Rep. Steve O'Ban, R-28
Rep. Steve O’Ban, R-28

As reported by Mike Lindblom over the weekend ($), State Senator Steve O’Ban (R – University Place) has signaled his intent to file a bill in the upcoming legislative session requiring the direct election of Sound Transit Boardmembers. Just two weeks after an election in which voters explicitly affirmed Sound Transit 3, O’Ban’s contention is that Sound Transit “does not answer to the voters,” and that after ST3’s passage, “It is more important than ever for the people to have a say in the agency’s management.”

We’ve been here before. O’Ban also proposed this last January, Federal Way legislators floated the idea in 2012, and Governor Locke suggested it in 2003 during in the dark days of Sound Transit. Given that 14 of the 18 members are appointed rather than required by statute, there has been a consistent perception of Sound Transit as an agency of secondary governance, one step removed from direct voter accountability.

O’Ban’s bill would create 19 separate districts within the Sound Transit tax boundary, with direct nonpartisan elections every 2 years for staggered 4-year terms. Anyone could run for the seats, irrespective of transportation industry knowledge or competence, and they would be prohibited from holding other political office. For the sake of two public meetings per month (committee and whole), a prospective board member would need to staff and fund both a primary and general election campaign. While current board members have significant staff support as an in-kind extension of their other political office, O’Ban would cap compensation at $10,000 and presumably have no staff budget at all, leaving board members alone to educate themselves.

Sound Transit projects are built within an incredibly complex web of jurisdictional authority: cities, counties, the state, the feds, and metropolitan planning organizations such as PSRC. Each of these jurisdictions has incredible power (through zoning and permitting) to create friction for the agency. With direct election of boardmembers, these jurisdictions would retain this power while no longer maintaining a direct connection to the board. It makes far more sense for the board to act as an extension of those jurisdictions’ desires rather than as a separate wild card.

Just 2 years after embarking on a 25-year, $54B capital program and 5 years before completing ST2, O’Ban would replace the entire board wholesale and erase the board’s accumulated knowledge, experience, and relationships. Obviously, no board member would resign their other elected office simply to run for the board, so the outcome would surely be the elevation of political neophytes.

Selection by appointment doesn’t necessarily mean that the ST Board is corrupt or unaccountable. ST’s enabling legislation (RCW 81.112.040) requires the appointment of each County Executive and the WSDOT Secretary, and these positions are already accountable through our highest profile local races (County Executives and Governor). Though these 4 required members have the authority to appoint the remaining 14 seats, there are a number of additional requirements, including representation from the largest city in each county, proportional subarea representation, and at least 50% of the board serving on another transit agency governing authority (such as the King County Council or the Pierce Transit Board of Commissioners).

As Martin has argued repeatedly since 2012, “direct election to esoteric board positions fundamentally erodes accountability”, subjecting transit planning to wild swings in public opinion, the potential for opportunistic sabotage, and the risk of district-packing through gerrymandering. Do we find greater transparency and less politics in the directly-elected King County Council, or the Port of Seattle? Of course not. If anything, direct election has led Metro’s planning to be relatively more volatile, much more subject to last-minute Councilmember whim.

Though every ST Boardmember is already directly elected for another office, secondary appointment admittedly shields Sound Transit and provides policy-level continuity. Whether you believe this is a feature or a bug generally depends on your assessment of the agency’s current priorities. If you believe ST is headed in the wrong direction, you may find this argument from inertia less than comforting. If you generally support their current direction, you are likely to recognize that project management benefits from stable, long-term, multi-jurisdictional thinking.

Just as we would never vote for Secretary of Defense, our political system has generally held that for highly technical agencies, appointment is superior to direct election in terms of placing competent individuals. The system is far from perfect, but it is likely that direct election would create two problems for every one it would solve. Every boardmember already has to answer to the public in their own jurisdiction, and they deserve to have transportation planning as an extension of their general mandate. Adding lots of names to our already crowded down-ballot races wouldn’t make things more accountable, it would just make them more volatile.

153 Replies to “Déjà Vu: State Senator Pitches Direct Election for Sound Transit Board”

  1. Our state does not need more segmented, special use districts. Wonder why nothing here is done in logical sequence? Well, your water, sewer, drainage, road, and electric are all provided by different and separate government agencies competing with one another. We don’t need to add another layer to the bureaucracy. (Seattle is lucky relative to people in suburban Puget Sound, that it has one agency running most of these public services, namely the City of Seattle.)

  2. Sometimes, it seems that state representatives from the edges of the ST district are the staunchest opponents of ST. In a way, it makes sense – the districts of these legislators vote “no”, but our out-voted by the rest of the ST district that votes “yes”. Since these districts can’t win at the ballot box, their only way to oppose ST is through the legislature.

    1. Just another example of what’s wrong with ST. Issaquah had a resounding ‘NO’ vote on ST3 but we’re going to run a useless LRT line out there anyway.

      ST is already hindered by politics as it is, as evidenced by near universal capitulation to senseless demands (like the Bellevue tunnel and I-5 routing of South Link). Direct elections of board members would effectively kill ST as an agency capable of getting anything done.

      1. DrewJ,

        A large number of votes have come in from that district causing Rodne to pass up Ritchie for the 5th district house seat and for Magendanz to close the gap on Mullet for the 5th district senate seat. Both of those races include areas of Issaquah and are swinging to toward the Republican candidates. That leads me to believe that it is possible that Issaquah did vote no on ST3, but this was not reflected in the returns as of the writing of the Seattle Times article.

        In any case, it was very very close. So saying that had a “resounding” vote in either direction on ST3 is misleading at best.

  3. I agree strongly with Engineer, above.

    With so many propositions and seats on the ballot, how is the average voter supposed to properly educate him/herself on every single proposal and every single candidate? And we want to add more, apparently.

    I’d wager that the voter would much rather directly vote on the solution (e.g. ST3) via referendum, instead of voting for middlemen to sit on the board to come up with a solution. Voting for people is far less direct than voting for solutions.

    We have long passed the point of decision fatigue.

    1. I don’t think O’Ban is seeking to swap veto points for construction and continued operation of public transit, but rather add to the number of veto points. I don’t recall his legislation giving a blank check to ST3 in exchange for this supposed new accountability.

      But imagine if we could elect the commissioners of WSDOT, and then those commissioners had carte blanche to shut down some highways.

      1. Have often wondered over the year why Pierce County’s economy has developed so much less than either King or Snohomish. I think I once read that Tacoma had the lead in becoming the Northwest’s most important rail-head.

        So maybe some economic help from other counties could make Pierce friendlier to transit? I wouldn’t mind seeing Amazon move there, but am realistic enough to know I’ll never get Moka’s Espresso back. Though Kakao’s really just as good.

        I keep being told that Downtown Tacoma died when Tacoma Mall went in. “Died” doesn’t fit the good shape of the buildings and generous freeway network. It’s more like the people are really there, but have been moved one degree out of galactic phase.

        Maybe that’s where all the development is, too. And a high speed line combining Sounder and LINK, maybe called The SLINK. Bet me I can’t crowd-source the whole system in fifteen minutes on Social Media.

        But am really curious about the Pierce County economy.


      2. Mark, my personal take on the Pierce County situation is JBLM. Having lived in PC all my life, I think the assignments to the base largely come from more red leaning states (you see a LOT of Texas and other southern plates) which is why PC is so red. A lot of those people like it here and stay, with their political views in tact.

        As for Sound Transit, There is a very poor distribution of ST service in Pierce County. The service that’s out there is well used, however for the large area of the county inside the RTA boundary, there is little service outside of I-5 corridor and South Sounder. The 580 hardly counts as it makes no stops from South hill to Lakewood. No express service on SR 7 or 161 (both of which were talked about in ST 1). As a resident of the county I can see why people would be upset, and largely anti ST. And Before you respond about Sounder service, or LINK service, please note that the Sounder P&Rs are full by the 1st train of the day, and the satellite lots are just as full. And before any of you wise Seattle transit riders comment “why don’t you take the bus to the train”, Picture yourself in suburbia, no sidewalks, a gap of 10+ MILES in-between parallel bus routes, that maybe runs every half hour, but does not start early enough for sounder, does not specifically connect to Sounder, and does not run nearly as late as the shadow bus service to get you home in the evening. So you have no choice but drive to the local P&R and leave your car. But, there are few P&R lots in the county to choose from, and even fewer if you want your car to be safe. I wish ST had express service on the SR7 and 161 corridors. SR 7 could be an expansion of the 59x service, and SR 161 an extension of the 577 service during non-sounder times (with 578 going to Bonney Lake), and during Sounder times, a connecting service could be ran from South Hill to Puyallup. But, all of our eggs were put into the LINK light rail basket by Tacoma’s Mayor. I don’t think LINK not going to Tacoma was even an option, to the detriment of the rest of the county.

