In our ranking of district 6 candidates, last week, we critiqued Ed Pottharst for “concerns about his work on the Phinney Neighborhood Association during its fight to stop more apartments from being built in the neighborhood.”
The Phinney Neighborhood Association was not involved in any such fights. We regret the error and have changed Pottharst’s rating from “fair” to “good.”
District 7 includes downtown, Queen Anne, and Magnolia. Though there’s higher population density in downtown and Belltown, the more suburban enclaves tend to punch above their weight in off-year elections. This may explain why many candidates in this district appear skeptical of density and in favor of an expensive Magnolia Bridge replacement.
Michael George is a professional transportation and housing planner who has been involved in planning Link, RapidRide, and every ST TOD project. He is the only D7 candidate who supports congestion pricing, red light cameras, and the streetcar. However, like most candidates he supports replacing the Magnolia Bridge and is less than full-throated in supporting duplexes and triplexes in single-family zones.
Naveed Jamali‘s transportation platform reads almost like an STB blog post (except for the opposition to red light cams). He upbraids the City on taking away funding for pedestrian and bike infrastructure improvements. While he has a great platform and an admirable record of military service, we’d like to see a longer record in local politics or policy chops on local issues.
District 6 is Northwest Seattle. Besides the coming light rail station in Ballard, the Burke-Gillman Missing Link looms large over this election. Read Seattle Bike Blog for a deeper discussion of these candidates and the Missing Link.
Dan Strauss is a cyclist who wants to create a network of bus lanes and protected bike lanes. He is more moderate on opening up more housing options, but better than most of the rest in this NIMBY-leaning field. He has worked in politics for a decade (most recently as an aide to Sally Bagshaw) and therefore understands the system. He prefers to build the Missing Link on Leary Way (see above).
Melissa Hall is another density advocate who defines livability through a walkability and equity lens. She wants to apply that equity lens to how public space is divvied up among transit modes. She cites STB’s David Lawson as an influence on transportation issues, which is a very good sign. She’s worked as both a land use attorney and a planner, which is great preparation for issues facing the council. Hall opposes congestion pricing, but she is one of the few candidates who wants to stop talking and build the missing link.
Jay Fathi is a physician who wants to build Ballard Link faster, invest more in public transit, build more housing so people don’t have to commute as far, and decarbonize our transportation system. He’s in favor of congestion pricing and wants to convert single family zones to “residential zones” to allow more housing types. He’s noncommittal on the Missing Link and is light on political experience.
Ed Pottharst is a bicyclist and long-time City employee who advocates for congestion pricing and offers the idea of free transit passes and income-basing the congestion charges as mitigation. He supports the Shilshole Ave option for the Missing Link, more bike lanes including on 8th Ave NW, and restructuring bus routes to better feed light rail and connect urban villages to each other more frequently. We have concerns about his work on the Phinney Neighborhood Association during its fight to stop more apartments from being built in the neighborhood (see our update here).
Terry Rice is a manager at a small tourism company and a critic of NIMBYism and Seattle’s racist land-use history. He has the right ideas (aside from opposition to congestion pricing), but is short on specifics and experience.
The STB Editorial Board had less information to work with in District 5 than in the five races where the Move All Seattle Sustainable Coalition held forums. But between Councilmember Deborah Juarez’ record, and what the other candidates had to say, we had more than enough to see the clear differences.
City Councilmember Debora Juarez has been a dependable vote for much of what we like, while representing a not-particularly-urban district. In the face of the usual pitchforks, she has stood her ground on HALA and parking minimum reductions. She also stood firm on 130th St Station, negotiating deftly with a skeptical Sound Transit Board. Our most significant disagreement with her is her lack of enthusiasm for protected bike lanes.
Mark Mendez‘ contribution to climate action is that he wants to incentivize widespread installation of solar panels. He wants to connect more bus routes to the new light rail stations. He also wants safer streets, but says little about bike safety. Mendez’ prose on housing ignores current policy debates but talks up partnerships between for-profit and not-for-profit orgs, with emphasis on preserving existing housing stock.
John Lombard is awful on land-use. He hides his bitterness toward HALA behind process concerns. He wants to put onerous restrictions on ADUs. He is, however, a fan of protected bike lanes, and recently attended the Ride for Safe Streets.
Ann Davison-Sattler‘s first priority would be to “put neighborhoods first”. The only new housing she talks about is “FEMA-style relief shelters”. Her website says nothing about transportation.
The Seattle Transit Blog Editorial Board currently consists of Martin Duke, Frank Chiachiere, and Brent White.
