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The key to strong regional transit: Uncircle the wagons, Seattle!

Guest Opinion: Seattle's isolationist response to Prop 1's defeat won't get us anywhere.
Sonja Rassman of Bellevue makes her support for Metro known.

Sonja Rassman of Bellevue makes her support for Metro known. Credit: John Stang

King County voters sent a clear message on April 22 when they voted down Proposition 1. Jumping to conclusions about what that message was though would be both a mistake and a missed opportunity for Proposition 1 supporters.

Elections come down to a simple yes or no. There are no other options on a ballot. That makes them binary — quantitative insight on voter opinion, but lacking any shade of qualitative reasoning regarding the issue at hand.

On Proposition 1, voters gave an honest answer to the question leaders put before them: Will you buy this proposition? “No,” they said.

They didn’t say no to transit. They didn’t say no to civic responsibility. And they didn’t say no to progress, additional taxes or transportation choices.

Most importantly, voters did not say yes to cutting bus service.

Why did Proposition 1 fail? There are two options: Either voters found the proposal flawed or the campaign itself was flawed. Or both. Luckily, both can be fixed.

In my experience, successful tax votes are aspirational and not based on fear or peril. Successful campaigns focus on how our choice at the ballot will move ourselves, and the community we all love, forward. They do not focus on consequences of failure, as the Proposition 1 proponents seemed to do.

So we shouldn’t be shocked that Proposition 1 failed even though the campaign outspent opponents 100 to 1. But we should be shocked that so many of us are now throwing up our hands. Or worse, blaming voters outside of Seattle.

It is not uncommon for voters to say no to a proposition. Think back to the 1995 Sound Transit Ballot Measure, which failed with just 46.5 percent of the vote countywide even though 82 percent of Seattle residents voted to pass it.

Rather than throw up their hands, proponents of Sound Transit — including Bob Watt, head of the Seattle Chamber, and Bob Drewell, president of Sound Transit’s board — reached out to elected and community leaders who been opposed to the 1995 plan. That outreach resulted in a retooling of the plan to reflect legitimate concerns from those who had been opposed.

The second campaign for Sound Transit was also revamped. Instead of focusing on what would happen if the proposal failed, it focused on the future and addressed the questions on voters’ minds. Questions like the number of vehicle trips that would be taken out of the traffic system, and how effective light rail could be.

As a result of these changes, when voters were asked to approve a Sound Transit Ballot Measure in 1996 — just 18 months after the original vote — it passed with 56.5 percent of the vote, despite a 10 percent drop in support from Seattle voters. The second campaign, with its outreach and aspirational tone, had turned the tables everywhere else.

As our region continues to confront the problem of growth, think of where we would be if we had thrown in the towel back in 1995 and pointed fingers at the suburbs. Think of how that would have affected growth in our region, how much of a setback our transportation goals would have faced.

The answer to creating sustainable funding for Metro service isn’t found in creating a moat around Seattle and leaving the rest of King County to fend for itself. By listening to the concerns of voters across the region and putting forth a campaign that reflects aspirations they can relate to, we can find a funding solution that works for the entire region.

Now is not the time for finger-pointing, or for Seattle voters to throw in the towel and circle the wagons. Let’s all learn from the failure of Proposition 1 and, like the Sound Transit Ballot Measures, work together on a proposal that truly makes sense to voters.

Bob Gogerty is the chairman and founding partner of Gogerty Marriott, where he has been the force behind the firm’s innovative approach to public affairs and served as principal consultant for AT&T, The Pickens Plan, The Boeing Company and Weyerhaeuser, among others. Bob has headed a multitude of campaigns, including measures to fund development of rapid transit in the Puget Sound region. He chaired Washington Governor Mike Lowry’s campaign and was chief strategist to Tony Knowles in his successful run for Governor of Alaska. Prior to founding Gogerty Marriott, Bob served as deputy mayor of the City of Seattle and director of the city's Office of Intergovernmental Affairs.


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Comments:

Posted Wed, May 7, 5:32 a.m. Inappropriate

In retrospect Sound Transit has been an expensive failure as well. METRO and King County can outreach all it wants, the proposition was a bad deal all around, it gave more money to METRO for underperforming and it attempted to bribe jurisdictions in King County with token roads money. There was no negotiation, it was take it or leave it. Voters left it, as they should have.