      3. Well MrZ, you have outlaid the work ahead down south for Pierce County transit advocates to advocate for more park n rides and a lot more more Pierce Transit service. Make sure it’s local and relevant.

      4. Unfortunately, in the political climate now that ST 3 has passed, the chances of getting the remaining .3% for PT is slim to none, at least for 4-8 more years in my opinion. Also, a great deal of the county, that is in the RTA, is not in the PTBA which is an interesting situation itself. Should ST be required to provide service to these areas that lack any other option? Also, considering that Pierce County taxpayers are paying for 3 generations of ST taxes, and still not receiving benefit outside Sounder and I-5, is there area for improvement or change without raising taxes? And with that what sacrifices are we willing to make? I’m not totally sold that the project proposals were chosen well.

  4. This would be about three years too late.

    My main complaint (voiced towards the end of this essay — is that Sound Transit is horrible when it comes to planning. They make arbitrary choices without bothering to do any research. For example, a “spine”, or rail line from Everett to Tacoma. That was the goal and they never bothered to research whether there were better alternatives (such as a mix of bus and commuter rail service).

    I believe that part of the problem is that all of the people appointed to the board have bigger responsibilities. The head of the board is Dow Constantine, who is the head of the largest county in the state! He oversees gigantic budgets, and can’t be bothered with the research necessary to be a half way decent transit planner. He could defer to experts, of course, but chooses not to. One key aspect of the problem is that he isn’t appointed based on his expertise, transit knowledge, or record at Sound Transit. He is appointed because he is head of King County. It is the worst of both worlds. He is not a transportation expert appointed by an elected official (like a judge or a prosecutor) nor is he directly elected (like a judge or school board member) but someone elected to fulfill a different, and far more important job. I voted for Dow Constantine, and not once did anyone mention his role as part of this agency. There was never a debate — there was never any question — about his planning approach or philosophy. That is not good, and partly to blame for the lack of planning so evident with our system.

    It is possible that direct elections would change that. You could elect planners instead of politicians who also hold more important jobs. I would pay them a lot more money (but I would also pay school board members and port officials) but even without that, it is reasonable to assume that someone who took the job would be interested in transit planning first and foremost (just as school board members are primarily interested in schools). They would be asked questions about transit, just as school board members are asked questions about schools. We could get an idea if someone is really interested in the science — in studying transit alternatives — or whether they are interested in making symbolic, pointless changes that look good on a map.

    But as I said, it is probably three years too late. ST3 is done. I don’t see that changing. I have no idea what ST4 would be — but I can’t imagine it being as bad. I mean, what are they gonna do, extend the subway out to Lakewood and Marysville? Light rail to Mukilteo? Even Sound Transit isn’t that silly.

    No, at this point there isn’t much to be done outside Seattle, which means Seattle has to figure out how to build things they should have built with ST3 (like a Ballard to UW or Metro 8 subway). Sound Transit, meanwhile, just has to build what they said they are going to build, and frankly, I think that is one thing the board is good at. I have no doubt they will build rail to the Tacoma Dome, Issaquah and Everett; just as I have no doubt that it will be one of the least efficient transit improvements in the country.

    1. It’s too bad Dow doesn’t have knowledgeable people to talk to him, like ST’s CEO, department heads, heads of other transit agencies he could dial up, etc. Oh, wait, he does have them, and he does talk to them.

      I seriously doubt an ST Board staffed by 5-19 elected amateurs would have discovered the Spanish solution, would have put the spine on Highway 99 over the objections of NIMBY-minded small-town councils, would have had the power to negotiate a better deal with BNSF or another railroad owner to enact all-day South Sounder, would have had the wherewithal to find and hire Joni Earl or Peter Rogoff, would have built more TOD and fewer parking garages, or would have built the exact system Ross, Troy, or d.p. wants (none of which resemble each other). A board that has to raise a lot of money to win those seats, might have built the system Kemper Freeman wants, though.

      1. Oh please, spare us the fearmongering. The kind of people who will serve on the Sound Transit Board are the kind of people we’ve come to love and trust as brothers. They’re regular Seattle Transit Blog writers.

        That’s basically what I think is best for Sound Transit: Have the Seattle Transit Blog staff & Seattle Subway take over the Sound Transit Board.

        Now I’ve said all transit boards should be elected. My support for Sound Transit and gratitude to the ST Board & Staff is sky high. My support for electing transit boards is to get the best transit boardmembers we can.

      2. Joe,

        Enough the the kid gloves, and I don’t care if I get an [ah]. You are beyond stupid on this topic. The voters aren’t going to put poor transit riders on these boards. They’re going to put the people who can most benefit from the potential for corruption — developers and construction company executives — or obstruction — auto dealers — because those are the people who have and are willing to spend the tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars necessary to be elected to a position paying $10,000.

        Why do you think that egregious tool proposed this? Hint: it wasn’t to make Sound Transit better. It was to make it GO AWAY!

      3. Richard;

        With respect I ask the mods let your ad hominem attack stand. I don’t have a problem with the occasional ad hominem thrown out.

        I get the damn cynicism. But I gotta say a county that elected Dow Constantine and Claudia Badassuchi, a place that in two of three counties backed ST3, well park your cynicism where the sun doesn’t shine.

        I want the Ruth Fisher Boardroom to actually have to hear some intelligent criticism and for Seattle Subway to have even more power and apply more power to Sound Transit. I want Paine Field to always have a rep on the ST Board – and for some public debate to make sure Sound Transit throws its weight around. I mean did you know that Sound Transit is NOT a party of record to the Paine Field Commercial Terminal permitting process? Don’t you think after all the fighting down here in the STB Comments about how useful light rail to Paine Field is going to be (or not be) that Sound Transit should be a party of record? You think? A STB leader on the Sound Transit Board would make that happen.

        But you know something, you know something…. I want an elected Sound Transit Board a lot less than elected Community Transit & Skagit Transit Boards. I am tired of having a mouth that roars instead of some real influence in the North by Northwest. That’s why the passion, basically.

      4. How many people can take time off from a full-time job for two meetings a month in the daytime, plus fit research in, without losing more than the $10,000 they’d gain? This is the pool of people who could run for a part-time board. And if you eliminate elected officials (who can more easily take time off to serve on the board) then you’ve narrowed the pool even further.

      5. It’s too bad Dow doesn’t have knowledgeable people to talk to him, like ST’s CEO, department heads, heads of other transit agencies he could dial up, etc. Oh, wait, he does have them, and he does talk to them.

        Right, but he talks to them only within the context of the stated goal. How many times must I say this. The problem is that they started with an arbitrary, dubious goal (e. g. completing the spine) then asked the experts (how best to do that). THAT IS THE PROBLEM! I have no qualms with what the experts said. I think they did a wonderful job. If you are determined to run rail to Everett, by all means, cut over to SR 99 (finally) and then cut back to the heart of town. Great. But if you want to build the most cost effective public transportation system you don’t start with that assumption. Same with Ballard to downtown and West Seattle light rail. If you assume that light rail must be built to those areas, then they did a great job. That wasn’t the problem. They had every opportunity to ask experts about alternatives — but they never did!

        It is quite clear from the literature. The WSTT was never studied. Nor have they studied the Metro 8 subway. Putting buses on the CKC was rejected even though an independent organization hired by the city of Kirkland recommended it. Got that? This is not some blogger. A major municipally (!) that hired experts (!) recommended something, but it never got any further because ST wanted rail.

        I seriously doubt an ST Board staffed by 5-19 elected amateurs would have discovered the Spanish solution

        What is it with you and the Spanish solution, anyway. You do realize it only makes sense in very limited circumstances, right? Like a major terminus, when everyone on the train is getting off and everyone at the station is getting on. For a typical stop (e. g. Westlake as it exists now) it causes more delay, not less. The driver can’t close the doors as quickly, because there are more of them.

