Northgate Link Extension under construction Image: Lizz Giordano

This afternoon the Senate Law and Justice Committee will hold the first of two hearings for an “investigation” of Sound Transit.

Longtime opponents of light rail, State Senators Steve O’Ban, R-University Place, and Dino Rossi, R-Sammamish, requested the hearings, claiming the transit agency “may have engaged in a systematic effort to confuse and misrepresent the impact and cost of the Sound Transit 3 authorization to legislators and the public.”

After many residents reacted to an increase in car tab fees, O’Ban and Rossi accused Sound Transit of using “unconstitutional MVET” valuations. The Senators also claim Sound Transit misrepresented the total length of the ST3 package, which they say grew to $28 billion in total taxes from the proposed $15 billion.

In response to the Senators, Sound Transit released a memo and corresponding chronology.

According to the memo, “the ST3 authorizing legislation adopted in 2015 clearly and explicitly directed that the increased Sound Transit MVET use the older vehicle depreciation schedule from the 1990s.”

Sound Transit has used this same depreciation schedule for car tab fees since 1999, according to Sound Transit spokesperson Geoff Patrick. A revised MVET valuation was created in 2006 by the legislature, but the new schedule has never been applied to any vehicles in Washington. Prior to the 2016 election where voters approved the ST3 package, Sound Transit provided a cost-calculator on their website for voters to estimate the additional taxes ST3 would bring.

O’Ban previously voted to approve the 2015 bill which authorized the ST3 ballot measure, including the current MVET valuations. Rossi was not in the state legislature at the time of the 2015 vote.

Last legislative session, O’Ban sponsored Senate Bill 5893 to cut car tab fees. The bill passed the Senate but languished in the House. In a letter published in The Seattle Times, O’Ban asserts the transit agency could afford to cut car tab fees, estimating that SB 5893 would leave Sound Transit with “93 percent of the funds approved by ST3.”

However, Patrick said the passage of SB 5893 would result in a much larger loss of revenue which would then also reduce bonding capacity for ST3.

Patrick said the fiscal impact of the bill would have “left a $12 billion hole” in ST3’s financial plan, which could delay projects, pushing out completion dates.

Responding to claims Sound Transit misled voters on the length of ST3, Sound Transit says the $15 billion represented just the amount of new tax revenue that could be generated over 15 years and didn’t include federal funding, fares, bonding and other miscellaneous revenue for projects.

Patrick said that after hearing from residents wanting a more ambitious transit package while shaping the ST3 project list, the Sound Transit Board voted to extend expansion plans to 25 years, which then increased the amount of new tax revenue to $28 billion.

In a guest post, Seattle Subway called the investigation an act of bad faith, “because they are trying to override the will of voters who expect Sound Transit to deliver the light rail promised in ST3.”

The pro-transit group says the Republican senators, desperate to maintain control of the State Senate, want to make car tab fees an issue in an upcoming special election in the 45th district. Republican candidate Jinyoung Lee Englund has made reducing car tab fees a main campaign promise. Democratic candidate Manka Dhingra easily won the primary with 51 percent of the vote to Englund’s 41 percent.

Last Thursday, Rossi declared his intention to run for Rep. Dave Reichert’s (R-Auburn) congressional seat when he retires in 2018.

The first “investigation” work session is scheduled for this afternoon at Kent City Council Chambers (220 Fourth Ave. S) starting at 1 pm. The second work session will be held October 5 at the city of Everett’s Community Resource Center School Board Room (3900 Broadway Avenue) at 1pm.

According to Patrick, he, Ann McNeil (ST’s Director of Government and Community Relations), and General Counsel Desmond Brown have been asked to appear before the committee Tuesday.

55 Replies to “Sound Transit Rebuffs Claims Agency Misled Voters, Senate Investigation Begins Tuesday”

  1. Wouldn’t it be funny if the old mvet valuation we’re strategically inserted into the bill by Republican legislators so that they could accuse Sound Transit of misleading voters if ST3 passed. If so, it’s the Democrats in the legislature who were duped.

