Sen. O’Ban grills Sound Transit Image:TVW

The second day of the Sound Transit investigation, by the Senate Law and Justice Committee, concentrated on the improper disclosure of over 170,000 ORCA cardholders’ email addresses by the transit agency leading up to the ST3 campaign.

Sound Transit doesn’t dispute a mistake did occur when the agency was fulfilling a public records request for Mass Transit Now (MTN), a group that campaigned in support of ST3. But the agency has repeatedly denied the release of the emails was intentional.

Officials for Sound Transit told the committee the mix-up happened because email addresses for ORCA cardholders, which are exempt from public records requests, were co-mingled in the same database with other emails which are not exempt. Email addresses of riders who sign up for alerts or updates from Sound Transit are public information and can be obtained through a records request.

Skeptical the release of the emails was accidental, Senator Steve O’Ban, R-University Place, led the attack claiming Sound Transit improperly participated in the ST3 campaign.

A previous internal investigation done by the law firm MFR Law Group found “no evidence to support a finding of collusion between Sound Transit and MTN or Transportation Choices Coalition (TCC) with regard to the disclosure of email addresses for ORCA customers.”

According to The Seattle Times, the Public Disclosure Commission (PDC) eventually agreed with the internal investigation that a mistake was made and recommended that the Washington Attorney General not take action. Just days before, the PDC had issued a report which concluded Sound Transit had violated state elections and recommended legal action against Sound Transit.

The Attorney General’s office decided against taking action, concluding “no evidence was discovered to support an allegation that Sound Transit staff took action intended to promote or oppose Mass Transit Now or the Sound Transit 3 ballot measure.”

Craig Davison, Executive Director of Communications and External Affairs for Sound Transit, said, appearing before the committee, that after learning of the improper disclosure of the email addresses of ORCA cardholders, the transit agency immediately asked MTN to delete them, which MTN agreed to do.

Davison added that Sound Transit has now separated the two email databases to prevent a similar mistake in the future.

Thursday was the second of two work sessions held after O’Ban and Dino Rossi, R-Sammamish, requested an investigation, claiming Sound Transit misled legislators and the public in the run-up to the ST3 ballot measure.

Peter Rogoff, CEO of Sound Transit, has called these assertions “baseless.”

The first session centered on the claims by O’Ban and Rossi that the bill language for ST3 was unconstitutionally drafted and Sound Transit deceived legislators on the size of the final ST3 package.

“I thought it was a huge waste of everyone’s time and inappropriate use of resources,” said Sen. Jamie Pedersen, D-Seattle, the ranking minority member of the Law and Justice committee, about the two-day investigation.

Pedersen said voters were well aware of the size of the $54 billion transit package.

“Everyone from The Seattle Times and on down was saying that the package was too big,” Pedersen said. “But that’s what the voters decided.”

During the second session Thursday, O’Ban continued his probe into the motor vehicle excise tax schedule saying he has received over 1,000 emails from angry constituents complaining about the increase in car tab fees.

Pedersen told STB his office had received fewer than five complaints from residents about the increase in the MVET, but has “hundreds from people upset about the attack on Sound Transit.”

Pedersen says nothing happens next in the investigation, but hopes that, after the November 7 election, control of the Senate changes with the election of Democrat Manka Dhingra in the 45th District.

67 Replies to “Republicans Continue Crusade Against Sound Transit”

  1. The Everett Herald scorched the senate Republicans yesterday.

    On the car tab tax, lawmakers opposed to the valuation method weren’t duped so much as they were dozing during the 2016 legislative session. Sen Doug Erickson, R-Ferndale, offered an amendment that would have swapped out the older depreciation schedule for a different one. But the amendment was rejected.

    Wouldn’t you agree, senators?

  2. Excuse my language, but this is all [AH]. I am no fan of Sound Transit — quite the opposite. I think their campaign was deceptive, and their leadership is incompetent or corrupt, but the Republican criticism is just pure [AH].

    To begin with, everyone knew that the car tab tax was going to go up. It was a big part of the debate. At the same time, no one knew exactly by how much, because no one knows what the rate is now. It isn’t like the sales tax, where you can do the math in your head. With a car tab tax, you have to figure out the value of the car, and then apply the rate. It is complicated, but there was an easy to use website to determine the number! ST never tried to hide the fact that this was going to be a big tax, and if you really wanted to know how much, you could find out in a couple minutes.

    Likewise, everyone is well aware that this was a huge package. Again, this was the focal point of the opposition. It even became national news in transit circles (Wow, Seattle is going to spend how much on transit? For that?). The huge price tag became the centerpiece of the opposition, even for those who normally love spending money on transit. Huge projects should have huge results, is one of the phrases I heard.

    There are plenty of questions I would love to ask Sound Transit. But none of them are being asked by the Republicans, because they, of course, don’t know squat about transit.

    1. Actually, anyone CAN do the math in their head, or with a pencil and paper — multiply your 2016 car-tax bill for Sound Transit (RTA) by 8/3 to get the increase for ST3 in 2017. We told people how to do that, in the newspaper, and supplied a calculator in or alongside five articles. To get really precise, take your figure and multiply by .93, which might require a calculator. Sound Transit and the opponents posted calculators that were almost as accurate.

    2. [AH] must be short for profanity (I guess). I guess I should have written bullsh**. Sorry about that (I’m used to commenting on the Stranger, where even their writers curse).

      1. It’s short for ad hominem, which means pertaining to or directed at a person, rather than their position, so I’m not sure why STB moderation uses it for profanity. Maybe my comment will be tagged as [OT]…

      2. Nope, for some reason STB is running scared. No politics need apply, except when Martin gets smart-alecky on the podcasts.

