to put is more succinctly she kicked some butt.

        So my concern is that too may agencies and governments are asking too much money from the taxpayers at around the same time. .

      2. It’s actually just that easy Jeff! Just move – it’s really that easy! Stop being entitled and listen to Shoshana, let ‘everyone else’ live here while you do your part and move away to save the city that Shoshana apparently can still afford. For now.

      3. @Whoa

        First I am not going to move and why don’t you read what I wrote in response to Shoshana posted. But you won’t because you don’t want to hear or read anything that doesn’t agree with your viewpoint.

      4. Question for you, Shoshana: Do you think its right for the people who’ve spent our working lives building Seattle being forced out of it by people who’ve just walked in and bought it?

        And are using your money, including the extortionate rent they’re now charging you, not to manage and build housing, but to speculate with? (The S-word for gambling, except their losses repaid by your oversized taxes. 2008 was only first inning.

        Because whatever your age, or what other people’s work has given you, when you’re older there’ll definitely be a lot of people a lot richer. And willing and able to have your elected officials give their patrons license leave you grateful to have a bridge for a roof.

        From experience, your years between now and then will go by so fast they’ll spin your head off your neck.

        Mark Dublin

      5. “Question for you, Shoshana: Do you think its right for the people who’ve spent our working lives building Seattle being forced out of it by people who’ve just walked in and bought it?”

        Right or wrong is irrelevant. It is the way of the world. This whole “I got here first” nonsense is exactly that, nonsense.

        Times change, cities change. You must adapt accordingly.

      6. Your words will come back to haunt you when you’re a senior living on a FIXED income. I would like to think about your choice of words since seniors do have a right to live in the homes that they own until they die.

        Yes, times change, but the people you’re telling to get out of Seattle could be your parents or grandparents, and that is so sad.

      7. Once again, you have to qualify for the $40,000 limit for a reduced property tax, and that is hard since they include all income, earned or not! Secondly, a lien on your property prevents you from getting a loan such as an HELC!

        Don’t you think that we are smart enough to have tried these option given the level of increase we faced this year? In my case, my property tax went up 25.2% with NO increase in my income.

      8. One more thought for the people who say it’s okay to tax seniors out of their homes and that they should be happy to pay for property taxes for transportation that they won’t be able to use.

        How much should a senior on fixed income be expected to pay for property taxes, 25% or what? Maybe it’s time for the STB to examine the real cost of transportation and how it should be funded other than through property taxes. If something isn’t done soon, then there will be a major tax revolt and even schools won’t get levy funding!

      9. @Reg N I am 33 and was already priced out of my lifelong hometown and forced to leave the Seattle area. I have no sympathy for anyone else who suffers the same. It’s the way things are.

      10. Given that, you moved out of Seattle I must ask are you still in an area that is going to pay for ST3 via Property Taxes? I must also question, why I should have to pay for ST3 so that you can commute back into Seattle?

      11. @Reg N: The property tax rate for 2015 actually went *down* 10% from the 2014 rate. The 2016 rate went up about 9% over 2015. It’s a wash. Feel good about paying so much less last year than the two years bracketing it!

        A 25% increase in actual tax assessed vs a 9% increase in tax rate means your home’s value went up significantly. Congratulations! Maybe you can get a HELOC to leverage that increased value and use it to help pay for the taxes you can’t fit in your current budget.

      12. Thank you for your suggestion, but you are off base! My property taxes have gone up 25.2%, and BTW I was featured on KING-TV in a feature on property taxes! I got the records to prove that I am paying more than I can afford. I think you are confusing the assessment versus the actual property tax statement that comes out each February 14th.

        Yes, my value has gone up, but using an HELC to pay property taxes is a bad idea since it still has to be paid back and the HELC can be called at any time before the 20-year expiration when the entire amount is due!

        The problem is that once your retire there are few ways to increase your income and pensions and Social Security either don’t have a cost of living adjustments that keep up with inflation.

      13. When I used the word assessed in my previous comment it was in reference to your tax bill not your house value. My apologies for using unclear language.

        I understand that your income is fixed, but the property tax rate has remained basically flat compared to two years ago. The increase in your tax bill is almost entirely due to increased value in your home. It is unfortunate that your income has not kept pace with your increasing equity.

        However, you do have options to leverage your equity in order to continue living in a place where home values are rising and will continue to rise: you can sell; you can take out a loan or line of credit; you can (potentially) defer taxes into a lien.

        You have other options that don’t leverage your equity: you can reduce your expenditures; you can take on a boarder or roommate (that’s what I do); you can lobby the legislature to diversify the government’s income portfolio and decrease the property tax rate by raising sales, capital gains, or income tax; or you can lobby to deny your neighbors the infrastructure investments we need for the future. Please don’t do that last one.

        Minor point, but read the DOR document more carefully: the income limit is $45,000, and you can deduct most medical expenses. The $40,000 limit is the line for “you have to try exemption before you try deferral.” I have a hard time imagining how you can’t handle an extra $60 per month when you pull in more than $3750.

      14. I am not asking for you help in handling my finances, and I am well equipped to do that on my own. And BTW, I wish my tax increase was just $60 a month (dream on)!

        I just talked to the assessors office yesterday, and the limit is $40,000. You may call them and verify the amount.

        You have not idea how my income is over $40,000, and secondly, it’s none of your business either! Do you know that IRA rollover to a Roth count as income and are taxed?

        You did not answer my question, what percentage of a seniors income should go to property taxes?

      15. There exists a rule of thumb that no more than 30% of income should go toward housing costs. i.e. If your housing costs exceed 30% of your income you should find cheaper/smaller housing.

        I’m paying toward a mortgage. My property tax + homeowner’s insurance, paid to escrow monthly, is approximately 25% of my principal + interest payment. Thus approximately 7-8% of my income.

        There exists a rule of thumb for retirement planning that assumes 80% of pre-retirement income, which would put property taxes + insurance closer to 9-10% of post-retirement income.

        So I would say anywhere between 10 and 30% is entirely reasonable.

      16. To clarify: 30% as a reasonable percentage of property tax to income assumes the house is bought & paid for, making property tax the only housing cost.