    1. Sen. Doug Ericksen tried to bring an amendment to the Senate Floor to change the valuation schedule to the 2006 model, but was blocked by Senate Republican Leadership. They knew what was in there, and they (including O’Ban) voted for it at the time. They’re hypocrites to be mad about it now.

      1. Do know where I can find some evidence of that. Google is coming up short for me. (This would be a useful tidbit in some ongoing arguments I’m having about the sincerity and seriousness of the Republican(& Hasegawa!) attacks on ST.

      2. I don’t know, but it came up in the hearing today. …that the amendment was introduced in committee and failed by voice vote.

      1. Thanks, I donate monthly. I assume this is pooled with other donations and advertising revenue to pay for content creation.

  2. “May” is probably the only four-letter word in the English language that’s short a letter. Anybody with a real case says: “We have evidence that…” And a legislator’s own signature on a bill he’ attacking isn’t evidence in his or her favor. “They lied to me” begs the question: “Do your voters know you believed us?”

    Of course we’re not talking about a trial in a court of law. Nor is this about either a transportation mode or its dollar cost. Or geography or demographics, or politics themselves. It’s about Seattle literally buried in population and and choking on money.

    While outside King County, last mill in more than one town shut down years ago. and everybody forty or younger fled to Seattle. So directly-related to Sound Transit or not, we’ve got to show the constituents of the rest of the State’s legislators that the well-being of the Sound Transit district is also their own. And vice versa.

    Since our biggest brag is our “Knowledge Economy”, we’d best start including the knowledge of how to do useful things that don’t take a geologic era to learn, while living that long in debt. And put part of it in our every opponent’s district.

    But also. Present refugee-wave of skilled middle class people priced out of Seattle, but still working there, will gain hostile legislators thousands of new constituents who won’t mind ST expansion at all. Mean howling for it.’Tis an ill wind that won’t turn a turbine.

    OK, you do a bumper-sticker!

    Mark Dublin

  3. This is infuriating. Republicans have learned that simply investigating (constantly) a politician or organization will eventually erode support and sow distrust in the politician or organization, however baseless the investigations. This is harassment (of ST; of the voters…).

    1. Lot of that going around, Gwed. I think it was yesterday that The Seattle Times had a big spread doing exactly the same thing almost verbatim to the Transportation Choices Coalition. Except that the Coalition has more giant foreign corporations just drooling to get into public transit.

      So I think maybe we can reach a deal with the accusers to ensure that their charges are plain truth by making sure we’ve got all the money they’re accusing us of stealing. Which will then give them enough evidence for ten years’ worth of investigations.

      Which we’ll spend building out a system so big it includes millions of their own taxpayers. Who’ve got other fiscal priorities than anymore investigations, let alone prosecutions. Or even running against. “Guilty-But-Whattaya Gonna Do About It?” is now proving itself most effective plea in US legal history.


  4. AAAAAAND, this is why we need to flip the state Senate. Please make your donation checks payable to Manka Dhingra and Michelle Rylands.

    1. I’m nervous but optimistic about the 45th. Dhingra was up by 10 points in the primary, and the 3rd place (with 7 points) says he’s voting Dhingra. And the primary turnout was most of the way to the expected turnout for the general (i.e. the primary is probably a better estimate for the general election than a typical primary is). I’m looking it up on so, specifically, there were 38k votes in the primary, and 48k votes in the 2014 competitive gen election. Still: it’s just one news story or one population mood change away from going republican. (The 31st district is very likely staying republican, right? I’m no expert on the 31st, but the primary results don’t look promising…plus the republican is an incumbent. Luckily we just need one of the two districts to turn blue…)