        Maybe O’Ban is investigating?

  3. Ross, my State representatives are Laurie Dolan and Beth Doglio, 22nd Legislative District, both Democrats.

    If I either one were to ask me for the worst criticism of Sound Transit I’ve ever been given by someone I know to be knowledgeable about the system….What would I tell them?

    Mark Dublin

    1. Good question Mark. In a nutshell it is this: Lack of research.

      Imagine you are trying to improve a transit system. You have been told that you have a large amount of money to spend (billions of dollars). The money has to be spent in proportion to each area. So even if you want to, you can’t spend it all in Seattle. So, within the constraints of subarea equity, and with the potential of spending billions of dollars on transit, what do you do?

      If it was me, I would study the hell out of it. Fixed rail is not like software. It is a measure twice, cut once proposition. Make a mistake, and you live with it for years. With that in mind, I would study every alternative under the sun. I would hire firms to get a second, and third opinion. Then I would run the data, and make sure that each agency agreed with the findings. I would compare each set of proposals on a metric that has been used for a while, which is overall time saved per dollar spent. Notice this metric is not just ridership, but has ridership built into it. If only a handful save a lot of time, then it isn’t as good as if lots of people save a lot of time. In my opinion, this is a good metric, and certainly a good starting point when comparing different projects.

      You would also assume cooperation by the relevant agency (e. g. Metro). This means that you have to cooperate with Metro, and figure out how they would restructure to achieve those goals. All of this is complicated, but it is how you do it. For example, you assume that if ST built a station at NE 130th, Metro would (of course) run a bus there.

      You then get a list of proposals that are all at least in the ballpark of each other. At that point, you have to choose. Some might like project A over project B, and even have the data to support it, but at least both projects are decent projects.

      None of that happened with ST3. Quite the opposite. For example:

      1) Kirkland hired their own transit consultant to look at the CKC. They recommended BRT. ST hated that idea, because they wanted rail. Eventually they punted, and now Kirkland has a line from South Kirkland to Bellevue and on to Issaquah. I am quite confident that if you put money into bus improvements that it would be a better value. Fix various ramps, add bus lanes, connect 520 to Husky Stadium and it would be a better value. My guess is if you just put money into extra bus service (e. g. all day service from Totem Lake directly to the UW) it would be a better value. But again, none of that was studied. When there was an independent study, put out by a firm hired by Kirkland, their recommendations were ignored.

      2) The spine. No alternatives to the spine were ever studied. It was assumed that the spine was the best possible way to improve transit in the region, with no evidence to support this dubious idea.

      3) West Seattle rail. Despite a grass roots effort to build a second bus tunnel, and an article in the newspaper mentioning it, the idea was never studied. Oh, ST did study “BRT”, but it was for a surface option (running a bus on downtown streets). They assumed that the bus would be substantially slower than a train, and then noticed that the ridership would be lower. Of course it would! It is slow, because you didn’t build a tunnel for it.

      4) No one studied a Metro 8 subway (or anything similar) to see if it would be a better value than a West Seattle subway.

      Those are just the most obvious examples. Sound Transit only studies things when they have pretty much decided what they want to build. The end result is very little bang for the buck. We are spending a huge amount of money, but not getting the kind of system we need. I can argue all day that we should build something better (like what Vancouver has) but my larger point is that we should study it first. The process is broken, and we are getting poor results because of it.

      1. Ross,

        You know very well that the ideal rail system for the Puget Sound region is impossible given sub-area equity plus the limitations on taxation that the legislature imposes. Olympia has essentially mandated that a “political” system must be the result of the process, rather than an efficient one service the dense core.

        Live with it or see no improvements other than more freeways. Those are your choices.

      2. You know very well that the ideal rail system for the Puget Sound region is impossible given sub-area equity plus the limitations on taxation that the legislature imposes.

        Nonsense, and I have the study to prove it! :)

        Seriously, did you even read my post? Again, I’m not saying I know how to build the ideal transit system for the region. I’m saying that it is highly unlikely that we built the right thing, because there is absolutely no science to support it.

        Subarea equity had nothing to do with it.

        You want my “ideal transit system” for ST3? Sure, I’ll take a stab at it. Remember, we already have ST2 projects, which means rail from Lynnwood to Federal Way, and over to Bellevue. Here goes:

        North Subarea — Bus based improvements. Lots of new bus lanes (some on freeways) along with lots of new bus service.

        East Subarea — Extend East Link to Redmond, and build lots of bus based improvements. Connecting 520 to Husky Station is obviously high priority.

        South Subarea — Create a nice terminus for Link next to the freeway (so that buses can serve it and then continue north). This would enable connections from the south end to SeaTac and Rainier Valley. Build various bus improvements, such as a connection from the I-5 express lanes to the SoDo busway. Add Sounder trips.

        Seattle Subarea — WSTT and Ballard to UW subway. Also fix up the West Seattle Bridge and Spokane Street Viaduct so that buses never get congested on their way to the downtown tunnel. Do the same for Ballard.

        It really isn’t that difficult. Build a nice, urban subway in the city, and add a lot of good connecting bus service (and commuter rail, where possible) in the suburbs. It likely would have have better for everyone. It would have been a system that did not perpetuate the myth that rail is always better than bus service, or that every remote neighborhood in the suburbs should have a subway stop. Maybe it wouldn’t be what I sketched out, but I seriously doubt it would be what we passed, because it would be based on science, not bullsh**.

