Endorsements

As in the primary, STB is endorsing candidates and initiatives for the November general election. This is officially a non-partisan blog, so we’ll be evaluating candidates based on their attitude toward transit.

Strong Endorsements (Strongly pro-transit)
Sound Transit Proposition 1: YES
I-985: NO
U.S. Congress, 1st District: Jay Inslee
U.S. Congress, 6th District: Norm Dicks
Washington State Attorney General: John Ladenburg
10th District Senate: Linda Haddon
21st District House: Mary Helen Roberts
41st District Senate: Fred Jarrett
44th District House, Position 1: Hans Dunshee
47th District House, Position : Geoff Simpson
U.S. President/Vice President: Barack Obama/Joe Biden

Lukewarm Endorsements (Transit-neutral, but far better than their opponents).
Governor: Christine Gregoire
Secretary of State: Sam Reed
41st District House, Position 1: Marcie Maxwell
41st District House, Position 2: Write-in

Supporting arguments after the jump.  Admin is listed as the post author, but in fact this is a collective effort.
Continue reading “Endorsements”

Prop. 1 Must Pass

David Brewster at Crosscut discusses the possibility of Prop 1 failing and that means for Sound Transit, Light Rail and the future of transportation in our region. His analysis is pretty much spot-on. Focusing on Sound Transit and Light Rail, I see there being four options if Prop 1 fails to pass, depending on the degree of the failure and whether road warriors like Rossi take over Olympia:

  1. Prop. 1 fails big, and Sound Transit is dismantled by the road warriors in the legistlature and the Governor’s Mansion. Metro gets some of Sound Transit’s taxing authority and runs our only rail line, which doesn’t get expanded, not even to Husky Stadium. Sound Transit’s remaining taxing authority goes to a “roads agency”.
  2. Same as option 1, except Sound Transit’s remaining taxing authority goes to Metro for more buses, expecially BRT.
  3. Prop. 1 fails by a smaller margin, Sound Transit is rolled into a roads-and-transit agency by either a Norm Rice-John Stanton Initiative, or by the road warriors. This roads and transit agency, probably doesn’t expand rail past Husky Stadium. The rest of the money goes to roads and BRT.
  4. Same as option 3, except Nickels gets a Seattle only-measure to expand rail to Northgate.

None of these are pretty. Even the last option is very dark compared to what we have on offer this election, would take a massive political will to get accomplished and doesn’t leave much room for the expansion of light rail in any future scenarios. I don’t really see any other way we’ll get more rail in our region if Prop. 1 fails.

The other smart point Brewster makes is that I-985 is going to make congestion much worse for buses, and make BRT a much worse option. But if Sound Transit is destroyed, as it is in all scenarios above, we’ll never have another. If we want transit that works at all, especially in light of I-985’s potential destructive elements, we really need to get light rail.

If Prop 1 passes, here are the options:

  1. Prop. 1 passes by a very narrow margin. A Rice-Stanton intiative or road warriors in Olympia create a long fight over governance reform and the projects from Prop 1.
  2. Prop. 1 passes by a large margin, Sound Transit lives on into the future bringing us rail for all time.

Even option 1 above puts the road-warriors in the worse position, and makes it very hard for them to dismantle rail.

If we want rail to be part of the transportation conversation in Puget Sound, we have to pass Mass Transit Now. There are plenty of volunteer opportunities in the campaign if you want to get involved, email: Rebecca@masstransitnow.org.

(H/T to Matt @ OR).

STB Anti-Endorsements

As I mentioned recently, we sought to endorse candidates for Tuesday’s primary that had taken a strong stand for transportation issues. We even asked for recommendations.

In a sad statement about our State, we didn’t find much in the way of candidates to endorse. We refuse to endorse candidates about whom we can’t say anything positive, except that they’re not as bad as their opponent. So instead, we’re going to release anti-endorsements, candidates you should most definitely not vote for because of their retrograde position on transit.