Voters in District 4 are spoiled for choice. Almost all of these candidates might win our sole endorsement if in certain other districts. In this race, it’s almost a given to support more transit, bike lanes, and upzoning single family neighborhoods. To be excellent in this race, candidates have to show both relevant political experience and a commitment to transit and land use in particular.
Cathy Tuttlehas decades of experience managing the planning and successful construction of public works projects. After her city career, she founded and directed Seattle Neighborhood Greenways, who we can thank for the 20 mph speed limit on most streets.
She proposes to institute “climate notes”, similar to fiscal notes, analyzing the climate impact of every proposed city project. She is a housing construction hawk, including her call to re-legalize micro-housing. She wants more dedicated bus lanes and 24-hour bus service, and is as unsympathetic to a “windshield perspective” as can be.
Shaun Scott is a socialist with a streak of transit geekdom — see his 4-part series on Forward Thrust last year. We think he could help bring the social justice coalition in this city to prioritize things like upzones and bus lanes.
Joshua Newman is a former president of Seattle Subway. As one might expect, his platform emphasizes the bus priority and upzones at the core of our agenda for the city. We trust him more than any other candidate to resist neighborhood interests that oppose these measures. His favored revenue source is a higher downtown parking tax, which is about as good as it gets. Furthermore, Seattle Subway (unlike STB) does real retail politics, a useful training ground for the act of building support in the real world.
Emily Myers is a scientist who is emphasizing climate change in her campaign. She was one of the architects of the City’s “Green New Deal” and has built an impressive array of endorsements, so she’ll hit the ground running.
She wants progressively-structured congestion pricing to fund transit. She wants to expedite ST3 and ST4. She also wants to complete the Bicycle Master Plan, using data to prioritize which arterials need protected bike lanes most urgently.
District 2 has seven candidates for an open seat on the Seattle City Council. While none of them are uniformly outstanding on transit and land use issues, some are much better than others. As a reminder, here’s our rating system.
The two candidates in this tier share a lot of common ground. They are both for safer streets, more housing types in single family zones, and prioritizing transit. In both cases, concern about displacement veers into unproductively demonizing developers. We would not characterize them as transit wonks, and there are occasional positions we don’t like in their policy mix. But we believe the impact of either overall would be strongly positive.
Endorsements for city council races are starting to trickle in, and we are hard at work on ours as well.
With regards to the City Council, we have many, many candidates who are seeking their first office. This new council will see many important issues over the next few years. Some that are top of mind for us include:
Lifting the apartment ban on the majority of Seattle’s residential land
Keeping large housing projects from getting bogged down in NIMBY complaints
Staying strong on bike and bus priority in the face of parochial (or mayoral) pressure
Increasing funding for buses, either through a renewed Seattle TBD or another measure, hopefully in a way that helps get buses out of traffic
Unlike previous cycles, rather than select a single candidate we will rate candidates as “Excellent”, “Good”, “Fair,” or “Poor” based on their estimated policy impact, positive or negative, on transit and land use progress in Seattle. As most candidates in city council races don’t have any legislative or political experience, we’ll rely what’s in their platform and what they’ve said at various debates.
Here’s how we define those terms. This is evolving so we reserve the right to be inconsistent, but we’ll do our best to explain our thinking.
Excellent candidates are ones who have a passion for transit-related issues and the desire to spend political capital making our issues their issues. It’s one thing to call for the elimination of single-family zoning in a debate, it’s quite another to craft the policy and push it over the finish line.
Good candidates are ones we mostly agree with on issues but we either have some reservations or we don’t think that transit is a particular focus or passion.
Fair candidates we may disagree with on one or two major things and are at best a continuation of the status quo on the council.
Poor candidates are unqualified or hold many positions we actively disagree with.
The first round will come shortly. For city council, we’ll be offering ratings in Districts 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7. Lisa Herbold in D1 hasn’t drawn any pro-transit/pro-density opposition, so we’ll save our ink.
In the meantime, let us know in the comments if there are any suburban races we should be thinking about.
The editorial board consists of Martin Duke, Brent White, and Frank Chiachiere
As expected, the State Legislature declined to pass Tim Eyman’s $30 flat car tab initiative, so it is headed to the November ballot.
Check out the full list of cuts at the No on I-976 campaign website, as well as Permanent Defense’s campaign flyer. Sound Transit would suffer a revenue loss of about 12%, threatening many of the projects just approved in 2016. Transit agencies across the state would lose an important source of funding. Most notably, this would cripple Seattle’s Transportation Benefit District, which funds an increment of bus service within the city. Finally, Amtrak Cascades draws much of its funding from license fees. I-976 is a setback for all attempts to give people an alternative to sitting in traffic and polluting the air.