      3. Ross,

        Yes, we know exactly what you think would be the ideal transit system for the Central Puget Sound Region. And it might even be the ideal transit system for the Central Puget Sound Region.

        But it would have had zero-point-ten zeroes followed by a three percent chance of passing an electorate that either hates transit as a principle or loves transit but hates buses that sit in traffic.

        And they WOULD sit in traffic because you would have an equally infinitesimal possibility of getting bus priority anywhere but inside Seattle, and not much more of it here.

        And finally, QUIT IT about that stupid Ballard-UW subway. You want to replace an every ten minute trolley line with a three billion dollar subway. If THAT isn’t a giant waste of money, I don’t know what is. It’s the Central City Connector you hate so passionately on steroids, that’s for sure.

        It is no replacement whatever for the Green Line to Ballard regardless what you believe. A whole lot more people want to go from Ballard to downtown Seattle that want to go to UW. And even more want to come from somewhere else to South Lake Union, broadly defined.

        The Green Line as envisioned by ST serves the two larger trip pairs while Ballard-UW would serve neither of those trips well. For most people in Ballard it wouldn’t be a two-seat ride with one change of level as will the Green Line require, it would be a three seat ride with two changes of level if ST can figure out how to make a rational interchange at U-District. In the worst of all possible world (e.g. Ballard-UW is an elevated), it would be three seats and four levels of change. People would ignore it by the droves.

    2. Excellent question. The transit-fan community probably needs to focus more on articulating to legislators — and also to local government officials and the public — what the most fundamental problems are and how we should address them. We do a lot of work on details and individual alignments and we implicitly have a general reasoning behind it, but people who don’t follow transit closely may see only the details and the general reasoning gets lost — not effectively articulated, not understood. Maybe we need a “Pugetopolis Human Transit” and a “Washington Human Transit” — not necessarily a book, but something.

      RossB has some good points about research, but I’d say it also goes beyond that to priorities and goals. And it also goes beyond ST to the state, cities, counties, and residents. The question is, why is research lacking? Then, what is an excellent transit-system process, what are we missing, and how do we get from here to there?

      For an excellent model I’d posit Vancouver and Germany. They prioritize transit, get transit experts to say what’s needed for the specific population/geography/trip patterns, and then just build it without putting barriers in the way. (Barriers = deprioritization.) So if we want a network like that, we’d have to do what they do. That means changes all the way down from the state’s priorities/budgets/tax suthority delegation/process authority delegation, to Sound Transit’s priorities, local-government’s priorities, and public’s priorities. Somebody would have to successfully articulate a vision that all these levels would adopt, and the public would have to discard some counterproductive priorities they’re tenacious about: parking, taxes, expectations of car-scaled everywhere. Who can lead this? Nobody has been found yet. Expecting the ST chairman or CEO to lead it is perhaps too much, unrealistic, and hindered by the political environment ST is in. Other countries can do a top-down approach, but our political structure doesn’t allow that. (Why is Shoreline a separate city? Because after the 1950s we valued small autonomous units, which lets the tail wag the dog. I’m not picking on Shoreline specifically; just making a general point about suburbs.)

      Another way of looking at it is, the state has handcuffed the counties/cities/ST on their options, and the public and cities have unrealistic expectations about cars, highway lanes, parking, and what a particular transit alignment and stations means for the non-driving passengers who use it. Almost all of ST’s questionable decisions derive from this. The public and cities — who are in ultimate control of ST — say they want a transit-best-practices network but they really don’t, they want something else, and they pressure ST to deliver it, and ST does. For instance, they want 10-minute frequent, grade-separated transit to Everett and Tacoma. Why? So that the 400.000-800,000 people in the area can get to Seattle and Bellevue and other places without being stuck in traffic or waiting for Sounder. (And the alternative of the state buying the BNSF track and facilitating half-hourly Sounder like Caltrain has never gotten proper consideration. ST doesn’t have the money for that, especially when it has to raise a specific amount of taxes before it negotiates the price with BNSF.)

      So the answer to your legislator is, research and priorities. And the “priorities” part implicates the state too: it’s part of the problem and could be part of the solution. Getting all-day transit between Pugetopolis and Olympia would be a great start. And a way for the bulk of the population to democratically engage with their government.

      How much does ST look at international networks? Seattle’s TMP and Metro’s long-range plan cite examples of light rail, streetcars, and BRT in Europe, but I don’t remember any from ST. Maybe there are, but it seems like ST has less than them. Of course, Europe has different land use which makes their transit more successful, but you have to start somewhere. Just making Link lines and bus lines “more like” European ones would substantially help.

      Metro didn’t have an effective long-range plan in the 90s; instead it was ruled by the council’s short-term interests. And in the 00’s with anti-tax initiatives and the recession, it lost any long-range planning at all. It finally got back on its feet in 2015 and made plans which are better than any previous ones. And Community Transit and Bellevue and some others did likewise. So we’re getting there but really late, and too late for the ST1 and ST2 alignment/station decisions. ST didn’t count potential upzones in ridership estimates because it couldn’t: federal grant requrements allow only upzones approved or close to approval to be considered, not speculations. The same thing probably applies to bus routes. Now Metro has a long-range plan to serve 130th and others, but in 1996 and 2008 it didn’t;. I’d say the biggest issue between ST-Metro cooperation is not lack of will, but the time it takes to get routes proposed and approved, and Metro’s limited budget. Of course, ST could do better with on-street bus stops at 145th and TIB.

