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    Two cheers for Ron Sims

    Why are we so angry at a leading politician who tells us what he truly, deeply thinks about a major issue of the day? Maybe it's because he dared to defy a taboo of local politics, where pretended unanimity masks real debate.
    Former King County Executive Ron Sims.

    Former King County Executive Ron Sims.

    King County Executive Ron Sims says he hasn't been getting a lot of mail about his bombshell decision to go public with his opposition to Proposition 1, the roads-and-transit measure on the November ballot in three metro-Seattle counties. But he's certainly had a drubbing from Those Who Know. Gov. Chris Gregoire artfully inserted the dagger about how Sims had given his word to remain neutral. Seattle Times columnist Danny Westneat sadly concluded that Sims should think about hanging it up, since he had failed to lead by not voicing his reservations much earlier.

    I beg to differ. I'm not taking Sims's advice on how to vote, but I think it's just fine that he decided to go public with his perfectly sensible objections. The debate finally got serious, in a way the public could grasp. More than that, Sims lifted the veil on local politics in a very helpful way.

    For starters, I applaud Sims for going public with his genuine views, once he felt he had to speak out. There's been way too much of the Colin Powell/Alan Greenspan syndrome of swallowing objections to stay on the team, and then telling the public in a best-selling book how you really disagreed – after it's too late. "Now you tell us!" has been the headline for too many Bush apostates. Sims at least did the honorable thing of telling us how he feels before the election.

    As for changing his mind, this man who fought hard to create and plan for Sound Transit. Again, I am more inclined to be grateful to a politician who grows, factors in new developments, and then has the courage to fess up. Isn't this what we are forever commanding our leaders to do? When Bill Gates discovered that Microsoft was needing to change fast from relying on software on the PC to computing on the Web, no one hauled out a memo showing that he once firmly believed in the Old Wisdom. Good leaders keep an open mind to new facts and changed circumstances.

    And things have changed in the transit world, in at least three important ways that Sims (virtually alone among our leaders) was able to grasp. First is the imperative of global climate change and the need to walk the talk locally, rather than just feeling better by beating up on President Bush. Sims makes the sensible point that if you are going to add lanes to badly congested Interstate 405, they should be tolled lanes. Second is the growing case for bus rapid transit, a less-costly version of moderately speedy transit that is proving itself in other cities, particularly in South America, and is likely to be tried here (if rail transit doesn't take all the money). Third is variable tolling as a way to reduce a lot of discretionary auto trips, now starting to prove itself in some European cities.

    Add these factors up, as Sims rather plausibly concluded, and our rail transit plan is not exactly wrong but just overextended (largely for political reasons) and ought to be scaled back by defeating it now and resubmitting it shortly afterward. "I never saw a big money issue that failed that wasn't very quickly modified and resubmitted," Sims told me over coffee last week.

    So fine. Hear the man out. We're grownups who can handle some substantive debate. We're not Kansas anymore; we're a big city with a pretty lively range of different opinions and judgment. Or do we want to shout down dissenters just because their timing is bad and they might have some national political aspirations?

    Another reason I welcome the Sims apostasy is that it might help end a style of smothering consensus, in which all the important parties somehow pretend that they all just love an important issue, lest the public suspect there is actual (gasp!) dissent among their betters. I suspect this all-join-hands-and-pretend style of politics goes back to the Jim Ellis era of Forward Thrust proposals. As now, there was something for every interest group, and you got yours so long as you took the pledge of loyalty to the whole Big Whopper. Break ranks, and you'd be out of the club. Sims is now testing the prevalence of this model, and we'll see if he's blackballed politically. I sure hope not.

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    Posted Mon, Oct 8, 7:23 a.m. Inappropriate

    one more cheer for Brewster: Wow! Very astute David. This is the kind of writing that reminds me why people like you make a living at writing. These are complicated issues and Sims is a great leader. thanks, ps

    Posted Mon, Oct 8, 8:03 a.m. Inappropriate

    Are brickbats all we're left with?: Your parenthetical "bigger question" in the last sentence of the third to the last paragraph deserves an essay all to itself.

    Compromise often will leave a bad taste in ones mouth. It's only too bad Sims didn't act on his reservations while the package was still in flux, rather than after the consensus to the extent that it exists had already been formed. I doubt he'd have been able to get tolls on new capacity for I-405, but at least he could have dug in his heels when there was still a chance it might have made a difference.