Vote for more transit. Vote No on Initiative 976.
The editorial board currently consists of Martin Duke, Frank Chiachiere, and Brent White.
With the closure of the Alaskan Way Viaduct next month, the “period of maximum constraint,” now known, apparently, as the “Seattle Squeeze” is officially upon us. Five years of construction as we rebuild the Waterfront, expand the convention center, and (maybe? hopefully?) build a streetcar on First Avenue and bus rapid transit on Madison St.
Unfortunately, the squeeze is coming as the city is delaying bus and bike improvements. Along with a diverse group of organizations, we are calling for the city to re-prioritize some of those investments. While we recognize that not everything can be built at once, and we don’t want to minimize the considerable effort the city is making in re-prioritizing downtown right-of-way, there are plenty of opportunities for short term improvements to keep people moving over the next half-decade.
It shouldn’t come as a shock that STB would endorse a ballot measure that would add more bus service, including longer hours, more frequency, more and faster connections, and more right-of-way priority treatments, in an urban region that makes good use of it. Bruce Englehardt described in full what the measure would likely fund. It is both a response to lower federal funding, and an opportunity to match Olympia’s growth and extend service hours.
Thankfully, an organized campaign is getting the word out on the value that IT provides to its community. Not just a lifeline for the carless, the agency provides long-haul services to Tacoma, and thus to the core Puget Sound network. Today, it is the most fragile link in continuous transit service for the urban agglomeration from Everett to Olympia.
New Thurston County voters may still register to vote in person through Monday, October 29, at the Thurston County Courthouse, Building 1, during regular business hours. The Courthouse campus is a medium hike southwest from the Capitol campus, and served by Intercity Transit bus routes 12 and 42.
If you’re reading STB, you likely need no reminder that climate change is an emergency that requires urgent action. So we’ll dispense with the general case to take on some of the arguments, often in bad faith, deployed against this ballot measure.
First, familiarize yourself with the specifics of the measure. The carbon fee will discourage carbon-intensive habits and directly fund, among other things, transit and transit-oriented development. Purely from that perspective, our endorsement is inevitable.
And yet, we also enthusiastically endorsed I-732, last year’s measure, which used carbon tax revenue to cut regressive taxes instead of funding climate remedies. We find I-1631’s spending priorities to be largely worthy. But even if you don’t, recall that climate change is an emergency. We can’t wait for the ideal policy to come along to start taking action.
Indeed, I-732’s failure suggests there is no political coalition for climate action with tax cuts. Many of the forces now criticizing “spending” and the costs borne by consumers had no interest in a remedy that returned money directly to taxpayers.
There are many attacks that are pure falsehoods, but the other that is superficially true is that the measure will not solve climate change on its own. While technically accurate, it ignores the power of collective action when nations and regions all over the world commit to change their economies to solve a crisis. Moreover, climate change is not a binary outcome: while it is too late to avoid at least some catastrophes, one degree of warming is better than 1.5, which is better than 2, and so on. Every large economy, like Washington State, that makes an effort will help a bit. And finally, a victory for I-1631 would provide a model of how climate policy can work at the state level, raising the possibility of action across the United States.
Vote for I-1631. The costs are modest, the benefits are large, and the fate of humanity may depend on it.
The STB Editorial Board consists of Martin H. Duke and Brent White.
All six have our gratitude and endorsement. They are essentially unopposed, so lets move on to some more interesting races.
State Representative, District 5, Pos. 1: Bill Ramos, a member of the Issaquah City Council, worked for the Federal Transit Administration from 2005 to 2013 as a Community Planner with emphasis in developing and managing the Tribal Transit Program and Rural and Small Urban Area Transit Systems. As Federal Tribal Liaison, he worked with 56 Tribes in Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Alaska to help start or improve public transit on Tribal Lands. Continue reading “November 2018 Legislative Endorsements”
Correction: See the underlined and struck-out text in paragraph 3.
In a wide-open race for State Senator from the 34th District (representing West Seattle, Burien, and Vashon Island), there are several good candidates from whom to choose. Joe Nguyen stands out as having a razor-sharp understanding of transit and land use issues, and firm commitment to siding with transit.
By day, Joe Nguyen is a Senior Manager at Microsoft. He gets around mostly by bus, light rail, and bike, except for when he has to get the family around by car.