      The issues of Kirkland BRT, 520 station, and a Metro 8 subway I’ll just leave as RossB’s viewpoint. I’m not entirely convinced of them, but they should be part of the discussion of priorities. Metro 8 makes the most sense, and I’m puzzled that ST won’t even acknowledge it as a possibility, but the blame goes to Seattle too because Seattle has never acknowledged it either (or the gondola alternative), and if Seattle endorsed it then ST would pay attention.

  4. A lot to say. Here goes:

    1) This is NOT some “Crusade Against Sound Transit”. That is just a sensationalist headline. Some of the questions asked are questions I would be asking, and it is no secret where I stand in supporting the mission of Sound Transit PLUS the rank & file of Sound Transit.

    2) Many photos from the event are up at [OT]

    3) As to the car tabs, I think we need a depreciation schedule that reflects close to Blue Book but is not dependent on Blue Book because if so, Sound Transit loses its bonding authority. Which is what Dino Rossi wants – and I listen to the guy talk.

    4) As to the ORCA e-mail leak incident…. I do NOT think it was a conspiracy nor an attempt to influence the outcome of ST3 in an underhanded way. NO, I think layers of incompetence by both Sound Transit employees and one, maybe two Mass Transit Now employees have led to a situation that may or may not be concluded. It is my understanding this happened because the GovDelivery systems for ORCA & Sound Transit were blended, a Mass Transit Now senior employee asked for the Sound Transit e-mail list not recognizing her request may or may not have violated RCW 42.17A.555, and Sound Transit employees did not have the guts/gall/gumption (take your pick) to demand a court order to hand over customer information. The whole thing stinks and shouldn’t have happened.

    I think something close to the truth dribbled out last Thursday. I’m relieved something very close to an apology dribbled out of a Sound Transit employee’s mouth. I think the whole incident reflects poorly on many involved individuals and I’m going to stop there.

    5) As I’ve said in an open thread, I think some of the folks giving testimony really were wasting valuable time. Tim Eyman, Maggie Firmia and the ETA guy all of whom really made a bit ashamed I defended these hearings as a source of truth-finding and healing. More value would have came from having “human in the street” comments than those three. My thoughts on #4 notwithstanding.

    6) There will be a majority report issued by the Committee and requests for further investigation soon. Wait for it…

    1. “a Mass Transit Now senior employee asked for the Sound Transit e-mail list not recognizing her request may or may not have violated RCW 42.17A.555”

      That’s not correct. The request was an appropriate and legal request for the disclosable emails.

      “I think the whole incident reflects poorly on many involved individuals”

      Yup, primarily those who sought to criminalize what was obviously an inadvertent error.

      1. Dan,

        I don’t think it’s appropriate to be asking for this kind of information in the first place and as to legal, I’ve asked the former state gov’t ombudsman currently serving this committee to look into the propriety of that RCW I cited. A RCW I know the State Board of Health cites in public records requests – and yes, I request public records regularly including an employee directory last year. I didn’t cook this RCW citation up.

        The blog management’s defensiveness here and in other places may have some noble intentions but I have to say with respect, it does intimidate some very pro-transit people who are critical of Sound Transit policies and the execution of those policies. It also as I’ve mentioned in other forums raised suspicions. Those may not be your intentions, but I hope STB management understand that’s how they’re coming across.

        I think you should have said, “Yup, it reflects poorly that Sound Transit prioritized finances over security and create a process intended to fail in providing proper privacy rights – and an unseasoned campaign senior employee trigger a political earthquake. But Joe, thanks for admitting Sound Transit cleaned up the aftermath and is trying to apologize.”

        A long time ago in Canada, I was taught – and a poor student, I might add – of an adage called “life of its own”. That’s what we have here.

        [OT: comment policy discussion]

        With great respect for past contributions;


      2. Joe,

        You seem to be singing a different song about STB than you did on March 9 of this year when you wrote the following on Mariya Frost’s FB page:

        1) I have lost a large % of my respect for certain transit advocacy persons and blogs in the past few weeks. I have offered the Seattle Transit Blog Editorial Staff a chance to embed with me to the Skagit Transit Community Advisory Committee next Tuesday and if there are any takers next Wednesday’s Skagit Transit Board Meeting to see why I want elected transit boards (like transit advocates “care very loudly” (thanks Badassuchi) about making transit work. [emphasis added]

        2) I left a note with Senator Steven O’Ban’s office yesterday with my e-mail asking for a face-to-face meeting with the Senator to work on improving SB 5001. There is also a car museum near his district I’d like to visit too.

        3) Finally I asked Rep. Melanie Stambaugh to please see about making all transit boards elected. Depends if the bill title could allow such an amendment… we’ll see folks.

        I know she’s beautiful but don’t let your balls run your brain.

  5. BTW, Ross, mentioned reps instead of my State senator, Sam Hunt because I’ve recently talked with them, and plan to do so again shortly about getting Sounder to Olympia.

    Know I’m risking a [WTFNC]-[Who the FOX NEWS Cares?]- warning about references. But this is Witch-Hunt [ON TOPIC] for STB because there were PCC Streetcars and Electroliners during America’s last one.

    I probably rode downtown on the ‘El the day my Dad’s best friend lost his job because somebody said he was a Communist. Like all the other liberal Democrats, moderate Republicans, and President Eisenhower.

    Usually called “The McCarthy Era, after Senator Joseph McCarthy. House side: The House UnAmerican Activities Committee.

    Witnesses were often asked, and got jail time for contempt for refusing to answer: “Are you now or have you ever been a member of the Communist Party?”