As an officially non-partisan blog, we’ve stripped away our feelings about other issues to focus on their position on transportation and land use. We also aren’t bothering to evaluate races, like Attorney General, that don’t really matter for transit. So bear that in mind. Hope you didn’t mail your ballot in already!

Governor: We’ve broken down before why Dino Rossi‘s transportation plan is probably unconstitutional, hostile to transit, and almost certainly dead on arrival in Olympia. Nevertheless, his plan at least shows that his heart is in the wrong place. Mr. Rossi gains our anti-endorsement.

41st District Senate (Mercer Island, Newcastle, Bellevue , Renton): Bob Baker‘s website has a stream of Kemper Freeman talking points and misleading factoids.

We simply need to apply the free-market principles of choice and find ways to accommodate more lanes of road. Period.

Yes Bob! Roads are a free market paradise, not subsidized like those rotten transit riders! Because buses stuck in traffic and cars stuck in traffic make for an infinite universe of “choices!”

Read it: it’s so bad it’s good. Needless to say, Mr. Baker earns our most emphatic anti-endorsement.

41st District House (Mercer Island):  What is it with Mercer Island?  The threat to their precious express lanes (which will be fully replaced by one HOV lane in each direction before the rail goes in)?

Rep. Judy Clibborn has fought the installation of rail on I-90, which would effectively kill light rail to the Eastside.  You would think a city that would be among the first to get rail service wouldn’t have so many of these kinds of characters.  Anyway, Clibborn gets our anti-endorsement.

10th District Senate (Camano Island): I don’t know if we have any readers out there, but Mary Margaret Haugen was the driving force behind governance reform this year. She gets bonus points for claiming that her constituents “don’t even know who their Sound Transit representative is,” which makes sense because her constituents lie outside the Sound Transit district and therefore don’t have a representative.

Sample Afghan Ballot from Wikimedia Commons. Good candidates all, but I wonder what their positions are on Sound Transit 2?

Challenges for Amtrak

As we all know, Amtrak’s ridership has been booming all over the United States. Corridor trains are selling out more often, while long distance trains are a hit among college students with school coming back into session soon. With the recent surge in fuel prices, people are looking at new ways to beat the pump and Amtrak has been hugely popular as a clean and friendly way of getting around.

In recent weeks, there has been several articles about Amtrak now hitting its upper capacity limits, including in the Wall Street Journal. This is a big problem for several reasons:

1. Turning somebody away because there is not enough room should not be an option. The exceptions are our own Amtrak Cascades and the Northeast Corridor’s (NEC) Acela train, which can not add cars as easily as say the Amfleet (as pictured above), Horizon, or Superliner cars.

2. To have the Government take Amtrak as a serious mode of transportation, Amtrak needs as much exposure as possible.

3. Higher ridership figures will benefit studies of and proposals for High Speed Rail, such as the California High Speed Rail Project (which is a good thing, we need HSR).

4. Overcrowding leads to delayed trains because baggage is lost, people have fallen asleep past their station, etc.

What’s most bothersome is that there shouldn’t be any capacity issue. Amtrak has 70+/- serviceable Amfleet passenger cars stored in the Delaware and Bear shops in the Northeast Corridor. Along with these cars are an additional 20+/- serviceable GE P40 locomotives. Amtrak should be talking to Congress on getting these cars and locomotives either rebuilt/refurbished as soon as possible to reduce the overcrowding on trains.

The Amfleet cars are good for at least 80 passengers per car and most corridor trains run between 3-5 cars. This would be an additional capacity of upwards of 400 passengers per train. At 5 car trains each, Amtrak has enough cars for an additional 14 train sets. Realistically, it would be more like 11 or 12, keeping a car or two at each of the terminal locations as a spare. If Amtrak does have more than the 70 cars however, 14 train sets is easily possible. 14 train sets times 400 passengers each train = 5600 potential passengers for these train sets a day, or 2,044,000 passengers a year – And this is only assuming the train is one way at maximum capacity. Make it a round trip and it doubles. Also, trains can be utilized on a corridor several times over.