  2. In whole, the Times editorial board does a disservice to the city. If we lose our last major daily paper (and the Seattle Times does do much needed journalism for our city!) it will be because it has lost credibility with the city’s citizens thanks to its editorial board.

    1. Yeah, the paper itself is very good (for a city like Seattle) but the editorial staff is horrible. I can live with right of center, David Brooks type writing, but most of the time it doesn’t even contain William F. Buckley style far right (but at least intellectual) ideas. It is nonsensical, Glenn Beck style rambling, and nothing more. Well, except for once in a while, when they get it right (gay marriage and pot legalization come to mind).

      1. Choice of mates, bathrooms, medical privacy, and personal air pollution have three things in common. One, there’s nothing in the world Government can do about them that won’t make people’s lives worse.

        Two, they’re proven diversions from matters that we the people must now use our Government to do something about, like fact that our country is literally falling apart- bolt by tanker-train derailing broken bolt.

        And Third and Worst: sense that common human decency on these issues-shared by many of Bill Buckley’s political stripe- excuses forty years of leaving millions of workers not only unprotected as a class, but unable to defend themselves.

        Intellectually, acquiescing to an economic philosophy that William Buckley would at least give somebody a quarter to help avoid. “We can’t do anything about The Market”- half of public radio’s every hour. Current market, what health departments and the human nose evolved to shut down.


        MUNI – whose operations, to their credit still smells like healthy work-related sweat. Tribute to former un-air-condioned standing-load transit ridership liberal to the bones. A term that for forty years has scared mainstream Democrats worse than “Working Class”.

        Not to blame, though, for either wood-chuck-hatted candidate or his opponent. The Seattle Times’ own industry named both of them Front Runners before first caucus. Like Public Radio also did.

        Mark Dublin

  3. I can understand the concern that ST3 is going to take too long to deliver results. We all want results faster than what we can afford to pay for. But the idea that deferring the start of the project is going to deliver results faster is just wrong. The project can be sped up particularly if we can find more money to pay for it. And that’s true whether the project is moving forward or if it’s tabled. The difference is that if we move forward on the project now we have an expected end date. If we don’t move forward now, there is no reason to assume the project can be completed any faster so we are simply moving the end date further and further into the future.

    1. The end date we’re actually voting on is so far into the future that I’m not seeing much downside in waiting a couple of years while we try to improve the plan.

      1. @Zach — Not necessarily. The end date is largely based on borrowing authority. Passing the exact same proposal two years later would result in a later start, but not two years later. Passing a more sensible, valuable package would likely be done sooner (as I mention below).

      2. @Ross — No, borrowing authority is not the primary element affecting timelines. Project development schedules are. If ST3 passes, five new projects must start immediately in order to make their promised dates, in addition to two under way right now (Redmond, Federal Way). Delaying the measure as the Times suggests would directly delay seven projects. Two of the seven are ST’s biggest forays yet into BRT (522, 405). Foregoing the new revenue stream now would most likely result in the full program being delay beyond current contemplated dates as well.


      3. “borrowing authority is not the primary element affecting timelines. Project development schedules are.”

        Borrowing authority is what restricts the project development schedules. If ST had more money it could do more projects simultaneously and put a bigger staff on them.

      4. Any new plan is likely to be more modest, but delayed by however long the wait is. Assume at least 4 years if ST3 fails inNovember.

      5. Zach L – we’re being offered an incremental-improvement-scale project on a generational-transformation-scale timeline. I’d vote for ST3 as a continued incremental improvement, if it were all going to be wrapped up in ten years so we could get on with ST4 and continue building the rest of what we need. Alternately, I’d vote for ST3 as the single colossal generation-long transit infrastructure project it aims to be, if it were offering a comprehensive transit network worthy of such a long wait. Instead, we’re getting a disappointingly weak offering after a disappointingly long time. What’s the hurry? We can have weak sauce whenever we want it. I’m willing to keep rolling the dice in hopes that we’ll eventually have a chance to vote yes on a project we can legitimately get excited about.

      6. Frankly, Mars, by the laws of physics it’s easier and more efficient to change course of something already in motion than to get the thing moving in the first place.

        And, glider, propeller, jet, clipper or steamer, only steerable when under power. So for something necessary under discussion as long as this one, a delayed start yields mainly delayed results.

        Last Monorail effort has these lessons, though. Don’t put design details to a public vote of whole population of Liverpool. Don’t weld the steering linkage before raising anchor. And don’t have a cult for a crew, that elects by acclaim a captain who can’t steer a rubber duck around a bathtub.


    2. You could also build something faster if it was significantly cheaper. I would start with a bus tunnel, since it is in line with what they want anyway. Build that and add ramp meters for the West Seattle freeway (that should be well within the SDOT budget). Build the tunnel so that it can someday be converted to rail (as the other one was). I would probably skip the connection with Aurora for now, but plan for it. Run “RapidRide+” buses (with off board payment and level boarding) through the tunnel. All of that should be up and running within ten years.

      Then build the Ballard to UW subway as well as road improvements to the West Seattle freeway and/or Spokane Street Viaduct. Compared to ST3, the end result would be better service for the vast majority of riders in thirty years, and much better service before then.

      1. Ross – How do you expect that to pass with the subarea equality issue? What you are suggesting only covers North King County region. Part of the problem – that won’t change by waiting – is there needs to be carrot for all subareas…

      2. It’s up to ST to balance the subareas. If it started with an alternative based on a WSTT and Ballard-UW subway, and let’s throw in BRT from Lynnwood to Everett and Des Moines to Tacoma, then it can work backward and see how unbalanced the subareas are, and suggest ways to balance them. ST hasn’t done any of that, so we have no studied, official estimate of how feasable such a plan would be. And amateur estimates should be taken with a grain of salt.

      3. >> amateur estimates should be taken with a grain of salt.

        I agree (including mine). But I think we can assume that just a tunnel would be substantially cheaper than a tunnel, a bridge over the Duwamish (which we know to be roughly 2 billion) a bridge over the ship canal, and now elevated rail over Elliot. The only other major project of value would be extending rail to Redmond. Everywhere else you add bus improvements and Sounder improvements to balance things out. It shouldn’t take four years to come up with a new plan, just do it in two. I know folks want to have the vote in a Presidential year, but if you come up with something good, then turnout won’t matter as much. As I said, given the much cheaper price tag and the bonding authority (not to mention the greater simplicity of the projects) you should be able to finish faster.