Cameron

Posted Wed, May 7, 6:29 a.m. Inappropriate

Bob, I don't think that Seattle voters are going to find your characterization of them as "finger-pointing, or for Seattle voters to throw in the towel and circle the wagons" but simply buying something which others don't care about. That is the essence of a market economy.

Voting for extra service is hardly creating a "moat" but simply buying something which other areas don't want. Paying for enhanced bus service is hardly pushing others away.

Seems totally fair to all (except poorer people in those areas and I assume that there will upward pressure of rents as decent bus service is yet an even more critical locational criterion.)

Posted Thu, May 8, 6:41 a.m. Inappropriate

There was no road money .. all transit ..

rgogerty

Posted Fri, May 9, 2:06 a.m. Inappropriate

If Seattle throws more at K.C. Metro, the county will do what any crafty thief in Puget Sound local government does when someone else steps up and offers to pay the bills: Smile, say thank you, and redeploy resources now dedicated to the city elsewhere.

Hell, I live in Seattle, but if I were running King County Metro and Seattle did such a stupid thing, I'd screw us too, on the general principle that if I didn't pick Seattle's "progressive" pockets, someone else surely would.

NotFan

Posted Wed, May 7, 8:01 a.m. Inappropriate

Bob omits the key factor in the changed results of the first two Sound Transit elections. The failed first attempt was a special election in the spring of 1995. The successful second try was on the 1996 presidential ballot. The difference was turnout, about twice as high when the president is on the ballot.

Except for school levies, low turnout special elections are death to money measures. A lesson we have to keep relearning over and over and over.

Posted Wed, May 7, 11:01 a.m. Inappropriate

Guess that would explain why the percentage yes vote went down in Seattle and up everywhere else. But your logic would lead us to ask .. why submit it in a special election in the first place and why not put this back up in a more favorable voting environment? Personally I don't think that's why there was such a dramatic turnaround.

rgogerty

Posted Wed, May 7, 11:22 a.m. Inappropriate

He also omits the key factor in changing the borders of the voting district to remove some of the more rural, outlying areas that had voted so heavily against the first measure -- you know, similar to what folks in Seattle are calling for today.

Mickymse

Posted Wed, May 7, 11:42 a.m. Inappropriate

think you better check your facts .. didn't happen .. however in the 60's when Metro was first formed over cleaning up Lake Washington .. the first vote failed (go figure) and they did change the boundaries .. but in the transit vote .. no such thing.

rgogerty

Posted Wed, May 7, 8:35 a.m. Inappropriate

And, oh by the way, calling citizens "scumbags" is unlikely to win them over to your cause.

BlueLight

Posted Wed, May 7, 11:03 a.m. Inappropriate

You need a little less coffee in the morning.

rgogerty

Posted Wed, May 7, 9:54 a.m. Inappropriate

If the additional fee, instead of being flat, was a small percentage based on the value of the vehicle, I would have voted for it. Regressive taxes are already killing the poor. Heck, throw in a gold-plated license plate frame for $50K + cars, and the rich will think of it as a status symbol.

swendr

Posted Wed, May 7, 5:37 p.m. Inappropriate

Gee, that sounds like the Motor Vehicle Excise Tax we used to have statewide, that paid for all modes of transportation, till Eyman and his free lunch bunch killed it.

ivan

Posted Thu, May 8, 4:42 a.m. Inappropriate

You mean the Eyman initiative that was voted on and passed by a majority of voters in Washington State, overturned by the Washington Supreme Court and then passed by Gary Locke and the Democrats? That free lunch bunch?

Cameron

Posted Thu, May 8, 7:56 a.m. Inappropriate

Yes, that free lunch bunch. I have no love for Locke. He was an awful governor. That one example of cowardice has screwed transportation in this state, and emboldened Eyman and his cheapskate supporters, ever since. The MVET at least was a graduated tax, based on ability to pay. I don't care what YOU think. You're just a right-wing troll who regards all taxation as theft.

ivan

Posted Fri, May 9, 2:23 a.m. Inappropriate

Hey ivan, guess what? More of us than there are of you. Keep yer hands out of my wallet.