Amtrak as it stands now is doing excellently in terms of ridership, but it could be doing even better. If Amtrak was granted the money to rebuild these cars and locomotives, Amtrak could start adding service to these strained corridors in less than 6 months time. This would also give Amtrak a cushion with these spare train sets for new service, including the once talked about Seattle – Pasco via Stampede Pass route. Another example use of these extra cars is to replace a broken-down dedicated train set. The Acela and Cascades service have been both pulled for serious mechanical issues. When this happened, Amtrak had to cut services of other trains to provide coverage. This should absolutely never happen.

Amtrak’s corridor trains, excluding the NEC, operate on freight railroad tracks, which is the other major hindrance to Amtrak. Signal issues, or freight trains that are moving slowly or stalled, or just freight congestion period can easily slow a passenger train down by hours. Long-distance trains suffer from this even more.

In order for Amtrak to establish high speed rail, the State and neighboring freight carriers would need to come to a better agreement on how trackage rights work. All of the freight railroads claim that new rail construction is required and would be used for passenger movements only. The maximum speed would be 90-110mph. At a maximum speed of 110mph, it is fast enough to cut travel times by upwards of an hour and a half depending on curves in the corridor. Our Amtrak Cascades corridor could achieve speeds up to 110mph South of Olympia, which would reduce the travel time between Seattle and Portland from 3hr 30 minutes to 2hr 23 minutes (assuming use of the Talgo Tilting equipment).

And finally, the most important thing to any passenger operations is the maintenance of the track. The video below shows the Amtrak Cascades at speed going over a very rough grade crossing. This is one of many issues with aging infrastructure that face these passenger trains all around America.

Amtrak Cascades going over rough crossing in Kalama, WA

P-I: Fare Increase Off the table – For Now

King County Metro’s 25-cent fare increase request, to go into effect October 1, has been retracted.  However, the P-I’s Gregory Roberts reports that all the side commentary indicates that that’s only because there’s a bigger one in the works.

Sims announced a month ago that Metro would seek a 25-cent fare increase Oct. 1 to soften the impact of rising bus fuel prices, which threw the agency’s budget projections $14 million into the red for this year and $22 million for next year.

But the new sales tax forecasts mean that the problem is worse and requires a more potent solution quickly, he said.

That could bring a proposal for a bigger fare increase, officials said, without specifying how much bigger. And although Sims said last month that service would not be cut to save money, he said Friday that all options were up for consideration.

To take a page from my usual opponents, in principle I don’t have a problem with paying something closer to the actual costs of moving myself around.  Since Executive Sims has utterly failed to find a sponsor in Olympia, fare increases are a superior option to cutting service.

A $2.25 PugetPass costs $81 a month. That would be a 50-cent increase in the Peak one-zone fare.  Prepare your budgets.

What We Need From Sound Transit

This is more critical than I usually am, but I think discussion lately warrants it.

Prop 1 failed last year partly because of the RTID, partly because people were led to believe it was “big” by deceptive reporting from the Times and PI, and finally, (this is the harsh part) partly because the campaign and Sound Transit were barely visible to combat the opposition.

Of those three, RTID wasn’t really something we could fix locally – but we don’t have to deal with it this year. Biased reporting is something we’re just going to have to live with – the Times editorial board hates the idea of losing their SOV express lane commutes from Mercer Island, for example. We do have allies in the Tacoma News Tribune, the Herald papers, and others.

The third issue is something it’s hard for Sound Transit to get involved in. They are not part of the campaign – they can inform us of upcoming plans and advertise their services, but within quite strict limits. Usually, if Sound Transit isn’t doing some kind of advertising you think they should do, there’s a good reason. Just look at the KIRO “investigative” crap we’ve just seen – Sound Transit pays the Transportation Choices Coalition for their work to inform the public about transit options, an effective use of their advertising and outreach dollars, and even that gets them hit hard in our media. Sound Transit has to be careful about what they say and do, because there are a lot of very vocal detractors that love to spin.

That said, here are the key areas where I think Sound Transit can – and must – improve, if it hopes to win this election and stave off interference (or outright destruction) from Olympia come next session.

