33 Replies to “Podcast #35: Transportation Governance in the Ural Oblast”

  1. Checking to find out what Oblast- Russian for a province- the 50 mile long Crimean trolley bus line is in- I think now that Yalta and Simferopol are in something else now. Like Russia- like it was when Khruschev gave it to Ukraine in 1954.

    Need some more research if the line is governed by an elected board. Would still be great to go see it, to get some technical facts about extending the Route 7 to Ellensburg. Though last time I checked, only connecting flights are from Moscow.

    One word of Jason’s pretty well tells the whole story: Luis Moscoso- whose bus I often rode when I lived in Edmonds- is “dishonest”. Which seems to be Donald Trump’s code-word for anyone accurately calling him a liar.

    From what I’ve heard out of Jason before I break the power button on the radio, best just to treat him like do the liar mentioned last sentence. No amount of argument is going to change the opinion of anybody that leaves the radio on, and tuned to his program.

    So best thing for STB to do for both Jason and Donald. Tell their agent we’re not going to do anymore ads for them. Though could be only human decency to help poor Ivanka out with her line of jewelry. Maybe in those really, really Yuge! ads every click to STB always starts with.

    Or…I got it, I got it…get her elected- I think the NYC passenger public really did vote on this-as next month’s Miss Link! Resisting all commie pressure to give decision to an appointed board. Whom a noted expert from the lady’s home country constantly identifies as billionaire capitalist gangsters. But note even he doesn’t call them dishonest.

    Mark Dublin

    1. Oblast’ is region. I think the Soviets chose it as a neutral geographic term because provintsiya (province) and guberniya (government) sounded too czarist. I looked up the oblasts and it turns out Crimea is not an oblast’, and that an oblast’ is just one type of administrative division (sub’yekt, “subject”). The annexation of Crimea created two new subjects:
      – Sevastopol (Севасопол), an autonomous city.
      – the Republic of Crimea (Республика Крым), a republic containing Simferopol, Yalta, and everything else.

      In other oblast’ and anti-czarist news, the Soviets renamed St Petersburg to Leningrad and created Leningrad Oblast’. The Russians renamed the city back but not the region, so now it’s Санкт-Петербург, Ленинградский Область (Sankt-Peterburg, Leningradskii Oblast’). The Soviets also renamed the Russian police force from politsiya to militsiya (militia) to distance it from the czarist police. A few years ago the Russians renamed it back to politsiya.

      1. Hey, Mike, this is really great! Had a couple months of Russian right after the Wall came down. In hoped of-seriously- going to visit certain world-favorite bus line! I remember my teacher telling me that I was both very intelligent and very lazy. Second category always impersonate the first!

        I can’t even figure out how to make my computer speak anything but English and Swedish. But main thing is that now Seattle Transit Blog has a badly needed and long overdue permanent fact and everything else check on everything I write.

        Of course you know that now you have to do this all the time. Glad it’s you and not me. But last sentence in explains a lot about the company our current Chief of State is keeping:

        ” The Soviets also renamed the Russian police force from politsiya to militsiya (militia) to distance it from the czarist police. A few years ago the Russians renamed it back to politsiya.” Which my own forebears also called them when they escaped here a hundred years ago.

        I wonder if Vladimir Vladimirovich (from his Dad’s name, Russian custom) has changed the name of his previous employer to the “Okhrana.” Like the Czar called it. And so did my forebears when they escaped from it. Czars and their European counterparts whom Putin is helping, go back hundreds of years. Mike, what’s Russian for “Life’s a Bitch?”

        Incidentally, google Jason Rantz. Pics (which are great!) and biography. Maybe it’s because he could be a distant relative of mine, but whatever he really thinks, I wish they’d let him write his own script. Last thing radio needs is a Dori Monson impersonator. Did these guys kill Dave Ross?


      2. Literally, “Zhizn’ — kurva.” Colloquially I guess I’d say “Eto zhizn'” (“That’s life.”) But that mindset permeates the whole culture so I don’t know if they need a phrase. The word for hope, nadyezhda, comes from nadyet’, to put on (clothes). The implication being to pull the wool over one’s eyes, or that hope is delusional, or only a fool hopes. I have no idea how it evolved that way.

        Why needs 50-mile trolleybuses when Sweden has trams?

  2. Question. Voters approved ST-3 under present governance. Meaning not only can we assume this is exactly the governance they wanted. But that if the Legislature changes the governance anyhow, we’re justifyied in either demanding another vote just to clarify.

    Or consider ourselves no longer bound by anything about ST-3. Including paying for our share of it. Which we’ve got plenty of transit of our own to build. Might even include second subway. And best of all, UW to Ballard in addition to Ballard to West Seattle.

