RapidRide C, photo by S.S. Sol Duc, wikicommons
for which voter-approved funding of from November 2016 is now threatened under EHB 2201

In an apparent shocking apparent betrayal of their constituents who voted to pass Sound Transit 3, House Democrats voted unanimously for Engrossed House Bill 2201, which would effectively lower the ST3 portion of MVET bills from the 1994 valuation, as prescribed in ST3’s enabling legislation, to the 2006 valuation, which would lower the bill for most cars under 10 years of age and leave the valuation at the lower 1994 valuation for older cars, removing even more funding from Sound Transit than what Republicans had demanded.

To date, no fiscal note has been made available for the bill, but it appears to cost Sound Transit ca. $780 million in direct revenue and ca. $2 billion after higher borrowing costs. If federal support for Sound Transit evaporates as a result, the damage could balloon. While kneecapping the funding for which voters in the ST3 district just voted to tax themselves for, the state legislature has shown no interest in providing direct state funding of Sound Transit.

EHB 2201 would create a pecking order for projects to be cancelled, starting with parking projects, then commuter rail, then bus service, and then light rail projects if everything else is cut.

In Sound Transit’s north subarea, consisting of Seattle and Shoreline, that likely means Sound Transit subsidies of RapidRide service would go away, and then 130th St Station, Graham St Station, and Boeing Access Rd Station would be on the bubble. Grade separation of West Seattle and Ballard Link might be jeopardized, too. Without the fiscal note normally made available for bills before they even pass out of committee, the depth of the cuts is hard to calculate.

The bill still has to get through the State Senate, where the Republican majority may amend the bill for the sake of maintaining their ability to campaign on the issue, even after House Democrats gave the Republicans more than they originally asked for. Or, the Senate Republican majority could declare victory and send the bill, as is, to the governor’s desk.

Update: Rep. Jessyn Farrell responded to the post, conceding that legislators missed that the older valuation schedule was prescribed for the MVET in the ST3 enabling law until the ST1 bonds are retired, and that they had not intended to use a schedule that doesn’t reflect car resale value, which the 2006 table does very well. In response to a question on regressiveness, she pointed out that Sound Transit opted not to use the progressive head tax the legislature authorized. In response to what happens next, she was firm, “We say no deal if the Senate changes the bill at all in a negative way.”

79 Replies to “House Democrats All Vote Against Sound Transit”

    1. The Senate Republican majority could declare victory and then introduce a bill cutting all the rest of ST3 funding.

    2. “Take the bus!”

      And you wonder why people are so happy to see you people lose on this one.

      1. Considering I do NOT have a choice until an automated car is on the market, I have too little pity. I “get it” there are some folks who MUST drive in the ST3 district, but still… for too many it is a choice due to ease of use and subsidies for single occupancy vehicle driving.

      2. Car dependency and undense suburbs waste taxpayers’ money in the long run. Check out Strong Towns for the studies that prove it. Taking buses and increasing funding for them us a big long-term money saver for taxpayers.

    3. That is not what I voted for, and I think that Sound Transit should present an entirely new package based on this new funding.

    4. I’ll take a bus when it doesn’t take four times longer than driving my car, when I don’t have a homeless person sleeping ON me, and when they improve bus shelters to actually shelter people from crap weather. We are a third world country when it comes to public transportation. Europe makes us look like the Congo.

  1. Still waiting for an Olympia reporter (because LOL we have any of those at all, right?) to dive into the politics of this.

    My suspicion: There were signs of a suburban-democrat revolt against ST – many House Dems supported the Republican version of the ST3 kneecap that came through the Senate. To prevent this anti-ST wing from siding with the R’s and passing some version of the “bipartisan” senate bill, urban democrats have to propose and pass an alternative bill that dishes out just enough pain to satisfy these suburban representatives.

    That’s all speculation, but it would be about par for the course with Washington dems.

    1. Oh yes, the “Majority Coalition” will upend the cuts order language to put Light Rail at the top and protect the garages and commuter rail.

      The suburbanites have clearly decided that the only way to improve traffic congestion is to force the State into a big recession. I don’t know where Microsoft and Amazon can go; California’s already too full of people. They may have to leave the country entirely.

      But Boeing has a clear choice — and a preference. Charleston calls.

      You folks in your inflated half million dollar houses in East Hill are in for a very rude surprise after you kill the Golden Goose powered by all those yuppies in Seattle you hate.