First, we need an outline for a future package to offer those who won’t be served by this one, to frame the issue as “when”, not as “if”. ST2 last year came from a cafeteria plan of options, some of which would be in ST3. There’s a long range plan – use it to your advantage! Snohomish County wants light rail to Everett. Ballard and West Seattle want service. Issaquah and Redmond are desperate for options. These are things that could be in ST3, so draw a map and say “this is a concept of what another .5% in ten years could get us”. As far as the 20 year plan goes, mention what Salt Lake City did with an acceleration vote later, and point out that a new vote in another few years could cut several years off implementation. If Sound Transit needs more taxing authority from Olympia to make that happen, tell us! Playing defensively right now is playing to lose – help us move the debate to a point where it is already assumed that ST2 is good and necessary.

We also desperately need a simple, graphical explanation of what ST2 projects cost (in 2008 dollars) and which major projects would come from each subarea’s funds. Perhaps show the proportions of the large expenditures on a nice chart or graph in the corner of a map of the projects, delineated with subarea boundaries, so that people see where their money is going, and make it very clear that the spending is proportional to the tax revenues. This is a huge sticking point – people in Snohomish and Pierce just assume their money is going to Seattle. That’s a reality of near rural and exurban politics. Subarea equity was given to Sound Transit as a tool to combat that view, so use it! Don’t wait until we pick a plan – do one for 12, 15, and 20 year. It doesn’t have to be to four significant figures, it just has to get out there. I’d have done it myself, but I can’t find subarea tax revenues in the financial docs.

Finally, framing. The way outreach is framed is absolutely key. When ridership is recalculated for a vote this year (and it should be, with all the construction starts in our core corridors), we need to head off at the pass the trash argument saying that light rail doesn’t carry very many trips. Frame ridership in terms of something we already understand, like: “300,000 riders per day – more than SR-520 and I-90 combined.” Address the cost of the package in terms of what the same money buys us in other modes – compare $11 billion in light rail to the $11 billion (more in today’s dollars) of the 405 widening – three times the trips, twice the mileage, with no congestion! Construction timeline is also very important to frame – don’t say Northgate in 20xx – say Northgate two years after University Link. Don’t say Overlake in 20xx, say Bellevue in eight years and Overlake four years later. Most people don’t do the math, they just hear the smaller numbers. Overall, don’t let the media pretend that the whole system opens when the last leg opens, make them address things in terms of Central Link and University Link. This also helps keep the public eye on the current projects – most people don’t even know U Link exists.

Everything last year was approached from the view that giving out information would make people like light rail and support it. Linguists have known since the 60s that framing matters – the way arguments are presented, and how we relate the new ideas to ideas we already understand – matters as much as (if not more) than the information. We ended up, though, with a lot of numbers that were easy for media and the opposition to spin to create sensational arguments.

So to those reading who might have an impact: I’m not exactly an authority on PR, so take my arguments with a grain of salt. I love the open houses and public outreach, but there are major pieces missing from the messages they carry. We need to see a game plan for those who don’t get what they want immediately. We need to nail home the understanding that we can’t just use Pierce money to get light rail into Snohomish. We need to address the way light rail expansion is attacked by approaching outreach less matter-of-factly – fewer numbers, more comparisons to things people understand. While these arguments did exist last year if one looked for them, they were not well integrated into the overall outreach story. The stakes are much too high to play the same game again.

$7 Gasoline in 2010

That’s not a peak oil alarmist or a tree-hugging car-hater. That’s CIBC World Markets, trying to figure out the impacts on the economy.

Hence we must narrow our focus on those Americans where a European style shift in driving habits is currently feasible. People can’t simply abandon their cars if they have no other means of getting around, particularly in terms of getting work. There must be at least a public transport alternative.

As it turns out, roughly 57 million American households that own a vehicle have reasonable access to public transi4, slightly more than half of the number of households who own a vehicle (Chart 11). And applying the 80% vehicle ownership rate seen in Europe to this target group suggests a 10 million reduction in the number of registered vehicles in the US.