      4. Why would you build a tunnel but then not exclusive transit infrastructure over the Duwamish and Ship Canal crossings? That is a huge waste of operational dollars, not a big enough improvement for existing transit riders, and would not get public support!

        This is why people want rail- you’re watering down a grand BRT plan before it’s even been created.

      5. “Why would you build a tunnel but then not exclusive transit infrastructure over the Duwamish and Ship Canal crossings?”

        To limit the capital cost. Jeff Pittman is worried about his taxes. Others get sticker shock at $54 billion. A tunnel is generally more expensive than elevated or surface, and a long tunnel more expensive than a short tunnel. RossB’s WSTT would be from approximately Jackson Street to Mercer Street with a Y for the C, D, E, and other routes. That’s shorter than ST’s tunnel to Interbay, and much shorter than going fully underground all the way to Ballard and West Seattle. Sometimes are opposing factors exist: in North Link ST was planning to surface at 63rd Street but found that with all the going over, under, and around the I-5 foundations and arterials it was cheaper to extend the tunnel to 95th. But going deep to undercut the Ship Canal and Duwamish River is probably more expensive than anything else.

        The WSTT idea is predicated on the fact that the biggest bottleneck is downtown, so it needs grade separation more than other areas. There’s also a large number of intra-downtown trips which also need to be served, and the WSTT could do that too like the DSTT does. In fact, it would do it better because it would go into Belltown, SLU, and Uptown where the DSTT doesn’t.

  4. The Suburban Times’ editorial board–basically the conservative, suburban Blethen family that owns the paper–is so horrible on so many topics that you can pretty well assume “journalistic malpractice” rather than “ignorance.” In this case it’s an editorial rather than something trying to pass itself off as a news story, so they can pretty much say what they want as opinion–made-up or not. However, their news stories over the past few years on the effects of the minimum wage increase in Sea-Tac, the alleged cost of the estate tax to a “farm family” in Issaquah, and nearly everything they’ve written on the arena project are all examples of editorials couched as news items–all with at best factually incorrect statements and at worst lies–in the fine mold of Fox and other similar “news” outlets. I would expect to start seeing this on ST3 as well despite some of the truly good journalists they do have on staff. Their desire for sprawl and mass transit only to the suburbs–if that–deeply influences decision-makers in Olympia who live in the belief that we are still in 1980 and that the Times is the “media of record” for this area. As wrong as the electorate continually proves them in most areas, in transportation projects and funding at the state level we get what they want.

    Unfortunately history tells us that the period of journalism where news outlets strove for factual accuracy was very, very short. The German government owned at least two papers in pre-war Paris, for example, and in our own day and age it’s been 35 years since the media shifted their news operations to their entertainment divisions. At least back in the day you knew what sized grain of salt to take with your news because you knew what paper was backed by what group; to Fox’ credit, I suppose, at least we know where they’re coming from. Unfortunately in our case many still believe the Times to be even-handed.

    1. It’s not trying to pass itself off as a news story. It’s clearly within the the Editorial panel, which by journalistic convention is for the publisher’s (owner’s) opinion. The editor controls the rest of the paper; the publisher controls the editorial panel. The editorial may be misstating facts but it’s not claiming to be a news article.

      1. Exactly. As I said above, the news part of the newspaper is fine; the editorial staff is nuts.

      2. I noted that above, Mike – second sentence.

        My point about the paper stands, and following other stories where the Blethens have an interest has all too often infiltrated editorial viewpoints into news stories. The examples I’ve mentioned are all those where news coverage became notably slanted, not just editorials.

    2. Or how about the front page headline about the ULink Opening and trying to make that into some wasteful scandal??? Clearly the editorial and news is blurred at the ST. I cant wait for the day that rag ceases to exist. Good riddance, hopefully they are bleeding money.

      1. Who would replace its wide-ranging news reporting and investigative work? Is it possible for a new company to sustain a newsroom the size and quality that the pre-Internet papers built up? There hasn’t been one example yet. The closest are when a new media owner buys an existing newspaper, but that’s not at all the same as building it up from scratch. The Huffington Post claims to be a 21st century newspaper-equivalent, but I find its coverage spotty and and a lot of it left-politics hysterical. The P-I has shrunk so much that when I occasionally look I find only one or two quality articles per week, and eight or so other articles most of which are republished from elsewhere. Crosscut has about the same number of articles, and the Stranger has one or two serious articles. None of them have in-depth multipart investigative series like the Times periodically does. So if we lose the Times, all that will be gone. Unless somebody else replaces it. Hello, Jeff Bezos and Bill Gates. But maybe then then solution is for somebody to buy the Times rather than letting it die and create a new one from scratch. But the Blethens aren’t selling. And would Bezos editorials really be better than Blethen editorials?

      2. The Stranger has done multipart investigative series before. Their coverage of SPD financing an afterhours club as a misguided and ultimately mostly-failed drug sting was unparalleled.

  5. If the comments section is any indication of how the vote will go, then ST3 is DOA, but that can be easily dismissed as the usual crowd of ST bashers, just as easily as critics here can be bashed for uttering their own concerns.
    For me, it’s always been about doing the things that make sense to lower overall cost of transit delivered AND to increase dramatically the percentage of trips that are taken on transit. ST1,2 and now 3 get failing grades on both my personal metrics. Light rail has not made transit any cheaper on a per passenger trip basis, so there goes the argument for ‘economy of scale’. Transit mode share will not significantly increase after all of ST1,2 and 3 are complete, as it doesn’t even keep pace with expected population growth in the region.
    The main talking point I hear is it offers an alternative to congestion. FOR WHO? The 5% of the population that happen to live or work near a station, and counting construction and operating subsidies to those riders, is at the expense of the other 95% of the population that can’t or don’t ride it.
    Given the vast void between haves and have nots, I’ll be surprised if this passes.

    1. The comments section at the Seattle Times, like most newspaper comment sections, isn’t representative of anything at all.