        But I digress. OK, as it turns out the plan that d. p. and I have for the region is actually quite similar, despite coming up with it independently. Same with several other people. Maybe we are all wrong. Fine. I can accept that. But show me independent studies that actually show that. Right now, all we have are ideas that run contrary to every transit system that has ever been successful, along with merely a promise that “don’t worry, it will be great”. Sorry for being skeptical.

        Look, I’m not saying a new board would magically solve the problems. I’m just saying this board has failed to responsibly study alternatives. It is possible that a new, directly elected board would be just as bad. But at a minimum they would at least be asked tough questions (“Explain to me why, exactly, you feel that light rail to West Seattle is a good value, given the obvious costs, lack of density, lack of destinations, and cheap alternatives?”) and we, the voters, could pick them based on their answers (“Because light rail is cool and traffic is bad sometimes on the freeway” is not a good enough answer, Mr. Constantine).

        But like I said, it is too late. It is too late for ST3 and my guess there won’t be an ST4. Besides, I’m talking about facts and research, and it is obvious that such an approach is passe. In this post Trump world, none of that matters. Tribalism rules the day, and I guess I’m not loyal to my fellow tribal members for saying we should measure before we cut.

      6. Roughly 2.85 million people in the ST region. 19 single-member districts means that each district has 150,000 people. 5 districts in Seattle, 1 in Bellevue, 1 in the more urban portions of Tacoma, 1 in SW Snohomish, and 1 in Everett and the surrounding area. That’s 9 pro-transit members on a 19- member board. The other 10 (the majority) would be elected from places like my neck of the woods, where 55-75% of the voters are vehemently anti-transit. Even if a majority of voters vote for pro-transit representatives, a majority of the board would be anti-transit.

      7. Eric, I doubt it’d be that extreme. But yeah if this idea progresses to a hearing STB better do the math and let out how many who would commit to a run if necessary. Oh and somebody better put the local transit agencies up for election too.

    2. The things you dislike about ST3 are largely political compromises made either to earn votes in the Prop 1 election or to satisfy the niche desires of the county or city they come from.

      Currently though these members are selected from cities or county wide positions that rely on some manner of urban vote and are at least motivated to connect cities with their designs.

      Directly elected members in King County *might* bring better urban rail ideas, but the rest of board members would almost certainly be worse.

      Pierce County voted no on ST2 and ST3, despite their board members being for it. Imagine how difficult it would be to design a pro urban rail package with Pierce county having anti ST board members instead who want to shut the whole thing down.

      They won’t just want cheaper projects, they’ll want to undermine the whole enterprise or push even further for pet projects out to places that make no sense.

      1. As to;

        Pierce County voted no on ST2 and ST3, despite their board members being for it. Imagine how difficult it would be to design a pro urban rail package with Pierce county having anti ST board members instead who want to shut the whole thing down.

        You know we could just undo subarea equity and have each subarea set its own capital project taxation levels. This crisis is a golden opportunity to do that so Seattle Subway can get Snohomish and Pierce and some in East King County out of the damned way of Seattle. Take it.

        Go bold or go home.

      2. “we could just undo subarea equity and have each subarea set its own capital project taxation levels.”

        That would require splitting the tax district, which is a larger issue than just electing boardmembers. It also requires legislation, and no legislator has yet proposed it or shown interest in it.

      3. @Charles — OK, but what would have been worse than the spine? Seriously, I’m really trying to figure that out. Imagine if you had a handful of reps from Pierce County saying “enough already with the light rail. Do what you want in Seattle, but down here we need bus service and commuter rail!”. It is pretty easy to imagine that is better, and extremely hard to imagine it being worse. Or imagine if one board member said “Hey — I have an idea — how about if we study alternatives!”.

        The extensions for Snohomish and Pierce County are really stupid. The new rail for the east side is also really stupid. I honestly have a very difficult time figuring out how we could do worse in any of those areas. Just throw some money at bus service and you end up with something better.

        Seattle is different, of course. But how, exactly, could you come up with something that is a worse value? Where would you go? You have to come up with really silly ideas (Magnolia to Laurelhurst) to come close to the horrible value of ST3. West Seattle is probably the least efficient place to build rail. The route this will take is already pretty fast (there is a freeway there) and it is one of the least densely populated areas of the city. There are no major destinations there, and the light rail misses two out of the three minor ones (Alki and South Seattle College). It is ridiculously expensive, because it requires crossing a major river, where no one lives.

        Meanwhile, you are spending billions on a light rail line right next to the existing light rail line, rather than spending any effort improving the headways of that line. The only new stop is at Madison, which is pretty darn close to the other stop, and as good as it is, hardly worth billions. It isn’t until you get north of Westlake before you get something valuable, and — guess what — you really can’t fail in that area. Eastlake, Westlake, South Lake Union, Queen Anne — yes, they are all great places where rail could work well.

        As I said before, my main complaint is that no one ever studied alternatives. No one ever said “Yes, Ross, we studies the Metro 8 subway, but actually, West Seattle rail saves more people more time per dollar spent. Just look at the independent analysis done by Jones and Associates”. That has been the case all along, but up until now, they got lucky. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist (or a transit expert) to think that running a train to the U-District might be a good idea. But now when it came to figuring out the hard stuff, they didn’t bother.

        So, yeah, a new elected board might not have made any difference. You might have had bozos doing the same thing. But at the very least, when they ran, we would have the opportunity to ask them to focus on these very issues and pick people based on their responses.

      4. @RossB

        Worse than the spine:
        – Park and rides everywhere, even where is no demand.
        – Transit funds tapped for “traffic easing” road widening to “speed up buses too”
        – Light rail to Orting before Seattle gets another line
        – Inverting subarea equity to use Seattle tax money to fund rail lines so deep in the suburbs that it makes Hokkaido lines look like high ridership rockstars
        – Maintainence money tapped for low value projects to deliver pork to low population ST voting districts.

        Suburban interests will tear ST apart if we let it, and our city votes will be diluted just like the are in presidential elections, so we will be powerless to stop it.

      5. Say what you want about ST3, but the fact remains that the Sound Transit board came up with a proposal that passed. Replace it with d.p.’s or RossB’s proposal and it probably wouldn’t pass – yes, it would pass by a huge margin within Seattle, but it would still be voted down by “no” votes in the rest of the state.

        The proposal that ST put forth had support beyond Seattle. Snohomish County voted “yes” and even Issaquah voted “yes”, albeit by slight margins. Replace it with a counter-proposal that simply ships their money to Seattle, maybe Seattle’s margin increases slightly, but the margin out there drops from 51-49 in favor to 60-40 opposed.

        I’ll take an imperfect proposal that passes over a perfect proposal that gets voted down (and ends up producing nothing) any day.

      6. @Joe
        I don’t claim that all suburban projects are bad, but if RossB thinks direct elections will give Seattle better projects, he’s fooling himself.

        RossB challenged me to identify things “worse” than a spine and I did so. Outnumber Urban votes with suburban no district votes an no more Seattle projects will be built.

        The only way in which what you seem to want will work is if we broke ST up into several little voting districts that set their own projects with their own money on a separate vote and tax rate. Cooperation optional.

        A manditory tax for maintenance and operations would have to remain…

        … and I doubt anything big will be built again.

        Sound Transit was built with the spirit of cooperation between towns in our urban growth areas in mind. We undermine that cooperative spirit at our peril.

  5. Devil is in the details, indeed. An elected board seems a good idea to me, but this proposal is terrible.

    My suggestion: Instead of 19 part-time positions, have 5 full-time positions, with full-time pay and staff, elected to districts of equal population that match up with the sub-areas as closely as possible.

    My issue with the current system is the use of part-timers that aren’t focused on transit running ST. O’Ban’s proposal does nothing for this issue.

    1. This is basically the same as making head of SDOT or Community Transit an elected position. Not a badgidea, and certainly better than the propsed above, but I still like the existing structure better.

    2. Having a mix of elected officials, for example, the county heads, mayors from the biggest 2 cities in each county, and several elected positions is a good mix. The elected positions can be part or full time, however some compensation is needed for those who have the time to do so, as ST is largely a business hours agency.

  6. Maybe we should do away with the board and make direct election of a sound transit monarch for life. Or maybe we should have an extensive survey of random things. Then run k means clustering on the data set to determine which group you’ll be voting with for a board member. Or maybe we should worry about things that are actually problems. On that note, does anyone have plausible guesses about why O’ban has decided to make this an issue?

