Oran’s visualization of the pro-ST3 vote (go here to interrogate the results further) doesn’t teach us much that we didn’t already know from 2008’s ST2 results. In other words, the region’s most urban areas tend to vote for quality transit, with the actual locations of ST service outperforming by a few points.
To some extent, the projects that made it into the ST3 list are a result of “politics.” For some, this is a pejorative term that means “any projects supporting objectives I don’t agree with,” but here I mean to neutrally describe it as projects successful in winning votes on the Sound Transit Board or in the electorate.
It’s hard to definitively trace which projects swung a board vote, although it’s somewhat easier to see how the list affected endorsements from local politicians. Debora Juarez flipped her stance when ST brought 130th Street station, in her district, into the definitive list. More broadly, Eastside city councils with significant ST3 investments voted to endorse. Those without, didn’t.
There is almost certainly value in creating elite consensus. But how did that play out in the vote? To find out, I asked Oran to create a map showing how each precinct’s vote changed over the past 8 years. The original map was a sea of brown (lower yes votes), because the overall package fared 3.2% worse than ST2. The version you see below accounts for that secular change. The green precincts outperformed based on their 2008 vote and the overall downward trend. Oran also had to make various technical adjustments to reflect precinct boundary changes.
I won’t pretend to have any evidence to support a narrative beyond the map at right, but here some tentative conclusions.
The areas where ST3 projects appear to have positively swung votes across several precincts are the Paine Field area, downtown Redmond, West Seattle, and areas around downtown Tacoma, streetcar or light rail. West Seattle’s switch is broad enough to indicate that three stops can represent the entire segment of the city, at least as a down payment.
Ballard and greater downtown are already so massively pro-transit in the abstract that it is tough to discern any additional enthusiasm there.
Areas that have had high-quality Sound Transit service for years, the Rainier Valley and the South Sounder corridor, also solidified as pro-ST precincts. There are
three four plausible explanations for this:
- Modest local improvements (Graham St and South Sounder enhancements);
- Useful connectivity to new places (e.g. South Lake Union);
- Popularity of an agency that provides high-quality service; or
- A self-sorting exercise, where over time people very excited about rail transit find their way to homes near rail stations.
And then there are the ST2 terminii. The vicinity of Highline CC and Lynnwood TC might either be excited about their upcoming service, interested in riding to Tacoma/Everett, more urban than they used to be, or simply concerned that a No vote might endanger the service they expect from ST2.
Regrettably, it’s hard to say that any of the ST3 BRT projects moved the needle much at all. The SR522 corridor was lukewarm, and I-405 BRT was, electorally, a total failure beyond some districts in Burien and Renton.
Where there is existing ST rail service, there aren’t any obvious cases of “I got mine,” with exception of Mercer Island. Islanders who can’t walk to the future station may be disillusioned with their city’s decision to limit the size of the Park and Ride when it was renovated. But with the very significant exception of the Kirkland/Issaquah line, it appears that voters set to receive a new rail station in Sound Transit 3 were pretty excited about it.