      1. The Times comments section made Move Seattle look like it would have failed 10-90, but it didn’t. Same is true for pretty much any tax measure or people like Jay Inslee and Patty Murray… if the only voters were the Time commenters, we’d be in sort of libertarian utopia (read: dystopia)–and they’d still be unhappy.

      2. An editor once wrote that the hysterical right-wing ranty comments are nothing new at newspapers. It’s just that they used to go to the “Letters to the Editor”, who filed them in the wastebasket. Now they’re just published.

      3. The comments section at the Seattle Times is so bad one of the few greasemonkey scripts I have is to hide all existence of the comments section.

        When I’ven’t had that script every so often I’d get some morbid fascination wondering what is in the comments, then really regret it.

    2. Everybody wants the best return on our investment, but lowering the cost per ride is not a good metric at all. The logical extension of that argument is simply to do nothing, because that’s free. And, yes, that argument is popular today in America, but a city without roads, utilities, parks, fire or police departments, etc. is not a city at all. Investments in infrastructure are required to handle rising population density and population density is required for a vibrant local economy.

      1. No, the logical extension is that business’ that fail to modernize and stay competitive are doomed to fail. Why does transit get a pass on that logic?
        If you manage factory A and want $10 million in new equipment, you damn well better be prepared to show how that investment will pay for itself over X years.
        You don’t replace $3 bus rides with $5 train rides, while spending a billion to do it, and keep your job.

      2. It’s a good metric but it’s only one factor. There are other important factors too.

      3. Public works =/= private business. Comparing the two is is as misleading as it is useless.

      4. It’s right to look at efficiency in public works. But you also have to look at their other mandates. A city functions best if there’s sufficient transit for everybody to go where they want, when they want. That’s what maximizes commerce and cultural life and public health. You can’t do the same with roads because they’re not scalable that much; so you have to provide a basic amount but discourage discretionary driving. That’s not true with transit: it’s best to saturate the transit market, just as it’s best to saturate healthcare needs. There’s also coverage service: some routes are designed not for ridership but to avoid cutting off neighborhoods from transit completely. So public works have both market-recognized and non-market-recognized goals, and it’s worth looking at whether they’re fulfilling those goals for the least cost. But you can’t ignore a goal when measuring performance. Saying transit routes must have little or no subsidy ignores goals the community has declared important.

    3. Ok, Mic. What percent of motorist-ship did first thirty miles of I-90 carry seven years after ribbon got cut? Maybe more riders if they gotten two steam locomotives, one of those long John Henry hammers, and a spike with gold nail polish on it.

      But here’s your chance to wrap fish with The Seattle Times, if health department wouldn’t jail you for it. Just tell the voters what they should do. You’ve been to Europe. in countries about same population as Washington State, with same attitude toward mutual cooperation in an emergency as Times has about transit.

      Help! Thanks.


      1. I’ve tried to articulate that over the years to little avail – I’m not as persuasive as RossB or d.p. but the views are similar.
        It starts with voting right for transit and a HSR system between medium distance cities to reverse years of neglect and ancient laws that prevent public transport from even getting past the 5% mode share glass ceiling. ERC usage, public ROW, car design, Buy America when none exists, building a Metro to the exurbs, considering arterial parking a higher priority than transit lanes, fare collection, seamless integration, … etc, etc. These are all pretty good places to start the National, State, and Local dialog.

    4. I never assume ballot measures are a sure thing; they could go either way.

      Mic mentions cost per trip and mode share. There’s also the ease of getting around the city and region without a car. Link may not help everyone but it helps a lot of people. Its ridership has been going up significantly every month for at least two years. The spikes on record days show something else: Link can get large crowds around effectively when there are multiple events, road closures, or accidents. That’s good backup insurance to have. ST2 will extend that reliability to all subareas. It may not be the fastest trip in some places, it may not exist in other places, but it’s there and it works when other things don’t, and soon you’ll be able to go to a station somewhere in your subarea to get to all the other subareas. Link may not help with the last mile but it helps with the other miles.

      As for transit mode share, it has a low ceiling when arterial transit lanes are incomplete, the urban villages are small islands surrounded by 75% single-family land, highways get the bulk of investment, and parking minimums make the walking distance between destinations longer. If we want majority transit mode share like New York and London have, we have to have New York and London’s level of transit and land use. That’s a lot more transit than anybody is proposing here. Subways going to most neighborhoods every few minutes, and buses every ten minutes or less all day and evening, and all-day trains to the outer parts of the metropolitan area. We have to start somewhere, and ST3 is an imperfect but at least forward step. Fulfilling Metro’s long-term plan would be another step.

  6. How much did the highway system cost ver the years, Federal, State and local? And how much wealth did it return? I doubt anyone ever imagined the amount of value the Interstates would deliver.

    WitThe Times’ whole readership outside the Seattle city line would be cows. And show me the proof that the current State legislature will use revenue taken from anything else to fund schools any better than it does mental hospitals. Reason, incidentally, why there are so many “homeless” people.

    Middle class crash victims thrown out of Emergency would live same place. Insurance gaps, don’t you know! And wish the judge would lock up the Legislature for refusing to pay for schools-like poor people “in contempt” ’cause they can’t pay court costs.

    Would save yards of column space if the Times’ editor would do his job and red-line every word besides “Nothing here for anybody our shareholders know!” However, one point that will certainly- and justifiably- kill ST-3 if neglected:

    Voters should know that morning after positive vote will start 30 years of transit steadily building up to the finished system. Not three decades waiting for it.

    Mark Dublin

  7. It is really nice to see a great response from The Stranger. Sometimes we forget we do have more than 1 newspaper in our city. The Stranger is known to be a left leaning paper but a lot of people still think of the Times as balanced or neutral. I find that very interesting and am curious what our papers will be 10 years from now…

    As for if this passes, I am not sure. It would not have passed in 1996 but our city has changed a lot since them. Everyone knows we have a traffic problem and I think most people understand that transit is a better answer than building highway tunnels and viaducts. But, people are also extremely worried about high rents and house prices. ST3 is the right thing to do but it is just very expensive. The other argument is that buses are better and cheaper than light rail or that light rail is going in the wrong places… I don’t think that opinion is going to sway too many votes. The anti-tax attitude is the biggest hurdle for this to pass.

