Three and a half months ago, the Metropolitan King County Council, in a bipartisan effort, came together to pass via supermajority the $20 Congestion Reduction Charge. This two-year car tab fee is designed as a stopgap funding measure to prevent drastic cuts to Metro bus service while the agency restructures itself to become leaner and more efficient, and the legislature can arrange a stable long-term funding source.
While the vote to establish the fee was not unanimous, the dissenters did so only on a question of process. The principles espoused in King County Metro’s Strategic Plan for Public Transportation, incorporated into the CRC ordinance, received the strong, public endorsement of every single member of the Council, along with Executive Constantine and Metro GM Desmond. King County has thus publicly committed itself at every level to make the bus system more cost-effective and ridership-oriented. Without that promise, the CRC’s stopgap funding would not have been forthcoming, and without the fulfillment of that promise, we can expect no further help from the legislature.
Fast forward to a month ago, when Metro released the Fall 2012 restructure concept. This proposal is one of the boldest Metro has ever made public, and represents a distinct break from the downtown-oriented legacy network, towards one built on a modern understanding of what makes for cost-effective and well-used bus routes: connecting dense urban centers with frequent, direct and reliable trunk routes, and providing excellent commuter service to neighborhoods without enough ridership to justify all-day service.
Inevitably, these things come at a cost. Some riders will be inconvenienced by having to walk further to get to their stop or having to transfer; some neighborhoods will lose midday service; a very small fraction of the population will lose access to transit altogether. Those riders affected have genuine complaints, for which the public service change process provides a valuable opportunity to explain to Metro staff how their ideas may play out on the ground. But there are voices not heard at public hearings: those of the thousands of riders who will benefit greatly from the changes; and those of every King County resident whose tax dollars will go much further towards improved mobility, emissions reduction, and congestion mitigation.
Seattle Transit Blog believes it is now time for King County Metro to uphold its end of the bargain, by moving ahead boldly with a restructure comparable in scope to the conceptual proposal; if this restructure were to become the mere substitution of RapidRide C and D for Routes 54 and 15, it would be a failure. Leadership means steering organizations through difficult and unpopular decisions for the greater good. Metro staff have publicly shown us how our bus system can be improved: we look now to Metro management, the Executive, and the Council to provide the leadership to make it a reality.
These are the rest of STB’s general election endorsements. We endorsed in races where one candidate clearly stood out. Part I is here.
We are deeply indebted to the Transit Riders’ Union, who shared their questionnaire results with us. We drew heavily from them.
Snohomish County Executive: Like all County Executives, Aaron Reardon has a lot of sway over staffing the Sound Transit Board. He is also one year into this his two year term as Chair of Sound Transit’s Board of Directors, which obviously makes him a leader on regional high capacity transit. He’s turned in a solid performance to steer Sound Transit through a period of steeply falling revenue and strife with Bellevue.
Tacoma City Council #7: David Boe is a retired architect who knocks it out of the park when it comes to land use and transit. His flagship positions view increased residential and mixed-use density as a solution to strengthen the local tax base and support expanded transit. Boe is also an urban design wonk who has written a column for the local Tacoma blog Exit 133.
Tacoma City Council #8: Ryan Mello is outstanding on our issues and is the kind of council member we love to endorse. He previously worked for the Cascade Land Conservancy and advocates for all of the transportation and land use beliefs we hold. Mello, along with other like minded council members, are pushing Tacoma forward as a regional leader in building sustainable and livable city.
Kirkland Council #2: Bob Sternoff supports a number of positions that align with ours, including Metro reform, expanded taxing authority and a strong understanding of the importance of land use in transit development. His involvement on the Regional Transit Committee as well as a few growth management boards indicates a dedicated track record that supports transit and better land use policies.
Kirkland Council #4: Jessica Greenway has basically sound pro-transit views by Eastside standards. She supported the $20 CRC to save Metro service and opposes I-1125. Her challenger, Toby Nixon, not only opposed the CRC but also believes Metro should raise fares to a 100% farebox recovery rate. This view alone is troubling enough to warrant an automatic endorsement for Greenway.
