7 Days Left to Overcome Most Expensive Campaign in State History

“In Texas, where Oil is King”
De Golyer Library, Southern Methodist University
on wikicommons

In case you haven’t opened your mailbox this week, next Tuesday is election day. Ballot drop boxes close at 8 pm sharp Tuesday. Mailing your ballot is free, but it must be post-marked by Tuesday, so mail it by the day before, take it to a post office Tuesday before they close, find the nearest drop box, or go to one of the accessible voting sites (including at the King County Administration Building), such as the King County Administration Building, and be prepared to stand in queue for awhile. If you lost your ballot, there is a replacement process, but going to an accessible voting site is also an obvious solution.

Check out the link on the top line for STB’s endorsements.  You can also try ReadySetVote.org, a service of the Muni League, which features our endorsements among others.

The latest figures from the Public Disclosure Commission show that the No on 1631 campaign has broken the record for most money raised for a political campaign in the State of Washington, having raised $31.3 million, nearly all of it from oil companies headquartered in other states.

Until this year, the most money ever spent for or against a ballot measure or candidate in Washington State was the No side on Initiative 522 in 2013 (which would have required the labelling of genetically-modified foods), which raised $26.7 million. This year’s Yes on I-1634 campaign (“Yes! to Affordable Groceries”) is third all-time, having raised over $20.2 million.

The most expensive candidate campaign was Patty Murray’s re-election effort in 2010, hauling in $17.1 million. That campaign now ranks fifth in all-time fundraising behind the three initiative campaigns mentioned above and the $20.1 million spent by 2011’s Yes on 1183 (allowing private liquor sales in the state) campaign.

The next most-expensive candidate effort was Rob McKenna’s $13.8 million unsuccessful bid for governor in 2012, but that comes behind several more initiative campaigns in the rankings, including the Yes on 1631 campaign, which has raised $15.4 million, putting it fifth among initiative campaigns, and sixth among all races.

With the opposition basically reduced to oil companies and those opposed to taxing carbon pollution (which even the Times spent lots of paragraphs to eventually admit is its real qualm), the Yes side digging as financially deep as it can muster, and the 41%-59% drubbing I-732 got, it seems unlikely anyone is going to try a carbon tax initiative again if this one fails. The Legislature has had many more opportunities, and gotten nowhere.

News Roundup: Trick or Treat

2017 Bombardier BiLevel cab car

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Talking Mergers and History With Everett Transit Director Tom Hingson

Everett Transit Director Tom Hingson

I recently sat down with Everett Transit director Tom Hingson to talk about the agency’s place in the regional transit system and whether it should merge with its larger neighbor Community Transit, the latter of which is a topic that frequently comes up in comment threads on our articles about Everett.

Everett Transit proudly traces its roots back to 1893, with the establishment of the first private horse-drawn streetcar within the newly-incorporated city. The streetcars and their electric successors were replaced in the 1920s with privately-operated buses that were rescued by city voters in 1969 to form Everett Transit. Community Transit was formed in 1976 by several cities in the county, with the notable exception of Everett, after two attempts at passing a countywide sales tax for buses were turned down by Everett voters.

Continue reading “Talking Mergers and History With Everett Transit Director Tom Hingson”

Metro Mulls a Kirkland Redo

S. Kirkland Park and Ride - 12: MT 255 headed towards Kirkland

Metro and Sound Transit have a new proposal to restructure bus service on the “North Eastside” in order to take advantage of new opportunities arising from University Link and improvements in the SR 520 corridor. Metro abandoned a previous effort to make similar changes right after U-Link opened due to a perceived absence of public comment. Riders interested in increasing the utility of the bus network to get multiple places in a short amount of time should be sure to comment this time.

While University Link was a squandered opportunity, three new stimuli are coming: closure of the Downtown Transit Tunnel to buses in March 2019, closure of the Montlake Flyer stop, also in March 2019, and Northgate Link opening in 2021. Beyond that, East Link and I-405 BRT will provide yet more options. Riders will have to deal with the immediate challenges using the existing network next summer, but in September 2019 there could be a restructure with the following ingredients:

  1. Redirect Kirkland’s workhorse, the 255, to UW Station to avoid the 520/I-5 mess and Downtown Seattle surface streets, with operating savings going into more frequency.
  2. Flush most of the network of low-ridership, zigzagging routes that serve Kirkland in favor of somewhat straighter routes.
  3. Fix the Montlake Triangle bus stops, as advocates have asked Metro, Sound Transit, and UW to do since well before U-Link opened.
  4. A new ST Express route from Redmond and Kirkland to South Lake Union.
  5. New, Uber-ish  “Community Ride” service in Woodinville (weekend-only) and Kenmore. The vanpool-ish “Community Van” service would extend to Kirkland from its current scope in Bothell, Woodinville, and Kenmore.