Where will this decline come from? The focus is on those who can least afford to operate a car when gasoline costs $7 per gallon. No less than 80% of low income Americans (or roughly 24 million households) with less than $25,000 annual income own a car. With gasoline bills surging to record highs, they will be the first to come off the road.

And presumably, he’s not even considering people that will accept a smaller or more expensive property to move closer to transit.

Meanwhile, in Olympia, increased funding for transit isn’t on the table — not even for buses that could help every jurisdiction in the state. Sound Transit 2, which could be the largest public transit investment in the state’s history, is on a knife edge.

And WSDOT is still talking ($) about $2.6 billion in highway improvements in Skagit County. (hat tip: Wesley Kirkman) The world has changed, but the machine keeps rolling along.

As 78% of real estate agents report clients showing “greater interest in city living”, we have NIMBY opposition to density, denunciation of “social engineering,” and opposition to the one technology — rail — that could support that density, while supporting bus technology subject to the same price pressures as cars.

What reality are these people living in?

Bradford Plummer at TNR says it best:

To put things in perspective, only about 5 percent of Americans used public transit to commute as of 2005, compared with about 50 percent in Japan and Europe, where pricey gas has long been a reality. It’s not clear whether the United States could scale up that quickly by, say, 2012, though it sounds like, among other things, it would be a good idea to get started now.

Get mad.

Via Sullivan.

Sigh.

Good for Virginia Beach.

Two Republican legislators from Virginia Beach have introduced a bill that would extend the light rail system now under construction in Norfolk to within blocks of the Oceanfront.

The legislation was put in by Del. Robert Tata and state Sen. Frank Wagner with little apparent discussion with local elected city leaders.

“It’s time for this to happen, whether they favor it or not,” Tata said Tuesday.

Meanwhile, in Olympia, the debate among the Democratic supermajority is not how much to fund Sound Transit, but whether to hobble it with navel-gazing governance reform.

Our Democrats are to the right of Virginia Republicans.

Via The Overhead Wire.

Exurban and Rural Transit Trips

In a seemingly continuing series on the possibilities of public transit the P-I has an interesting article about using public transit to get to far-away places, like Port Townsend to Olympia (!!!). The farthest I’ve ever taken local transit was from San Francisco to Big Sur (seriously, and it was awesome). Any of you gone on a really long bus ride? I know STB reader DJtroksy has taken public transit on some pretty long rides.

Dino Rossi Declares War on Rail

It may surprise some readers to know that, over my voting life, I’ve been known to occasionally vote Republican in elections at various levels. I have my own bizarre cocktail of left- and right- wing views, and depending on what itch is being scratched my opinions about each candidate may be shaped without party-line considerations.

Recently, of course, local Republicans have become reactionary anti-rail, anti-transit, anti-density, pro-SOV fanatics, which is something I just can’t accommodate.

However, with our Democratic supermajority in Olympia alternating between total inaction and legislation to maim Sound Transit, and Governor Gregoire appearing to waste time on various transportation megaprojects, there was unusual space for Dino Rossi to have a message encompassing all transportation modes but promising competent execution of all of them, rather than as a pro-car or anti-car ideologue.

So I looked to Dino Rossi’s Transportation Plan with hope and anticipation. I shouldn’t have. This document was first sent to me by a Gregoire operative; when your own campaign literature is being gleefully distributed by the other side, that’s a bad sign.

It’s 21 pages of asphault-pouring goodness. Let’s break it down:

p.5: (his page numbers)

Highways are a state responsibility. It is the obligation of state government to build and maintain statewide road and freeway networks.

Transit, including buses, bus rapid transit and rail, is a critical component of our present and future transportation system.

Transit has always been planned, and managed, at the local level. The state should not meddle in local transit decisions.

Emphasis mine. It’s kind of lukewarm about transit, but not catastrophic. Do no harm: it’s a message that I wish State Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen (D-not in the Sound Transit district) would take to heart.

With you so far, Dino!

But wait, what was that on Page 4?