    Don’t like secession or regional non-cooperation. But no downside to try to stay on both Jason’s and Donald’s good side by not being dishonest about a single thing we’re going to do if governance we voted for in good faith gets taken away.


  3. I think ST3 did get bonds. When they got approval for ST3 the Redmond extension and the Federally way extension were ready to go. They did it right after the bill was passed because they had already done the studies and they just needed the funding to keep the process moving … station design, final alignment, property procurement.

    1. So, readiness by Sound Transit and Judy Clibborn’s willingness to take one for the team have essentially made the bond issue moot. The judiciary is adamant: do not impair bonds you’ve already sold.

      That means one of two things about the tabs. Either they will remain as they are or the 2008 depreciation schedule will be applied but the rate will be adjusted to yield the same revenues.

    2. That’s a little bit of bonds, not all the ST3 bonds. ST has a self-imposed debt-to-asset limit that’s very strict, so it can only raise a little at a time. That’s why the timeline is 25 years. ST wants to ensure it can repay the bonds even if another 2008-like crash occurs, and to maintain the best credit rating and lowest interest rates. Seattle Subway asked ST to loosen its debt ceiling so it could raise all the bonds up front and shorten the timeline, but it hasn’t done so. So theoretically ST could keep the small fraction of bonds it has sold under the existing formula and put the majority of bonds it hasn’t sold under the new formula.

      1. I don’t think so. How do you do that, have 1/19th of the value of a car taxed at the original rate and 18/19ths at the other? You could program it, sure, but what a barrel of belly-aching it would cause. And what happens to cars bought after the rate change? Do they get taxed entirely at the new rate?

        [ed. note: the “19ths” fractions are hypothetical but probably fairly reasonable proportions not meant to be argued about; they’re just an example].

  4. Suggestion to transit for de-fanging hostile propaganda. Worry a hell of a lot less about bribed or ignorant loudmouths, whether directly elected (no question appointment has better hiring record) or hired by radio stations. And get the elevator fixed at the airport.


  5. I think it’s unfair to label the entire reaction to the car tab increase as “manufactured”. Certainly the anti-transit mob has latched onto the issue, but it’s far from unreasonable for someone to be frustrated that they are being taxed based on a valuation that does reflect any sort of real-world value. The state obviously moved away from that method for a reason.

    I’m a pretty avid reader of this blog and I’d like to think that I was quite well-informed on the ST3 vote, but this manner of calculating the fees was news to me. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that I am a relatively new car owner in Washington, but I can’t help but think that this was a legitimate surprise to many people.

    1. The state never tweaked the calculation mode. Eyman’s $30 car tab initiative happened, making the issue much less visible for many car tab payers.

      1. Considering the amount of damage this method of determining car value has done to the whole State, including transit…Why haven’t the pro-transit forces taken the lead in getting it fixed? As a very vocal leading point in the campaign?

        Seriously, Brent, you generally know what you’re talking about. How could we let this one lie around like an unexploded bomb waiting for it to blow another thirty years out of transit? And why should anybody have any further respect for a political movement so lazy, brainless, and self destructive.

        What does anybody need Jason Rantz for?

        Mark Dublin

      2. First, the current formula, set by the state legislature, overvalues newer cars. The “fix” will make the formula more regressive by shifting the burden to owners of older cars.

        Second, a large tree in a golden forest.

      3. Why haven’t the pro-transit forces taken the lead in getting it fixed?

        I think Sound Transit gets more credit for what they’re planning to do than they get blame for the particulars of their taxation schemes. If they had the power to “fix” this (this is the legislature’s job, of course), they would have been able to offer less in the package, which would have hurt them politically.

      1. … and on that page is this text: “Vehicle owners would pay an additional $80 per $10,000 of vehicle value under the state’s depreciation schedule”.

        While that statement isn’t inaccurate, there’s nothing that would lead people to believe that the taxable value of their car would vary wildly from the actual market value. The minute that you drive a new car off the lot, it is worth 10-15% less than what you paid for it, yet per the depreciation schedule, it isn’t until the 3rd or even 4th set of tabs when that level of depreciation is recognized.

        I voted for ST3 and still support it, but Sound Transit really gave ammunition to their opponents on this issue.

    2. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that I am a relatively new car owner in Washington, but I can’t help but think that this was a legitimate surprise to many people.

      That is a legitimate reason to be surprised, but it’s also quite rare. This is the same valuation method existing ST MVET valuation already works! Presumably most of these angry people were already paying that. It’s hard to buy this isn’t opportunistic, manufactured outrage for them.

      1. Prior to Initiative-695’s implementation, car tabs were already expensive, since the state was funding much more. (Ferries, sales-tax-equalization funding for small municipalities, etc.)

        Don’t forget, Washington state has no income tax. The MVET is the closest thing we have to a more progressive type of tax such as that would be.