    I hate to agree with Chris Vance over Ron Sims (hate it), but I suspect his analysis is more likely than what Sims apparently hopes for in the event of failure at the polls and a return to the negotiating table for a new ballot measure.


    Posted Mon, Oct 8, 8:18 a.m. Inappropriate

    Keeping quiet: If she didn't know that he had misgivings, why did Gregoire get Sims to promise that he wouldn't publicly oppose this?

    Doesn't make sense unless Gregoire knew Sims didn't like it and wanted him to keep quiet.

    Posted Mon, Oct 8, 9:09 a.m. Inappropriate

    I'm with Patricia @1: Nice piece, great analysis, right down to the odd reaction that voters have when faced with a united political front and asymmetric information.

    Posted Mon, Oct 8, 9:34 a.m. Inappropriate

    Kudos to Ron Sims and "The Bird" to the Bobbleheads: Ron Sims is using his power wisely. He said what he said, when he said it, so his constituents would know this measure should not be approved. He had no option. If he had called for the addition of variable-priced congestion-relieving tolling on I-405 last fall, the legislature would have ignored him.

    The draft of the ST2 plan wasn't even shown to the board until April 2007. That is the first time anyone could know that there were absolutely no taxpayer-protection provisions in it. Up until then, staff had been telling the board ST2 would be like ST1, and ST1 has strict cost control provisions.

    Once the drafts came out, the Seattle Way took over (bobblehead politicians rubberstamping each other's wish lists for campaign contributors). Now a crushingly expensive mess is headed to the ballot.

    Another thing Exec. Sims is discussing is how expensive this particular proposal is for people and families because it relies on a massive sales tax increase for decades. He deserves big props for speaking out to protect the poorest among us from this financing package. Poor families don't have PAC's funding advertising blitzes to educate voters about the implications of ballot measures.

    This measure needs to be voted down so we can progress into the future with the right kind of transportation planning and funding system. The Roads and Transit measure is a shotgun marriage of plans hatched decades ago by long-departed legislators. Political appointee boards are a proven failure for megaproject planning and execution, and this ballot offering is no exception.

    Frank Chopp and his partners need some political cover, and rejection of this measure would provide that. The legislature will come back with a better plan (such as SB 5803 from last session). It will include accountability to the public for performance - a necessary feature sorely lacking now because of how Sound Transit is configured. Representative democracy is a good thing, kiddos. Especially when scores of billions of dollars of tax revenues are being spent. Duh.

    The new plan also will include revenue sources for roads and transit that are a function of how much, and when, various infrastructure components are used. User pays - that is a better financing paradigm than just a massive general sales tax increase (which would hurt vastly more people than it would help).

    Posted Mon, Oct 8, 9:40 a.m. Inappropriate

    A Simple Test: Before you vote yes on this plan, if you are so inclined ( I am not), please go and see what you are voting FOR.

    Tacoma has a working light rail link - it's nice. Personally though I think the technology though isn't the best alternative for long runs - it is more suited to shorter routes like that of the S. Lake Union Trolley. Ride the Sounder Trains or Express buses (best take one in each direction) down to Tacoma and catch the light rail from the very nice new Transit center at Freighthouse square. Go into downtown - I'd highly recommend the Museum of Glass, if you haven't already seen it.

    My opinion is that the plan doesn't measure up. I could go on with this for awhile, but let me focus on that statement about the plan being a good 'balance' between roads and transit. It is a balance, and I am heartened that folks are responding to that argument. However it is not the best one, by technology or finance.

    The mix of the Sound Transit and RTID projects was a last moment political compromise, not something that was an early criteria. I personally believe we could do much better if we looked at ways that we could improve our highways in ways that also provided improved service. This is tough middle ground, but the benefits are huge - all the way around.

    Face it, people like to drive their own cars and they pay a lot for it. The future is much more likely to be one of smart HOT lanes, with congestion pricing and transit than it is to be of light rail.

    A similiar transition, towards buses, happened between the first and second Sound Transit votes - though the folks that pointed us in that direction have all been attacked, I might add successfully, since that time.

    What is being sold us now, before we have a chance to see that the run to Sea-Tac is perhaps just a bit more than the technology is suited for, is a tie into a single vendor that controls the technology, and price.