    1. Just don’t call him a “Czar.” They tend to be pathetically medically inbred creatures forced by their wives into trying to become autocrats when those had been passe for a hundred years. With intense Siberian holy men for advisers.

      Though unlike recent appointees for similar jobs, Rasputin didn’t deserve to get poisoned, shot several dozen times, and thrown into a freezing river. But since poor Nikolai’s overbearing wife wasn’t Russian, at least a sudden succession to the throne could be an improvement for us.

      But bottom line is, for our purposes. find somebody whose title is Councilmember, County Executive, or Mayor Butler.


    2. To add more veto points against people voluntarily choosing to tax themselves so they can get government services they want… err, I mean accountability! Yeah, ignore everything but that last word!

    3. I like the idea of doing away with the Board and electing the Sound Transit CEO. There is only one person who I think can do a better job than Peter Rogoff in that instance and I compare her affectionately to Russell Wilson.

      Sorry Ric, we need you right where you’re at buddy. Except on Seahawks Sundays where your august presence is needed to be called upon by Pete Carroll.

      1. Careful, Joe. An elected board member might feel pressured to throw dead cats at you and try to drag you away from the mike with a giant hook just to please voters who aren’t satisfied with some reality show contestant also named Joe.

        While another electee’s voters maybe on your side on Paine Field, but their cat spits up hairballs when you get into subarea equity. Good idea to save your strength for County Exec race, or mayor of Sedro Woolley.

        The ST board loves you. Don’t vote them out and subject yourself to a pack of rabid BRT advocates or sprawl deniers. I just this minute saw Kemper Freeman walking out of a talent agency with an entourage and a new pair of shades.


  7. What actions can civilians take to oppose this bill? Is it best to contact our senator or our representative?

    1. Yes, contact your state senators and representatives, and also encourage the members of the Sound Transit board to work against this.

    2. My first argument is, if voters really objected to Sound Transit’s governance structure, they would’ve voted NO on ST3. The big YES vote indicates they’re OK with things as they are. Sen. O’Ban is answering a question that few are asking.

      1. I am all for shrinking the Sound Transit PTBA in Pierce. But I gotta say since Sound Transit does charge sales tax, that means Skagitonians like I who commute south get hit straight up with it – not to mention all the embedded taxes in prices too.

        But yeah, I wouldn’t want to be a Pierce County transit advocate right now. The momentum’s so against them.

      2. State Rep. Ruth Fisher from Pierce County was a key architect of the Sound Transit enabling legislation. She set it up to assure Pierce County was included in the regional agency because she knew Pierce County would never vote for rail transit by itself. But tying it into a larger pro-rail region would get the rails there eventually. A smart and savvy lady she was.

      3. Duly noted RDPence.

        Listen, I got nothing against Pierce County or Pierce transit advocates like Andrew and Justin and Elizabeth who my heart cries as I type imagining the personal hell and self-flagging they must be going through. I hope we are all writing with aching hearts for them right now…

  8. Anybody that was around transit during Metro’s changeover from its own independent agency to King County government: Can you give us any comparisons?

    My “take” in one sentence? Elected officials can oversee matters that can be decided by majority vote. In the vertical, sewage only flows one direction and has to be pumped the other.

    Mark Dublin

    1. That’s worth looking at, but having King County provide transit with the county council presiding is not at all like electing part-time commissioners.

      1. Mike, I think my own positive vote for the merger showed dangers of voting while attention is on getting a transit system built. Whatever would fastest click the word “Governance” under the “Delete” key of History the fastest, I had to do.

        But the truth was that the Court’s one-man-one-vote stipulation could have been met by adding, I think, a single member to the Metro Council. What’re the standard weasel words- No Political Will? (I like actual weasels. Though ferrets don’t belong on buses where they can eat some other passenger’s white rat right off their collar.)

        So ongoing tranist-governING arrangements, and much else long-term pestiferous , were powered by a long-running disagreement about, as is often the electoral case, matters little to do with transit.

        Appointed or Elected, Downtown Seattle sits on a narrow cliff, I-5 on the surface misses the U-District by a literal mile, Lake Washington is the deepest fjord west of Norway and east of Ballard, Marginal Way is a linear toxic waste dump, transit lanes require paving over cars, and we’re just now barely getting the tax base to pay for transit through our terrain.

        The Metro Council’s certificate of merit was that suburbs that distrusted Seattle a little more than each other paid for an excellent subway through Downtown, while agreeing to ride Tunnel buses for thirty years before their subarea got Train One.

        And together, presently-governing agencies just won us 30 years more worth of money. But greatest all-around Proof of Prowess is that in the 26 years since DSTT opened for passengers, nobody has bailed.

        Mark Dublin

  9. I hope this idea doesn’t gain traction in Olympia, but if it does, further research would be useful on how transit campaigns are conducted in Denver and the Bay Area. I would expect heavy campaign contributions from equipment manufacturers and industry consulting firms. Boardmembers may find it difficult to say NO when an industry rep comes calling, one that wrote a $10K check for their campaign last year.

    1. I don’t have a problem with, “heavy campaign contributions from equipment manufacturers and industry consulting firms”. I have a problem with campaign contributions trying to sneak in the back door from Kemper Freeman who if not for my swashbuckling leadership would have kept the dark in dark money. Mass Transit Now just wasn’t intended to deal with the dark side of politics.

      I also think “heavy campaign contributions from equipment manufacturers and industry consulting firms” are not going to impact how Sound Transit operates that much with an elected board. I trust STB members on the Sound Transit Board to keep it that way.

      1. Who are these STB members of whom you speak who would run for the Sound Transit Board? I’m not quitting my day job for that $10,000 salary.

      2. STB members (whatever that means) being a majority on an elected board is only one possibility, an unlikely one at that.

        Elections aren’t fantasy sports drafts. People have to decide to run and campaign and raise money. That’s hard work and it takes a certain type of person who is willing to do it.

        The geographic distribution of “STB members” is not favorable to a district system.

    2. You can be sure that Kemper Freeman, Tim Eyman, and the Seattle Times editorial board are already thinking about whom they’d support in ST board elections. They might even run for it themselves.

      1. The day Tim Eyman files for an office, I will arrange a victory party.

        The day Kemper Freeman drops the Darth Vader mask will be a great day for Kemper, the Freeman family and for democracy.

        BRING ‘EM ON!

  10. I have to ask: what exactly is this legislator trying to improve? He should put out what the issues are before merely changing board member selection.

    I do think that it’s a canary moment though. It’s clear that there is frustration about what ST is doing in many circles and there are many who want changes. They are seemingly not trying to kill the agency, but want it to be more effective – so what specifically is their beef?

      1. That is how you kill transit across the state. Most agencies are limping along trying to make do with what little scraps they can get from voters, and this would make it much worse.

        An elected Community Transit board, for example, would probably be elected based on what routes they would save (and that is not what we need to do before a major network truncation/realignment come 2023). It’s pointless as all the members (like every other PTBA in the state) have to be appointed from elected positions at the city level anyway. Just like ST.

      2. As to;

        That is how you kill transit across the state. Most agencies are limping along trying to make do with what little scraps they can get from voters, and this would make it much worse.

        An elected Community Transit board, for example, would probably be elected based on what routes they would save (and that is not what we need to do before a major network truncation/realignment come 2023). It’s pointless as all the members (like every other PTBA in the state) have to be appointed from elected positions at the city level anyway. Just like ST.

        No Bruce, this is how you get transit advocates like yourself elected to represent transit. There is no question in my mind a STB 2017 community priority has to be getting CT Boardmember and Mayor of Mukilteo Jennifer Gregerson reelected as Mayor of Mukilteo. I’d rather get my friend elected to the CT Board though.

        I don’t think an election for CT Boards would just be about saving routes. Come on… who is going to argue that CT should spend more service hour dollars on commuters to bypass light rail and therefore sit in congestion versus serve take those precious dollars to more places, more often in the CT district? Or more Swift lines? The argument the CT Board rotates, isn’t elected, and doesn’t represent each municipality in the CT District was one reason CT Prop 1 in 2015 was so close.

    1. Al, and Ross, do either of you know of a single other regional transit agency facing conditions identical to ours with a better proven record for honesty, work ethic, and competence than Sound Transit?

      From the last thirty years’ transit experience here, and the last three watching I-5 die of spinal meningitis, I’m glad to see any agency with both concern for and possession of a spine. And enough ornithology to know a canary from a vulture.