    1. Remember, though, the negative vote in 1995. If memory serves, problem not so much too much rail, but not enough bus service filling in through project life. Also recall doubtful idea of rail route using University Way for a transit mall. Am I close?

      But transit gets credit for hitting back the next year. Years’ long caution, discussion, and re-thinking (think dinner same temperature same time frame) would have meant losing the Trifecta next vote. Size of the fight in the dog, Times.


      1. Don’t forget both ST1 and ST2 both failed in the first ballot measure. I’m sure ST already has a plan to cut and tweak for ST3.1

      2. The 95 vote failed because of not enough rail. It was essentially an all-rail package, but the funds available didn’t allow the complete system, excluding Everett for example. Everett, in fact, had a large role in its failure, encouraging Snohomish County residents to vote it down since Snohomish County got so little.

        The light-rail/commuter-rail/bus plan that actually passed did so by having lower-cost items that it could offer to everyone.

    2. The Stranger has one or two good news articles per issue, but the rest is fluff, arts coverage, and teenage pranks. In order to replace what the Times does for the city, it would have to increase its serious reporting staff several times over and spread out into other topics beyond City Hall’s doings and liberal-social issues. There’s a lot happening in Pugetopolis that needs news coverage, and investigative reporting and national/international affairs, and the Times covers more of it than anyone else does.

      1. I also think it peaked several years ago. Some of those people moved to Seattle Met/PublicCola or are independent (Erica Barnett). The Seattle P. I. staff has scattered a bit as well, with some landing at Crosscut. The end result is a fractured, often messed up set of news and opinion. No one with any sense trusts the Seattle Times, and folks hoping that The Stranger will be like the old P. I. (a sensible voice of the left) are often left disappointed. It is all so predictable, unfortunately. I mentioned this a long time ago. No matter how good ST3 was, the Seattle Times was likely to oppose it. No matter how bad, The Stranger was likely to embrace it. This is really sad, as what we need is an independent voice that recognizes nuance in this town, and I’m afraid we don’t have that.

      2. How does Erica make her living now? She gets enough commissions and advertising revenue to run a free journal?

  8. Do the ST3 discussions talk about quantifying benefits or making choices based on performance measures? No.

    Do the ST3 discussions talk about basic choices that could reduce costs – either capital or operating? No.

    The ST Board has set the vibe for the campaign – and it comes off as a giddy purchase for most of the kids’ wishes. Had the Board approached the decision with more consideration of cost-effectiveness, they would not have raised the eyebrows that they have.

    1. All of the proposals and pre-proposals have performance measures.

      ST just found ways to reduce costs a few weeks ago when it managed to shave years off several ST3 projects without lengthening the tax period.

      What operating costs are you talking about? Ejecting buses from the DSTT? Driverless trains? Going non-union?

      1. An example on the operating costs: How many Metro service hours can be cut from RapidRide C once light rail is opened to West Seattle? Is that assumption built into the operating cost calculations or not? That example is a value-added benefit that is either buried or not included in any of the analyses.

        It’s going to be more convincing to a questioning voter if they hear that putting in a faster light rail into Downtown will be more cost-effective or productive than operating articulated buses in congested traffic because the number of needed drivers will be lower and more miles can be covered by the rail than by the RapidRide C in an hour. Sure some voters make decisions based on their belief system; but others make decisions based on quantitative arguments.

      2. Zero, because the C will be restructured to serve more of West Seattle. And that’s Metro’s budget and decision, not Sound Transit’s. Metro is envisioning an Alki-Admiral-California Ave-Sylvan Way-9th Ave-Burien line, plus upgrading the 120 to RapidRide. Metro doesn’t just delete service hours when Link replaces a route, it recycles the hours to the largest remaining needs in the district.

        As to voters’ concerns, different people have widely different values and issues. Is it cost efficient? How much does it improve mobility? Mobility is so strained now that people are saying “Build more rail now! I don’t care if the cost per rider is higher, I want something frequent and reliable and capacious.” Because of light rail’s long lead time, it’s necessary to measure it not in today’s conditions but in twenty years’ conditions. Twenty years ago was 1996. That’s before most of the mixed-use development in West Seattle. Seattle’s population was just under 500K (670K now), and a two-bedroom apartment in the U-District was $450. And right now we’re in a severe severe housing and transit capacity crunch because we underestimated the demand. We mustn’t underestimate the 20-year demand again.

      3. But many of the alternatives were absurd. For example, they studied “BRT” for West Seattle, but it involved buses running on the surface! Then they said that ridership would suffer because the buses would be slowed down with congestion downtown. Of course they would. That is not a fair comparison. They should have studied a busway, complete with enough improvements to avoid congestion. At a minimum they should have studied a bus tunnel for both West Seattle and Ballard, as that would have been much cheaper, and probably resulted in a substantial amount of the improvements (the Ballard bridge is still a problem, but not the worst of it).

        Al is right in that this really lacks data. We are left guessing how much a bus only tunnel would cost, or how exactly you could make the line from West Seattle to SoDo avoid all congestion (my estimate is 200 million, but who knows if that is feasible). My guess is that they just weren’t interested. They wanted rail (and they wanted it from Ballard to West Seattle) and figured they would make a half ass effort to explore alternatives.

      4. If those RapidRide C service hours are going to enable more frequent West Seattle bus service, that should be part of the messaging! Without explaining these kinds of trade offs, the mass public only sees lines on a map. They may only see that the new light rail benefits those only close to a station but not them.

        Even presenting that requires productivity analysis though. No one is talking about that!

      5. “If those RapidRide C service hours are going to enable more frequent West Seattle bus service, that should be part of the messaging!”

        If that wasn’t clear, Metro needs to speak up. All of the past Link restructures have been revenue-neutral, not revenue-negative. New hours come for the new lines, and the existing hours are recycled around it, while keeping the hours in the district (West Seattle, southeast Seattle, northeast Seattle, etc). ST can’t commit Metro to anything, so ST can only repeat what Metro has already published.