    I find it no surprise that one of the law firms behind this project specializes in 'private sector' companies that hold similiar 'monopoly' positions. We need to make small steps forward, like with the development path of the downtown bus tunnel, rather than committing ourselves to a bunch of deadbeat dinosaurs.

    -Douglas Tooley
    Lincoln District, Tacoma

    Posted Mon, Oct 8, 10:05 a.m. Inappropriate

    Ron Sims is my hero. Think about the shortfalls: I've sent Mr Sims a note of thanks. If you agree with him, you should too, his contact info is here:


    I too had the same reaction to a poster above about Gregoire claiming he said he'd stay neutral: it may me wonder if she really has listened to all points of view, and if she's really challenged the assertions and claims project proponents are making.

    Basically, our electeds have an unworkable tool called a tax increase. It doesn't matter what the project is, the tool is simply unworkable for solving our transportation problems. The reason is: a factor that changes can cause costs to go up and revenue to go down, simultaneously. Some of these factors are true "surprises" and may have only a short term impact. "Surprise": there's a hurricane, or a refinery fire. But some are much longer term in nature. For example, the WSJ had an interview with John Dingell of Michigan about a national gas tax increase of 50 cents a gallon. It sounds like he is really serious about coming up with real policy proposals to start dealing with increased carbon in the atmosphere.

    Let's stop and think about the implications of a 50 cent increase in gas prices or other carbon. Construction prices would go up because it uses a lot of carbon. At the same time, demand for auto travel would decrease. The Seattle Times had a story about how the state gas tax increase is not bringing in as much money as forecast because people are driving fewer miles as a result of higher gas prices.

    gas tax story

    Also, I think we could expect to see an increase in demand for bus travel, and consequently for park and ride spaces.

    You put all these together, and the project mix of what we should be building becomes quite different. What if in 20 years, there's no train to Tacoma, instead, the light rail stops at 320th in Federal Way. How does subarea equity work, and how do the ridership numbers play out, and therefore the farebox recovery? Not to mention voter cynicism during the years.

    I simply do not see the flexibility in ST2 to deal with these issues. The prioritization process is quite murky, but I think David says it well above: it is a grab bag, there are not principles guiding who gets what.

    So, at least for roads, I think the solution is user fees. They can adjust with higher costs and reduced demand. I'm not sure what the best approach is for rail or bus funding.

    Let's say this measure does pass. 5 years from now, we will have had 3 rounds of "oops, we were too optimistic, we can 't build what we said. And by the way, the shortfall at the state level also impacts the projects we'd planned on doing too." Do you really think voters are going to go out and approve another $8 billion for roads (3 billion for Evergreen Point, 2 billion for I5 repaving, 1 billion for the 30+ surface bridges that are below the level of the Minnesota bridge that collapsed, 2 billion for other things like the unfunded portion of the Cross Base Highway or other unfunded maintenance?) Somehow I doubt it. I also think tolls are very unlikely to be voted in by users unless the sales tax and MVET is rolled back. I doubt there's flexibility to do that though in the measure, but I'm not a supreme court judge and they are the only people whose opinion ultimately counts.

    Posted Mon, Oct 8, 10:24 a.m. Inappropriate

    Sims is the only one showing leadership: David, thank you (to the 3rd power) for this great piece on Sims and leadership. I GREATLY appreciate the comparison of Seattle-style process with places that demonstrate leadership. Clearly, Prop. 1 is all about the ornaments, and Sims recognized we couldn't even afford the Christmas Tree. I am allergic to the ornament-laden trees that we put on the ballots: school bond measures that do something in every neighborhood school; parks levies that touch every major neighborhood; and transportation bond measures that try to please the pissants in Podunk by giving them an overpass, so they'll approve rail through the densest neighborhoods in the state.

    Real leadership means elected officials standing up and telling voters that something is really needed and why, then passing legislation. That is the way it's done in most parts of the nation, but jeez louise, not in Seattle. How's that working for ya? Not too well. We pay millions more for things that aren't priorities and don't fully fund the items that are. Ron Sims recognized, like some of the opponents of Prop.1, that the real roads priorty is 520; Sims recognized that we need transit options NOW, not in 30 years, and not duplicating routes to Tacoma.