      1. I like the California system better; most transit system expansion funding is not segregated by operator because it goes through a third-party countywide planning agency first. Even in counties where the same agency does countywide planning and operations, the requirement of integration between all operators and cities and the state DOT – completely up and down the decision-making process – generally creates a more seamless and better integrated transit network.

      2. As to;

        Do either of you know of a single other regional transit agency facing conditions identical to ours with a better proven record for honesty, work ethic, and competence than Sound Transit?

        NO. That’s not why I support electing transit boards.

    2. “what exactly is this legislator trying to improve?”

      Make ST do less, charge less taxes, and possibly disband it. Then he can say he’s looking out for taxpayers’ interest and preventing a bureaucracy from growing. At best he might acknowledge that ST3 is approved and now it must be implemented, but slam the door on ST4. At worst he might try to cut away from ST3 or eliminate it. If we assume that the Pierce subarea is headed toward shrinkage, that would imply downscaling or deleting some Pierce ST3 projects — which is the same thing as cutting away things from ST3.

      1. Mike;

        I think there might be a way to keep the ST4 door wide open. Offer to accept this provided ALL transit boards in this state are elected AND, AND subareas get their own capital project taxation authority.

        I am all for the conversation about excusing Pierce from ST3 taxes & projects in return for more Pierce Transit investment. The conversation.

        Listening to a BART Board Meeting right now at – I don’t hear DOOM on the headphones. As a guy who awaits each & every Sound Transit Board Meeting on the livestream, I’m not ready to allege this will, “Make ST do less, charge less taxes, and possibly disband it.”

        We transit advocates have the strategic advantages of situational awareness and the passion to follow-through. We should be sending our best and our brightest to fill Dow and Claudia’s big shoes – and sending our up & coming to the local boards.



  11. My impression is that directly elected transit boards are generally weak. (Can anybody more familiar with the elected boards support/refute that?).

    Mayors and regional political leaders don’t really cede power to the elected Board members; they just find different channels to exercise that power. Typically, that involves swaying the purse strings or local regulations to get their desired results. What one gets is a less coherent outcome than when they have to sit around the table in the boardroom.

    Lyndon Johnson understood the risks of having powerful decision-makers on the outside.

    1. Dan, the way it’s been put to me is that either way, pretty much same people have to agree on direction, progress and outcome. Really tragic, though, that Lyndon Johnson learned too late the risks of having political scientists anywhere near a war. In offices buildings where their own advice couldn’t get them killed.

      Any career whose decisions can bring a generation home in body-bags and demolish the US economy from 1975 to now requires well-taught national and world history. Ask anybody just back from the former Turkish Empire. Political science can be re-assigned to the Astrology Department.


    1. A 5-member districting commission appointed by the governor, one for each subarea. It’s the electoral college of transit governance. :) The commission would be reconvened on a decennial basis.

    2. You don’t even have to gerrymander it. Pierce County’s officials are on board with ST2 and ST3 because their cities benefit. The suburban vote though was lopsided against taxes and rail that can’t possibly serve the sprawling Pierce county “urban” district.

      If that district directly voted for their ST3 reps, candidates who want to shut down ST and end all taxes (maintenance and opeations be damned) would stand a really good chance of winning.

      The borders of Pierce County’s ST district is a real problem and will continue to be so for the forseeable future.

      1. Also, since major decisions by ST require a two-thirds majority, electing by district is a backhanded way of imposing supermajority rule, making it much easier for any collection of 7 board members to have effective veto power. It wouldn’t be hard to gerrymander the districts to create this outcome.

      2. Charles B, I agree with you that Pierce is a tragedy this decade, a total tragedy. Two failed Pierce Transit measures and a failed ST3 measure. What the hell happened to the cause of transit down there?

      3. “What the hell happened to the cause of transit [in Pierce County]?

        Land use happened. There is a wide swath of the Pierce subarea that is very low density. They are, quite consistent with their own self-interest, not that interested in Link to Tacoma.

        If you compare Pierce votes to comparable parts of King and Snohomish, I don’t believe you’ll find they voted any differently. Pierce just has a lot more exurban neighborhoods within the RTA.

      4. Thank you Dan. Maybe the transit advocates down there didn’t explain this thing called park & rides… ;-). Or walking to a Pierce Transit bus route to make a transfer to the light rail.

        Either way, I’m sad for Pierce transit advocates. I ache for them. I fear this will get much worse before it gets better down there. I just wish I could bear hug all the Sound Transit employees from Pierce County living through this and the distinct possibility they don’t get any ST3 projects. When I propose that, it’s to stop the threat of the anti-transit radicals down there from doing catastrophic s–t to ST1 & ST2 Pierce projects & ST3 projects in my subarea of North by Northwest.

      5. Austin doesn’t have light rail, only a diesel commuter rail that goes nowhere, and is struggling to fund a real system through its densest corridor.

        Dallas is a sprawling system built on federal dollars that gets very little ridership per mile, not one to emulate.

        Houston is pitifully small and are making strides in the right direction (mainly in the bus network reconfiguration), but the tax base isn’t interested in funding the other planned lines.

        We should not follow Texas.

      6. “end all taxes (maintenance and opeations be damned)”

        They can’t end taxes that have been pledged to repaying bonds, but they can end everything else.

        The one thing southeast Pierce uses and some of them want to keep is Sounder. So it will be interesting to see how they get rid of the rest while keeping Sounder, and what would happen to the Puyallup and Sumner stations and segment if those cities left the ST district. That would create a gap between Auburn and Tacoma.

  12. Well, if board members were directly elected, maybe the board wouldn’t have ignored public input demanding an SR 99 alignment for Federal Way Link, or maybe we would have gotten a Paine field spur. We could eliminate gerrymandering by simply ST subareas their own voting districts, and assigning multiple seats to each subarea.

    1. Alex, what if two adjoining subareas separately voted to end their own segments five miles apart? Or one elevated ending same map coordinate with next one’s subway?

      Appointed or elected, usually same amount of argument about whether answer is going to be 2+2, 3+1, or 2,000,000-199,996. But only in front of the equals sign.


    1. I agree and I agree a Paine Field spur and not redesigning the spine should have been openly debated. But folks, folks let’s not lose sight that the local transit agencies need better oversight too.

    2. Long-term we can discuss splitting the tax district. But it’s more than just a side issue of making the board elected. It would require its own legislation, and thought by politicians.

  13. Political offices tend to attract politicians, not experts. We should not expect that a directly elected board will have any impact on that. If you know a few engineers you will realize that very few people are able to be both a successful engineer and a successful politician, much less a happy politician. ST has access to a Citizen Oversight Panel to contribute expertise at the governance level, just as most transit agencies have some sort of oversight or advisory body for that purpose – ST is actually stronger in this regard than most because of the oversight role of the Panel.

    Nationwide, transportation boards usually are not directly elected, because of the risk that near-term political concerns will take precedence over long-term benefits of transportation decisions. Historically, transportation revenues have sometimes been an irresistible pot of money that attracts corruption and patronage. Influential people try to rig the system to try to gain more control. This is why transportation boards often feature staggered terms and interlocking responsibilities in order to give the board enough inertia and public exposure to discourage corrupt or parochial behavior and to give long-range decisions enough time to be fully implemented.

    In the suburbs, where development has historically been driven by the automobile, one should not expect to achieve the full benefit of a transit network overnight. What is at stake is the future development of each community as it grows. Mayors and city council people are the ones who are most directly accountable for the development of their communities, so it makes sense that they would take the political accountability for Sound Transit.

    1. No it does not. Sound Transit is its own behemoth. It’s time we the people picked the best transit advocates & transportation advocates possible to Sound Transit.

      Not to mention, it’s time to make the local transit boards elected too. Beyond time.

      1. “It’s time we the people picked the best transit advocates & transportation advocates possible to Sound Transit”

        What makes you so confident that those advocates will choose to run for the board, and that voters in the district will select them? How will they influence the many other government agencies with which Sound Transit must negotiate? What prevents anti-transit advocates from getting seats on the board?

        Directly electing transit board members isn’t likely the be the panacea you seem to think it will be, especially with the structure in this proposal.