    So I’ll plead guilty to being a member of the Transportation Choices Coalition if Senate Republicans will answer the following question under oath:

    “Who thought up the idea of fining ORCA monthly pass-holders $124 for wrong number of ‘taps’ on a fare-card reader….Sound Transit or you?” Which will make them eat their livers because somebody found out it wasn’t them.

    Then I’ll tell them what you think is wrong with Sound Transit, but I won’t name your name. We’re safe. Western State is full. And the warden at Walla Walla is early-releasing murderers so he’ll have room for the whole Washington State Legislature if they don’t fund education like the judge said.


    1. The $124 fine is because that’s the minimum the courts will register and enforce; otherwise it’s not worth the court’s time and expense. So getting a lower fine requires getting a different legal process to go along with it. The legislators could do something about setting up such a process.

      1. How about we keep the justice system out of anything to do with anything a passenger does except for slash seats and steal fares?

        Can anybody name me one fare-related thing that deserves any court fine at all except boarding without paying for it? Especially when the accused is carrying a pass acknowledging that they’ve already paid for every mile they could conceivably ride?

        And don’t get cent one back if they don’t take any of them? Meantime, here’s easy cost-free measure that leave’s the District Court docket empty: Wrong number of taps? Which Fare Inspector can check ten taps back.

        “OK, you’re good to go. But it’s really helpful to LINK to get this information, ok? Meantime, thanks for riding.” Problem FOXNEWSING solved. Really would like to find out how Senator O’Ban thinks about this.

        Probably glad the liberals are seeing the light and prosecuting people. But unable to resist something else to investigate. Another reason this particular policy is unwise:

        Not only are we going to give people an excellent reason for seeing to it our ORCA ad money is wasted. But we’re going to have people outraged at Sound Transit who don’t care about car-tabs because they gave up their cars to ride LINK.

        I drive through University Place on my way to Tacoma Dome Station. Should probably drop in on the Senator and ask him.



    2. You can’t have “Sounder to Olympia”. You might get “Sounder to Lacey” (the eastern edge at that) but there is no way in Hell that Lacey is going to allow its beautiful new Pacific Avenue with roundabouts to become a rail right of way again. And going around via East Olympia is a non-starter though it certainly would offer abundant opportunities for park-n-rides…..

      Step at a time, Mark. Get your legislators to demand and fund a new northbound transit-only shoulder lane from the east end of the Nisqually Bridge to the weigh station and some sort of short cut into the off-ramp loop from there for buses headed to the Dupont Sounder station. Westbound from Dupont is rarely a problem because the four-to-three at Thorne Lane is an effective bottleneck.

      Which brings up a potential problem: where is the Dupont Station going to be placed? Will it be between the Center Drive southbound off-ramp and the rail tracks? If so, access is going to be terrible!

    3. Yes, the point is to have some kind of hourly or half-hourly transit to Olympia including evenings and weekends. IT and PT have the skeleton for such a service but the span is too limited and the transfers too uncoordinated to be useful for many trips. At one point IT had all-day hourly service but last I looked it was peak-only. Congestion is a separate issue, but let’s at least get ST, IT, or PT buses in there until we can get a better solution. I’m less concerned whether Sounder goes to downtown Olympia or transfers to a timed shuttle at Lacey. but the point is to have something between Tacoma Dome/Lakewood and Olympia that runs as much as ST Express does.

      1. Right, Mike. Hourly buses for now and half-hourly as soon as someone can figure out how to pay for them until Olympia becomes at least as big as Everett (a bit more than twice as big as it is now). Then perhaps Sounder service would be appropriate.

      2. Oh, a caveat. The buses obviously will have to go to Lakewood during the middle of the day and in the evening and that means they’ll experience at least some of the frequent Fort-related congestion delays. But during the peak hours they should go only to Dupont. The advantage in the morning — and for out-of-peak buses in the evening headed back to Dupont given by a red shoulder lane will be a significant advantage northbound.

      3. I almost said hourly but then I thought I have to take a stand for half-hourly service in populated areas, especially on a regional route. Hourly service really only belongs in rural areas like Skagit County and Vashon Island, where people are explicitly moving to a slower pace of life.

        As to Lakewood or Dupont, I think Intercity Transit mostly favored Tacoma Dome because the 594 has such an indirect slow route between there and Lakewood, and Sounder is irrelevant when it’s not running. But IT keeps changing the schedule: now I look at it and it says buses to Seattle transfer at the 512 P&R. And midday and weekend service is back. Every 90 minutes between 9am and 3pm. Weekends it’s every 60-90 minutes between 9am and 7pm. But travel time has gotten worse. Instead of 2 hours it’s now 2 1/2 hours. That may be because of transferring in Lakewood, since the transfer time is not as bad as before, 15-20 minutes.Of course, that’s the minimum amount of padding you need to handle late buses stuck in traffic. Did somebody mention red lanes? Please?

      4. Forgot about Dupont. What off-peak ST service is there to Dupont? What would an IT bus connect to?

      5. Mike,

        I mentioned a northbound (physically east of course) Red Lane which is possibly achievable: from the east end of the Nisqually Bridge up the hill to the weigh station and on to the Center Blvd off-ramp. You don’t need to worry about a southbound red lane; the four-to-three acts as a throttle back at Thorne Lane.

        When Sounder gets to Dupont such a lane would make commuting from Olympia to Tacoma or even Seattle much easier. But of course it won’t help the middle-of-the-day problems.

        Unless Sounder runs DMU’s to Dupont off-peak Olympia is going to be off-limits to quality transit until the Fort improvement to the freeway is completed. We can at least hope that HOV lanes will be included in them.

      6. Mike,

        Running ST buses to Dupont is no better service-wise than running IT buses into Tacoma or at least Lakewood.