    Those in the state government, the governor and legislature, foisted this mess on us when they not only formed the faceless RTID, but tied the hands and feet of RTID and Sound Transit together. The fact that they added a few cement blocks to the legislation just doomed the whole mess to the bottom of the Snohomish Slough, where it belongs. The state "leaders" deserve our ire, not Ron Sims.

    An avowed "transit whacko", I'm voting NO on Prop. 1. I want to see RTID destroyed and an accountable, directly elected transportation board with teeth formed. I want to see our priority highways improved and fully funded with tolls and/or congestion pricing. And I want to see more of Sound Transit built elevated. The elevated section, which is the longest by far, stretches from Sea Tac airport to MLK just north of Boeing Access Road. It's nearly complete and was done in 2 years, as apposed to the 4 miles at-grade through Rainier Valley that have consumed 7 years.

    Ron Sims is clearly at his own crossroads. We're seeing an entirely new style of leadership, and because it's so different from what we've grown up with (since Jim Ellis created this consensus crap), we aren't sure how to take it. This citizen is not going to throw brickbats; this citizen will throw rose petals.

    Posted Mon, Oct 8, 10:30 a.m. Inappropriate

    Credit where credit is due: "Foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds." Ralph Waldo Emerson.

    Never a fan at all of Ron Sims, on this issue I tip my hat to him. By doing what he did he's forcing debate not only on the merits of fatally flawed Prop 1, but also on the Wizard of Oz nature of the process by which this region makes decisions. The curtain's been thrown back, and what's revealed is not just humbug but Bah! Humbug!

    Decision makers and "leaders" don't like it when their illusions are shattered or they're shown to be, like the emperor, without clothes. During the WTO riots, the myth of Seattle civility was seriously cracked with then-Mayor Paul Schell suffering as a result. Un-nice things do happen despite press releases to the contrary.

    This is another chapter in the maturation of Seattle. The "let's play pretend" and "Peter Pan pixie dust will make Prop 1 fly" fantasies ignore the reality that most people outside whatever passes for smoke filled rooms these days live real lives, doing real work in the real world. All they want is to be able to get to and from work as rapidly as possible, the freedom to decide best for themselves how to do that, and to not have their pockets overly picked or intelligence insulted in the process.

    That's not unreasonable, is it?

    All Ron Sims is doing is asking us to step back from the precipice and take a breath. When what we're being asked to swallow is as big as it is, that's not at all inappropriate; instead of inviting catastrophe, he's doing us a favor.

    In this regard, Ron Sims exemplifies what Judge Learned Hand said in 1941, "The spirit of liberty is the spirit which is not too sure that it is right..."

    Whether his underlying premises are accurate or in accord with other opinions, what he's giving us is the breathing room to sort it all out instead of getting bludgeoned or panicked into supporting Prop ! because life will be over as we know it without it.

    First Emory Bundy, then Mossback, and now David Brewster on Sims...who's next in the string of thoughtful analysis?

    The Piper

    Posted Mon, Oct 8, 10:45 a.m. Inappropriate

    RE: Credit where credit is due: Hey Scott,

    Did you miss the part where Brewster said he was voting for Prop. 1?

    Posted Mon, Oct 8, 11 a.m. Inappropriate

    RE: Credit where credit is due: Nope...

    What I do appreciate, is a new willingness to come out from under the covers on the issue and actually talk about things like adults.

    Brewster can vote as he wishes, but Crosscut's series of articles on both Prop 1 and transportation policy and poliitcs generally have provided the public one of the few forums in which the issues are honestly addressed without declaring anything off limits due to its political holiness.

    Prop 1 just might pass. If it does, we'll have to learn to live with it...then live with the regret it will cause. If not, then in a not too short a time frame, another plan will be floated - full employment for planners, pundits and politicos.

    It's fascinating to me that area political consultant, Sandeep Kaushik (I think), opined that the roads portion and the transit portion of Prop ! would fail badly if voted on their own, yet together they're supportable. I'm still trying to sort that out on a "the whole is equal to the sum of the parts" theory only I can't figure out how to make the sum of two negative numbers into a positive whole.

    What I do know is, should Prop 1 fail on Election Day Tuesday, the sun (cloud cover or no) will shine on Wednesday, babies will continue to be born, and life will go on, Chicken Little notwithstanding.