By night, Nguyen is involved in various community groups, including as Chair of Wellspring Family Services’ Associate Board. Wellspring is committed to housing 2000 families in the next two years. “We have a housing crisis now, and it doesn’t require public/private partnerships to build” the housing we need, he said in our interview. In defense of allowing for-profit developers to build some of the needed housing, he mentioned the condo warranty law as a reason why for-profit developers will choose to build apartments when given the opportunity to build multi-family housing. He understands the bureaucratic hurdles that get in the way of building anything, including housing.
Regarding transit, Nguyen expressed frustration not only that the Center City Connector might not be finished, resulting in having to return a lot of federal grant money, but also that the CCC isn’t planned to go all the way to UW. On that point, he said he would support trying to get the state to throw in some money to get the job done.
We asked why Senators Maralyn Chase and Bob Hasegawa, no friends of light rail, endorsed him. He said their endorsements are based on other issues, such as making stuff accessible to regular people, and that he does not agree with them at all on transit issues. In particular, Nguyen does not support the rollback of Sound Transit car tabs.
Of particular relevance to many of Nguyen’s would-be constituents on Vashon Island, he “100%” supports getting Washington State Ferries to accept PugetPass and interagency transfers, and also pointed out the need for more pedestrian-friendly paths at the ferry docks. He is passionate about using price elasticity to incentivize more ferry walk-ons and make them cheaper for families.
Nguyen also points out the irony that most businesses have 5-year plans, have interest in building here, and find that the local governments have not planned ahead. He would like to see development plans prepared by local governments that include pedestrian and bike access to and through new construction projects, and that these plans be ready when prospective tenant businesses show up, so that shovels can be turned faster.
Transit has no stronger advocate in the State Legislature than Sen. Marko Liias. Liias serves as Vice Chair of the Senate Transportation Committee, where he has been able to speak up against non-sensical efforts to undermine transit agencies, and advocate for more investment in public transit, with huge success.
STB has covered Liias’ career championing transit in Olympia at length.
Liias sponsored the Senate bill that would have given Sound Transit authority to take ST3 to the ballot without being tied to road funding , where the transit would have required a public vote and the roads wouldn’t. He then got 19 of his colleagues to sign on.
During the fight over reducing car-tab revenue for the voter-approved Sound Transit 3 capital program, Liias proposed various amendments that would have gotten useful gains for Sound Transit to make up for revenue losses, such as permit streamlining for light rail construction.
Outside of Seattle, very few candidates are mentioning transit these days. It seems to be an ebb tide in willingness of politicians, including Democrats, to stand up for transit.
Swimming against this tide is Shoreline Deputy Mayor Jesse Salomon, whom we endorsed when he got elected to the Shoreline City Council in 2015. Salomon proved our instincts right when he voted with a majority of the Shoreline City Council for upzones around the future Shoreline Station, over shouting by neighbors opposed to new housing in their neighborhood.
The 32nd District, which Salomon is vying to represent as state senator, includes Shoreline, Woodway, most of Lynnwood, and parts of Edmonds, Mountlake Terrace, and far northwest Seattle.
While most other politicians don’t mention transit, Salomon’s transportation page is all about light rail.
Cars and buses get stuck in gridlock. Most major cities have light rail, subway, or other transportation systems that run on their own dedicated route and have traffic signal priority. We need to complete our light rail system as soon as possible and add bus rapid transit service to high commuter locations not served by light rail.
Replacing Sen. Chase with Jesse Salomon would tell the Democratic caucuses in Olympia that transit is an important priority.
The deadline to return ballots for the primary election is August 7.
The STB Editorial Board currently consists of Martin H. Duke, Brent White, and Dan Ryan.
For the ten years this blog has existed, STB has been offering endorsements in public elections.
This year, we are planning to be a little more nuanced, and offer some ratings in various races, along with endorsements where there is a clear and obvious best choice. We look solely at the candidates’ records and positions on transportation and land-use policy, and only at candidates who have a credible chance of getting elected. While the generic Democrat is superior to the generic Republican on these issues, we’re focused on races where there is something more than party difference.
For the primary election, we are looking at races where there are at least three credible choices, such as the Congressional District 8 open race.
Are there races where you think there is a candidate who merits our endorsement? Are there races where you want us to do a run-down on the candidates and offer ratings? Let us know in the comments below.
When voters approved Sound Transit 3 in 2016, they consented to a “provisional alignment” to take trains from roughly 15th & Market to the West Seattle Junction via South Lake Union and Downtown. A long line with a long tunnel through downtown required compromises. Although many felt at the time that ST’s budget estimates were exceedingly conservative, 18 months of Trump tweets and assaults in Olympia have soured the mood for adventurous budgets. Still, neighborhoods have understandable desires to undo some of those compromises.