      Schadenfreude, sweet schadenfreude.

      1. And then the Republicans will blame Democrats and liberals, saying high taxes on businesses are driving them out of state. I remember hearing this sob story earlier in the century and also in the 1990s.

      2. This is exactly what I was thinking. I can walk to the sounder station, but plenty of folks in outer areas who I’m sure are upset about taxes and fees to pay for light rail will be even more upset now that cuts to that stuff last on the list, and suburban parking gets cut first. Oh well!

      3. The only reason Amazon was launched in Washington State is because it does not have an income tax. It is able to attract employees, especially from the Bay Area, for the same reason.

        Name me one place whose “golden goose” has been killed by lack of public transit? And MSFT could easily combat transit issues by enabling more workers to work in Seattle v. Redmond. What will kill the golden goose is a state income tax.

      4. I thought people were leaving the Bay Area because of housing costs.

        “Name me one place whose “golden goose” has been killed by lack of public transit?”

        Three aren’t many golden geese relevant to Seattle’s situation to compare it to. Silicon Valley has less transit, but in 2000 the plea of developers for their companies to locate in San Francisco tipped the balance and more and more companies moved there or started there. Score one for transit and urbanism. Even if Silicon Valley still has the majority of companies, SF has been getting a lot. Maybe Oakland too, I don’t know about that.

      5. @Kevin22: Boeing corporate moved to Chicago 15 years ago. I believe their reasoning was that Seattle wasn’t on a trajectory to be a world class city like Chicago, which they desperately needed as an international, multi-discipline corporation. One of the necessities of a world class city is a mass transit system, which Seattle didn’t have and wasn’t really serious about at the time (ST1 had passed, but Link was being gutted due to early troubles with ST and was teetering on the edge of not happening).

        So while lack of mass transit wasn’t THE reason for Boeing HQ leaving, I’m sure it played a small role in their decision. And since then, our area has been losing out on new Boeing jobs.

      6. Boeing moved to Chicago when it acquired McDonnell-Douglas and the latter’s bean-counting Wall Street culture took over Boeing’s management. Boeing’s stated reason for moving was to demonstrate to shareholders that it’s not beholden to any city or region: it would not let concessions to its hometown get in the way of maximizing opportunities for profit. Otherwise if Boeing expanded a plant in Washington, shareholders might wonder if it was really the most lucrative location or if Boeing just felt it “owed something” to its home region or wanted to do something for it. Moving its crown jewel out of the region was the biggest anti-concession it could make. The move may also have been a strategy to extract more tax breaks from Washington.

        Mass transit may have been a factor, and my friend who works at Boeing thinks that the building of CenturyLink and Safeco Fields and their off-ramps and Edgar Martines Drive was the last straw: it showed that Washington was investing in trivial vanity things instead of its critical transportation infrastructure including high-capacity transit. But I have my doubts about that, because Boeing never lifted a finger for decades to improve transit infrastructure to its Renton and Everett plants. It set up special buses and carpools, yes, but why didn’t it offer to pay for rail stations or part of a line… not once in the forty-five years since Forward Thrust. Never mind that European cities have high-capacity transit to major employers, and even McDonnell-Douglas and NASA have stations on VTA light rail.

      7. A bill should be passed that says if you have an excess of 5,000 workers who CAN work from home, then at least 50% of them MUST work from home. Studies have show that telecommuters actually work more hours because people at an office slack around a lot more. When you work from home you actually attempt to WORK 40 hours. Besides helping the commute and the environment, companies could save billions in electricity, water and staffing costs. Some day 100 years in the future, if Microsoft still exists, I think all the employees will work from home, and that campus over in Redmond will be a ghost town (or if we haven’t recovered from all the damage Trump did, a homeless encampment).

      8. “I don’t know where Microsoft and Amazon can go; California’s already too full of people. They may have to leave the country entirely. ”
        Come to upstate NY. Cheap land, cheap workers, *still* a high level of education… and state subsidies to bring business here.

    2. On the political side, could this all be about removing an issue from the election for Andy Hill’s seat in Redmond? The Ds in Olympia may think the MVET is key to regaining the Senate with that seat.

      1. I doubt that cutting I-405 buses, SR-522 buses, or even park and rides just to make sure that light rail gets built to Issaquah is going to be a big vote getter in Andy Hill’s old district.