        It would be better if we had definite bus-route plans when Link lines were designed rather than just before opening. Then Al S’s concern would evaporate. ST should have had a phased complete plan from the beginning, and local-bus plans should have been coordinated along with it. But ST didn’t, Metro didn’t, and Metro was revenue-constrained from 2000 to 2015 (Initiative 601 to Prop 1) so it couldn’t focus on long-term planning. Metro has recently gotten better, announcing preliminary plans for the post-ST2 and post-ST3 eras. But those are still shaky and unfunded, and you can’t turn public perception around that quickly, especially when most of the public doesn’t even know about the plans.

    2. I’m not saying that there isn’t data.

      I’m saying that there was no interest among the Board when discussing these things at their meetings. Even a peer review pointed out that assumptions for cost-effectiveness needed scrutiny and they had to produce their own measures because the staff didn’t – and no Board member showed concern.

      The videos shows no substantive discussion about cost-effective decision-making.

      There is this vibe that asking about cost-effectiveness means anti-transit. It doesn’t.

      1. Could it be, that board members are constantly briefed by staff outside of public meetings and that they were satisfied at what was presented to them formally? I mean, that’s how I would expect to run an organization. I wouldn’t want nasty surprises in board meetings.

      2. If Board members aren’t openly showing an interest in productivity, they leave the impression that they aren’t doing any oversight. It’s missing that basic aspect that creates an automatic ‘no’ among a part of the electorate. They look like they are merely building toy trains without regard to cost-effectiveness.

      3. The expert-review panel does question the board’s assumptions and decision-making methodologies, so that’s one level of oversight. It recently made some recommendations; I think some of them were cost-related. I think the board is being pulled by the other demands on it. Snohomish County wants Link to Everett via Paine Field and won’t take no for an answer. Tacoma and Issaquah are the same, and Seattle won’t be left out with its city needs. Issaquah could be ignored if necessary but Everett and Tacoma can’t. That’s what’s driving most of the decisions, and there’s only so much you can economize given those requirements.

  9. As someone who is on the fence (questioning the “how and where” as opposed to “if”) on ST3, this does nothing to sway me to vote no (and arguably pushes me slightly toward the yes side). Seattle Times should have outsourced this piece to DP, Ben S. and Ross B for a more convincing argument.

      1. Yeah, I am with Troy and others who have great technical critiques, but at the same time I think the political economy of the project is such that you need to overlook the spreading of the peanut butter so far and wide and focus on building transit oriented development in the future and NO MORE ROADS (and no more wider roads).

      2. I agree with the no more roads sentiment. I wrote my rep about the 509/167 expansion. That is an absurd piece of legislation. It makes the SR 99 tunnel sound like a wonderful idea. I’m OK with a few tweaks on the roads (buses run on those roads too) but to spend billions building a couple really stupid, redundant freeways to the suburbs in the name of improved freight is at best a give away to the trucking industry and at worse a sprawl inducing mess.

        But mainly, if you are going to spend money on roads, spend it well. Don’t replace the viaduct with a tunnel that lacks ramps at Western. Build a new, quieter viaduct or (better yet) replace it all with improvements to I-5, surface streets and transit (the other proposal).

        The same is true with transit. Don’t spend billions building something that only benefits a handful of people, and only during rush hour. Build something that can transform the region, and get people to sell their cars, because they realize that even at noon they can get anywhere in the city without it. ST3 doesn’t comes close to that. If you live in Ballard and travel on a regular basis to the UW (second biggest destination in the state and growing*) ST3 does nothing for you. Nor does it do anything for you if you are headed to anywhere north of there (Roosevelt, Northgate, Lake City, Lynnwood, Edmonds, Everett, etc.). That is a whole lot of money for a whole lot of nothing.

        The peanut butter plan would not only spread the love, but simply result in much faster transit. Imagine trying to get someone in the middle of the day and being asked if you want to drive, only to reply “No, I can’t — I’m in a hurry so I’ll take transit”. ST3 could have done that, but they chose not to.

        * The UW is undergoing a huge growth spurt in housing, and will soon undergo an even bigger growth in both housing and office space. UW Tower size buildings (otherwise known as Safeco Tower to us old folks) will be the norm, not the oddball (https://www.theurbanist.org/2016/05/27/university-district-draft-rezone-recommendations-released/). Simply adding another line to it would be the greatest step in transit oriented development (or maybe development oriented transit) this city would ever see.

      3. It would at least provide an alternative route by transit to the cross town mess that happens when congestion from I-5 backs up onto local streets through there.

    1. I think that’s referring to an anti-ST3 tweet Ben made after some unfortunate decision. But I never took one tweet as proof that somebody has completely reversed their position. Martin gave up on Metro at one point, but that lasted about a day. I assume Jon has clearer knowledge of Ben’s current position.

  10. I agree, Zach. As someone who opposes ST3 (because it doesn’t build the right projects for the money) I found the editorial to be a muddled mess that is all too common for the Seattle Times editorial staff.

    1. Board members should consider a leaner Plan B that would continue extending the system’s north and south spine.

      It’s not muddled at all: they want to build more light rail lines into the middle of nowhere with money nobody has and somehow appears by magic because the taxes can’t increase and do it faster than the current political and financial situation allows.

      Oh, and build more parking that nobody wants to pay for.

      They also spend no time talking about what the likely outcome would be if ST3 fails.

      To my mind, if ST3 fails the same thing happens to light rail as happened to King County bus service: the city of Seattle goes its own way and raises its own taxes for the lines it needs. Everyone else gets screwed because now the taxes can’t be raised again (the tax cap is already hit by Seattle).

      Whatever that outcome of an ST3 failure would be, I certainly don’t see it doing what the editorial wants (more stuff, faster and with no money).

  11. Does anyone find it weird that the Seattle Times is against ST3 and any transit (LRT, BRT, or anything else), but yet they endorsed Bernie Sanders?

    1. You really can’t predict what the Seattle Times editorial staff will do. Like I said up above, they are nuts.

    2. Unfortunately that is Seattle. Conservatively Progressive. We are macro-liberals. “I will do whatever I can for the homeless as long as they don’t touch me”

    3. The GOP never have said anything bad about Bernie during the entire campaign season. When Bernie and Hillary were fighting it out, the GOP always attacked Hillary. I think they always felt Bernie would never get the nomination and that America would never elect a Socialist.