NotFan

Posted Fri, May 9, 12:14 p.m. Inappropriate

Initiative 695, of which you speak, was voided by the State Supreme Court. It was the Legislature and the Governor who enacted the repeal of the excise tax, subsequent to the Court's decision. If the legislature wants to restore the tax it's within their power.

simorgh

Posted Thu, May 8, 3:43 p.m. Inappropriate

I'd gladly pay a higher gas tax if it would improve the roads and highways. Having just bought new shocks for a car with only 40,000 miles on it, I consider that a pseudo highway tax in itself. But the fact that the taxpayers of Washington objected to making a second car payment (or more) one month a year hardly indicates that they were looking for a free lunch. There is emphatically nothing free about paying taxes in this state. Those who pay just want a better return on their "investment."

dbreneman

Posted Fri, May 9, 2:22 a.m. Inappropriate

WA State is controlled by "progressives" who hate cars. A higher gas tax would be channeled into mass transit -- if not directly, then by corresponding offsets in other budget items. The area's voters (at least outside of five districts in Seattle) don't trust government, and rightly so.

NotFan

Posted Wed, May 7, 12:07 p.m. Inappropriate

Metro can solve its own "problems" very simply, without raising taxes.

How about Metro just follow the recommendations of the Regional Transit Task Force?

http://your.kingcounty.gov/kcd...

Page 24:

"The auditor identified the potential for $30 million to $37 million in annual cost savings, up to $54 million in potential increased annual revenue ($51 million would have to come from an additional fare increase)"

"Adult bus fares were increased in the 2010/2011 biennial budget (raising an additional $10.8 million), but the other potential fare increases identified by the Auditor (increased monthly pass price, elimination of off-peak fare discounts, elimination of free transfers, and increased paratransit fares) have not been adopted."

Lincoln

Posted Wed, May 7, 12:08 p.m. Inappropriate

Look at the recommendations of the King County Auditors Office for Metro to increase revenues without increasing taxes. From "PERFORMANCE AUDIT OF TRANSIT TECHNICAL REPORT A: FINANCIAL & CAPITAL PLANNING"

The County Auditor's Office made these recommendations to Metro, among others:

Page 53

"Increase the PugetPass/ORCA monthly pass breakeven point to 40 trips. The current regional fare agreement provides that riders would need to board 36 times in a month to breakeven if they were paying cash fare for each boarding." This would increase Metro revenues by $6.6 million per year.

"Eliminate discounts for riding during off-peak times," This would add $6.2 M per year.

"Eliminate free transfer tickets." This would raise Metro's revenues by $16.5 million per year.

So, just by following these three recommendations from the King County Auditor's Office, Metro could increase its revenues by over $29.3 million per year, which is about half the operating "deficit" Metro is claiming.

However, Metro prefers to raise taxes on everyone in King County instead of solving its revenue "problems" itself.

Lincoln

Posted Wed, May 7, 12:10 p.m. Inappropriate

Here is the full link to the Regional Task Force Recommendations:

http://your.kingcounty.gov/kcdot/media/RTTF/RTTF_FinalRpt_draft1_100110.pdf

Lincoln

Posted Wed, May 7, 12:15 p.m. Inappropriate

Presumptuous twits like Bob Gogerty are always quick to tell everyone why a measure they supported failed. Gogerty has no idea why Prop 1 failed -- he is just putting his personal spin on it, which is nothing but wishful thinking on his part.

People outside Seattle are tired of paying higher and higher taxes to subsidize transit. That is the message of Prop 1's convincing defeat.

Transit riders need to start paying their own way, instead of leeching off of taxpayers.

And, by the way, Bob, growth is destroying the Puget Sound region, and Puget Sound itself. Growth is a cancer that should be stopped, not encouraged. Growth has given us pollution, traffic congestion, and higher and higher taxes (a total of 1.8% sales tax in King County for Metro and Sound Transit combined). Growth is the problem. Growth must be stopped, not promoted.

Lincoln

Posted Wed, May 7, 12:39 p.m. Inappropriate

Take a deep breath .. that's my point .. growth is not going to stop, so we need to look at ways to mitigate it .. that's where regional solutions come in and transportation is key and most important elements to doing just that.

rgogerty

Posted Wed, May 7, 1:21 p.m. Inappropriate

Brother Gogerty is clearly unfamiliar with the dynamics of the blog forum. He imagines that rational arguments will carry the day. But the core function of internet blogging is to fill in the gap left by the radical underfunding of mental health services in a society that is visibly crumbling on every front. It is a resource of last resort for loonies, shut-ins and grumpy retirees with too much time on their hands. Blogging gives folks something to do which, if not precisely creative, is probably less destructive than most of their likely alternatives.