    3. That seems about right (and would explain TCC’s preemptive cave). I probably shouldn’t be as mad as I am with Noel Frame, but man that line about how we’re just raiding their contingency money so it’s all cool is going to keep my rage going for a long, long time.

    4. If only there could be another bill that reduced the size of the highway package that was part of the same 2015 transportation bill as ST3. Then at least there would be parity between transit and cars. Oh, did I mention that ST3 passed by a public vote while the highway package had no public vote?

      1. Why would transportation go to a public vote? These needs are decided by the transportation committee’s. 16 billion barely keeps up with our needs. 50 billion is the minimum to get us to an A grade on our transportation infrastructure.

    5. Doesn’t the article say “all House Democrats”? Why are you trying to pretend there is an urban/suburban split here?

    6. I am a suburban Democrat, and I voted for ST3 as is, not this completely unknown thing that the legislature has just foisted upon us.

    1. So the legislature will publicly announce that they fixed their own mistake, and the Seattle Times Editorial Board will publish a statement to acknowledge that ST was merely following the law?

  2. I dont understand the analysis here. The bill prioritizes light rail projects, but you indicate stations are at risk of being cut. How does the math work on this?

    1. Welcome to subarea equity. There’s really nothing but light rail projects in the North King (Seattle) subarea. So even though they’re prioritized, they’re still endangered.

      1. It could be that within the bounds of each subarea (projects and funds), cut in that order. Meaning, light rail in North King would go after 522 BRT and Madison BRT contribution was cut. Thought that could get tricky, because what if North King has some of the light rail spine cut, leaving Everett-Mountlake Terrace light rail as a dangling line? Obviously that wouldn’t do, so they would have to start hacking away at West Seattle and Ballard.

        What’s less clear is what happens to South King/Pierce, because South King has mostly light rail, with some sounder improvements and I-405 BRT. But Pierce has a wider variety of additions, like an extension of South Sounder, Sounder station improvements, BRT upgrades for PT Route 1, and I think even a Sounder connector for Orting (though that cost may be negligible in the scheme of things). Under this scenario, I wonder if ST could avoid having the Pierce County portion of Link be left dangling. If not, then maybe they could re-strategize Link in Pierce County entirely around extending Tacoma Link to TCC, and move that forward in time (currently it won’t open until 2041), leaving Link to Federal Way and beyond to an ST4 of sorts, or delaying it.

      2. Actually, what happens to South King and Pierce is very clear. Both areas have quite a lot of parking proposed, so that get slashed to keep the light rail on schedule. The commuter rail to Dupont would probably get delayed in favor of improvements elsewhere on the line.

      3. They wouldn’t build Everett or Lynnwood if there’s nothing to connect it to. Pierce has had money for Central Link since ST1 but it’s just been saving it until Federal Way was certain. The same would doubtless be the case in Snohomish.

        Pierce is not going to change its mind; it wants Central Link or nothing. It has had years to rethink it and it hasn’t yet. An extensive Tacoma Link might be awesome but it’s not what Pierce wants.

        If ST starts talking about trimming Ballard and West Seattle, we should make a loud push to deter West Seattle before hacking Ballard. It may not succeed because West Seattle has gotten higher priority and first scheduling all along, but it’s worth trying again. And maybe by late 2017 or 2018 some West Seattlites and politicians will have changed their minds.

    2. The way I understand it is that it “prioritizes” light rail projects but certainly does not ensure that some stations won’t be cut. It probably depends on how this cut impacts the projects finances. If it is deep and results in loss of bonding ability, then yes, some stations will have to go. That’s how I interpret that.

    3. There is only one small garage in North King to chop. There is no commuter rail funding because it only “passes through” on its way to KSS. North Sounder is paid for by the Snohomish Subarea and South Sounder by South King and Pierce. SR522 BRT is mostly charged against East King so after taking the relatively modest support for Madison BRT and the RapidRides, you’re at Link.

      And anyway, the “Majority Coalition” is going to turn that priority of cuts language upside-down. Bank on it.

      The tab revenue reductions wouldn’t be fatal to Link in and of themselves. But with the Trump Administration’s insistence that TIGER and New Starts projects be immediately defunded, Lynnwood Link is going to take a big hit before it even breaks ground. Fortunately it’s only about two and a half billion dollars, but that money is going to have to come from North King and Snohomish ST3 funding streams. Link will certainly not reach Lynnwood by “late 2023” and probably not until 2030-35.