Most of these ideas would create measureable improvements to the usefulness of the system. Moving the Ballard station west of 15th is a debate about what will bring the most riders. Improving the ship canal crossing would make trains more reliable. Stations in South Lake Union and/or First Hill would add some of the densest neighborhoods in the Pacific Northwest into the system’s walkshed, inevitably boosting ridership.
Among these ideas, one stands out as being primarily aesthetic: burying the elevated track around the West Seattle junction in a tunnel. Although elevated track has hardly turned Chicago and Tokyo into dystopias, one shouldn’t single out tunnel advocates as especially unreasonable: as a region, we’ve never built elevated track through densely populated areas, opting for tunnels or surface lines instead. Advocates are asking for the same things as other neighborhoods.
Still, it is hard to identify a clear way in which burying the track would improve mobility in Seattle. People broadly accept that we have a transportation crisis. The fixed budget for grade-separated transit should be focused on solutions to that crisis, not subjective concerns about appearances. And what’s good for West Seattle is good for other places: it would be a better outcome for transit if other segments that follow the street grid, and can therefore run elevated, were lifted to fund better station placements elsewhere. However, the status quo has great power. The easiest place to elevate track is where the plan already calls for it. If there is any flexibility to increase scope at all, there are higher priorities.
The STB Editorial Board currently consists of Martin H. Duke, Brent White, and Dan Ryan.
Sound Transit 3 is the biggest investment in pedestrian mobility the Pacific Northwest has seen since the coming of the railroads in the 1890s. Like what that generation built, the capital projects we’ve committed to build will be around for decades. We can’t know with certainty what the future holds, but for reasons of both climate and mobility, it seems clear that our city’s future will need to involve more high-quality electric transit. It’s therefore essential that we build the core of ST3 so as to maximize its future utilization and value.
The current ST plan involves constructing a new tunnel from the International District to Uptown, constructing an elevated line onward to Ballard, and connecting the existing Rainier Valley line into this new tunnel. The Rainier Valley line is the only line slated to use the new tunnel (West Seattle Link and East Link will feed the current downtown tunnel), and the Rainier Valley Line’s surface-running section constrains it to a best-case headway of six minutes. The ultimate capacity of a rail tunnel depends on several factors, but a typical modern tunnel should easily be able to accommodate headways of three or four minutes.
If the new ST3 downtown tunnel is built without provision for an additional future line, there’s a real risk it will be permanently underutilized, moving ten trains per hour rather than the twenty or thirty it could — or at least, it would require major, disruptive engineering work to fix. Fortunately, making provision for future lines need not be expensive, as we show in Oran’s illustration above. A “stacked” station design with a pre-made bellmouth, as used by LA Metro at their Wilshire/Vermont station, requires slightly more excavation but allows for a new rail connection at minimal cost and disruption to ongoing service.
No major features such as stations or park-and-ride garages were slashed in the latest proposals, which include about 100 changes along the 8.5-mile corridor, said Rod Kempkes, executive project director for Lynnwood Link.
His team negotiated so-called “value-engineering” ideas with suburban staff and mayors since summer, when the voter-approved $2.4 billion cost estimate soared to $2.9 billion.
Even assuming the trimming works, there’s a roughly $300 million gap, which could wind up plunging taxpayers deeper into debt. A preliminary finance update is expected soon.
To fully close the $300M gap, there’s really only one option: defer the 3 proposed parking garages. The garages cost as much as $212M in total, or $88,000 per stall, an order of magnitude more than any of the other cost savings proposed.
To recap, Shoreline’s two stations (145th and 185th) are set to get 500-space garages. Lynnwood’s current 1,400-space surface lot would be replaced with a 1,400-space garage plus 500 surface spots. That makes for a net gain of 1,500 spots across the three stations (Here are all the parking lots planned for the full ST3 build out), or 2,400 total.
We understand that free parking (like free anything) is politically popular. Lynnwood link will run through cities that in many places lack sidewalks, let alone bike lanes or frequent East-west buses, making non-motorized access a challenge. For many residents, especially those who have never experienced the freedom of living within walking distance of rail transit, park-and-ride is the only way they can conceive of using the system.
Spending on parking now is a zero-sum decision. The cost overruns in Lynnwood have already delayed the Link extension by six months while a portion of the budget gap is closed. Every dollar in a Lynnwood garage delays the extension to Paine Field and Everett. At a minimum, we believe parking for a small fraction of future Link users deserves to go to the back of the line in Snohomish County funding priorities.