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Metro vote analysis: King County's great city-suburban divide

Commuter suburbs convincingly reject transit measure, even in areas where Sound Transit had done respectably in 2008.

Proposition 1 votes were hugely polarized between Seattle and King County’s suburban communities. 

An abstract released by King County Elections breaks down votes tabulated by election night into legislative district. Votes counted subsequent to Tuesday, which have narrowly broken toward the yes side, will not be broken down locally until after the election is certified on May 6. At that point, we will also get our first look at precinct by precinct voting. 

Unsurprisingly, the vote for the transit measure was strongest in King County’s most urbanized districts. The 43rd LD, which extends from Seattle’s Green Lake down through Downtown and Capitol Hill, was 78% in favor on election night. Also strongly in favor: the 36th LD, which includes Queen Anne, Magnolia, Ballard, and residential areas to the north; and the 37th LD, which runs from the Central District, through the Rainier Valley, south to include much of Renton. Both the 36th and the 37th were 62% in favor on Tuesday. Still, even with unusually strong turnout in core urban areas, these LDs made up only a quarter of Tuesday’s votes. 

Green shading reflects the strength of yes votes; red, no votes. The white areas were close to evenly split.

More car-oriented commuter areas of Seattle were more mixed. The 46th LD, including residential Northeast Seattle, Kenmore, and Lake Forest Park, was at 58%, with a near-tie in the 34th LD, which encompasses West Seattle, Vashon Island and parts of Burien. The measure was trailing slightly (48%) in the 32nd LD, which is mostly Shoreline.

From there on, Prop. 1 stumbled badly. The measure struggled to break 40% in the Eastside, with 39% in the 41st (Mercer Island to Issaquah, via South Bellevue) and 41% in the 48th (the Bel-Red area, the Lake Washington Gold Coast, and parts of Kirkland). Other suburban areas were even more punishing:

  • Only 38% yes in 1st LD, which includes the Bothell area.
  • 31% yes in the 11th LD, which starts on Seattle’s Beacon Hill, but extends to the northern part of Kent. Until precinct results are available, we won't know exactly what happened, but it's quite likely Beacon Hill voted in favor of the measure but other voters overwhelmed the relatively small city population in the district.
  • 30% yes in the 33rd LD, which includes most of Burien, Normandy Park, Des Moines, and Kent.
  • And just 25% yes in the 30th LD, which extends from southern Des Moines southward to include all of Federal Way, and eastward to include Algona-Pacific.

As you move toward the rural communities of East King County, the measure’s performance worsened even more:

  • 23% yes in the 5th LD, which includes Cottage Lake, Issaquah, East Renton, Maple Valley, and out to Snoqualmie Pass.
  • 21% yes in the 47th LD, which includes much of Auburn and Covington, and the surrounding unincorporated communities.
  • 18% yes in the 31st LD, which includes parts of Auburn, Enumclaw, and the surrounding countryside.

The most damning result came from the tiny King County portion of the 39th LD, which includes Stevens Pass and the town of Skykomish. It’s an area that isn’t connected to the rest of King County by roads, let alone transit. There, a scant 14 percent of voters were approving Prop. 1 on Election Night.

This was perhaps the most extreme example of Prop. 1’s fatal failure to attract voters outside of communities with high regular transit use. It’s also a stark contrast to Sound Transit’s 2008 Prop. 1, which garnered respectable support in many commuter areas.

Expect a full post-mortem analysis after precinct-by-precinct results are posted on May 9. 


Benjamin Anderstone is a Seattle-based political consultant. His firm, Anderstone Strategies (www.anderstone.com), specializes in analyzing voter behavior and elections. Benjamin's work has been featured in the Seattle Times, Seattle Weekly, Fox News's Fox and Friends, Tacoma News Tribune, and at academic summits on political geography. He can be reached at benjamin@anderstone.com.

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Comments:

Posted Fri, Apr 25, 12:53 p.m. Inappropriate

The writer does know, i hope, that the electoral jurisdiction of Sound Transit does not include "the tiny King County portion of the 39th LD . . " so while his overall point is accurate, this portion of his analysis is well - poorly researched. Sound Transit's jurisdictional boundaries were gerrymandered back in the 1990's after the failure of their first try to place only the best transit voters in the district. I'm not saying there is anything wrong with that . . .

tjh

Posted Fri, Apr 25, 1:48 p.m. Inappropriate

tjh,

I'm not sure what error you're seeing. The King County portion of the 39th LD is in the King County Transportation Benefit District that voted on Tuesday. The article doesn't claim it's in the Sound Transit district. The only reference to the Sound Transit measure is that it did better in suburban communities, many of which *are* included in the Sound Transit district.