      1. The 31st is a mixed bag. For two decades, we had a Democratic state representative, so don’t rule the 31st out as exclusively red. This is the first term that Chris Hurst hasn’t represented us in ages. The republican is technically an incumbant, but one with, to date, less than one year of service. Michelle Rylands has a way of appealing to rural voters. She is a military veteran, married to a military veteran, a gun owner, a former small business owner, a PTA mom, and a union member, all things that people in small towns (Enumclaw, Buckley, South Prairie) hold near and dear. The progressives and liberals in Auburn, which has had a surge in population in recent years, will certainly help too, as they can see how a local progressive voice could help fix things like public education and transportation, and better represent working families. You are right, primary results were not promising. The volunteers from both campaigns hadn’t yet had time to organize, let alone to get out and mobilize voters. Primaries were a referendum on party, not the actual candidates. Most voters didn’t really recognize either candidate, and voted based on D or R. Last year’s challenger against Fortunato (the Republican “incumbant”) ran a very weak campaign that was heavily overshadowed by the presidential campaign. This year, I’ve witnessed that Fortunato has much larger campaign signs (small billboards on plywood, probably painted over “Trump 2016”), but Michelle Rylands has many, many, many more small campaign signs. I hope that this is a sign of what is to come.

        I am cautiously optimistic about the 45th LD. I don’t know it well, but I am hopeful.

        If we can manage to flip both districts, it will be a good thing for our state, especially for public education and mass transit.

        Related, but unrelated, unfortunately, next year, Rossi will be targeting both of these districts when he makes a run for the 8th CD seat vacated by Dave Reichert. Just what we need, one more nut job in D.C.

      2. Given the trend of the district, the primary outcome, and the national mood, an R win there would probably require a major F-up from Dringha or a national-sea change. Neither seem likely.

  5. The taxing levels aren’t a function of the build-out period (15 years, 25 years, X years). They are a function of the bond sale contracts. O’Ban knows this, it’s how Sound Transit has financed projects from the get-go. If a 40-year bond is sold, the board collects the taxes at the prevailing rates for 40 years. A bondholder always will make that demand. The republicans are ignorant about basic financing principles.

    1. What’s the discrepency? The tax rates are capped by the legislature, so the only way to build more is to extend the timeline. That implies raising more bond money, and thus the total cost over the extended timeline. ST does not raise all the bond money at the beginning, it limits itself to spending a limited amount per year to keep its dept:asset ratio low. So I doubt the bonds are long-term although I’m not sure about that. The cost of the bonds — the contracts — depends on the future economic environment they’ll be sold in, which we can’t predict. I don’t see O’Ban saying anything inconsistent with this or am I missing something?

      The biggest problem with his numbers is the idea that you can slash the MVET without causing a shortfall that would defer or cancel projects. That’s like saying you can buy a pizza for $20 and then say oh wait, I’m only going to pay $18. You get a smaller pizza then.

      1. Hi Mike: It’s not building more that would extend the timeline, it is paying more for building what was promised on the original timeline. The bonds are long term — the Nov. 29, 2016 ST3 TIFIA loan bond was 44 years for example, and future boards will be bonding out 30 years. You are referring to the cost of the bonds in terms of the interest costs, but cost of the bonds has a different meaning from the perspective of taxpayers: the amount of taxing required to satisfy the security terms (e.g., for the term of the bonds the taxes must be kept at the max. rates).

        As for your last point, the “lost” revenue if the car tax was reduced could be made up from other sources (grant anticipation notes, fare-backed debt, etc.). The reduction of those car taxes likely wouldn’t be a big deal, but that’s not really relevant at this point . . . that revenue source already is pledged to debt so the board (and the state) couldn’t roll it back now.

      2. The TIFIA financing is not a bond sale. There are three types of financing available from the USDOT under this program: secured/direct loans, loan guarantees and lines of credit. Here are the rules and guidelines for each type of financing instrument:

        Here are the active projects for which Sound Transit is using the TIFIA program:

      3. Hi Tisgwm: The TIFIA loan agreement the board approved 11/29/16 with the feds is secured by a bond to collect the car tax and sales tax at the full ST3 rates for the full 44 year term. You are correct, there was not “bond sale” associated with that loan, but there was a bond (a contractual obligation the board adopted). You can see the resolutions at the special session of the board that day — they’re at the “.org” website under “Board Resolutions.”

      4. Tom C, I took another look at this tonight and you are absolutely right. I read the adopted resolution from Nov 29, 2016 (R2016-36) authorizing the TIFIA MCA and the bonding authority to securitize those loan obligations to USDOT. I only glanced thru the MCA as it’s super long. I didn’t realize this was the financing strategy that ST was continuing to employ. I guess they are forging ahead ($1.99 billion* in TIFIA loans)from the perspective of having already gone this route with the financing for the East Link project and having a high degree of confidence in this strategy.