Existing freeway peak expresses to Downtown Seattle would not change, so most people still have their rush hour one-seat rides into downtown Seattle. More on the changes below.

Continue reading “Metro Mulls a Kirkland Redo”

Sound Transit revenues are up—but so are costs

Good riddance. Credit: Sound Transit

The Sound Transit board kicked off the agency’s 2019 budget process yesterday with a presentation from Sound Transit’s CFO, Tracy Butler. The big takeaway: in keeping with recent trends, projected costs will be larger than expected—but so will revenues.

The board also voted to start contract extension negotiations with CEO Peter Rogoff, after some critical words from Pierce County board members.

In wonderful news for riders, the agency plans to replace the Husky Stadium station’s much maligned escalators.

Continue reading “Sound Transit revenues are up—but so are costs”

[SPONSOR] Parking & Valet Systems Manager Position at Seattle Children’s

Eligible for Sign On Bonus and management incentive!

The role manages the valet, parking system and other roadway and pathway hardscape assets for all Seattle Children’s worksites with a focus on the hospital campus.

The Parking Manager will design and deliver best-in-class, customer-centric valet services to patients, families and visitors who are seeking treatment or services from Children’s emergency department and outpatient clinic; provide a safe, effective and pleasant experience for employees and customers using Seattle Children’s parking lots, roadways and pathways. This position will work with a range of internal leaders to develop and deliver support systems, countermeasures and capacity to optimize clinical demand flow.

Build and manage a support team:
Hire, train/mentor, and schedule customer-facing team of 15 – 25 to support operationally complex emergency department valet and customer flow.

Design and manage three shift staffing schedule consistent with available resources, workflow requirements, labor laws and best practices. Develop strong standard work, protocols and escalation pathways to ensure consistent and thoughtful service delivery. Continue reading “[SPONSOR] Parking & Valet Systems Manager Position at Seattle Children’s”

Register to Vote in Person Today, Friday, or Monday

King County Administration Building, where new Washington voters can register to vote during business hours through October 29

If you haven’t registered to vote in the State of Washington, you still have time to participate in this state’s November 6 election by registering in person at your county’s election office, by close of business next Monday, October 29.

King County has two sites taking in-person registrations during business hours: The Election Annex in the County Administration Building downtown, and the Election headquarters in Renton.

Pierce County is taking in-person registrations during business hours at its Election Center.

Skagit County residents can still register in person at the County Admin Building in Mt. Vernon.

Snohomish County residents can still register in person at the County Admin Building West in Everett.

Thurston County is taking in person registrations at the Auditor’s Office, in the County Courthouse in southwest Olympia. Check out Bruce Engelhardt’s rundown on Intercity Transit Proposition 1.

Whatcom County is taking in person registrations at the Elections Division in the Whatcom County Courthouse.

You can peruse STB’s 2018 endorsements from the blog’s top bar now.

For those who choose not to or can not take advantage of the opportunity to fill in your ballot at home and mail your ballot for free, there are accessible voting sites in most counties now open. King County has two sites already open: at the Election Annex in the King County Administration Building (500 4th Ave, Room 440) downtown, and the Elections HQ in Renton (919 SW Grady Way). More will open up, for longer hours, as the election approaches.

News Roundup: You Can Comment

write on red

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Out-of-state oil companies spending more than $25 million against I-1631

Credit: BP

Oil companies, including BP and Koch Industries, have continued to pour money into the campaign against I-1631. As of October 22, oil and fossil fuel companies had contributed more than $25 million to the industry PAC opposing I-1631, the initiative that would create a carbon tax and spend the receipts on renewable energy and climate change mitigation. Most of that money—$25,179,028.93, to be exact—has come from out of state companies. Washington fossil fuel companies have contributed $561,031.31, or about 2 percent of the fossil fuel industry’s spending on the race.

The largest out-of-state contributors to the No on I-1631 campaign are:

  • BP America, $9,596,031.40
  • Phillips 66, $7,201,186.54
  • Andeavor, $4,362,827.17
  • American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers, $1,000,000.00
  • Valero, $995,000.00
  • Koch Industries, $550,000.00
  • Chevron, $500,000.00

The No campaign has also drawn support from the in-state agriculture (potato and fruit grower PACs) and concrete industries.

Meanwhile, the Yes campaign has raised $13 million, and its message prominently mentions oil companies’ spending.