      If ever.

      That’ll larn the rubes in SnoHoCo who complain that they’ve been paying taxes for “Seattle’s subway”. (Not the organization). They may have just created conditions such that they will never “get their money’s worth”.

      I expect that the only thing North King will get when all is said, done and taken away by various Republican legislatures is a Lander to Smith Cove stub, but that will be enough to keep downtown Seattle moving, if tech companies do not get disgusted with the politics here and leave. Nearly everyone from south of Spokane Street and west of I-5 will be transferring to the stub at Lander, so that should make the Tab Crazies® ecstatic. “Let’s punish those slackers taking transit on MyDime®”.

      And of course, if tech does up sticks and craters the economy of Puget Sound and ST revenues, then there’s no need for a Green Line tunnel anyway.

    4. We’ve got 661 million of parking that’s first on the chopping block. But remember, subarea equity still is a thing, so that doesn’t help North King fill their portion of the hole, because Seattle isn’t building parking in ST3.

      Next on the chopping block is commuter rail. North King is in the same situation again, with nothing to cut. North King’s hole remains.

      Last on the chopping block is bus service/projects… I’m not aware of significant Seattle bus investments in ST3, so north king doesn’t get much blood out of that stone either.

      Now what’s left to cut? Graham and 130th stations are probably the first to go, but that’s still not enough to fill the hole…

      1. Don’t forget Devious Donnie’s insistence that Congress completely defund TIGER and New Starts. Whoosh, there goes another billion that SoundTransit already has int he budget for approved ST2 projects for Lynnwood and Federal Way Link.

        From what I understand, East Link is pretty much immune from cuts because it’s to be paid for with local bonds not underwritten with tab funds. So ST will be able to build the part of the system which does the least for traffic congestion and carries relatively light loads.

        It looks like The Spine may end up running from Northgate to Midway and Overlake, and omit the highest-value bus intercept in the system at Lynnwood.

        Transit planning by clueless agitators. You gotta love it.

      2. Shoreline and LFP are in North King and have parking in ST2 and ST3. Northgate parking is under construction.

    5. “The bill prioritizes light rail projects, but you indicate stations are at risk of being cut.”

      It depends on the exact legal requirements, which may take ST’s lawyers to interpret. My reading is that it only tells ST where to look first for cuts (to look for efficiencies, downgrades, or least-important features), not that the entire first category must be eliminated before going to the second category. If this reading is correct, ST will look through the tiers in order looking for small things to cut here and there. If the other reading is correct, then ST would have to eliminate all parking investments before going to the second tier.

      Then there’s the question of how this relates to subarea equity. Does it go under or over it? Would each subarea be considered separately, or would garages be eliminated across the board? The latter would lead an imbalance of funds between the subareas, because garage-heavy subareas would have surplus money remaining (to go into light rail?), while garage-light subareas would be… over budget? Assuming money can’t be transferred permanently between subareas, would this force ST to violate subarea equity? Or would it cause ST to buy extra things for the Snoho and Pierce, and make extra cuts in North King?

      But remember this still isn’t law yet and the final may be different.

      I doubt the Senate would simply reverse the priority. There’s widespread belief that light rail to Everett/Tacoma/Redmond is why ST exists and its primary responsibility. That’s probably the reason behind the priority scale, and the Senate will look at it similarly. Also, several of the garages are predicated on light rail. Without light rail, there’s nothing to drive to and no reason for the garage. If ST Express is to fill the gap, it would require a lot more buses and they’d get stuck in the usual traffic — the traffic that light rail was intended to bypass.

  3. Here’s the statement (copied from Facebook) from Noel Frame of the 36th district (I’m not saying I’m buying it, just that this is her statement)