        If there will be HOV lanes on the newly rebuilt freeway through the Fort, buses will be fine. But absent that and with no mid-day Sounder to Dupont, they’re hopeless. There are simply no alternative routes. So they sit when the cars do.

  6. An unfortunate aspect of this is that VERY pro-transit folks (like myself, Ross and many other readers here) who think ST sucks and are rightly critical about its myriad failings get lumped together with the conservative, anti-tax crowd. That crowd is louder and gets more ink than the “concerned about quality” crowd, and the net is that our viewpoint gets lost on the wash. The knee jerk reaction of the median pro-transit voter is to close ranks around ST and support transit, which makes it even harder to pull ST in the right direction.

    I don’t know what else to do except continue to micturate into the wind and hope our collective standards for what passes as good transit projects continues to inch forward.

    1. Your views are one reason why I support electing transit boards. This way, we’d have diverse views around that Board and NOT the potted plants and a few overachievers we have now.

      There are some of us who are very supportive of [OT] the mission who have serious issues with the management & how that mission is being carried out. We’re not having the debates we need to have in this unhealthy climate of fear & paranoia.

      Especially when we need more transit riders to speak up and be heard…

    2. You may have noticed there are plenty of posts here criticizing the minutiae of ST’s capital plans and operations.

      And that certain people who opposed ST3, said they were pro-transit, and promised they would stick around to keep advocating for better transit, have disappeared back into the woodworks, or joined in trying to defund ST. We know who they are.

      ST put out objective, reasonably accurate information, and ST3’s supporters ran an honest campaign. The main opposition groups ran ridiculously dishonest campaigns, starting with pretending to be something they weren’t.

      1. “Certain people who opposed ST3, said they were pro-transit, and promised they would stick around to keep advocating for better transit, have disappeared back into the woodwork, or joined in trying to defund ST. We know who they are.”

        Truth. We know who they are and for one of them to say they were a leading countrywide transit advocate in the presence of Shefali was like Rams’ safety John Johnson III saying in the presence of Seahawks’ Earl Thomas III, “I’m the best safety in the game.” I said out loud something stupid like “bulls–t” if I recall.

        At least John Niles is fighting the good fight for automated transit. Wait for the book…

    3. You’re both right but talking past each other. We have detailed balanced criticisms of ST and diverse viewpoints, but most of the public doesn’t even see it. They see what the mass media, interest groups, and politicians say. And most of the mass media has a pro-highway-and-parking, tax-minimalist viewpoint. You see it in the Seattle Times headlines and editorial page. An issue of transit levels becomes an issue of primarily taxes in the headline and first couple paragraphs of the article, then it the second half it mentions the other aspects STB focuses on in one passing sentence.

      I don’t have an answer for huskytbone, but this pro-car, tax-minimalist viewpoint has been predominent for a long time; it’s nothing new. I don’t know how you can articulate technical criticisms of ST without being heard as another reason to blow up ST — that has more to do with the listeners than with you, how they interpret things. Here we understand the technical merits of the suggestions, and ST staff and politicians do to varying extents, but in the broad public it gets interpreted differently, and the primary factor as I said above is their priorities and expectations. They interpret it as something that they understand and fits their values. Perhaps the best you can do is just to articulate the difference between what ST is doing and what you want, and leave it at that, since changing the larger picture depends on when they’re ready to change, when they’re open to a new paradigm, and that again has more to do with them than you.

      1. Bezos should buy the Seattle Times. He may be a Libertarian, but he’s at least pro-transit. I don’t know how he squares that circle, but hey, he’s generally an ally.

    4. I would argue that there is plenty of solid, constructive criticism of ST from major STB contributors and on down when it comes to the planning and operational aspects of creating an effective light rail system. With respect to your issue, my perception is that there seems to be a small crowd of otherwise pro-transit people here who cannot seem to get over the fact that ST3 passed by a decent margin, and trying to re-litigate their case against it tends to put them in the same camp as the anti-transit crowd, regardless of motivation.

      1. You mean when there’s a more complete turnout, when the electorate is more representative of the public. The problem is not timing a proposal for a presidential election; the problem is that liberals don’t vote in non-presidential elections while conservatives and especially right-wingers vote in all elections, and that skews the results. The ultimate solution is to increase the turnout to an internationally-standard level (or compulsary voting like Australia has), but in the meantime it’s reasonable to time more socially-oriented proposals to when liberals turn out to vote.

      2. “The problem is not timing a proposal for a presidential election;…”

        I doubt ST would agree with you on that. They clearly have made the timing part of their strategy for passage of the pending transit ballot measure. Increasing the budget for “advertising and promotion media” to $2.1 million for 2016 (28% increase for 2016 followed by a 33% decrease for 2017) was also part of that strategy.

      3. ST had a big party for the opening of U-Link, which was a yuge event, and is the proper way to roll out service at major transit stations.

        At the behest of Maggi Fimia et al (who, oddly, don’t seem to be involved in the work on I-405 BRT after claiming to be big fans of BRT), ST got Alaska Airlines to sponsor the much smaller party for the opening of Angle Lake Station.

        There were no such major openings in 2017, so no events on which to spend that kind of money.

        There was also a huge party for the opening of Central Link, but ST2 had already been voted on the previous year. There was also a huge party for groundbreaking at Capitol Hill Station the following year. The community came out for it. Both parties were money well spent, signaling to politicians and neighborhood leaders they needed to get out of the way of U-Link construction.

        That the advertising budget dropped only 33% in 2017 is unexpected.