  12. RossB, good thinking about building transit throughout ST-3’s lifetime, not just the end of it. But careful about broad types of individual projects whose details defy categories. Lot of lessons from our first convertible tunnel. One being that rail-only might have been easier and cheaper.

    Though, Mike, reason for dual-mode approach was that either financially or practically, we it would take use years to extend DSTT rail service to people who still had to pay taxes for the Tunnel.

    Real stunner is that, starting twenty-six years ago this September, Kemper Freeman’s neighbors, and maybe also him disguised in sweats instead of a suit, have been standing-loading the 550. At least from when it replaced, what was it, the 226?

    So people won’t demand subarea walls- Paid for By Seattle, right?- or Ballard-hostile profiling so long as they get something both usable and obviously moving toward a conclusion they agree to. But daily speed and efficiency, and roominess of I-5, -90, and -405 point out three unmistakable transit priorities.

    RossB, for the sake of your good points, spend as much time as possible checking out locations, structures, and traffic patterns for each of your ideas. Because for the DSTT- which was inserted like dental gold into an old major city among forgotten and invisible wood pipes – colored lines and dots would have bee even less visible underground.


    1. Yes, the 226. Downtown, three Mercer Island freeway stations, Enatai (108th), downtown Bellevue, NE 8th St, Northup Way, Overlake. It was then extended on 156th to Redmond. It ran hourly. It alternated with the 235: same downtown and Mercer Island, Beaux Arts (104th), downtown Bellevue, Lakeview Blvd, Kirkland, Rose Hill (132nd), Totem Lake.

  13. The Seattle Times is about as wrong on this as they possibly could be. I’m sorry the region is getting crowded, but that’s not something you can change by stalling development of badly needed infrastructure.

  14. Link light rail, with just the two additional stations has greater ridership than the rest of the system combined. Just two stations.

  15. There are several honest critiques of ST3, and the Seattle Times’ is not one of them. It is simply reflecting the wishes of the Blethens and their cronies who do not take transit and do not want to pay the taxes. There is no point in picking apart their arguments. They want ANY further rail plan to fail and by disingenuously saying “Wait, it needs more study” they are trying to push it out of the presidential election year to an off-year when the electorate will be more conservative, less urban, and more likely to defeat it, even if the revised plan is exactly what they claim to champion.

  16. Man, I am tired of being told “You don’t like your property taxes being raised beyond what you can pay? Then move, Rush Limbaugh!”

    There is certainly a case to be made for a better ST3 if not a cheaper one. Since we are locking the region into a $54 billion bill, and a pretty rigid set of projects, doesn’t it make sense to examine the projects a little more? It’s hard to see how a little delay would affect anything. ST hasn’t even started work on the Northgate to Lynnwood light rail yet–and this is a ST2 project, due to be complete in 2023. I think we might have a few years before we need to start digging holes for projects due in 2036.

    1. ST3 or no ST3, the region’s property taxes will continue to escalate because property values, especially in key areas where people are willing to spend a lot of money to live, will continue to escalate.

      The authorization is up to $0.25 per $1,000 of assessed value.

      By comparison, the Port of Seattle is allowed to tax up to $0.45 per $1,000 of assessed value, and is allowed to tax beyond this amount for certain general obligation bonds and in special industrial development districts.

      If you are going to be pissed off about high property taxes, you have a lot more culprits to be pissed off about than SoundTransit.

      1. I don’t think the argument that other taxes exist, so this one is fine, is very compelling.

      2. The Port is by far the worst offender. I’ve yet to understand how the Port taxes benefit local residents in general. Seems like they are just propping up a highly inefficient seaport operation that mostly benefits longshoremen, multinational shipping corporations, and importers of goods from China.

        As usual, people get mad about potential new taxes and forget that many existing taxes are far worse in terms of return on investment.

    2. The region is becoming more expensive as more people move here. If we don’t raise taxes to build infrastructure, we will be faced with increasing congestion and no viable alternatives. Pick your poison.

      1. I’ve picked my poison, and I bet most voters in King County will vote NO on ST3! It’s time for the businesses that are here to start paying for the transportation of their employees rather that expecting senior to continue to foot the bill for ST3!

      2. Seniors have tax relief programs, and richer people will tend to pay more under ST3. It’s not perfect and I wish ST had access to a more progressive tax mechanism, but this is all the state legislature is willing to give ST.

      3. If the only transit is businesses for their employees, then people visiting parks or doing chores for elderly relatives would be SOL. There’s also business customers, ballgame attendees, and people going to the airport. Should businesses also pay for their customers’ transit? But they can’t control where the customers live or what transportation mode they use. Should they say, “Nobody outside X area should buy from us because we don’t want to pay for their transit?”

  17. I fully agree with the comments that seniors are being taxed out of their homes. My property taxes went up 25.2% for this year’s property taxes and who knows how much more they will be next year. Yes, the is a low-income reduction if your income is under $40,000, but the problem who can live in Seattle on a retirement income of $40,000 or less?

    I have cut all the expenses I can, including cable TV, newspapers and I don’t go on vacations. Any Social Security income is eaten up by increases in Medicare deductions. Moving to another location is not an option for me, especially since I don’t drive.

    I wish to enjoy my remaining years, hopefully in health, but I will NOT be voting for ST3. I most likely will not vote any new tax increases. I’m not asking anyone to be sorry for me nor do I want advice on how to further cut my expenses, I just want you to understand when “enough is enough” when it comes to taxes!

    1. @Reg N

      Thank you for your post as you expressed my sentiments exactly and added other expenses that I had not brought up previously. Your last paragraph summed it up perfectly. .

    2. I’ll offer a counterpoint to the doom-and-gloom story of older people being taxed out of all their money.

      My grandmother, until she passed away, was living in her own home on about $24,000/year in cash income. She received a property tax reduction worth about $4000/year and discounted utility rates worth maybe $1k at most.

      She had a lot of health expenses, but she still had a newspaper, cable, and phone. She still bought everyone Christmas presents and could afford to do a few social activities as well. It was by no means a luxurious lifestyle, but she was cashflow positive on way less than $40k/year in cash income and benefits.