Kirkland Council #6: Dave Asher’s impressive knowledge of our regional transit system is well indicated by his positions, which include support for Metro’s Strategic Plan, broader promotion of ORCA, an alternative transit funding source to the sales tax, and repealing the 18th Amendment. On land use and density, he’s a strong advocate of smart growth and incredibly knowledgeable about the market forces associated with parking. Since our endorsement in the primary, Dave Asher’s opponent has withdrawn from the race.
Renton Council #5 : Robin Jones has some interesting ideas on how to improve transit in Renton. He wants to increase police presence at the Transit Center and put in more curb bulbs, both sensible, small-bore improvements for a city like Renton. His opponent is Ed Prince, who doesn’t seem to have much of a transportation platform. Jones is endorsed by Michael Taylor-Judd and Bobby Forch, both of which are transportation-oriented Seattle Council candidates we have previously endorsed.
Shoreline Council #2: Incumbent Chris Eggen has sound ideas about transit-oriented development and bus priority. His statements indicate deep understanding of the problems facing transit riders in Shoreline and strong awareness of broader transit issues in the County.
Shoreline Council #6: Robin McClelland has a regional planning background, is a regular transit user, and her positions are what one would expect. She understands the relationship of density to various regional goals and has deep understanding of the region’s long-range plans.
Shoreline Council #4: Janet Way supports upzones in major transit corridors, and is a strong proponent of bikeshare programs.
Federal Way Council #7: We don’t agree with everything Keith Tyler thinks about transit, but in the areas most important for City Council — land use and priority treatments for buses — he is absolutely correct. He’s interested in TOD, less surface parking, and more signal priority and bus lanes for RapidRide. His opponent shows no apparent emphasis on either subject.
Here are Seattle Transit Blog’s endorsements for the November 8th general election. As always, our endorsements are meant to focus entirely on their transit and land use positions. Readers can apply other criteria as they wish.
Our editorial board consists of Martin H. Duke, Adam Parast, and Sherwin Lee, with valued input from the rest of the staff. We relied extensively on both an STB questionnaire and one from the Transit Riders’ Union. You can also consult the King County voters’ guide.
This post covers ballot measures, King County, City of Seattle, and City of Bellevue councils. We’ll follow up with other races in a few days.
Seattle Proposition 1: YES. A $60 vehicle license fee doesn’t cover all of the city’s transportation needs, but it makes a sizeable dent. It will help to reduce the road maintenance backlog, improve bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure, and spend about 50% of the revenue on transit, making it faster, more reliable, easier to access, and less dependent on petroleum. It also takes small steps towards higher capacity streetcars on Seattle’s busiest corridors. Moreover, the VLF benefits the city’s poorest who can’t afford a car in the first place.
Initiative 1125: NO. There is nothing to like about I-1125. The initiative prevents variable tolling, doesn’t allow tolls to be used to fund transit, and blocks East Link over I-90. Adding further litigation and funding uncertainty to state mega-projects is counterproductive. It should go without saying that East Link is one of our largest priorities, and this initiative would kill it. Congestion-based tolling is the only way to tackle congestion in the long term. I-1125 sends us back to the 1950s in both respects. Tell Tim Eyman and Kemper Freeman that they’re out of touch with Washingtonians’ priorities by voting No on I-1125.
King County Council, Position 6. Richard Mitchell is running against incumbent Jane Hague and holds a number of positions that we like, including support for long-term sustainable transit funding and emphasis on productivity; he’s also shown a firm grasp on the importance of land use in the transportation discussion. We are, however, very skeptical of his ideas on transit agency consolidation. To her credit, Ms. Hague did help broker the deal to pass the $20 CRC and eliminate the ride-free area. Although she did the right thing in the end, she was still willing to accept draconian cuts unless her second-order concerns were addressed. That’s just not good enough with a strong transit advocate like Richard Mitchell in the race.