        I took a look at the latter. The East Link project has a 6-year drawdown as follows:

        2019 $175.9M
        2020 $420.6M
        2021 $397.9M
        2022 $191.0M
        2023 $116.6M
        2024 $27.9M

        For a total of $1.330 billion

        The debt service is 44 years (5/2015-5/2059), as you mentioned in your post, if you include the deferral period. Payments will begin in 11/2028 and run thru 11/2058, for a total amortized cost of $2.371 billion.

        In case you’re interested, here’s the Fitch rating on the TIFIA loan MCA as well as the TIFIA loans for the East Link and Northgate Link projects.

        *Northgate Link $615.3M
        Lynnwood Link $657.9M
        Federal Way Link $629.5M
        OMFE $87.7M

    2. Of course, if you slash the MVET then ST could extend the timeline again to make up for it — if the state doesn’t pass another law prohibiting it from doing so — but at that point the timeline would be so far beyond what was expected that realistically ST would evaluate whether to do that or do something else instead, and that that “something else” means cutting and reordering things.

  6. A few thoughts:

    1) I support the concept of these hearings. But this better be about healing and not about creating more tears from more sore losers.

    2) Average folks cannot testify at these hearings. But we certainly can sit in the audience.

    3) Pathetic there are so few stories about the GREAT work the rank & file of Sound Transit do every day for the folks. Do you ever see a “feel good” news story starring a rank & file Sound Transit employee?

    4) It’s on TVW today starting at 1: . I’m sure “Seattle Transit Fans” on Facebook will have quite the thread..

    1. I wish you were right. Unfortunately, healing wounds has never been the goal of Rossi and senate republicans since the ST3 passage. They came out howling about MVET valuations (disingenuously, as if it were new news, and as if they hadn’t supported it all along as the potential “ST3 poison pill” they are trying to turn it into now). They have been stoking fears and anger, and using misinformation campaigns as the way to do it. This hearing just takes their campaign to the next logical step, with the immediate goal of turning the agency into an enemy for the right, and the ultimate goal of exchanging that for republican legislative wins. What they are doing is very transparent. This is the opposite of healing wounds, and is an affront to all Washingtonians.

      1. Gwed;

        Well let me say that I wish we also saw hearings into Kitsap Transit’s fast ferry fiasco. I don’t like this singling out Sound Transit, but I see why the public is upset. Some of this I blame a mainstream media that is more into sensationalism than education.

        I am willing to give the hearings a chance. I hope it leads to legislative changes we can ALL stand behind.



    2. 1) I support the concept of these hearings. But this better be about healing and not about creating more tears from more sore losers.

      The purpose of these hearings is to damage the reputation of and political support for Sound Transit, full stop. If you don’t support that goal, you have no reason whatsoever to support this charade. “Healing?” Please.

      1. If the truth comes out and we figure out how to depolarize discussions about transit and make the state legislature work better; then these hearings are a good step towards healing. Today was so much technobabble though I wouldn’t worry too much.

        Now if there’s an encore performance by Tim Eyman, you might be onto something. Otherwise, I’m not as cynical as you.

  7. Rossi and company make it out to be an issue about funding, and a hyped up perception that we are being overtaxed. However, it’s completely about their contempt for public transportation. I guarantee you that if (in some sort of alternate reality) you left the mechanisms for funding completely unchanged but converted the infrastructure from transit to freeways, the same frowny-faced R’s would be cheerleading with extreme gusto.

    1. ” a hyped up perception that we are being overtaxed”

      Depends on how you define “we.” For households without much wealth, the combined Sound Transit and Metro taxes are far higher than what that same household would experience year after year in any other part of the country. If by “we” you mean large employers, then yes, the taxing for buses and trains is far lower here than anywhere else.

      1. Couple questions, Tom. Would these lower-income taxpayers be better off if transit didn’t get built? Though they certainly have the right to demand their fair share of the service they’re paying for.