        In fact, for those who have lived here long enough, ST taxes are a better value than before. Money stays in the region.

        Most of the complainers I’ve … … had conversations with, voted NO on ST3 anyway.

    1. I’ve seen local road projects get voted down (Edmonds, Bothell), and the cities still proceed anyway.

      Look at I-405.
      Why did the legislature raise the gas tax 10 cents again?
      To fund its expansion.

      Why didn’t that go through the same process Sound Transit had/has to endure?

      We spend way too much time letting those with ‘Road Colored Glasses’ define the argument.

      We should be making them justify that expenditure.

      1. Um, because it’s state infrastructure? The forms of transportation the state doesn’t consider its responsibility are the same ones that require votes to raise local taxes, and the same ones ineligible for the gas tax. Indeed, the fact that it’s the gas tax (a “user fee”) may be why legislators feel comfortable spending it and raising it without a vote: it’s not like they’re increasing your property tax (a big no-no) or sales tax (a small no-no).

      2. Oh, and the other reason: 95% of the voters drive, and complain to their legislators if they get caught in congestion and expect their legislators to fix it. 5% of voters don’t drive, and their clamors for transit can be ignored because they’re only 5%. and behind the times

      3. Not all of what we think of as state highways are necessarily the state’s responsibility, such as the part in downtown Bothell:

        On May 4, 2011, Gov. Christine Gregoire signed into law HB 1520[18] which turned over the responsibility of a 2.69-mile-long (4.33 km) section between I-405 and SR 522 from the state to the City of Bothell. The transferred section will be developed into a suburban multi-way boulevard with pedestrian walkways and bikeways.[19]

        “Improvements” to the section of the Bothell Everett Highway were put to a vote in 2014.

        It was voted down. it didn’t even get a 50% majority.

        The road project is still going forward. The city is finding the money anyway.

      4. and don’t get me started on the pandering that the Republicans are doing concerning road issues, of all people. These are people who supposedly have an understanding of what a ‘market based’ system should be.

        Although I loved the ad (for the ending), I found it amazing that 2014 Gubernatorial candidate Bill Bryant would fight tolling a highway, the best method ensure those who use a facility are the ones that pay for it. Conversely, you know that the money collected will go back to that highway.

        and even if you claim “My gas tax pays for the road (the new lanes)”,
        You would be wrong.

        The calculation is so simple:
        Based on the average gas mileage and amount of taxes, a quick calculation shows that if you were to assign a per mile cost to the gas tax.. That is, if instead of a gas tax, you paid the pennies every mile… drivers pay $.03 per mile.
        If all the drivers on I-405 were to collect all the $.03 per mile for use to widen I-405, …

        They only pay 1/4 of that cost.

        Who fills in the rest..?
        all the other drivers, driving everywhere else, burning gas for local errands.

        $.03 – cost per mile paid in gas tax x
        120,000 – vehicles per day (that’s 4 GP Lanes filled to capacity from the get-go) x
        31 miles (length of I-405 Corridor) x
        365 days – 1 year’s worth x
        30 years – time of amortization used in c/b calculations. =

        $1.2 Billion.

        Cost of new lanes now?
        Good question!!
        The legislature was dragging its feet for so long. I used $5 Billion, what it was back in 2001.

        What people like Mr. Bryant, and Rep.Harmsworth are doing is treating the voters like children.

        They are not laying out the facts to allow them to decide if that cost is worth it.

      5. The hard-to-explain thing is how it got to be that way. How did people come to think of roads as an entitlement, magically exempt from the maxim that all taxes should require votes? How did they come to underestimate the cost of said roads, to underestimate their car’s impact, and to believe that a completely car-dependent, single-family model was scalable to a community of hundreds of thousands of people?

        If we can get a handle more on how this idea became fixed in people’s mind, in spite of their repeated personal experience of siting in traffic then maybe it’ll be easier to figure out how to reverse it and unlock that fixed idea.

      6. Re Mike Orr’s comment on the car dependant, single family model.

        This is based on my observations and conversations with others. The sitting in traffic for hours a day thing is one part of an equation. The other big part is family.

        If you have children, it’s nice for them to be able to play in your fenced in back yard, where they’re safe even if you can’t watch them every moment. There’s more reasons than that, but that’s one of the biggies.

        Increasingly, though, just the price of living in town is pushing people who otherwise would prefer to live in the city out further.

  6. http://www.atlasobscura.com/places/crimean-trolleybus-line



    Mike, I think for passenger loads, money available, and steep grades, nobody would have built fifty miles of rural electric rail in Crimea. But, and this is a guess, could be that electricity was by far the cheapest fuel when line was built. I know the Donetsk region of Ukraine has a lot of coal.