The Yes campaign’s leading donors are:

  • The Nature Conservancy, $1,550,000.00
  • League of Conservation Voters, $1,400,000.00
  • Bill Gates, $1,000,000.00
  • Michael Bloomberg, $1,000,000.00
  • Chris Stolte, $500,000.00
  • Sarah Merner, $500,000.00
  • Action Now Initiative LLC, $500,000.00
  • Craig McKibben, $500,000.00

The Yes campaign has (unsurprisingly) drawn the support of most of the state’s environmental groups. The Washington State Labor Council, the state branch of the AFL-CIO, also kicked in $125,000.00. Microsoft contributed $50,000.00.

Seattle Needs to Think Differently about Transportation

3rd Avenue at rush hour

A coalition of transit advocates and organizations in the city is coming together around a combined set of priorities to make the most of the city’s limited right-of-way.

STB is excited to join Move all Seattle Sustainably in advocating for safer, more multimodal streets.  This includes more dedicated transit lanes, better pedestrian experiences, and safer bike infrastructure.  Here is an excerpt from the coalition’s letter to Mayor Durkan and the Council:

As Seattle grows, and especially as we approach the period of maximum constraint, we must aggressively shift our transportation investments to the modes that move the most people with the lowest carbon impact and in the least amount of space. The city’s budget and timelines for funded projects must emphasize guaranteeing right-of-way for people walking, biking, and riding transit. This means speeding up timelines for painting dedicated bus lanes and creating protected bike lanes. It also means protecting pedestrians in intersections and putting them first; adaptive signals are failing and, as NACTO recommends, are only appropriate for suburban settings.

Read the whole letter here, or read more from The Urbanist, CHS, and Curbed Seattle.

Seattle Times: Intellectually Dishonest Yet Again

It was predictable that the Seattle Times would oppose the only measure ($) available to Washington voters to address climate change. However, it’s amazing that people that self-identify as journalists could be so intellectually dishonest in their endorsement. Besides simply lying to their readers — which a newspaper really ought not to do — they can’t manage to maintain a consistent argument from beginning to end.

For starters, the Times says we should wait and let someone else take the first steps:

Washington should coordinate its response with other states, to prevent cross-border job losses. It should also seek a national carbon tax.

Others have taken the first steps. 194 countries have signed the 2015 Paris Agreement.  Perhaps there might be national action if Democrats gain firm control of the federal government, but the Times editorial board is working hard to prevent that ($). In any case, Washington is coordinating its response with other states and provinces. But the region’s “newspaper of record” chooses to misinform its readers about the world.

The state should also strengthen regulations directly reducing pollution, and continue making strong investments in alternative energy, conservation and clean technologies.

Yes, the state should be funding those investments. This editorial doesn’t suggest where the money could come from. A carbon fee would work!

Now comes I-1631, repackaged as a carbon fee. In one key respect – accountability – it’s the worst of the bunch. It would collect more than $1 billion yearly. An un-elected board appointed by the governor would propose how to spend it. The initiative requires seats for powerful entities, such as labor and tribes, promising them large cuts.

The Legislature has the final say on appropriations. But the carbon board is structured to be a political juggernaut. Legislators might have difficulty mustering political will to change course.

The logic of this excerpt immediately collapses upon inspection. The measure isn’t “accountable” because it’s an “unelected board” that has to — report to the elected legislature. But the legislature won’t have the “political will” because the resulting legislation will be too popular! The Times is ultimately mad because a panel of experts and stakeholders will be able to propose legislation in Olympia.

Global warming is critical. But I-1631 is not do-or-die. Sponsors opposed the 2016 carbon-tax initiative. It aspired to be revenue neutral, by cutting other taxes, and didn’t fund their wish list.

My, that I-732 seems quite reasonable, with no grubby progressive politics or interest group spending! The Times hates taxes and would surely have supported using carbon proceeds for tax cuts!

Oh, wait.

Continue reading “Seattle Times: Intellectually Dishonest Yet Again”

Metro and Chariot Partner on Eastgate Microtransit Service

A map of the area around Eastgate Park and Ride where Ride2 service will work. Eastgate Park and Ride service area

King County news release

King County Metro customers will soon be able to use new mobile apps to hail an on-demand shuttle to and from transit hubs throughout the region, starting at the county’s largest park-and-ride.

Starting on Oct. 23, commuters will be able to use the first app – called Ride2 Park & Ride – to hail a shuttle operated by Chariot and Ford Smart Mobility to and from the Eastgate Park-and-Ride in Bellevue.

Metro will make similar on-demand shuttle service available to other transit hubs throughout King County over the next several months as a part of a yearlong pilot project.

The pilot will be free for a few months, at which point you’ll be able to board using your ORCA card.