    A lot of 36th District constituents are paying attention to our work in the House tonight, particularly on the vote related to Sound Transit. I just cast my vote for EHB 2201 and I want you to know why, and what the bill really does.
    This bill helps to address an issue of fundamental fairness without compromising transit projects. I proudly supported Sound Transit 3 (ST3), and our district voted for it with an overwhelming majority. Our voters were more than happy to tax themselves to make an investment in a transit system that will be a game changer for generations to come, and connect the 36th District’s own Ballard to the rest of region by rail. However, they expected those taxes to be assessed fairly. And what doesn’t feel fair to many voters is to have taxes assessed against an inflated valuation of their car – a valuation they know isn’t accurate and doesn’t reflect reality.
    For the Motor Vehicle Excise Tax (MVET), EHB 2201 instructs Sound Transit to “buy down” the difference between the 1996 valuation schedule and the 2006 schedule, the latter of which more closely tracks to the commonly used Kelley Blue Book valuation. The difference would be credited on the car tab bill (or refunded if already paid). The total difference is about $780 million. This is a difference we believe Sound Transit can absorb over the next 10 years given they budget conservatively and have delivered previous projects on time and under budget.
    To be clear, the bill does NOT do the following:
    • It does not force Sound Transit to use the newer car tab valuation schedule (so we do not put ST’s bonding at risk).
    • It does not reduce (or change) the valuation used to calculate car tabs.
    • It does not force Sound Transit to cut projects. In fact, we’re telling them not to.
    We are telling them not to cut light rail projects by prioritizing the order by which they can make cuts at all. Specifically, they have to cut parking garages and other projects long before they get to cutting light rail.
    This is the ONLY solution on the table that strikes the right balance, ensuring light rail and other ST3 projects are protected while providing fair tax relief to motorists. Other proposals want to gut billions out of Sound Transit, effectively killing public transit expansion in the Puget Sound. Sadly, we believe Republicans will continue to try to use this issue as a political football to dismantle Sound Transit. House Democrats are working every day to protect the promise made to voters when they approved ST3 last November.
    EHB 2201 ensures light rail expansion will continue for generations to come. We must continue moving forward with expanding light rail across our region. ST3 grows our transit infrastructure, creates jobs, attracts businesses, and gets workers to their places of employment. The transit system we are building will get people around our region faster and safer.

    1. “This is a difference we believe Sound Transit can absorb over the next 10 years given they budget conservatively and have delivered previous projects on time and under budget.”

      Haha Maybe Noel hasn’t heard about East Link.

      To assume an agency will always deliver projects on time and under budget seems a bit optimistic? Sound more like a Republican arguing that we can solve all of our budgetary issues through efficiency improvements and cost reductions.

      If they think the voters didn’t expect the current MVET valuation method let the voters decide if they want to change it. I paid mine already and won’t be asking for a refund.

      1. If you want to know why East Link is two years late, look at the Bellevue City Council, Kemper Freemand, and the Surrey Downs activists. The council and the activists insisted that over a dozen alternatives be studied in the EIS, more than the average three or four. Each alternative adds a few months and thousands of dollars to the planning stage. Bellevue was not quick to issue building permits, which adds to the time and cost. Kemper filed one or more lawsuits over the I-90 crossing to try to kill East Link: that required more time and hundreds of thousands of dollars to defend, and the judge threw the lawsuit out of court. All that caused one year of the delay.

        The other year was caused by the 2008 recession, which dried up sales-tax receipts. In other words, East King did not tive ST as much money as estimated. Nobody can reliably predict recessions or what the economy will do next year or the year after, so expecting ST to do guarantee it’s immune to revenue loss is unreasonable. What you can expect is a conservative budget that has a contingency fund and can take some hits: that’s what ST has. But at some point the hits will overtake that no matter who’s managing the project or how they’re doing it.

    2. This is a difference we believe Sound Transit can absorb over the next 10 years given they budget conservatively and have delivered previous projects on time and under budget.

      In other words, since Sound Transit has done a good job of being financially prudent, and staying within their budget, the House is going to “reward” them by forcing them to shrink the budget, but not the deliverable.

    3. This is a difference we believe Sound Transit can absorb over the next 10 years given they budget conservatively and have delivered previous projects on time and under budget.

      It really is impossible for me to describe the rage this line inspires. Why on earth should government agencies behave responsibly and conservatively, with sufficient contingency funds, when those funds will be raided whenever someone whines about their tax bill?

      She’s declaring war on good government, and then bragging about it to her constituents. She’s a Democrat, who represents one of the most Democratic, pro-transit districts in the state. I can’t even….

      1. It’s a special war against MVET, which is a uniquely unpopular tax. ST didn’t want an MVET in the first place — it wanted anything else instead, because high MVET is radioactive in voters’ minds. When ST got an MVET anyway it tried not to use it, in order to avoid this kind of backlash. But ST had to use it to fit all the high-demand projects into a 25-year plan. (You may not demand them but a lot of people in the respective subareas did; that’s why they’re in there.)

