In a move that will surprise no one who has been paying attention, The Seattle Times endorsed a NO vote on ST3 ($), apparently less interested in quality transit than the Tacoma News-Tribune, among others. It is fundamentally insincere and dishonest about why they oppose the package. As usual, they apply arbitrary and vague objections they wouldn’t apply to non-transit projects. For a more authentic (but wrong) objection, see their 2007 anti-ST2 screed ($) that says rail is pointless and we should just widen highways. The current complaints are too incoherent to be real:
Voters should say no to this measure — appearing as Proposition 1 on the Nov. 8 ballot — which would commit them to a lifetime of taxation for a $54 billion project with unclear benefits and little accountability.
If only one of the largest concentrations of reporters in the state could have somehow, some way, figured out what voters would get from the ST3 package. What would constitute “clear” benefits? What’s the proper level of accountability? After all, the Times backed a giant highway package with zero public votes, and a deep-bore tunnel run amok with no voter “accountability”, so there’s no way they’re just expecting yet more votes?
Because ST3 establishes permanent tax authority, voters would lose the opportunity to periodically say whether its funding should continue or its course corrected.
It is not good practice to stop giant capital projects in mid-stream, and default on all the bonds, at whatever moment the agency is least popular. Not a great way to get things done! If one doesn’t like how ST is going, one could always vote against the County Executives most responsible. But most of those Executives — and Sound Transit — are popular, so anti-transit forces would like to add as many veto points as possible. There is no real ideological commitment to “accountability.”
And by the way: the permanent tax authority is only what’s needed for operations and maintenance. But they won’t tell you that, because the Editorial Board of our city’s largest newspaper exists to deceive citizens and make them less knowledgeable about issues. Or perhaps the Times objects to operating and maintaining rail lines we’ve already built?
Yet ST3 would provide little direct benefit for most residents. Many won’t be around to enjoy the system’s full benefits, which wouldn’t come until around 2040.
ST3 will start delivering real benefits in the early 2020s, but apparently nothing’s worthwhile until rail gets to Issaquah. Benefits to young people and future generations are, of course, simply irrelevant. But yeah, it takes a long time. Better hurry, no time to pause!
Pressing pause would not doom the region to traffic hell nor would it kill transit.
Well then! Traffic is solved, everyone! Never mind, South Lake Union!
Remember, voters rejected ST2 in 2007 because the original proposal was too big and unwieldy. That didn’t kill transit. Voters pressed pause, leadership produced a more reasonable plan and ST2 was approved the following year.
So many things are misleading here:
- The Times Editorial Board has read the minds of 2007 voters and told us why they voted no. I don’t have access to their telepathic powers, but let’s just say… there are alternate theories.
- The “more reasonable” plan was less “big and unwieldy” because they stripped out the highways, not because the transit scope was much smaller.
- That still wasn’t good enough for the Times, which still found a way to dislike something not as “big and unwieldy”.
- Not a mention of the larger pro-transit electorate in presidential election years, the most obvious alternate theory of success. A loss this year would cost us at least four years, not one.
Huge increases in transit use and capacity are now coming with or without ST3. Most of those increases will be handled by ST2. The $54 billion for ST3 would bring relatively minor, incremental increases in transit usage….
ST3 extends the system to less dense areas and largely duplicates current bus routes within Seattle.
They’re singing the praises of an ST2 package that they opposed in 2008. Perhaps their adoration for smaller transit packages is, um, insincere?
By the way, the “less dense areas” include the first rapid, reliable service to Uptown, South Lake Union, Ballard, Alaska Junction, Downtown Redmond, Downtown Everett, and Downtown Tacoma, plus additional capacity in Downtown Seattle and Bellevue. As for duplicating bus routes, I’m not even sure where to begin. Does the speed and reliability of a transit line not matter?* Should we build rail lines where there is no demand for even a bus route now? And the “incremental” increase of the second downtown tunnel alone is 110,000-136,000 daily riders. By itself, that would be the 4th to 6th highest-ridership light rail system in the US today. Overall, Sound Transit ridership with ST3 will climb from 358,000 per day in 2030 to 695,000 in 2040.
It’s as if the Puget Sound region already bought a minivan — ST2 — to carry its growing family. Now it’s being asked to max out credit cards and get a second mortgage to buy a coupe that can carry a few more.
This analogy is not only silly, it proves the opposite of what they imply. If your family doesn’t fit in the minivan anymore (and you’re car-dependent), you have to buy another car to move everyone!
Anyhow, the takeaway is that a tax that is about as much as a Seattle Times subscription is equivalent to maxing out credit cards and taking a second mortgage. This hyperbole shows how deeply unserious this entire editorial is.
If my choice is to spend that money on having high-quality transit alternatives to most parts of the region, or on a paper that lies to me, the choice is pretty clear. It should be to you, too.
* Spoiler Alert: As far as the Times is concerned, no.