    I guess my best answer about trolley buses in Crimea vs. trams in Sweden is that….well, just look at those guys. No such thing as “We’re waiting for the parts!” Would also bet that if we relocate that maintenance shop to International Blvd. and 176th, the elevator would stay running.

    And doubt that transit stewardesses and tour guides on that line have to call Security very often.

    But best thing is that with conditions shown, no matter how little of my seniority I could recover it I came back, I’d always get first pick on the Route Cемь. Which used to terminate at 62nd and Prentice. Definitely no competition from Spårvagn operators from Västtrafik in Gothenburg.

    Hard to explain to anybody who isn’t a logger or a coal miner or other non IT worker, but….THAT’s trolley driving!


    1. Your first link says, “Looking over the different transportation options, it was decided that the rock in the area was too soft to support a railway, and buses would be unpleasant and produce too much pollution. So they decided to build an electric trolley route.” In the 1950s in Ukraine, the historical context was all trains, and a trolleybus is an innovation in that line. As a one-off it didn’t inspire replication, like the Wuppertal Schwebebahn or our own monorail. Everywhere else was satisfied with the superior quality of trains or the road-compatibility of buses.

      When I was in Russia in the Yeltsin years, people paid for electricity but natural gas was free because it was so plentiful. Everybody’s stove and water heater ran on natural gas, and presumably the municipal steam-heat utility did too. In a communal apartment I stayed in, one man always kept his stove burner on minimum when he wasn’t using it. The neighbors said he was a drunkard and didn’t want to spend his vodka money on matches to relight the stove.

      In that case poor people rationed electricity, but on a nationwide scale they can make as much electricity as they want from natural gas, and all commodities were cheaper in the 50s than they are now, so the electricity probably wasn’t an issue for that trolleybus line. Any other alternative would have required fuel too, so it’s one half dozen to the other.

  7. Mr Dublin, what’s the current situation in Sweden? We know they have lots of trains and trams and transit-oriented development, but in movies and books you also see a lot of highways and people driving everywhere and not taking transit. So how much are people driving in Sweden? How much do they welcome their walkable neighborhoods, and how much do they wish there were more roads and parking and petrol was cheaper? How much of the buildings are really walkable? Because I also see things like a modernist standalone library that looks like it takes more walking to than necessary.

    There’s also the argument you hear here, that car use in Europe keeps going up, train use is going down, and the Wal-Marts and big-box stores exist but they’re on the edge of cities and that’s where people increasingly shop. How much of that is true and how much is automobilist propaganda?

    Do Ikeas in Sweden have massive parking lots? How many people go there by transit and have things delivered? At the one in Renton, “going by transit” means an hourly van or a 1+ mile walk along huge lonely empty roads.

    1. You’ve discovered a horrible fact, Mike. With every passing day, Southern Sweden looks more like someplace Swedish in America, like maybe Minnesota. And it’s not just car traffic.

      Last visit, I walked into the TV room of our hostel to find two local women in total rapture as the newscaster glowingly announced that a new MacDonald’s had just opened in their own little city.

      I desperately tried to make them realize what this corporation has done to our people. And that for first time in history, average Swedes are starting to imitate transportation habits which match our diets. Answer? “Well the food really TASTES good!” Much of Europe’s banking system had same sentiments about the economy in, say, early 2008.

      But riding back into Gothenburg on a regional bus, the driver was a Swede of Turkish extraction. And the supervisor sitting next to me was a Persian. In Sweden, and doubtless many other places besides here, its own people consider Iran an ill-intended British invention.

      The Bible often mentions the Assyrians. Now part of the working and middle class in Sweden. Met a girl named “Nineveh”. Like the capital city where Jonah was ordered to prophesy. She told me it used it’s now called “Mosul”. So her people are now the Kurds? NO! They stole it from us!

      Might be good to know things like that before we send soldiers into combat in such places. People there think about it all the time. And the real truth about average immigrant family, and their native born children:

      Ethnic Swedes past the very early retirement age don’t relish the demanding and irregular work schedule of a full time transit operator. And somebody has to pay their generous retirement benefits. Hey Donald, did you hear what happened in Sweden last night?

      A lot of dark-skinned Swedes with Ethiopian names were getting up at 3AM to go drive streetcars and buses. But when I started to get up at my stop, the Persian supervisor grabbed my shirt sleeve.”Before you get off! You have to tell your people! Everybody in Persia… We LOVE Americans!”

      When we start taking advantage and start exporting our real strength, our gigantic multi-ethnicity and energy (Europe’s only very unpopular hope for survival is to become another United States), instead of the things that ruin our country and our own bodies….

      Only thing that prevents us from becoming Great again is that we’ve never stopped being it. As several billion people we we’re too scared to let in here already know.


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