Much like the trailhead service, which started in a limited fashion in 2017 and then expanded in 2018, Metro is going to take advantage of the Chariot partnership to try this and see what works.  Metro’s Jeff Switzer told me that Chariot was selected through a competitive bid, and that the two organizations are splitting the costs (though Chariot picked up the tab for the app development).

Continue reading “Metro and Chariot Partner on Eastgate Microtransit Service”

Routes 3 and 4 Will Stay on James Street

Metro route 3. Photo by Tim Bond.

After soliciting feedback last summer about a potential move to Yesler Way, Metro has decided to keep Routes 3 and 4 on James Street between 3rd and 9th Avenues:

We considered this change as a way for the routes to avoid traffic congestion near the James Street I-5 ramps, improving their speed and reliability. About half of those who responded to our survey supported the concept, but many people who work, live, or travel in the immediate area had concerns about how it could affect seniors and people with disabilities and/or low incomes who use stops along this steep section of James Street to reach housing and social and government services.

In addition to receiving public feedback on this concept, we also studied its feasibility and travel-time benefits, as well as the costs of improvements necessary for trolley bus operations along the Yesler Way routing. The study found some potential for travel-time improvement in one direction, but that improvement would not be significant for the routes overall, and would not justify the high cost of new infrastructure to support the change.

Though public feedback was in favor of the change, 53% to 40% (87%-13% from the Yesler Terrace Community Council), several organizations voiced concerns about access to services along James Street including municipal facilities and a food bank, that would be impacted.  We wrote favorably about the proposal, which would have saved riders up to 4 minutes and improved reliability, and suggested some mitigation strategies for impacted riders.

Between the equity and access concerns and the high costs of trolley wire, Metro decided not to pursue it.  Instead, they say they will work with SDOT and work with partners to “explore future large capital improvements to the James Street and I-5 interchange.” What that will look like is anyone’s guess, perhaps some kind of dedicated bus lane on James Street that skirts the I-5 queue.

News Roundup: Addicted to Transit

King County Metro Gillig Low Floor 40' HEV

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14th Avenue is the Wrong Spot for a Ballard Station

RapidRide: Signal Changes at NW Market Street

Where shall we put Ballard’s lone light rail station?

As Peter reported, Sound Transit is now in the process of reviewing the many potential alignments for Ballard/Interbay as we approach “Level 3” analysis. Last week’s Elected Leadership Group meeting (video link) was at times a reminder that needs of the riders who will eventually use this multi-billion-dollar system often play second fiddle to present-day concerns about inconveniencing businesses or car travel.

At the meeting, we heard concerns from the leadership about losing car lanes on 15th Avenue W through Interbay. We also heard about maritime businesses around the Ballard Bridge who might be impacted by a rail bridge. And, of course, we heard concerns that Seattle’s taste for expensive tunnels could impact Snohomish County rail projects.

Ballard Level 2 Feedback

While it’s completely understandable that we would want to build a train without wrecking our maritime economy, might I suggest we consider the needs of the system’s riders first and foremost? King County Exec Constantine and Ballard Councilmember Mike O’Brien hit the right notes in that regard. “For a rider,” Constantine said at the meeting, “it doesn’t matter where the line is, it matters where the stop is.” Continue reading “14th Avenue is the Wrong Spot for a Ballard Station”

Community Transit Adds USB Ports and Chooses Diesel For Its Buses

A new Swift bus on the Blue Line, seen mid-chase in Lynnwood

Last month, the first pair of 18 new Swift bus rapid transit buses entered service on the Blue Line, as part of the line’s return to 10-minute weekday frequencies. The buses were ordered for the Green Line, which will debut next year, and have a few differences from the decade-old coaches that run on the Blue Line today. This being the transit blog, I naturally stalked these new buses for a quick look inside.

The new buses, based on the New Flyer Xcelsior series, is slightly shorter due to its flat front (shaving 2 ft. from the original’s 62 ft.). The shorter length means that the doors are slightly off from the “welcome mats” painted into the platforms at stations, but it’s within a reasonable margin of error. The Xcelsior buses have the same interior features as the first-generation fleet, including the all-important rear door bicycle racks that speed up dwell times, but its seats are arranged in a slightly different manner, with a mix of aisle-facing and forward-facing seats above the third axle.

Continue reading “Community Transit Adds USB Ports and Chooses Diesel For Its Buses”

Trailhead Direct Wrapping Up, Has Survey

This season’s Trailhead Direct service is wrapping up on October 28th, as the weather worsens and parking demand at trailheads drops. This year’s innovation was to directly serve particularly carless neighborhoods like Capitol Hill, rather than forcing a transfer (or drive) to Issaquah.

Feel free to comment on your experiences with Trailhead Direct below, but better yet tell Metro directly by responding to their survey. Metro wants to hear from you, even if you didn’t use the service this year.