        Also, shouldn’t they have same, or worse complaints about their taxes for streets and highways? Funny that transit opponents, including the Seattle Times, never investigate what MAY be wrong with highway finances.

        But something I’ve wondered since I got here about forty years ago: There is one proven tax that takes account of taxpayer’s individual means. So why do so many of the people who’d benefit most always vote against a progressively graduated income tax?

        Any ideas?


      2. Hi Mark . . .

        Your questions are kinda weird. Most people now in lower income households won’t benefit in any appreciable way from a built-out ST3, and all people in lower income households would be better off if less regressive taxes and more progressive taxes were used for transit, as the peers do. That’s axiomatic — I’m sure you don’t disagree. Taxes for streets and highways here are the motor vehicle fuel tax (and to a lesser extent the state registration tax. The former is (roughly speaking) a user fee — use the highways more by driving more you buy more fuel. Don’t use the roadways? You don’t pay. So no, they don’t have the same complaints with a fuel tax vs. sales taxes/property taxes for transit (neither of which bear any relation to transit use). Why are you bringing up the proposals for a state income tax? Those proceeds weren’t going to be used for transit . . .the proceeds would have gone to the state general fund. Look, do you have any idea how much less regressive taxing for transit the peers do? Around here the transit managers do a terrible job of providing bus and train services in terms of that significant metric.

      3. No, not at all. See for example property and vehicle tax rates in places like Maryland or New Jersey.

      4. BTW the legislature chooses what forms of taxation can fund Sound Transit and Metro. The agencies don’t get to pick. The legislature has provided sale taxes, property taxes, and vehicle license fees. Those “more progressive taxes” don’t exist in Washington State.

        Furthermore the fuel tax is not enough to pay for all road/highway spending in the state. The state supplements the highway budget from the general fund. County and local roads are paid out of the respective jurisdictions general funds (meaning mostly property and sales taxes). So yes, we do pay for roads with regressive taxes.

      5. Chris S, Sound Transit is authorized by the state to collect the following taxes in the ST district:
        — 1.4% sales and use tax
        — 1.1 MVET (this is an excise tax, not a fee)
        — $.25 per $1,000 assessed value property tax
        — .8% rental car contract sales tax
        — An additional 1.372 percent car rental sales tax and $2 employer tax are available to Sound Transit if approved by voters.

        Additionally, Snohomish County pays for road projects thru a segregated fund called, wait for it, the Road Fund, for which us unincorporated county taxpayers pay into quite heavily.

        For illustrative purposes, the SnoCo Annual Report ending Dec 31, 2016 shows the General Fund balance at $29.3 million and the Road Fund balance at $32.6 million.

        By comparison, Sound Transit’s 2016 Financial Plan shows a General Fund balance of $818 million and Total Fund balance of $1.261 billion as of Dec 31, 2015.

      6. Hi Chris: Not sure what you’re referring to re: N.J. and MD — neither of those states imposes any dedicated transit taxes. The local taxing for transit in those states isn’t nearly as heavy, or as regressive, as here.

        Also, Sound Transit has several progressive revenue raising options the board has chosen not to use: an employer tax, grant anticipation notes, fare-revenue backed bonds, bonds secured by LID assessments, etc. Moreover, it never requests different or additional progressive revenue raisers — only sales taxes, car value taxes and property taxes. The latter two operate regressively, as the wealthy households and profitable corporations here could not care less about a couple of hundred bucks in taxes for transit, whereas families of modest means paying somewhat less than that are impacted by it in a significant way.

    2. But total taxes are less because we don’t have an income tax. And things are being undefunded, partly because interpretations of the constitution prohibit an income tax, using the gas tax for rail projects, or property tax going above a cap, and the legislature has not seen fit to replace these blocked funding sources with anything else. There’s also the accumulated backlog in missing transit service, which affects almost the entire country except maybe New York, and which Seattle is one of the few cities addressing in a major way. So we are spending “more” on transit because other cities are letting their transit networks stagnate far below acceptability or need. Also, Washington has no partial state funding of local transit or regional transit unlike most other states, so local taxpayers and fare-payers have to make up the difference. Washington has a few ad-hoc grants for mostly rural and exurban routes, but they aren’t stable long-term operating funds.