    The Piper

    Posted Mon, Oct 8, 12:24 p.m. Inappropriate

    Restoreth my faith: I can hardly believe the wondrous essay by David and the string of thoughtful comments. Truly Proposition 1 is a tragic case of the Seattle process, of cumulative greed and political correctness, run amok. Ron Sims provided the leadership Christine Gregoire should have. I would remind people, as Sims carefully pointed out, that the issue isnot rail (or roads) per se, but about this particular bloated and ill-designed package (too vast an expenditure for too tiny a delivered ridership and zero congestion relief), its criminally unfair and regressive and unending tax burden, and its willful ignoring of alternatives that would reduce the rate of growth of vehicle miles. What amazes this economic geographer is how bamboozled the supposed leadership (business and government) of eastside King and of Pierce and Snohomish counties are buying into a plan (rail part) whose SOLE beneficiary are downtown Seattle interests.


    Posted Mon, Oct 8, 1:56 p.m. Inappropriate

    Honesty is nice but genuine public debate is better: Of course, it's good that Ron Sims is speaking honestly to voters about his opinions and depressing that Gov. Gregoire sought assurances of his silence. However, I am not cheering this individual outburst of candor.

    The real tragedy is that there was no genuine public debate WHILE this package was being worked out, where Ron (and others) could have appropriately expressed their views and the real issues could have been chewed over.

    The region is already moving towards more and more Bus Rapid Transit. It will not be a satisfactory solution by itself, especially if we do not have tolls on carpool lanes to clear those lanes for buses. I have not seen a groundswell for tolls.

    Posted Mon, Oct 8, 2:16 p.m. Inappropriate

    Too late Ron!: Before actual construction of the present light rail line commenced, but after it was apparent to all that the line would be much shorter than originally promised, much more expensive and much delayed, Sims more than anyone else led the charge to plow ahead and was dismissive of those that cautioned a second or third look before committing ourselves. He and then County Councilman Nichols were also dismissive of Rainier Valley residents complaints over the at grade placement that effectively turns light rail into a glorified trolley line. They shoveled $50 million to SEED and told them to spread it around and make the public shut up. Now he is saying, you know this light rail stuff may not work.

    Posted Mon, Oct 8, 2:46 p.m. Inappropriate

    Not so fast: Ron Sims should have spoken earlier; maybe RTID/ST2 could have been kept off the ballot. Sound Transit and Light Rail have been in rogue territory for years. The bigger issue is the pressure to get on board the latest 'pooh-bah' issue of the day and the silenced opposition to projects such as transportation fixes and the early 1990's Seattle Commons. The 'Seattle Way' is to marginalize and stifle dissent. Commons opponents knew there were high profile elite soulmates who were intimidated and silenced by the overpowering establishment. Sim's conscience may have finally prevailed and his legacy is one of letting the cat out of the bag. Beware the 'hoopla hucksters'.


    Posted Mon, Oct 8, 4:47 p.m. Inappropriate

    Simms is a weenie: He is just following the pubic's lead. He has been doing this kind of stuff for years. M. Weymiller

    Posted Mon, Oct 8, 4:59 p.m. Inappropriate

    Prop 1 is a joke and so is Sims: He should have said something years ago.

    Posted Mon, Oct 8, 8:47 p.m. Inappropriate

    Still Jeering: It is ultimately an honest thing for a leading politician to tell it like he sees it, especially if it comes with an admission that he's been wasting our time and money towing a comfortable line and he's just fine with just tilting at windmills on his watch.

    But Sims has not done that. There's no admission from him that his leadership on this subject has been inept given the sudden reappearance of his conscience. And there's no admission that the Sims Plan B has nowhere near the support to even launch - even though he knows this.

    So a cheer for belated honesty! A big jeer for extended hand-sitting. And a bigger jeer for promoting the false notion that the Sims Plan B is equal to action anytime soon, on transportation or the environment.

    It'd be consistent with the Seattle-way to let him off the hook and blithly move on to the next log-rolling plan that guys like Ron Sims like better and can support, and make a guy who doesn't show much of a knack for actually doing something out to be "some kind of leader!"

    Only someone who is mostly lazy in their attention to transit would try to sell the silly idea that the transit world has suddenly changed and Sims is the guy who now gets it.