The Rossi plan will dedicate half of the current and future eastside subarea equity Sound Transit surplus to HOV projects on I-405 and S.R. 520. Sound Transit’s accruing eastside subarea surplus should be used for what it was intended – to finance transit related infrastructure on the eastside. This provides approximately $690 million.

Ah, so he is going to meddle in local transit decisions, dictating the mode choices to the local Sound Transit board. This measure, by the way, would wipe out any hope of rail to the Eastside in our working lives.

OK, so he just wants to enhance bus service. I’m a rail guy, but at least he wants better transit!

All the way up to p. 13:

In addition to funding these important highway projects, the Rossi plan will use common sense approaches to improve the flow of traffic and relieve congestion:

• Open HOV lanes to all traffic during non-peak hours.

But won’t that wreck the reliability of bus service? Why, it’s almost as if he wants to divert Sound Transit funds into projects that can also be used by Single Occupancy Vehicles, and doesn’t really care about the transit! Who would have thought!

But at least he doesn’t want to mess with the highly successful Sound Transit governance structure, like many Democrats do!

A Regional Transportation Accountability Board is needed to prioritize, fund and plan projects in King, Pierce, Snohomish and Kitsap counties. The incumbent’s own bipartisan Regional Transportation Commission concluded in its report to the legislature in 2006 that the current system was broken.

A Regional Transportation Accountability Board in the Central Puget Sound region would:

• Provide a regional focus to get critical projects completed, instead of local elected officials fighting to get their pet projects done first.

• Integrate planning across various transportation modes, from highways to rail transit to buses, so they work together instead of competing.

• Be directly elected, so its board would be accountable to the people.

Key attributes of a Regional Transportation Accountability Board in Central Puget Sound include:

• Consolidates the transportation functions of the Puget Sound Regional Council with Sound Transit, RTID and local transit agencies.

• Acts as “gatekeeper” for major transportation project decisions across the four counties.

The WSDOT would remain the lead agency for all state highway projects.

Oh.

<sigh>

Vote Gregoire. Indifference to transit is better than hostility.

Board Meeting Update

The board met today, but did not decide whether to go back to the ballot, as I thought they would. Whoops. Apparently, they have extened their time table until July to decide to go the ballot. Sorry about the misinformation. With a Billionaire John Stanton-back “governance” initiative likely to rear its ugly head come November, I pray we do get a ballot initiative.

Some interesting information came from the meeting according to the Tacoma News Tribune’s Patrick O’Callahan:

  • No Lakewood-Dupont extension to Sounder, mostly because that run would be mostly for commuters from Olympia. The Pierce County delegation was not happy with the idea of subsidizing Thurston County residents.
  • The Tacoma Link extension was out, which upsets me and a lot of other people.
  • Sound Transit would spend money on acquiring right-of-way for South Link to be built in ST3.

More Sounder runs would still be included. I know the News Tribune’s postion was with Pierce County Ladenburg that it’s all about light rail for Pierce County, but I wonder if just buying land will get enough support to pass a ballot proposition.

More HB 3311

Update:
It looks like Judy Clibborn won’t let the bill hit the floor, because I guess she wants her constituents to have to pay for the state’s roads I guess.

Original Post

From the DJC, they have specific information about the taxing abilities brought up in HB 3311.

House Bill 3311 would allow a regional transit authority to levy an 0.8 percent motor vehicle excise tax and an 0.4 percent sales tax if both were approved by voters. The transit authority could also tax retail car rentals at a rate of 2.172 percent and impose annual car tab fees of up to $100.

Sound Transit currently levies an 0.3 percent MVET tax, an 0.4 percent sales tax, and an 0.8 percent car rental tax.

HB 3311 now goes to the House Transportation Committee

I think the article is wrong on the point that they can only get a .4% sales tax with voter approval, because they were asking for .5% in Prop. 1 for RTA.

Answer to the ORCA question

Last year, I asked, “what happened to Orca?”, central Puget Sound’s “One Regional Card for All”. The card was supposed to be usable on all public transportation in the region, but was already a year late when I asked that question, almost a year ago.