Posted Fri, Apr 25, 1:29 p.m. Inappropriate

What a great many pundits have failed to consider in their post-vote analyses is how many suburban cities had their own transportation benefit districts (TBD) and how this measure was going to send money back to these same suburban cities money for their roads. As a voter in the 32nd LD, Shoreline has their own TBD and charges $20 car tab fees and raises at least $700K per year. In this proposition King County would add $60 car tab fees and send back to Shoreline $1.6 million for roads - Shoreline already doesn't spend their TBD monies on road maintenance but on projects only tangentially related to transportation, I don't want the City of Shoreline to have more to waste on these projects all the while boosting my annual combined car tab fees to $80 when I drive 3,000 miles per year. If this proposition was only for buses, I would have easily voted yes; if road monies were restricted to unincorporated King County, I could still have voted yes, but when the suburban cities were getting money out of the deal, it was an easy step to vote no.

whatever

Posted Fri, Apr 25, 5:29 p.m. Inappropriate

I have read somewhere (possibly poor data) that 60% of our transportation dollars support mass transit. If you drive me out of my car by making it so expensive to own - taxing the gas, the registration, and even my local sales tax - then how is this sustainable?

gcneill

Posted Fri, Apr 25, 2:58 p.m. Inappropriate


Truly, King County is too large and too diverse to be one county. It should be broken into three.

The largest in population would be a surviving King County west of Bothell, Lake Washington and Renton down to I-405. Another should be east of the Kenmore/Bothell line, Lake Washington and Renton's west border down to the north border of Kent. The third should be everything to the south of there with the north border of Kent on 180th extended directly east to the summit of the Cascades.

This would create three more economically homogeneous counties with a much less schizophrenic and warring electorate. "New King County" and "Sammamish County" would be office/tech/education oriented, while "Green River County" would be focused on more traditional businesses such as transportation and agriculture.

Right now we're approaching the sort of stand-off that is epitomized by Ukraine: two groups of people with economic goals and cultural norms which are incompatible squeezed into a single governing polity. This is an example of "good fences [e.g. county lines] make good neighbors."

Anandakos

Posted Fri, Apr 25, 5:25 p.m. Inappropriate

Strong fences make good neighbors.

gcneill

Posted Sat, Apr 26, 4:46 a.m. Inappropriate

wrt gcneill's comment, I don't see how anyone could believe that 60% of transpo dollars are spent on mass transit, given that the road network and automobility dominates the transportation sphere.

According to a report cited here, 20% is about the most that the average state spends on transit, based on the use of federal transportation monies.

http://www.smartplanet.com/blog/solving-cities/which-states-spend-most-on-transit/

FWIW, academic research wrt funding roads finds that about 50% of the money for funding comes not from taxes, tolls, and fees, but from general fund sourcs.

rllayman

Posted Sat, Apr 26, 5:41 a.m. Inappropriate

"academic research wrt funding roads finds that about 50% of the money for funding comes not from taxes, tolls, and fees, but from general fund sourcs." Where do General Fund Sources come from? Taxes, Tolls and Fees?

Cameron

Posted Sat, Apr 26, 12:35 p.m. Inappropriate

Where is the Crosscut analysis not of the votes, but of the costs of service METRO collects each community? The amount of service delivered versus taxes paid to support METRO? You can then print a nice multi-colored map of who the "winners" are city by city, district by district. Good luck getting accurate information from METRO and KING COUNTY, they didn't want any dirty little secrets out prior to the election and they sure as heck don't want it out before round two.

Please note this is the same MO the County used with the Parks Levy renewal. Bogus information up front, primary election, not a general, no accountabilty for current expenditures, threats to shut down the entire system. Too bad it wasn't just a renewal, it was a 41% increase and a yearly inflation escalator built in. They Doubled what they wanted for land purchases, even though they cannot maintain what they currently have and 50% of King County's lands are already unders some form of Government ownership or control. Tired of being lied to yet?