      2. Joe, I’m not going to pull any punches with you on this. You are acting very naive if you think an elected board is going to make it any better for our region’s transit. The fact of the matter is, the people who would vie and would probably get those seats are career politicians who would be doing it for donors who have their own self interests to hinder Sound Transit or people who are in it to sabotage and ST a whole heck of a lot worse. Not the transit advocates that you are thinking in your head. Those people have time, money, or clout to get on an elected board like this, not you or I.
        So please stop with the naivety and listen to what everyone else is saying, because an elected board would do more harm than good in the long term.
        Sometimes you just need to take a step back and look at the bigger picture.

      3. ZacharyB;

        I believe the minute this opportunity opens up, you’re going to see transit advocates apply for these boards. Trust me, I think hearts & minds will change.

        I mean I heard so much talk of DOOM if the King County Elections Director was elected. What doom, things got better.

        Oh and if your only elected office can be on a transit board, it won’t be, “career politicians who would be doing it for donors who have their own self interests to hinder Sound Transit or people who are in it to sabotage”. Nope.

        The pay will suck and not cover the time commitment. Maybe help cover the cost of attending a few conferences.

        Check out the BART Board: I don’t see any Kemperbots.

        I think the next STB blog post about elected boards should focus on the BART Board ;-). Please.


      4. Nobody cares what an elections director, insurance commissioner, or lieutenant governor does as long as they manage the agencies well and fairly. But transit affects people every day directly. Can I get from here to there, how frequently, fast, and reliably? Or maybe I can’t go there because the fast line goes somewhere else instead.

    2. You’re not introverted, Introverted. You’re an engineer. In 1983, some union brothers and sisters and I got appointed, not elected (not sure what Local 587’s vote on the Tunnel itself would have been) to a joint union-management advisory committee on the project.

      One afternoon at Public Comment, I asked the Parsons engineer sitting next to me why he didn’t stand up and straighten out the Metro Council’s conceptions about transit design and construction. His answer:

      “An engineer will tell you the alternatives available, about how long each will take, and about what they’ll cost. But he (or she) will never tell you What You Should Do!” C’mon, engineering school gave you Hell about that, didn’t they?

      Reason, incidentally, why artificial intelligence is impossible, ended by “Thank God!” Digital or straight mechanical, a machine setting its own priorities sees every human as sewing machine oil.

      The Downtown Seattle Transit Project, and therefore Sound Transit itself, couldn’t have been built without two men who were superb at both transit engineering and politics, Paul Barden and Paul Kraabel. Both, not incidentally, Republicans.

      Of the kind whose restoration we Democrats should make our own priority, for the good of both our Democracy and The Republic. Nobody who knew these men could ever claim that either one’s association would be a move to the political Right. Or that the same person could be an engineer, run a machine, and serve as an elected official.

      But a lot fewer people would ever say “engineer” with the same tone of voice reserved for “politician.” Or take the attitude that by job title, engineers are all opportunistic crooks. Well, one project did, but two rails are standard now. Or allow anybody to leave high school without political-system-operating skills equal to calculus on the WASL.

      Which can’t be tested Multiple Choice. And for which thousands of major-corporate lobbyists get their tuition paid through grad school by their employers, if the kid looks promising.

      Since our country arose in the Age of Reason, I think our Founders, certainly skilled tradesmen like Benjamin Franklin the printer, thought of Government as neither a tyrant nor a benefactor, but the people’s own machinery. Which of course we’d all reach voting age trained to operate.

      Even the shy can be on schoolboards, Intro. And calculus doesn’t have to leave people both bored and with PTSD.


      1. Not 100% sure what you are saying, but I interpret it to mean that engineers should run for office. I have actually served in a role where I was responsible for recruiting and training candidates for public office. Engineers can and do run for office, and win sometimes. There are lots of elected county engineers and surveyors. Jimmy Carter is an engineer. But I’ve seen a lot of good people go down in flames. The odds are not good, especially if you have to recruit a half dozen talented people to win marginal seats in single-issue races where powerful interests are lined up against you. You don’t get to advocate for transit, you get to do non-stop fund-raising and fending off attacks on your character. Things engineers dream of.

        An elected ST Board would be a sitting duck for Kemper Freeman. His checkbook would not even break a sweat. He only has to buy one seat to turn that 4% disadvantage into a board majority. The poor “transit advocates” would not know what hit them. I’ve seen that happen to school boards when the religious right or Koch Bros took an interest. It is not pretty. The only holy debate that the Joe guy would get is a debate about how quickly to repeal the tax.

  14. A history of abuse of the system by elected transit board members in other regions should be researched. BART has had a few board members violate Federal laws on bribery and extortion. AC Transit had a board member demand that a bus driver to go off-route a mile to take her home — because the driver was an employee! It isn’t a rosy transit management strategy.

  15. You might get a few transit “superstars” on the board but you are also going to get a couple of Kemper Freeman anti transit stooges. We will never have a unanimous consensus again. In fact, there will be all sorts of chaos and fighting that will almost ensure delays.

    We are at the point now where decision should be made by the professional engineers and planners and not by politicians. Our 25 year package is passed. It is frustrating that is was partially chosen by politics but that is the way it had to be. To add more politics to our system is not going to help.

    1. Bill Nye;

      Nice try. I get the fear of these “stooges” but quite frankly I prefer conclusion to consensus. I would like to hear in the Ruth Fisher Boardroom the sound of freedom called political debate again (Alex Tsimerman doesn’t count as debate, he’s self-stimulating ok?). I want transit to work for all people, not just a select few. Yes, ridership is going up but why are folks feeling left out of the transit party?

    2. Joe:

      …quite frankly I prefer conclusion to consensus.

      The Sound Transit 3 vote is the conclusion of consensus. It was developed over years of public input. Some of those were “wins” and some were “losses,” as defined by ardent transit activists. But we settled on a plan, a price tag, and a way to fund it. Then we put it to a vote under the rules that have existed for approximately 20 years. After all of that, the measure passed 54 to 46 (or a 12-point margin).

      It is disingenuous to now claim, as the Pierce County representative at issue here, that the rules should be changed post hoc to what someone perceives as a loss. It happens all of the time in all of the arbitrarily-defined lines on our maps that some voters do not get their preferred outcome yet they receive both the benefits and costs of that outcome. Such is democracy.

      Yes, ridership is going up but why are folks feeling left out of the transit party?

      Well, you can make the (very real) argument that even some dense areas like Lake City or the Central District are being “left out.” But voters in both of those places overwhelmingly voted yes. Again, preferred outcomes versus reality and all.

      Saying that you will throw all of the bums out–which is what this Rep wants to do, on the surface, by barring the holding of any other political office by any Sound Transit board member–sounds great in principle but rarely works in practice.

      You will not achieve the ultra-pro-transit dream board that you propose. I promise you that if you make directly-elected districts in Sound Transit you will stack the board with a majority who are fervently opposed to the kind of forward-thinking-over-the-next-30-years transit that this region needs. And, frankly, with all of the political fires that we need to fight (and, remember, 90% of us here have full-time jobs that are not transit-related and are almost universally not transit-advocacy-related), I have no desire to throw Sound Transit’s log onto that fire.

      1. Wes,

        In all honesty, the main reason why I support electing the transit boards is all I want to do is serve on transit boards. I think transit boards with advocates – like the BART Board – are going to get things done.


    3. Please know that I say this with sincerity and not snark, since this is the Internet and text conveys no tone or emotion: I’m happy that you want to serve on transit boards. I’m unhappy with the idea of overhauling a major agency to further that goal. You would be much better served getting on Sound Transit’s Citizen Oversight Panel. No other argument you’ve given as to why this is a good idea is persuasive, especially when considered against both what we have now and what I genuinely believe to be the likely outcome if this change is made.

      (Such a change is also politically irreversible; once we go to elected district boards, we will not go back unless Sound Transit turns into such a flaming ball of catastrophe that there’s literally no other choice. Waiting to see if this happens would set us back another 20 years.)

      1. Wes;

        Thanks much, I get that vibe of concern from you and Mike Orr and STB management (for starters) elected boards wouldn’t do much for us hard-core, bleed blue-green-white Sound Transit fans.

        Please understand I come from a place of hope, optimism and vigor. I think we can sell transit because we fundamentally believe transit is good and most if not all commentators here want public transit to work.

        I also think a few tough questions lobbed face to face to the, as the greatest Sound Transit Board Chairman of all time Dow Constantine put it, “Ric n Karen Show” would have made ST3 so much more awesome. RossB did ask questions Sound Transit Boardmembers should have been asking – I mean why not a spur to Paine Field? Oh because Snohomish County wanted the spine to go there – or so it seems.