Well, thanks to anonymous in the comments, we find via Kiro that ORCA is in serious jeopardy thanks to the troubles the vendor, Australia-based ERG Group, is having with the Sydney regional government.

Every city has one of these card systems, I’m amazed that our area just can’t move to another vendor. What do you guys think?

Another Transit Bill in Olympia?

Update, see below.
Bill 3311 will be brought today. Sponsors are Representatives Simpson (who wrote we should raise the gas tax to pay for roads), Pedersen, Sullivan, Kirby, Kenney, Williams, Conway, Eddy, Hasegawa, Cody, Nelson, Hudgins, Sells, Ericks, Wallace, Appleton, Rolfes and Chase.

I don’t have any details about the bill, but its title is “Concerning regional transportation governing authorities”. Should be interesting!

Update:
Here’s the bill, House Bill 3311. Its main effects are to strike-out the RTID language, effectively destroying RTID, and possible bringing back Sound Transit’s MVET authority. This is definitely a good, pro-transit bill.

The language in the bill is pretty dramatic. My favorite line is right in the beginning:

The legislature acknowledges that it has historically been, and should continue to be, the responsibility of the state to prioritize and fund the costs of repairs, replacement, and construction of state transportation facilities.

I love it! Don’t let the state off the hook for paying for its own roads.

Here’s some goodness related to Sound Transit in general:

The legislature recognizes that the regional transit authority (STB: Sound Transit) serving the central Puget Sound area has been effective in implementing regional transportation projects that have significantly improved mobility in the region.

And some specific love for light rail:

The legislature further finds that a fully completed light rail line running through the state’s largest city would serve substantially more commuters from the northern and southern parts of the central Puget Sound area and would reduce congestion along the most heavily congested streets and highways in the state. Current funding will not permit completion of the light rail system in the central Puget Sound area as planned to help meet the transportation demands forecasted for the region. Additional funding would afford voters the opportunity to fund completion of the light rail system in areas with high ridership and where light rail is the most efficient and environmentally sound transportation alternative.

Gregiore’s Climate Action Plan: Where’s the rail?

I’m late posting this, because after my last Global Warming post, my cred might seem suspect. But Gregoire’s plan seems even more suspect. Fast action for climate change, huh? Where’s the rail then? Diesel buses sitting in congestion aren’t going to get us back to 1990 levels very quickly. Light rail could help.

What’s Gregoire’s plan? Uh, it’s shared rides. I’m all for that, but if you’re talking about climate change in a region where most of the electricity comes from zero-emission hydro, you had better start talking about rail, because transportation is the majority of the GHG emissions here.

This is a serious issue. Look at what Jon Talton about Seattle’s future, in particular, how lack of transit could break Seattle over the next 30 years:

Muro also looked at his hometown and worries about innovation and productivity growth. According to Brookings data, productivity per job has been weak since the 2001 crash. “Are you keeping up with Helsinki, Frankfurt and Barcelona, your real competitors? It’s a tough game now.”

How that game will be influenced by Seattle’s “way” may be another question. It’s not just that Portland builds popular light rail while Seattle dithers and argues or that leaders were apparently reluctant to rock the boat at the Port of Seattle.

It’s that top-drawer competitors such as Singapore and Ireland are fast, efficient and agile in drawing capital, building infrastructure and embracing the next waves of wealth-creation.

So it’s more than just, climate change, it’s a question of our future prosperity. What kind of city will this be in 50 years? Are we really better situated than climate-change-averse cities like Phoenix and Dallas? For all Seattle’s “green” cred, I see a lot of enviro-mind people driving SOVs (and SUVs) each day.

What do you think? Am I off base? Is Gregoire right on this and I’m wrong? Let me know in the comments, and let Gregoire know that light rail needs to be a part of any climate change solution in our area.

Update: There’s a meeting of the Climate Advisory Team in Olympia on Friday starting at 8:30 am in that is open to the public. There will be a public comment period mid-morning. If you care about rail, will be in Olympia mid-morning Friday with nothing to do, go there and make your voice heard.

Sound Transit in Danger of Disbandment – ACT NOW!!

