So now the Sierra Club has gone one step past it’s usual greenhouse emissions line and has taken the bizarre step of criticizing the ST2 lines themselves.
A Sierra Club leader took the rare step Thursday of criticizing part of Sound Transit’s light-rail vision — a proposed track extension from the city of SeaTac south to Tacoma.
“I think it’s not the most efficient use of tax dollars,” local club Chairman Mike O’Brien said during a campaign debate over this fall’s multibillion-dollar Proposition 1.
He called the Tacoma line a “political decision” made to satisfy elected officials in Pierce County. “If transportation planners were in charge, they would come up with a more efficient solution,” he said.
In this country (and others) tax dollars are rarely efficiently used. Hell, I don’t even efficiently use my own cash. That doesn’t mean I should stop spending it or stop paying taxes. Sound Transit actually has a pretty decent record of not being hugely wasteful with tax dollars. The argument that the line doesn’t go to the right place is laughable. No matter where the build the line in South King County, that’s the right place: people will move to where the line is built and development will happen around the line!
While several environmental groups support the joint “Roads & Transit” plan, the Sierra Club argues that more road lanes would worsen global warming. O’Brien says he could have endorsed a transit-only plan.
After the debate, O’Brien said South End* trains would take too long to reach Seattle, because of the system’s slow surface segment currently under construction through South Seattle’s Rainier Valley. He suggests building separate lines outward from downtown Everett and Tacoma, serving local riders into those urban centers.
What the hell is he talking about? Separate lines outward from downtown Tacoma? That is just insane. People living in Federal Way aren’t well served by a line that takes them around Tacoma.
I’ve noticed the Seattle Times is still using the $38 billion number which is before the $7 billion double counting was corrected for.
Joel Connelly actually makes a good point today:
Vote down the roads-and-rails package so we can “do a lot better” next time with a transit-exclusive measure, urged Mike O’Brien of the Sierra Club. The club has broken with most major green outfits, which back the November measure.
King County Councilwoman Julia Patterson argued that delay carries a human price on working families coping with longer commutes, and added, “Every year that we wait will cost another $500 million.”
Polls show a buffeted electorate: Voters want a solution to the mess and favor mass transit. They’re not that enthusiastic with a six-tenths-of-a-cent increase in the sales tax and a licensing tab of $200 or so on a new car. Didn’t we already vote to limit car tabs?
Other cities in the West have been transformed, positively, by light rail and commuter rail systems. Once a dark, cavernous place populated by hoody teenagers, downtown Portland at night has come alive with light rail. The SkyTrain in Vancouver, B.C., is often packed and has revitalized neighborhoods.
The best public transit systems don’t just supplant already used bus routes, but extend to and serve growth areas. I used Bay Area Rapid Transit to visit an old friend in the far suburb of Pleasanton, Calif. Benedictine monks in Mission, B.C., use commuter rail for trips to diocesan headquarters 45 miles away in Vancouver.
Sound Transit has shaped up after a chaotic start. The light rail line is no longer going nowhere, but ending at the airport. Still, it proposes to spend huge amounts of money, and is asking for a huge leap of faith. The $1.64 billion price tag to tunnel beneath Capitol Hill is more than the entire Forward Thrust system would have cost.
Are we building new freeways and stoking the fires of global warming, as the Sierra Club charges? Or does this package make safety improvements and fix choke points so Puget Sound-area families can get home rather than fuming in traffic? I sense that the Sierra Club has let itself get driven by ideology.
It’s a very good reason to get out of the office this fall, seek answers and write down observations … which will keep me from lying on the horn in rush-hour traffic and being pulled over and given a ticket.
I agree with Joel. The Sierra Club has been taken over by ideology on this issue and are no longer credible.
*I don’t like people using “South End” this way. Seattle’s Rainer Valley is the South End, SeaTac is not the end of anything, and thus not the “South End.”
Update: Does Will read this blog, or is the conclusion just that obvious?