      1. If I remember correctly, (current interpretations of) the state constitution prohibit a graduated income tax. A flat income tax would be completely fine.

      2. Hi Mike: For households with little wealth, total taxes ARE MORE because of the heavy, heavy regressive taxing for transit. You are completely backwards!

      3. William, are things like the Standard Deduction and Personal Exemption such as are found in the Federal Tax code allowable under a “flat tax” which would meet State Constitutional standards? Has anyone determined the legality of them?

        If they DO comport with the State Constitution then just make the Personal Exemption somewhere around $25K and go with a flat 15%. Remember that the really rich payers would get 30% to 40% of the 15% back from Uncle Sugar. Having such a high personal exemption would end up making it pretty progressive. A family of four would have to make more than $100K before they were taxed. Even a single person would have $25K before having to pay.

        Waiting for enough sort-of poorish young people to move into the State in order to pass a Constitutional Amendment allowing progressivity seems not to be working. Why let the perfect be the enemy of the good?

        What do you think?

  8. Joe, isn’t it a little early to declare new boats new to these waters a “Fiasco?” Curious about similar experience with these particular craft in other places.


  9. Since this article brings up the subject tangentially, I’ll ask this again. Where is Sound Transit’s 2017 Financial Plan online? This report normally is published annually in June. So what’s the holdup?

  10. “Most people now in lower income households won’t benefit in any appreciable way from a built-out ST3, and all people in lower income households would be better off if less regressive taxes and more progressive taxes were used for transit, as the peers do.”

    Tom C., give me some proof that people with lower incomes won’t benefit a lot more from a complete rapid transit network than any other group? For the first time in their lives they’ll have a chance at both jobs and homes in completely different parts of the region. Without being stuck in car traffic, which costs both money and personal freedom no matter how much of itself it pays for.

    Expenses, incidentally, that gas taxes don’t cover. For a lot of us, it’s been a long time since we could separate car use from highway use if we wanted to. And increasingly don’t. Both are my tickets to a life of employment and enjoyment, each by running where the other one doesn’t. Would like to experiment with one exception, though.

    Years ago, met a Seattle architect named Grant Jones, who created a stretch of highway in Kentucky called “The Paris Pike”. The highway was graded and curved for both maximally efficient, meaning naturally smooth, fuel saving driving.

    He pointed out that Federal highways- created by The National Defense Highway Act, were specifically designed to get troops and artillery to the West Coast. Driving under conditions where comfort and fuel efficiency wouldn’t count.

    What I see happening with automobiles is that eventually, as they always have in five years or so, will pack themselves out of daily life. As naturally as they spread for the last seventy years since World War II. However. there’ll still be a large number of people who really like driving a car, as opposed to being herded in one.

    These people- who might be required to demonstrate skills of rally-driving- would legitimately be charged for the cost of driving that’s become a sport, like golf. So really could be possible for most people to use the kind of travel they most enjoy. One more “given”, however: whole effort requires my own ironclad formula for Affordability.

    Pay workers enough that they can afford what they both need and want, without need to borrow a Consumer dime. Immediately creating excellent conditions for another fiscally beneficially sanitation measure. Which is to send TransUnion and Experian down same pipe as Equifax with a single simple flush. Its years of existence, has really given me a terrific example and incentive for being weird.


    1. Hi Mark:

      Your evangelical zeal for rail shines through. I’ve been watching the Ken Burns film on Viet Nam, and your arguments are analogous to those Kennedy’s advisors made to increase troops and “draw the line” on Communism. They took away a lesson from WWII — dictators must be stopped before they can expand territory and dominoes fall. It was the wrong lesson for Viet Nam. You learned the lesson that “cars=bad, and rail=good” which stems from urban planning ideals of Jane Jacobs. There won’t be the centralized jobs in downtown cores as there were through the end of last century, requiring lots of employees to be at those city center desks. The mass transit model you have in mind as the ideal is how last century’s “war’ was fought — it’s already quaint. Let me guess — you’re 70 or so, right?