      I understand that everyone’s situation is different, but if you own your home outright it is possible to stay living in the city even on very low incomes.

      1. Alex,

        How long ago did your grandmother pass away and what part of Seatle did she live? Yes a few seniors qualify for the $40,000 low-income exemptions, but I don’t and most seniors don’t! We are not asking for anything special other than to be able to stay in our home that we paid for in our retirement years.

        I know that for some of you think that appears to be asking a lot since you may not get the rail system you’re asking for in 2035 when many of today’s seniors will no longer be here. I know that seniors can move, but where would you have us move and would you have us become part of the increasing homeless in Seattle.

        Our state funding system is not working and taxing seniors out of their homes in not morally right and may even increase your taxes in the future! You too may be a senior at some point, so remember “what goes around comes around”!

      2. Then we need to tax the rich more and increase Social Security instead of not funding the transit the entire region needs.

      3. Couple of things here:
        1. Anyone nearing or in retirement should have a plan for dealing with property taxes.
        2. For all the hand-wringing about how property taxes are pushing seniors out of their homes do realize the monthly cost of your annual property taxes (I believe roughly $6k per year for the median Seattle home) is less than you would pay for an apartment, even likely subsidized senior housing.
        3. Talk to a financial planner about ways to leverage all that equity you’ve built up in recent years. There are options that don’t require selling your house and moving.

    3. @Reg and others who feel the pain of property tax increase: a great deal of this is because (assessed) property values have increased. That doesn’t make it easier for you to pay, but it DOES point out some other places to work on solving the problem: (1) An income tax, in place of some part of sales and property tax, would be less regressive. (2) Property taxes could be relative rather than absolute: the state, county, and city would determine the total amount to be raised, and then set the rate per $1000 of assessed value to raise that amount. This would keep unusual market swings (up or down) from radically changing the amount that Reg (or anyone else) pays. I lived and paid property taxes in NJ for years, under such a system.

      It’s unfortunate that our poor mix of tax sources causes difficulties of this sort, but that doesn’t make ST3 a bad idea.

      1. The mansplaining about property tax on this blog is out of control! Honestly, it seems like most of you have never seen a property tax bill. “Your property tax didn’t go up that much.” “Okay, it did, but that’s because your house is so valuable.” “Okay, that doesn’t help, but you can afford it.” “Okay, you can’t afford it, so you should leave town.” Because TRANSIT

      2. I don’t expect the tax system to be fixed in this state any time soon. Property taxes will still be on the menu for quite some time to come.

        As to the rest that is how property taxes work here in Washington, at least for levies. The amount of money that a levy authorizes per year is divided over the assessed value of all the property in the district.

      3. Chris Burke,

        It really depends on how you look at it. In dollars per year on a median home, yes property taxes are high here. Absolute property tax rates though are below median for the US. Adjusting the median property tax bill by median income pushes us back toward the middle again.

        Do remember a fair sized hunk of the property taxes are voter approved levies: parks, libraries, schools, Move Seattle, housing, etc. in Seattle at least voters seem to be willing to approve just about every levy that is proposed.

        BTW one of the bits of silliness I see tossed around on the Internet is that rising rents are due to property taxes. Ballpark property taxes on a median multi-family unit is about $3000 per year or $250 per month. For any given period of time the rise in rents has been far greater than the per unit property tax bill increase.

      4. It’s great to hear the advice/pontification from people on this blog who are not seniors and have not faced the prospect having no real increase in the Social Security. Also, many seniors saw their life savings destroyed in the market and housing crash eight years ago or have you forgotten that? Seniors did not cause the crash, did they?

        You may nor realize that some seniors still have mortgages and/or Home Equity Loans. This is the real world and please don’t tell us to pay our property taxes via out HELC, since HELC have to be paid back.

        Great advice, sell you home and move elsewhere, but where would you suggest or would you prefer that we just die and go away. I know that you don’t want seniors on the bus since they may require the lift or special seating.

        To very blunt you can not ask a senior to burn what they may have in savings so you can have ST3 which will not be ready until 2035 and that they most likely will never be able to us. Yes, there are low-income property tax programs, and the reason that few use the is that they don’t qualify. Did you know that the $40,000 is total income and that the only medical that can be deducted is co-pays? Do you think that senior are not stupid just because they are over 65? Do you know the pitfalls of a lien on you property, if not check it out!

        The attitude express on this topic will force a major tax revolt, and we already have Tim Eyman ready for it I bet! Those of you for ST3 must ask, which comes first funded schools or TODAY or RAIL that we may have in twenty years? We can’t have both!

        You too may be senior some day and have to face the world where your most likely will not have a pension and possibly not any Social Security. You will also have to pay monthly premiums just to have medical coverage if it still exists when you retire. I hope you live long enough to have to eat your words!

      5. I would also suggest that the users of the expanded transportation options in ST3 be paid for by the users, not the general public. Thos using the new 520 bridge pay a toll, and that will be using the new I90 tunnel will also be paying a toll.

        I can back this kind of proposal, but will you?

  18. This is “Seattle Transit blog”

    Of course they pan the editorial

    They pan every piece of literature that doesn’t agree with expanding transit

    Next please!

    1. What’s needed it a
      Puget Sound Highway Blog.

      Where Road Advocates can express their desires and opinions in support of greater highway capacity in an effort to pass the latest gas,property,sales tax hike ballot measure.

      There is a ballot measure for Roads, isn’t there?

      Does anyone have a link?

  19. sorry but I forgot to say one more thing

    If any of you think building light rail everywhere is actually going to decrease traffic congestion to any actual perceptible level you are definately not paying attention

    Thank you

    1. That was discussed at least twice in the past week if you skim through the articles and comments. Long ago transit agencies and fans used the argument that rapid transit will relieve freeway congestion. Most of them now believe that’s impossible: the space will be filled by even less-necessary car trips and more sprawl, and the net result will be the same level of congestion. The point of grade-separated transit is to bypass the congestion, so that those willing/able to take high-capacity transit aren’t stuck behind SOVs who take up a 10-person space for one person.

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