    There's nothing Sims is saying now that hasn't been top of mind for the past 20 years around here. Global warming. Bus rapid transit versus rail. Congestion Pricing. Portland style transportation government. All that has been on the table in one form or another for decades.

    (The bus raid transit rail goofball brawl is as old as its leading fighters, who are mostly all 60 plus and still going strong with their fight, action be damned! The road versus transit battle is just as old, and just as tiresome, and filled with the same early boomer antagonists, who seem more interested in making their points than finding any of the necessary common ground required to actually do anything.)

    Please don't let Sims off the hook when it comes to Global Warming. He's not walking anywhere. He's just talking, and talking. Call if the aura of walking. He doesn't have enough people walking with him to make one bit of carbon difference on this topic, anytime near soon enough. Please don't let his sybolism interfere with measureable difference making. Sims would have us all feel good about progress, yet promote the wrong measure.

    Please do your homework better on our nice cute little baby brother Portland. There's no elected government down there doing anything like Sound Transit's doing. Their tax district for transit (buses and rail) is run by a board appointed by their Governor. Their appointed transit board lords over a smallish transit district serving portions of three counties.

    All three Portland Metro counties combined are about the size of King County.
    And the board that lords over all of them for garbage, the zoo, some land use decision, regional transit planning, the convention center and a few other service, is elected. But they've never been tasked with raising taxes for anything on much scale to speak of.

    Want to do something and end the overextended debate around here? Vote Yes.

    Want more debate and more cost? Vote with Sims. He'll talk and talk. But what will he actually do? And when will he do it?

    And wouldn't it be the Seattle way to try to turn a nuts-and-bolts decision about whether a tax package is worth the price, into a silly issue about whether a lost politician is to be honored for standing against the grain?

    Posted Mon, Oct 8, 11:02 p.m. Inappropriate

    Not convinced.: Sims' apparent change of heart has the feel of a politically motivated stunt. His announcement seemed timed to actually avoid any possibility of constructive debate - too late for that now, with the election a month away.

    I don't buy at all that Sims is the only leader who "gets" developments in transit. Global warming? Please. Everyone understands the need to do something about it. If there's any real denial about climate change, you'll find it in the anti-density camp, who don't understand that the way we use land influences our impact on the environment.

    Bus Rapid Transit has been around for years, and has even been debated locally in the run-up to STs decision on a transit connection to the east side. It's a good idea, and should be implemented eventually. But to date the idea hasn't generated much public excitement: remember, Seattleites are suspicious about transit - they may be ambivalent about light rail and streetcars, but hate buses.

    Congestion pricing is also a great idea, but it's unfair to fault Prop 1 for not including it. Pricing schemes aren't a substitute for building transit - once we price people out of their cars, we'll still need to give them another way to get somewhere. And there is a long way to go to convince Seattle's car-loving public to try congestion pricing. Only in the last few months has anyone even conceived of trying it in the United States - in New York City.

    Anyway, Seattle needs to get real about our size - over three million in the metro area - and just invest in the infrastructure any large city needs. I'm supporting Prop 1.

    Posted Mon, Oct 8, 11:48 p.m. Inappropriate

    Sims calls out the RAT Emperor with No Clothes: Integrity can be a hard thing for a politician to maintain. Promises are the coin of the political realm, but in crises of conscience, the greater good should trump back-room deal-making pledges, as it has with Sims. Certainly, there will be political payback, and a pound of flesh will be exacted, but I have about 500% more respect for Sims now than I did before.

    Because the $157 billion RAT run on the public purse has been exposed, we are now at a crossroads where we can look at our real priorities, not just the transportation priorities that our legislators are so inarticulate about. If we take this $157 billion RAT Tragedy of the Transportation Commons as a working 50-year year-of-expenditure total for transportation taxation, who can say that we shouldn't instead be voting on More Important Things? For example, I'll argue that we'd be better served by something as simple as $57 billion for transportation equally divided between rail and transit, $50 additional billions to significantly upgrade our declining K12 school system, and $50 billion to provide basic health care to the needy. A nice liberal agenda THAT REALLY MAKES A DIFFERENCE.