There has been a lot of commotion regarding disbanding Sound Transit that the news hasn’t brought up as of late.

The following blogs have information in regards to this troubling news.

Seattle Transit – http://seatrans.blogspot.com/ (Battle Stations, Everyone)

Carless in Seattle – http://blog.carlessinseattle.us/ (Worrying hints from Olympia)

The Stranger Slog – http://slog.thestranger.com/2008/01/resolved_sound_transit_dissolved

If this bill gets signed, I will vote for anybody else but Gregorie, she will lose the election to Rossi, one way or another.

If this is their way to ensure that Sound Transit doesn’t come to a vote in November 2008, this is as low as they could possibly go. Btw, This would STOP the University Link from being built if this is approved.

Battle Stations, Everyone

2 UPDATES BELOW — Keep Scrolling.

We’ve been warning you for quite some time now about governance reform, most recently here.

Well, Josh Feit reports that the chair of the Senate Transportation Committee, Sen. Haugen of Camano Island, has written a bill that dissolves Sound Transit and replaces it with an elected board.

As he points out, this threatens the $750 million grant that University Link depends on.

I believe this is the bill. I haven’t had time yet to fully digest it, but Section 310 is the one that deals with Sound Transit and incorporates it into the new organization, which would pretty much hire all of Sound Transit’s old employees and assume its responsibilities.

Here’s the procedural history of the bill. I see that other sponsors include Ed Murray of Capitol Hill and Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles of Belltown, Queen Anne, and Ballard. Why Sen. Murray wants to mess with an organization building light rail through the heart of his district is beyond me.

Anyway, it’s time that we mobilize to make sure this thing is dead, dead, dead. Briefly, why it’s a horrible idea:

(1) Sound Transit consistently passes audits with flying colors. Special-purpose organizations with directly elected boards (Port of Seattle, Seattle Monorail Project, Seattle School Board) have a recent history of graft and incompetence. Why would we seek to replicate that governance model here?

(2) The Sound Transit board is filled with politicians dedicated to delivering real rapid transit. Lord knows who could get on an elected board with a few bucks from Kemper Freeman and the road lobby. Tim Eyman, everyone? I’m not a lawyer, but if I read Sec. 305(2) correctly, a new transit plan will require unanimous approval by the commission to be put before the voters, meaning one commissioner elected by people in Monroe can stop the entire region in its tracks.

(3) This creates some risk for the University Link federal funding agreement.

(4) The “Regional Transportation Commission” has a dual focus of roads and transit. Haven’t we been through this already?

We have a Democratic super-majority in Olympia — it’s unbelievable we have to fight off our state government like this. If Governor Gregoire signs this bill, I will vote for Rossi this fall, simply so that the Democrats come up with a leader that is merely neutral to transit, instead of actively hostile. If this passes, there isn’t anything left for Dino Rossi to screw up.

Contact your legislators.

UPDATE: Sen. Murray has once again placed a thoughtful response in the comments. The bill I cited is now dead as of today, assuming that’s what a “Senate Rules ‘X’ File” means.

It’s not clear to me how that relates to the Haugen proposal that Josh Feit mentioned. Remain vigilant, but I don’t see it listed anywhere under Sen. Haugen’s sponsored bills.

UPDATE 2 (1/21/08): Sen. Kohl-Welles also replies in the comments, reaffirming her support for transit.

I firmly believe that the Seattle delegation considers themselves pro-transit and pro-rail. To be anything else would be both foolish and politically suicidal. However, to this layman it appears that their names keep on ending up on bills that we here at STB consider to be hostile to Sound Transit, and therefore hostile to rapid construction of new rail capacity. This probably has something to do with the proverbial sausage-making in Olympia, but it’d be nice if for once the maneuvering was over providing funds to accelerate or extend projects, rather than coming up with cheap administrative fixes that can be manipulated by the road-building lobby.

However, I promise to do a bit more homework on these bills. No more flying off the handle at Josh Feit rumor-mill posts. I owe that to the readers if I ask you to contact your legislators.