      2. It’s a special war against MVET, which is a uniquely unpopular tax.

        I understand that. But in her effort to evade responsibility for the real dangers and harms that might come from this particular surrender in the war on taxes/transit (however strategic it may be) she’s throwing good government under the bus. That’s outrageous.

  4. Guys. If changing the MVET schedule is enough to ensure Democratic control of the House then this is probably a good trade. Because if the R’s get control of both chambers we are going to see a lot more crazy anti-transit, anti-ST proposals than this. This at least retains ST as is with the bulk of the ST3 funding stream in place — and that is a good thing.

    The R’s were hoping to ride “MVET Hysteria” all the way to the ballot box. This at least makes that harder, and thank gawd for that.

    Also remember that between the original ST3 proposal and the final ballot proposal ST added $4B of additional spending on “stuff”. While some of this was probably technically justified, a good portion of it IMHO was used simply to buy the support of various vocal politicians that really didn’t have regional transportation as their first priority. Additional parking, the 130th St Station, BAR Station, etc. All these things are of limited value except in the political sense. Cutting them won’t be the end of the world, and in fact might actually make ST3 even better.

    1. The control of the house and senate in 2019 is going to be way, way more about how much of a backlash Trump generates, and how that shapes turnout, than any local issue.

      This vote might move the needle at the margins, but the national drama trickling down is going to overwhelm local issues.

  5. I have to disagree about North King losing Rapidride and it’s two new stations. My understanding is that the sub-area equity rule only requires ST to report on it, not to comply with it.

    On the other hand, this new law would require ST to cut parking first. So, ST, given the choice between the advisory statement (sub-area) and the explicit law, should comply with the explicit law, and cut parking garages regardless of location.

  6. 1. One, how fast can we get a program together to limit immediate damage?

    2. How fast can we get at least outlines of a plan so we can get ST back on its rails when the whole region gets paralyzed for a week, not just one measly rush hour.

    3. Based on proven experience with grand scale historic achievement in public transit, and remembering Jim Ellis, who essentially founded Metro. And concentrate our political effort on restoring the Republican Party to its former condition.

    Whose presence, in retrospect, kept the Democrats in the condition to which us Democrats need to be restored.

    Mark Dublin

  7. I hate to remind folks, but ST3 was based on political promises to build in specific corridors and then hand out pork to other operators and cities without any cost-benefit considerations. ST3 was political more than systematic. The items were selected to make various groups and local elected officials (and not state legislators) happy in each subarea. The Ballard/SLU alignment was specifically not studied (created by the City of Seattle) and the Renton parking garage was added without any analysis and the set aside for station access and local BRT projects were never assessed, as examples.

    With this kind of approach, it’s possible to win a vote. Still, there will continue to be push back from those that are skeptical of the investment — until ST proactively produces independent studies that justify the expense. In other words, it’s up to ST to prove that they are doing the right thing to shut up the officials that don’t like ST3. Mere whining by advocacy groups doesn’t do enough.

      1. We have the pictures to prove Link IS used: https://www.flickr.com/groups/seatrans/

        THRUST THE PICTURES IN THEIR FACE.

        WE WILL NOT GIVE UP!

        Dammit people, Howard Dean is right, “I think young people don’t quite understand that politics is a substitute for war and it’s a rough game. You don’t find nice people because the stakes are enormous, and people will do a lot of bad things to each other. … olitics is a substitute for war, and therefore you have to be tough, unyielding, and uncompromising in battle. That’s why the Republicans generally, with the exception of the two Obama campaigns, have run campaigns better.”

        [ ot]

  8. What is wrong with this city? Most major cities in the US – New York, San Francisco and surrounding areas, Portland….have caught up with the 20th century, yet Seattle still is dealing with I-5 gridlock hell and 405 nightmare.

    1. Ayayay, it’s not as simple as that. Compare all the cities you mentioned to Europe and Canada, and you’ll see the entire US is still in the 20th century. San Francisco, New York, and Chicago have pre-WWII rail networks that they retained, so that gave them a gigantic head start. I’ve heard the reason SF’s streetcars and NYC subways survived was that tunneled routes couldn’t be converted to buses. Everywhere else streetcars were replaced by buses and then frequency and coverage plummeted. Portland got a federal deal in the 1970s to build MAX instead of the planned Mt Hood Freeway. Seattle voted down the Forward Thrust subway in 1970 — that’s our fault. If you look at the suburbs, only New York has extensive train service to the suburbs and surrounding cities — most of them running every 10 minutes or hourly and some going 24 hours. In the Bay Area, BART and Caltrain go to only a few places and Caltrain is infrequent. In Chicago, Metra serves the suburbs but when I tried to get to Milwaukie there were hardly any trains or buses and they only ran once or twice a day. Our problem now is we’re building a network later, when state and federal support is less than it was before 2000.