      4. “The problem is not timing a proposal for a presidential election;…”

        “I doubt ST would agree with you on that. They clearly have made the timing part of their strategy for passage of the pending transit ballot measure.”

        That’s what I said. They did time it for an election year. You’re saying that’s sneaky. I’m saying that a higher turnout better reflects the will of the public. The fault is the people who don’t vote in non-presidential elections, but as long as that situation exists it makes sense to time important proposals to presidential elections.

      5. Look at the flip side, when an anti-tax or right-wing group puts a measure on on a primary or special-election ballot knowing that their people will definitely vote but hardly anyone else will, or in the summer when a lot of people are out of town. That’s sneaky. It’s also how we got CenturyLink field when we had a perfectly fine Kingdome.

    5. VERY pro-transit folks (like myself, Ross and many other readers here) who think ST sucks and are rightly critical about its myriad failings get lumped together with the conservative, anti-tax crowd

      Exactly, and it’s not only that. You provide them with tecchy ammunition about Sound Transit’s failings.

      No, they don’t give a tinker’s damn about the quality of what ST builds. They don’t want them to build anything except more freeway lanes. And they’ll “let” our buses ride in the GP lanes alongside the azzoles who cut the buses off because they know the buses’ professional drivers can’t afford any kind of accidents.

      So go ahead and spew your anti-ST quality objections. You’ll watch them show up at Republican-dominated “hearings” on the progress of the system, parroted by people who only want to wreck the urban future of Seattle.

  7. Translation:

    “People are supposed to enjoy lower taxes and terrible infrastructure. We need to investigate why they didn’t vote that way.”

    1. Yes. It’s really amazing that people have evolved to the viewpoint that bad infrastructure is normal and improving it is too socialist and undesirable. In the 1950s when the freeways were designed, people assumed that the existing level of trains and buses would continue to run, and most people would continue to work downtown. But then it disappeared and nothing took its place, and that’s supposed to be normal.

  8. So is it a “crusade” or a “witch hunt”? Lol.
    Enough with the inflammatory headlines. These were my impressions watching the second work session held in Everett last week.

    (I had posted the following in response to this subject matter getting a spot in last week’s news roundup entries.)

    I just finished watching the WA State Senate Law and Justice Committee work session held in Everett on Thursday afternoon. Wow. Sound Transit staff did not perform well at all.

    Craig Davison, ST Communications Director
    Grade: D

    He came across as evasive and lacking in integrity. He couldn’t recall knowing of the Mass Transit Now campaign even though he later admitted to donating to it when prompted by the committee chair. His whole testimony had an Alberto Gonzales feel to it.

    Geoff Patrick, ST Media Relations and Public Information Officer
    Grade: C

    While Mr. Patrick fared modestly better than his ST colleague under questioning from the committee, he too was evasive at times and gave inaccurate testimony. He said he couldn’t recall what he had donated to the Mass Transit Now campaign and had to be reminded by the committee. No less than three times he referred to the ST3 proposal’s MVET provision having the tax go from .3% to. 8% (instead of correctly stating 1.1%). He also couldn’t accurately describe how ST’s online calculator worked with regard to the MVET portion. (It requires one to enter the 2016 RTA tax shown on one’s registration renewal and not the value as Mr. Patrick testified.)

    The Democratic members of the committee attempted to throw out a few lifelines to these two ST staff members giving testimony but it was very ineffective as a whole. For example, Mr. Pedersen attempted to make an analogy about the MVET depreciation schedule issue and property tax assessments that was rather silly as the analogy missed on several points (property tax assessments are indeed intended to reflect 100% of market value under state law and there is also an appeal process [BOE] in place that doesn’t exist in the MVET realm).

  9. One comment I will make, is that aside from the usual anti-tax, pro-highway crowd the rest of this charge seems to be lead by Pierce County. No one will admit this, but Sound Transit really has a problem in Pierce County. Its not just the demographics of the county (for which I blame JBLM, however it is a major employer and revenue source when they go off base), its the service distribution. Steve O’Ban represents University Place, Firscrest, Steilacoom, Dupont, JBLM, and some parts of Spanaway/Elk Plain. Virtually his entire district is within the RTA, however only the I-5 corridor and a sliver of 16 gets any direct ST service. And the only stops in his district are the peak hour stops at DuPont and TCC Transit Center, None of the Lakewood stops are in his district. Moving on, In 1990 when Pierce Transit and Metro started running the Seattle Express the decision was made to centrally locate it on I-5, when Sounder came along it ran logically on the BNSF. However, little effort by ST has been made to push service outside of these basic corridors, with the exception of 512. And there are no stops on 512 from Lakewood to South Hill so even it hardly counts. Considering that it can take you upwards of an hour to drive from the edge of the district, or points closer to the nearest ST facility, people in this area have a right to be upset about paying these taxes. And when you do drive to a ST facility, all the ones around here are full or nearly so. While I think people understand the value of good transit, the simple fact that these services we are paying for are nowhere nearby causes a lot of resentment in the community which further adds fuel to this discussion. If you don’t know what i’m talking about look at the ST boundary map, and compare that with where bus and rail service runs. You will notice a HUGE swath of PC is within the boundary but does not get anything directly in return.

    1. @MrZ, what would you cut to add service in the rest of Pierce County?

      (Myself, I’d push off Central Link’s Tacoma extension, and maybe Tacoma Link’s extension too. But I’m not in Pierce County.)

      1. I’d throw off the Tacoma LINK extension to TCC, and if all-day Sounder were not a possibility maybe “right-size” that project and use some of those monies elsewhere.