        One last thing: I am very grateful for Sound Transit and I don’t want anybody to think otherwise. I feel like Sound Transit is liberating us! It’s more the I think my local transit board needs a shakeup, Community Transit does a lot of great stuff but needs an elected board, and I want to serve on a transit board with real power & influence.


    4. Joe, this is disgustingly selfish of you. People have explained why this would delay or even kill Sound Transit and your response is “I don’t care, I want to serve on Skagit County’s Transit Board so screw everyone else.”

      I’m done with you. You aren’t an advocate or an ally. You are a whiny child who is willing to break everything around him if it gives him the chance to get the toy on the high shelf.

      And just a heads up, even if you did get your Skagit County elected board, you wouldn’t be on it. Sorry.

    5. Seattleite,

      a) Shove your cynicism down the drain.

      b) I said earlier, with my emphasis

      I want the Ruth Fisher Boardroom to actually have to hear some intelligent criticism and for Seattle Subway to have even more power and apply more power to Sound Transit. I want Paine Field to always have a rep on the ST Board – and for some public debate to make sure Sound Transit throws its weight around.

      I mean did you know that Sound Transit is NOT a party of record to the Paine Field Commercial Terminal permitting process? Don’t you think after all the fighting down here in the STB Comments about how useful light rail to Paine Field is going to be (or not be) that Sound Transit should be a party of record? You think? A STB leader on the Sound Transit Board would make that happen.

      But you know something, you know something…. I want an elected Sound Transit Board a lot less than elected Community Transit & Skagit Transit Boards. I am tired of having a mouth that roars instead of some real influence in the North by Northwest. That’s why the passion, basically.

      For you to say I am, “I’m done with you. You aren’t an advocate or an ally. You are a whiny child who is willing to break everything around him if it gives him the chance to get the toy on the high shelf.” I think I deserve an apology. I take that a little personally as I’ve been a donor to Mass Transit Now, a supporter of ST3, a campaigner for transit, a guy who sacrifices four hours out of one Tuesday a month to sit on a transit advisory committee and a gentleman who bought roses for the ST3 Quarterback. I mean please, For the Love of Lady Karen and Sir Dow, good gawd…enough already.

      Oh and just a head’s up: People like you ruin transit advocacy for everybody else. I’ve never said I’m anti-Sound Transit but pro-transit advocates getting a bigger voice. We don’t need Aunt Claudia to protect us, we’re not little children or Sir Dow to save us, we aren’t victims.

      May G*d bless you whomever you are with a smile today. You need a smile.

      1. Joe, dude..

        The prior comment was intemperate, but you chose to respond in kind, and then some. Cool it down, please.

        Also, you have 47 comments on this one post. That’s a lot. A few carefully considered comments are more likely to be read.

      2. Thanks officer Dan, yeah I’m now in the throttle back mode. A lot going on in other areas of my life right now until mid-December, but I passionately believe we need studs like you on the Sound Transit Board.

        I took the comment very personally, as if the body of work just in the past 12 months didn’t matter. I hope you understand.

  16. Sound Transit oversight desperately needs an active, multi-agency Technical Advisory Committee with agendas and minutes and public and press allowed to attend these meetings. The committee should review the technical aspects of every major capital decision or design approval that goes to the ST Board. The committee needs each jurisdiction’s best technical transportation management expert (example members like a city traffic engineer or Transportation director; PSRC manager; staff from every operator). This would go a long way in revealing so many obvious disconnects — like Kirkland’s transit planning or the 145th/I-5 chaos or the FHSC snail-speed operations. We don’t need more elected officials in the mix; we need more technical specialists from multiple agencies working together to integrate things better!

      1. Mike, the expert review panel’s job is to perform independent technical review but the focus is on ST’s methodologies and assumptions for the ST3 plan, and if they are appropriate and reasonable. They don’t review alignments or anything like what Al S. suggested.

      2. Just to give you a flavor of the kind of detailed involvement that I think that a Technical Advisory Committee should have, here is a recent agenda for Santa Clara VTA (about the same size as King County). It’s 235 pages and they meet monthly! Generally, nothing technical goes to the Board until it’s been through this technical committee first.

        This kind of technical involvement and visibility is exactly what I think ST is missing! It’s already too political and not technical enough. Now that the vote is over, the agency would be more effective moving forward if they tilted things back to a more technical forum. Making the board elected doesn’t help ST do things better; providing a second semi-public technical forum would do wonders for the agency.

  17. Joe,
    Your position is naive in the extreme. You don’t seem to grasp the fact that the 55% of the people who voted for ST3 aren’t going to be the only people voting on these board positions. The other 45% of the region will also get a vote. And they will vote to delay, water down, make irrelevant and ultimately kill projects and ultimately Sound Transit itself.

    When decisions require 2/3rds votes and 45% of the board wants to kill transit expansion, that is a recipe for killing transit expansion. It doesn’t matter how many ‘transit heroes’ are on the board.

    This is what Republicans do to government that works. Make it not work and then point and say “LOOK, see St. Reagan was right, government doesn’t work!”

    That is why this anti-tax anti-transit Republican is pushing this. Sound Transit is too good at what it does (building high quality transit) and he wants to stop that. Fortunately for us, the public doesn’t agree with him, so he is having to use the legislature to try and stop Sound Transit.

    1. Totally agree with Seattleite. Joe, I am getting too old to wait for the republicans to throw their wrenches into ST. I want it built out now! If you want to have real debate and policy discussion then you can do it right here on the STB comment boards. ST Engineers, planners and some of the ST board are reading this. It might not seem like it sometimes, but people are hearing you Joe… Lets keep the anti transit politicians out of the decisions and let the professionals handle it. We will give our input right here and they can take it or leave it.

      1. Joe, I get that you have conservative leanings and you generally prefer of elected agency boards and public votes on capital projects, and maybe 2/3 majorities on some things. But when you see a proposal you like, you have to look at who are the big players who are pushing it and what are their ultimate goals. Because if you enable them, they will have their way because they’re the big players, and the outcome may be the opposite of what you want. As far as I know, you are the only one pushing for an elected board to improve ST’s management from a pro-transit, pro-capital-project perspective. The others think transit is irrelevant or should have a small role, with few small-scale capital projects, and that limiting taxes is more important than providing transit, and that any taxes should go to widening highways without tolls. Again, look the main players and what their ultimate goals are.

      2. Also, there’s room to talk about other ways to improve ST. Maybe another kind of elected board would be better, with six-year terms instead of two, and one representative per subarea (alongside the county/WSDOT leaders) instead of nineteen districts. Maybe some other kinds of reforms that aren’t the board structure. Maybe we should pursue the subarea tax districts now. Maybe give some kind of offer to Pierce that respects Tacoma’s desire for more service and the southeast’s desire for nothing.

      3. And there is no crisis with Sound Transit in Pierce. People in Orting, Steilacoom and Spanaway aren’t getting much for their taxes and they have good reason to vote no. If Marysville, Lake Stevens and Snohomish got to vote, they would all be saying the same thing.

        Mass transit works best for urban areas and we need to stop trying to make everyone buy in to the same prescription. We got stuck with some weird boundaries when the RTA was formed but luckily our urban areas have grown enough that we have enough votes to make up for our rural areas.

        Pierce Transit has a problem but it is hard to fix it when the majority of the county is suburban or rural. Things won’t change until traffic gets really bad or density improves.

      4. Well maybe Bill N the case needs to be made to Orting, Steilacoom and Spanaway to vote YES. It’s time for change down there. This is unacceptable that Pierce keeps voting down transit measures. One measure voted down, fine. But three since 2011 have gone down – 2011, 2012 and now ST3 in 2016. Not to mention a drop in Pierce Transit ridership – somewhat concurrant with its peers like Skagit Transit.

        Nonetheless, the data tells me we got fundamental problems down there, politicians who want to effect big changes for the sake of effecting big changes, and so I ask, “What is being done to make transit support grow?”

        Again, I worry how bad it’s gonna get to down there and from down there.

      5. As you said, it’s time to take a break and let things settle. Since O’Ban has proposed legislation, we’ll have to plan a strategic response. Having all transit agencies treated the same (elected boards everywhere) might be one approach. Having a public vote on highway projects might be another. Pursuing a Pierce subarea settlement (if O’Ban is particularly concerned about his subarea’s situation) might be another. (I outlined this elsewhere: removing the most exurban area from the district, scaling down ST3’s Pierce commitments proportionally, but protecting Tacoma’s support of more service. The fact that Sounder has two stations in the No area may be challenging. Sumner and Puyallup may have to stay in even if Bonney Lake and Orting and Spanaway leave.)