To calmly and logically point out that growth is inevitable and mass transit alleviates some of its worst aspects (and thus deserves to be both supported and publicly subsidized) thus falls far short of the prevailing blogging standard. Where is the scapegoat? A blog response without a scapegoat offers no outlet for expression of self-righteous anger, a primary function of the process.

An alternative to which I subscribe is to try to guide the discussion from the apocalyptic to the absurd, a subversive form (if you will) of "thinking outside the box." One might argue, for example, that the answer to the urban growth problem is compulsory sterilization is everyone under the age of 50. The intrinsic cruelty of this proposition combined with an elevated age cutoff should appeal to a substantial cohort of Crosscut readers, who then could be marshaled into an effective support group. A key selling point might be that we already spay and neuter our dogs, whom we all love much more than our children. So why not do it to the children as well? Anyway, you get the idea.

woofer

Posted Wed, May 7, 1:34 p.m. Inappropriate

Wow .. There are rational people reading this .. and I'll try your guidance and see if that brings logic and clarity. :-)

rgogerty

Posted Wed, May 7, 5:06 p.m. Inappropriate

I have a question: do you know of any polls taken after the election surveying voters to find out why they voted the way they did? The very odd thing is how poorly communicated the roads part was. 40% of the money is a lot. There was almost no discussion at all of what the goals were for the money or what good it would actually do. This might have made a difference to voters who care a lot about roads.

So did the lack of communication make the difference? Or was it the form of the tax, such that if the tax had been higher on sales tax, or maybe a property or utility tax, it would have won? Would a bus only county-wide vote of sales tax only have won?

Thank you for your participation in the blog!

sjenner

Posted Thu, May 8, 7:02 a.m. Inappropriate

I haven't seen anything on the last effort as to polling after the fact. I assume they felt it was poised to pass and concentrated on the "loss of service" and those who would be harmed by it. I'm not sure about the county wide bus idea, but that's why we do research .. to fit our planning with voters aspirations. we are fortunate to live in a very responsible community .. ask the right question and most times we get the right answer.

rgogerty

Posted Wed, May 7, 8:05 p.m. Inappropriate

It's sarcasm - I'll give him points for creativity among the standard grumbling posts. Bravo!!

Treker

Posted Wed, May 7, 3:14 p.m. Inappropriate

1 of 2

Has everyone read the piece in The Atlantic Cities debunking the claim that US light rail systems have been worth the expense? It was published last month:

http://www.theatlanticcities.com/commute/2014/04/have-us-light-rail-systems-been-worth-investment/8838/

When our state's legislature adopted the enabling legislation for Sound Transit in 1992 it also was seeking to achieve the goals “conventional wisdom” proclaimed would result from light rail. Those noble aims – rescuing the center cities of the region and fostering higher transit use – met economic realities here though, and like the other regions studied Sound Transit's efforts here fell woefully short.

Not only were the goals of the light rail line here not realized, the financing plan the board ginned up is a debacle.

The fundamental flaws with Sound Transit are 1) its unaccountable board, and 2) its abusive financing practices. No peer imposes heavy regressive taxes for decades merely as security for long-term bonds.

Sound Transit's financing plan was not required by the terms of the propositions. That municipality's heavy regressive taxing also was not a function of “regional growth”.

Those ballot measures it floated in 1996 and 2008 in fact specifically provided that the appointive board would design and implement the financing plan after the votes. What the board did was engage in unprecedented and abusive long term bond sales that require that municipality to take in scores of billions of dollars of regressive tax revenue for over a generation, merely as security for bondholders. In contrast, regions such as the three counties around Portland and the Twin Cities built out good light rail systems without imposing any regressive taxing AND without selling billions of dollars of long term debt.

Why are the political appointees comprising Sound Transit's board abusing the individuals and families here with punishing levels of regressive taxing for bus and train service that people in other metro areas pay little or nothing for in terms of general taxes? Why are best practices for financing light rail not utilized here? It is all well and good to value some public subsidies for buses and trains, but the way transit is financed here is an abomination.