      1. You’re correct about the history. The surviving pre-WWII urban rail systems survived almost entirely because of places where buses could not pass:
        — NY: tunnels
        — Chicago: tunnels, and elevateds
        — Boston: more tunnels (three “mass transit”, one streetcar)
        — Philadelphia: more tunnels (three “mass transit”, one streetcar and an elevated)
        — SF: one major tunnel, plus special hill-climbing streetcar routes which buses couldn’t handle
        — Cincinnati: yes, believe it or not, another tunnel you couldn’t run a bus through (in Tower City)
        — Newark: streetcar tunnel
        — Pittsburgh: streetcar tunnel
        — New Orleans. No, I don’t know why New Orleans retained a few of its streetcars. Lucky them?

  9. I think you better be very, very careful about the assumptions you make regarding who writes for and comments on this blog. At least from the people I’ve met, it’s more diverse than you give it credit for.

    Plus, as the suburbs become increasingly diverse (maybe even more so than Seattle proper) it’s pretty clear that ST3 will be especially helpful in addressing racial justice as it applies to regional mobility.

  10. “How come all the urbanists I meet are white male college educated professionals?”

    You obviously don’t get out much, at least in regards to STB events and those of its allies. The functions I’ve attended aren’t the caricature that you’ve painted. Racial justice has become a large component of transit planning.

  11. Even the Executive Director at TCC is Shefali Ranganathan, one of the fiercest supporters of rail transit on the planet. Not a man and not white, and all while being the head of a cray-cray urbanist organization.

  12. For christ’s sake, stop the gleeful handwringing, build the parking garages in the suburbs, and charge for monthly parking like everyone else in the developed world does. Light Rail could very easily net 60 million dollars per year off the monthly parking fees from 20,000 parking spots. There is no way to access the light rail from my neighborhood and with the absolutely STUPID lack of concern about access, I have little faith that this will ever improve. The nearest local bus stop is a full mile from my house and it takes nearly an hour to go 7 miles on the bus to the transit center where Lynnwood link will be built. So the local bus is not an option for me now and I sincerely doubt service will markedly improve. And I’m sorry, but I’m not going to bike my small children up hill to school in the rain all winter and then ride 7 more miles to take light rail to downtown Seattle – in a suit. I voted for light rail and I’m a big supporter, but if it does get built before I retire in 15 years, I’ll probably be in my nice warm car listening to podcasts and drinking coffee while I’m stuck in increasingly worsening traffic — instead of riding the train that I and my neighbors are paying for.

    You are getting the public transit you deserve, Seattle. []

  13. That’s seven people out of a sixty-person event. In the rest of the room you would have seen several races, classes, occupations, and genders. You would be surprised who runs STB. Among the commentariat are several bus drivers, which last I checked was a blue-collar job. There are writers from Snohomish County and Kirkland, and I think a couple articles from Tacoma. If it looks like all white male tekkies, it’s because those people are disproportionally interested in transit and urbanism. And to emphasize a general point, good transit and walkability benefits everybody. The poor person in Renton or Kent can get around easier if there’s better regional and local transit, has a wider choice of jobs, and they don’t have to put as much money into their car and can have one car per family. That’s a major financial advantage that will become increasingly clear as ST’s network and Metro’s long-term plan are built out. If you want to see more diversity than STB, check out the Transit Riders’ Union.

  14. In my honest opinion, I’ll be happy to leave Washington when I finish my Associates program here and go for my Bachelors.
    Mind you, I’ll probably face the same issues there as I do here. But I’m just sick and tired of selfish melodrama that spews out of these folks mouths as if they’re doing a good thing for folks. A lot of extremes and not enough moderates in my opinion.

    1. This whole cutting of a useful program approved by voters the legislature is doing is because of the moderates and their need for compromise. The left would have increased funding, and the right would have cut it even further.

  15. I get the concern and support for mass transit projects but why do I never hear one blessed thing about fixing our horrible potholey streets?

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