Cameron

Posted Sat, Apr 26, 9:17 p.m. Inappropriate

Round two, Cameron, will be what's filed for the City of Seattle. If you don't live in Seattle, don't worry about it, because none of your money will be involved. Consider letting stuff into your mind instead of just repeating your paranoid litany (with accompanying all-caps for King County, as though that emphasis will convince anyone). You're probably not lying to us, but what you constantly shovel out is tiresome.

sarah90

Posted Sun, Apr 27, 7:07 p.m. Inappropriate

Sarah90, you forget. When a Seattleite pays more taxes, they charge more for their goods and services, therefore people who do not live in Seattle choose to take their spending dollars well away from Seattle.

It's not a paranoid litany, it's called Economics, and it matters.

Posted Sun, Apr 27, 7:05 p.m. Inappropriate

Winner, winner, chicken dinner.

There is far too much land held in 'public' interest, with zero tax dollars being paid on that land.

Posted Sun, Apr 27, 4:46 p.m. Inappropriate

Truth hurts doesn't it Sarah90. You are correct, I am not lying and I am happy you are willing to take a vote on supporting METRO exclusively in Seattle since they receive the vast majority of the services. As to the rest of the county, they should take a hard look at the value proposition that METRO offers their citizens for the services they receive. Bus service should not be a monopoly enterprise of government if they cannot deliver the services in a cost effective manner. Is there no level of taxation you are not willing to pay ( or have others pay) for bus service? That truely is tiresome.

Cameron

Posted Sun, Apr 27, 10 p.m. Inappropriate

What will people in the car dependent suburbs do when oil hits $150 per barrel (current dollars)? Metro will have trouble keeping buses running (unless they're running on Skagit powered electricity), and those car drivers will find their costs escalating as well. Who goes bankrupt first?

louploup

Posted Mon, Apr 28, 5:20 a.m. Inappropriate

I say we just cut the service in the reddest areas let them see what being cheap ass MOFO's does to transit. Sometimes I think we should allow the eastern part of the country to succeed and let them vote no on every tax leaving the infrastructure and services cut back and crumbling.

eric1972

Posted Mon, Apr 28, 5:47 a.m. Inappropriate

I think at some point, given that the "reddest" areas are subsidizing the "greenest" areas, you are correct. The "cheap ass MOFO's" apparently have the ability to do practical math, as opposed to those who are members of a cult of yes voters who have faith if they continue to throw money at METRO and King County, somehow they will reform and eventually provide the promised services.

Here is a suggestion Eric, contact your County Executive and Council member and ask them remove all of the red areas of the map from the METRO taxing and service areas. For what they are paying, they could save money by contracting similar services from private carriers.

Cameron

Posted Mon, Apr 28, 2:56 p.m. Inappropriate

Comparison of the Prop. 1 vote with the 2008 vote for light rail is inappropriate. 2008 was a presidential election year with great organizing and many young voters voting for Obama. This year's Prop. 1 had light voter participation and not much get-out-the-vote effort. 2009 was a fluke and cannot be compared to other elections.

Posted Sun, May 4, 9:28 a.m. Inappropriate

This whole electoral post mortem can be done in four words:

Leave car tabs alone.

But I will add a few: voter distrust of use, no matter how well intentioned that use, cannot be overcome. You say transit, voter thinks monorail. You say road, voter thinks transit that does not service voter's area. You say twenty bucks, voter hears 200 bucks. Policy wonks at city and county, need to get real or, at the very least, hearing aids.

Posted Fri, May 9, 2:39 p.m. Inappropriate

What killed Prop? Two words. Sound Transit. Its real simple. I rode METRO for 40 years commuting morning and evening on the bus. I loved the bus. I read hundreds of books over the years. I felt safe and secure. The bus always (almost) came and left on time. In short, I was satisfied. Then came Sound Transit. Light rail is the biggest fraud ever perpetrated. It goes only from point A to point B. Forget about trying to get to points C thru Z. It costs exorbitant amounts of money to build and maintain and contributes zero to congestion relief. It will go the way of the streetcar for the same reasons that streetcars became obsolete. For the Seattle mayor to claim that Seattle has been seriously short-changed in terms of transit dollars is laughable. Think Sound Transit. Oh, and don't even get me started on the County's water taxi which serves only the City of Seattle. The water taxi is truly a hole in the water into which the taxpayers are throwing money.

jwesmoore

Posted Fri, May 9, 8:10 p.m. Inappropriate

Sound Transit is propaganda. It and the bore tunnel are failures.

Posted Mon, May 12, 9:47 p.m. Inappropriate

It thus makes sense for the county to be divided into two, with one county seat in Seattle, the other in Bellevue. Each should consider having their own bus service as well.

bricsa

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