    Oh, but what of the meagre $57 billion for light rail and for roads? Don't we need another $200 billion or so to provide trains as far as the eye can see? Maybe so. If commuters in the various city downtowns where benefit is concentrated believe light rail is essential to create dense, walkable cities, then employers such as Microsoft, the owners of office towers and affected real estate, and mostly those who will ride light rail should figure out how to tax themselves and pay at the farebox for the privilege of riding. The Microsoft employee, the Mercer Island resident, or the lawyer working in a Seattle high-rise, is much more likely to be able to pay my estimated $50 dollar per trip subsidy than the maid or waitress living in Everett tenement housing and commuting to Tacoma because the GMA savagely enforces unaffordable housing across the region.

    By calling out the RAT Emperor with No Clothes, Sims is actually speaking up for King County residents who live in unincorporated King County and who would be subsidizing light rail use by Seattle, Mercer Island, Medina and Bellevue office workers and condo dwellers who live and work downtown or say, in tiny little places like Microsoft corporate headquarters or the UW. In a lot of ways, RAT is like a Transportation Critical Areas Ordinance, a taking from those who live in the outskirts, by those who live or work in various city downtowns. The regional benefits are concentrated in the downtown areas. The costs and taxes should be concentrated there too.

    Ultimately, ST2 is the Seattle Supersonics of Transportation blackmail projects, just as the the Sonics are the Sound Transit of the NBA: an underachieving fiscally challenged team bought at too high a price with no assurance of future performance. The chief benefactors will be multimillionaires who buy tax-exempt transportation bonds for their portfolios and collect on the crushing debt service that will sit on the chest of the region starving it of taxpayer oxygen. Even Ron Sims, who sits atop the bloated King County bureaucracy, couldn't stomach the RAT plan to aggravate our transportation quagmire by exacerbating both future road congestion and carbon emissions.

    As a taxpayer, I will be voting No on RAT, just like the conscience-striken Ron Sims, and like I expect close to 70% of the electorate when they learn what RAT costs and what it doesn't do. 30% will vote for RAT because--although they may not believe in God--they believe in light rail and its ability to transform real estate into dense, crime-ridden communities without open space, decent schools, or healthcare for the poor. After all, we must keep our spending priorities straight.

    Posted Tue, Oct 9, 9:35 p.m. Inappropriate

    Sim's Paradigm Shift: It's hard to shift paradigms in mid-stream as Ron Sims has done. That takes some political courage, so kudos to him.

    The old paradigm: Raise lots of money in new taxes and throw it at the problem. Hope something sticks.
    The new paradigm: Use price to regulate demand and increase supply. Econ 101 anyone?

    Applied to transit mobility the new paradigm translates into: PRICE THE HOV LANES, thus turning them into HOT lanes and thereby ensuring 50-60 mph Bus Rapid Transit travel on these lanes 24/7. Since non-transit travelers will gladly pay the cost of a latte to travel on them, the cost to the taxpayer is essentially zero -- vs $47 Billion (or is it $157B?) for Prop 1 (ST2/RTID)

    Applied to general mobility the new paradigm translates into: PRICE ALL FREEWAY LANES, which is what Sims and the Sierra Club are advocating, thereby increasing through-put on the region's freeways by a factor of 2 compared to today's semi-gridlocked rush hours conditions. Gridlocked freeways are sort of like a wing that is stalled out, they don't move much traffic. Pricing them balances supply and demand.

    Then invest the net revenues from tolls into new capacity, either more transit and/or more general-purpose capacity (probably the former on the Seattle side of the lake and the latter on the Eastside). This balances supply and demand dynamically, ie with increasing capacity (supply) over time.

    It's not a difficult problem to solve. But it does require a shift in thinking.

    see here

    Posted Thu, Oct 11, 10:03 a.m. Inappropriate

    Maybe it's the company you keep!: As usual David provides interesting insight. But I would argue, after the innumerable transportation/transit/monorail/viaduct votes that there scant evidence of a get-along-go-along approach in the region. Ron Sims political courage, always evident, is not the issue. Will any transportation package really reduce the increase in carbon dioxide? Probably not. Looking at the comments of support for Sim's new position I sense more of a anti-tax theme than a solve-the-transportation-mess theme particularly from those who don't often support Sim's ideas. I haven't decided yet on this issue but with a nearly all mail-in paper ballot I'm really getting tired of cutting down trees for transportation votes.


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