    2. Pierce County has a huge, expansively drawn urban growth area. The mostly exurban nature of Sound Transit’s RTA in Pierce County is an outcome of that.

      It also matters that Pierce County elites have wanted Link to Tacoma since the first RTA maps were sketched. Tacoma doesn’t have the tax base to pay for it, so they have to sweep in a lot of sprawly places to make the math work.

      Passing Sound Transit measures in Pierce is impossible because too many voters live in places that can’t be served at reasonable cost. Pierce Transit dealt with this by retrenching into a smaller district that is willing to vote some sales taxes. Sound Transit relies on the Seattle super-majority to vote the taxes for the light rail that Pierce politicians want.

      There isn’t a solution. Shrinking the Pierce subarea means cutting more projects.

      1. The Pierce Transit portion of the Sound Transit District has to contain Sumner, Puyallup, Lakewood, Tillicum, and DuPont, because Sounder.

        The rest of the towns south of the City of Tacoma create a problem in that Pierce Transit can’t serve them and anything Sound Transit would do to serve them would involve local bus routes way out of Sound Transit’s character.

        At the same time, Sound Transit serves Gig Harbor, but Gig Harbor isn’t in the taxing district. Ah, honest Republican pork.

      2. @Brent, Pierce Transit pays for the incremental cost of the 595’s service to Gig Harbor, just like the State pays for the 592 extensions to Olympia. I think that’s a fine idea, and it should be taken as a model elsewhere for routes like a 522 extension to Monroe or 510 extension to Marysville.

    3. The ST district is unbalanced. Exurban parts of Pierce are in, while corresponding parts of King and Snohomish Counties are out (Covington, Maple Valley, Marysville, Lake Stevens, Monroe). The Pierce County delegation apparently connived that to get more investment in the county and more sprawly growth. That’s a double-edged sword, and this is the negative side. Areas that don’t have the density for high-capacity transit are clamoring for it. Meanwhile Snohomish seems to have the opposite problem: it assumed Marysville wouldn’t grow but now it’s the fastest-growing area and increasingly needs regional transit. I wonder why Snohomish allowed this paradox to happen. I wouldn’t object to allowing Pierce to shrink, although southeast Pierce must pay a fair price for the Sounder service it’s getting and Sounder’s debt that’s predicated on them. Parts of Sounder would be near or outside the shrunken border, so we need to deal with the free-rider problem that would occur if the district shrank.

      1. I like the way you explained this. way back when, the Pierce Transit PTBA boundaries also matched the RTA boundaries in South/east Pierce County. Years later when the Pierce Transit PTBA shrank the RTA boundaries were left in their original, very expansive locations. I think the PTBA boundaries shrank too much, however the politicians were creative enough to include most of the tax generating areas while leaving the populated areas out of the district.

      2. “Meanwhile Snohomish seems to have the opposite problem: it assumed Marysville wouldn’t grow but now it’s the fastest-growing area and increasingly needs regional transit.”

        I have no idea as to where you’re getting your information from but this assertion is totally inaccurate. I’ll refer you to the last two 10 year updates to the county’s GMA Comprehensive Plan. Marysville’s anticipated growth as well as capacity was noted in both.

        Also for the record, in the the last update (GPP, Appendix D, Growth Targets), Marysville UGA’s growth is projected to be 11.3% for 2011-2035. Everett’s is projected to be 25.9%.

        Finally, Community Transit has increased service and added routes in the Marysville area courtesy of their 6-year plan and the additional funding coming from Snohomish County voters passing a ballot measure in 2015 (additional .3% sales tax).

      3. I think, to keep the area contiguous. The non-contiguous cities in King County are also outside the RTA.

        Strictly speaking, one could say Marysville is contiguous, but it’s a sliver of land across the slough. I’d guess that in the early 1990s, Marysville was smaller and nobody thought it was worth making that argument.

      4. Dan. Thanks for confirming my point, which was that Snohomish County did indeed plan for growth in the Marysville area. And as far as projections go, I totally agree with you. We have seen repeatedly how that has worked out for ST’s Link expansion costs.

        Some clarification on the numbers cited previously is needed. Marysville UGA is contributing 11.3% and Everett UGA 25.9% to the total projected growth in county’s population by 2035, per the GMA Comprehensive Plan update in 2015. The actual Marysville UGA population increase for 2035 is 44.2% and 59.9% for the Everett UGA.

        Recent census population data (which doesn’t correlate precisely with UGA data as both areas don’t line up exactly with city boundaries) would seem to indicate that Marysville’s population projection, even in their own updated comp plan, may be understated. From the 2010 Census to the 2016 midyear estimate, Marysville (city) has grown by 7,606 people, or a 12.7% increase. In contrast, Everett (city) has grown by 6,024 individuals, or a 5.8% increase. These are obviously the numbers you’re referencing, which isn’t in dispute here. However, suggesting that the county hasn’t been aware of and planning for said growth is just an inaccurate portrayal of the situation.

        Fwiw, Snohomish County produces and publishes a regular Growth Monitoring Report (link below) that is a pretty nice resource. One of the interesting components is the section on annexation. For example, Marysville and Lake Stevens represent 48% and 33% of the total annexed population respectively from 2000-2016. In terms of acres annexed, Marysville and Lake Stevens come in at 43% and 25% respectively. No other municipality in Snohomish County even comes close to these two cities in this respect. Annexations have dropped off dramatically after 2010 however.

  10. Is there enough economic activity out in O’Ban’s district to worry about? Cut ’em loose but then start issuing in-district parking stickers for the transit centers and park-and-rides with that old familiar $124 fine for violators.

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