      6. Thanks Mike. It’s beyond time you were the Chief Strategic Officer of Seattle Transit Blog (like Worf was Deep Space Nine’s Chief Strategic Officer).

        I’m of the firm view our response needs to be real damn simple. Call O’Ban’s bluff… “Having all transit agencies treated the same (elected boards everywhere)” is the first step. Let’s see how he responds… I mean some Joe has made real clear he’s cocky those boards are going to have so much awesome on them you’ll need sunglasses.

        Meanwhile, get whatever friends STB has left on the Sound Transit Board to tell the Sound Transit staff, get on a “Pierce subarea settlement (if O’Ban is particularly concerned about his subarea’s situation)” by “scaling down ST3’s Pierce commitments proportionally, but protecting Tacoma’s support of more service”. It’s necessary we have some response option down there that’s thoughtful and proportionate.

        We’ll deal with Pierce. In a truly democratic fashion. Let’s get to it.

      7. If shrinking the Pierce subarea requires a vote in the entire ST district, I wonder if the other subareas would vote No on it and outnumber southeast Pierce.

      8. This is kind of what I have been saying all along, is that I think Pierce needs overall service, vs. fancy/flashy toys and other construction projects. We need All day Sounder, We need more distribution of service in the county, all while expanding the existing well used service (574/577/578/580/586/590/592/594/595/596) and adding more suburban P&R lots to feed the service (512 P&R, Lakewood Station, Tacoma Dome Station, Puyallup Station, Sumner Station) are all full all the time. Flashy toys are a nice, but at the end of the day theres so many dollars to go around and there are SO many unmet needs that need service hours, train slots, and P&R space thrown at it that its hard to justify spending this kind of money on pie-in-the-sky major capital projects.

    2. I think the other 45% should be heard on this, but not given a veto. Until today I didn’t know about the 2/3rds vote requirement. But I’m confident – even without Martin running – we can beat the stooges.

      I think the real proof will be when the friendly amendment comes in to make transit boards in the hinterlands and Eastern Washington elected too. Gee, I wonder how loud the shrieking or ideological consistency will be when somebody grows a pair – ovaries or testicles – and a spine and proposes that. I wonder how Republicans will feel telling their bosom buddies their little transit boards for Skagit, Whatcom, Island, Pierce, Clark and so on will now be directly elected because some folks thought the Sound Transit Board should be elected.

      Because if you want a real shot to stop this, do it. Make Senator O’Ban have to either accept the amendment or prove you guys to my left correct. Don’t be the party of NO – go on offense.

      1. RCW 81.112.040(2) says:

        Major decisions of the authority shall require a favorable vote of two-thirds of the entire membership of the voting members. “Major decisions” include at least the following: System plan adoption and amendment; system phasing decisions; annual budget adoption; authorization of annexations; modification of board composition; and executive director employment.

  18. For the record, I have no interest in serving on the ST Board, and certainly no interest in conducting a campaign. So please stop imagining me filling one of these positions.

    1. What? You mean that $10,000 a year salary isn’t tempting?

      Seriously though, people, with compensation that low, these people will have to also have other sources of income. Maybe that will be a private company or maybe they’ll all be retirees or something.

      So now picture Boeing running a representative from each district….

  19. “while millions in state transit mobility grants go to unelected bodies”

    That doesn’t bother me. These are grants for specific services, so the only issue is how well those bodies perform those services. In most cases, if a route is funded, it runs.

    1. Did they? I don’t recall it. The issues I recall with mobility grants are, (A) we need a lot more of them so we can have hourly rural service between the largest towns, (B) most of the grants go to rural and exurban areas but what about cities’ transit needs?, and (C) are the services running well? Nothing about the boards’ structure except the Island County meltdown which you covered so well. The only other structural debates I know of are ST in Metro. ST we’re discussing now. For Metro there have been wishes it would put more resources in Seattle, that the County Council would be more hands-off about network decisions, and reviving Seattle Transit. No suggestions that an elected Metro board would be better than these.

  20. I’d project the board will reflect the population and be ~60% pro transit, rather than 100% it is now.

    1. We just had that debate. Trying to repeat the debate every board meeting would be very counterproductive.

  21. Wasn’t the genesis of Sound Transit just to coordinate with the local transit agencies and fill in gaps of service? It’s not supposed to be an independent agency but simply be a pooling of resources across the 3 counties to tackle issues the counties can’t do on their own. ST should only do what the local agencies can’t – hence the emphasis on the spine rather than more local needs.

    I like how the ST Board is an extension of the existing governments, not yet another faction jockeying to funding and policy.

    1. The genesis of ST was to build the spine. Or to put it another way, the mandate was to connect Seattle, Everett, Tacoma, and Bellevue/Redmond with each other. The problem was that each agency was county-based, so inter-county trips were forever neglected behind keeping each neighborhood’s one-seat ride to downtown because that’s where the constituent power was. It was understood that secondary cities would also be brought in; e.g., Issaquah and Bothell. On the eve of ST, Pierce Transit had started a “Seattle Express”, and Community Transit’s 4xx and 8xx routes ran unidirectional peak and UW-peak. Everything else was extremely long milk runs like downtown to Federal Way and downtown to North Bend but not crossing county boundaries except trivially (e.g., to adjacent transit centers). So ST’s primary responsibility is trips between counties and between city centers, but there has been growing awareness that some of Seattle’s neighborhoods are also regionally-significant destinations.

      1. Exactly and I would add as well the only high capacity landlubber transit builder in Washington State since 1962 has been Sound Transit. It’s better that Seattle get its high capacity transit built via Sound Transit since the agency is so awesome, all Sound Transit needs is some tweaks here & there.

  22. I can’t see either the elected BART Board or the AC Transit Board as models of governance. The BART Board has been constantly harassed for suburban extensions, even as the core system has deteriorated. Building extensions has been the main interest of some Board members.

    Only a few of the BART or AC Transit Board members have been transit experts, and some have shown little interest in learning. Some BART Boardmembers seem to be there to control large contracts, some (particularly on the AC Transit Board) as a first step to other elected officials. There’s at least one case where it’s alleged that the Boardmember’s main interest is receiving health benefits. The AC Transit Board had a member who was legally declared a “vexatious litigant” for clogging the courts. Although it’s improving, the Boards have shown little interest in cooperating with other entities, or each other.

    In Oakland, in addition to these two transit boards, the City Council and the School Board, there is an elected parks board, water/sewer board, and community college board. The City Attorney is elected, in some cases so are the Treasurer and the Controller. Because there are so many offices, voters often have a hard time understanding the political differences (if there are any) between candidates.

    The early 20th Century progressives built this structure–not to empower government, but to enfeeble it. The more they could disperse power, the more they could assure that no one would get “too much” of it. Don’t go down this route.

    1. “The early 20th Century progressives built this structure–not to empower government, but to enfeeble it.”

      Good point. It’s the opposite of how Vancouver and Germany manage their transit. They start with what does it need to do and they just do it, and if the public doesn’t like what they’re doing they vote in new mayors and MPs.

  23. By the way, to everybody who wants a directly-elected special purpose board, I have just one question: How’s the Port of Seattle working out for you? For bonus points–and without looking it up–name at least two candidates from the last election for Port Councilmember and at least one electoral platform espoused by each.

    * Lose all points if you thought that “Councilmember” is the correct term for the office held by a person elected to the Port board.

    ** I just noticed that Zach already mentioned the Port in his screed but I’m hitting “Post Comment” anyway because I want to make the point a second time.

  24. Y’all may recall the monorail board starting to transition to a directly-elected board. A monorail skeptic barely won a seat, in a campaign that centered on whether a comment made by the pro-monorail candidate in the race was anti-Semitic. That was the beginning of the end for the monorail. It certainly wasn’t the only mis-step, but the handwriting was on the wall that accountability meant cancellation.

  25. How about that King County Conservation District? How many of you have heard of it? Or voted in its elections?

    1. Good points here. Direct elections are for general-purpose governments, like cities and counties. They often work poorly for special-purpose agencies. Add school boards to the list that includes port commissions.

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