King County Council, Position 8. Joe McDermott has had a short but impressive term on the Council since he replaced Dow Constantine. His positions are similar to Mr. Constantine’s — solid support for preserving and reforming Metro service while proceeding with Sound Transit’s buildout. Mr. McDermott’s opponent doesn’t appear to have a transportation emphasis.
Seattle City Council, Position 1. Bobby Forch has experience managing capital projects for SDOT, is a strong supporter of the VLF, and has several interesting ideas for transportation improvements, like making 3rd Avenue transit-only all-day. The incumbent, Jean Godden, championed the least aggressive, most road-oriented version of what became Proposition 1.
Seattle City Council, Position 3. The incumbent, Bruce Harrell, has basically sound views on transit that are “centrist” by Seattle standards. Transportation has not been one of his areas of focus on the Council. That’d be enough for a pass in many cases, but Brad Meacham absolutely hits it out of the park. He’s been aggressive in advocating for more funding for transit, and his ideas make it obvious that he’s used transit for a long time and been thoughtful about his experiences.
Seattle City Council, Position 5. Tom Rasmussen is also basically a transit centrist by Seattle standards: eager to grow the transit pie, a little squishy on density, pro-tunnel, and so on. As Chair of the Transportation Committee, he’s the architect of the $60 VLF as much as anyone (for better or worse), and has had a positive impact on the recent Metro dramas. We yearn for more progressive voices on the Council, but opponent Dale Pusey is not it. Pusey opposes the VLF, demand-based parking fees, and is broadly anti-streetcar.
Seattle City Council, Position 7. Tim Burgess is a solid contributor on the City Council. He’s been a leader on upzoning, market-based street parking, and is supportive of Prop. 1. We’d like it if he were sometimes a bit more aggressive on our issues, but the fact remains that policy-wise he’s the second strongest Councilmember behind Mike O’Brien. Opponent David Schraer says a lot of wonderful things about density, but he seems very dismissive of the environmental concerns that led many people to oppose the DBT. Tim Burgess is an effective advocate for good policy and deserves another term.
Seattle City Council, Position 9. Sally Clark won our primary endorsement as a positive force to improve Seattle’s zoning codes, although as chair of the land use committee, we think she could be much more forceful in that area. Her opponent, Dian Ferguson, opposes our values in almost every dimension: railing against density increases around light rail stations; emphasizing more government-mandated parking everywhere; opposing transit, bike, and pedestrian improvements; and so on.
Bellevue City Council, Position 1. John Stokes is running for Grant Degginger’s open seat, Bellevue’s most hotly contested position. His attitude towards transit are consistent with our views: strong support for East Link, development in the Bel-Red Corridor, and more sustainable taxing authority for transit funding. His opponent, Aaron Laing, is affiliated with Building a Better Bellevue, a neighborhood organization which has been hostile towards Sound Transit and East Link.
Bellevue City Council, Position 3. John Chelminiak has been a staunch proponent of East Link over his tenure on the city council, even authoring a guest piece for us this past May debunking a common talking point among B7 supporters. His general positions on transit are fairly solid, including support for transit signal priority and minimization of cash-fare payment. Opponent Michelle Hilhorst is being backed by developer Kemper Freeman and has not expressed convincing support for any positions that would be considered pro-transit.
Bellevue City Council, Position 5. Claudia Balducci is Bellevue’s purest transit advocate and deserves another term on the council. Her strong support for East Link and transit are supplemented by her impressive transportation resume, which not only includes a seat on the Sound Transit Board, but one on the PSRC Transportation Policy Board as well. Her opponent, Patti Mann, has expressed opposition to ST’s preferred East Link alignment, has no public office experience and is endorsed by a slew of transit opponents.
It will surprise no one, but STB endorses YES votes on the two transit funding measures on the ballot:
Pierce Transit Proposition 1: YES. Pierce Transit is fortunate to have additional authorized taxing authority under existing state law. Prop 1 would increase the sales tax rate from 0.6% to 0.9%, the maximum allowed, in order to bring revenues more or less in line with pre-recession levels. Pierce Transit has had a pretty good crisis, streamlining operations, but now it’s time to pass a measure and avoid deep service cuts. For more see the campaign website.