      1. Now that’s funny, Tom C.

        Now let me pose this question to you:

        Traffic congestion will be solved in the I-405 corridor with a $10 Billion widening project, of 4 GP lanes.

        The legislature voted in a gas tax increase to help pay for it.

        Why haven’t we seen a ballot measure for that?

        How is it that cars get a free ride on my taxes?

      2. Lower-income people don’t work at desks downtown. They work as janitors and nurses and restaurant and retail workers everywhere on all shifts, and temp workers and freelancers doing whatever they can. Previously they moved to Renton and Kent when they got priced out of Seattle, but now they’re moving to Everett and Tacoma because the housing-price increases have reached south King County and are rising faster than in Seattle to catch up. These are the workers who have to drive or take unreliable buses in unpredictable freeway traffic if we don’t build transit in its own right-of-way.

      3. In case you think “a train to downtown” won’t do them anything, a train downtown is one part of a trip to wherever their job is, which may be First Hill or Ballard or Northgate or Greenwood or West Seattle or the Eastside or Edmonds etc.

  11. Thanks for the intro, Tom. This is gonna be good. Starting with why your last observation really starts this discussion. In 1945, since so many Dads weren’t back from the war yet, compared to a couple of years later, there weren’t very many of us.

    So the lessons we started learning very early came directly from World War II before it was over. With our Dads’ memories and the smell of them fresh in their minds. Very different outlook from the later returnees and their children, only three years later. I’ve always felt I was last of my Dad’s generation. My brothers- first of theirs.

    Vietnam. Domino Theory? Fear of Communism? More like a President scared of being called soft on Communism. And most of all, backed by early IT with those huge tape-reels, convinced that our size and power would win in a real short walk. But at least it wasn’t just a diversion from fraud and bad business deals in Russian New Jersey.

    Why we left? Dead draftees and their parents all vote. C’mon, Donald. Posthumous Congressional to first sponsor of bill reinstating conscription. Because “Low Crawl” is military term for how his colleagues will leave the chambers. Regretting how hard it is to dig a latrine in the carpet without an entrenching tool.

    Lesson about cars and transit? Thousands of kids coming out of a Depression by way of a War, able for first time in human history, to buy a car. And given sheer size of our country, absolutely no reason to not drive it anyplace. And many Former Farmers glad to sell out for homes and malls. Hope or lack of prophetic imagination… take your pick.

    Transit vs cars very short war, if there even was one. Doubt you’ll find any pics of people being taken off streetcars at gunpoint and stuffed into new 1951 Chevvies. I learned to drive on our family car, a giant ten years’ old 1954 Cadillac. No hinges yet, so had to retrain for artic accordions. Poles really should have been there in 1954.

    Loved the car exactly as much as I loved transit at the same time, when so much of it was still alive. So I also think that to many people- another imagination failure – they couldn’t foresee any mortal conflict. Really, car-liferation owed a lot to the number of passengers that the streetcars kept our of the way of traffic.

    My real vision of regional development- which I really think is basic unit of transportation and land use planning- comes from the days when the Interurbans were still alive. Big fast intercity streetcars. Which could safely go right down the main streets of country towns, and then hit 90 on the straightaway.

    Creating organized transit-oriented (well soda fountains can be that!) communities surrounded by woodlands and fields.Which can be interlaced by the kind of highways I mentioned earlier, kept clear by number of people voluntarily riding the trains. Find me an argument against. Because it’ll mean somebody has already tried it lately.

    Now: Great flick just out about Jane Jacobs. Pretty clear that Jane had nothing against cars. Just against finishing the job of the Luftwaffe by destroying New York City. Also, her chief adversary, Commissioner Robert Moses, and his creations had nothing of anybody’s liberator. On this planet at least. His freeways not only destroyed living neighborhoods but got clogged with cars almost immediately.

    We can thank Flash Gordon Gordon for resetting the space-time continuum so we got Donald Trump instead of Robert. See the movie and we’ll have another group discussion.

    BUT: main thing everybody needs to know before it’s too late: Most complicated thing about being 72 is convincing a police officer that: “Well she told me she was 67!”


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