Apparently there are some big Sound Transit fans now reading Crosscut. Anyone want to try arguing there are economic/social/environmental benefits of this light rail line that justify it in light of the abusive financing plan?

crossrip

Posted Wed, May 7, 3:14 p.m. Inappropriate

2 of 2

As to the question of whether or not the bus and train services providers here need any more tax revenue – they do not. They take in too much already. Moreover, they already impose FAR more sales tax than any of their peers.

Don’t believe me? Just look at the facts. Compare the amounts of regressive tax imposed here to the metro area just south of here where a different state legislature structured the financing plan: Oregon’s.

There is only one way to gauge how well a transit system’s leadership is able to maximize local tax revenue. To determine whether excess taxing is going on for bus and train service compare 1) the total amount of taxing to 2) the number of average weekday boardings. The average weekday boardings figure is key because it shows how many people usually are served at the peak periods.

Comparing those two figures for a region allows you to compare how effectively some region's government heads are using tax revenue. That is a valid way to compare the effectiveness of different regions' transit system leaderships, and gauge whether or not some region's policy makers are taxing more than they should be.

Sound Transit now takes in about $660 million of regressive tax revenue annually (with that amount set to climb year after year for decades). Metro's taxing (plus the distributions to Metro from the Seattle City Council of its separate Bridging the Gap tax revenues which nobody knew were going to be made before that vote) is another $520 million. That is a total of $1.2 billion of direct, mostly regressive, taxing for buses and trains around here.

In the greater Portland area there is NO targeting of individuals and families via regressive taxing. The $250 million of tax revenue TriMet collects comes from a progressive payroll tax, and it is the only taxing TriMet does.

The combined average weekday boardings of Metro and Sound Transit buses and trains is 490,000. The average weekday boardings of TriMet buses and trains is 318,000.

Sound Transit and Metro combined thus have about 56% more boardings than TriMet, but they confiscate nearly 500% more tax revenue each year.

That means Sound Transit and Metro already haul in THREE TIMES the tax revenue per weekday boarding for buses and trains compared to how it’s done in the three-county Portland metro area.

The government heads up here are doing a lousy job of managing the heavy, regressive tax revenue streams they already impose. The public is catching on. We sent the truthful message to the government heads here that they tax too heavily already. Now they won't be able to do what they really wanted: inflict more financial abuse on individuals and households of modest means.

crossrip

Posted Wed, May 7, 5:40 p.m. Inappropriate

"In the greater Portland area there is NO targeting of individuals and families via regressive taxing. The $250 million of tax revenue TriMet collects comes from a progressive payroll tax, and it is the only taxing TriMet does."
--
Can't have that here! Oh, no! That would be an INCOME TAX! The horror!

ivan

Posted Thu, May 8, 6:45 a.m. Inappropriate

Payroll taxes are not income taxes.

Why are you fixated on an income tax? There are lots of other revenue-raising options that are progressive.

Look at how New York's state legislature finances all the transit in and around NYC. That's an excellent example of appropriate bus and train financing.

crossrip

Posted Wed, May 7, 10:57 p.m. Inappropriate

Taxes = confiscation; that's pure teabaggery, and I stop reading the drivel that follows.

Posted Fri, May 9, 2:18 a.m. Inappropriate

What are taxes if not confiscation?

NotFan

Posted Sun, May 11, 1:53 p.m. Inappropriate

Payment for community services. That's what defines civilization.

sarah90

Posted Mon, May 12, 12:11 p.m. Inappropriate

NF isn't civilized.

louploup

Posted Tue, May 13, 1:21 a.m. Inappropriate


Crossrip,

The legislature has not enabled TBD's to charge an employment-based tax. I completely agree that it should do so, but until it does there are four possibilities for transit funding: property, sales, registration, and parking taxes.

Send you long posts to the Majority causes in both state houses. Maybe they'll listen, but I doubt it.

Anandakos

Posted Tue, May 13, 11:49 a.m. Inappropriate

You've misread my posts. Nothing in my comments above is meant to suggest it would be authorized by Ch. RCW 36.73 (the "TBD" enabling legislation).

As to those revenue-raisers you reference: you forgot to include the fact that the governing boards of TBDs are authorized to impose fees on commercial development, via RCW 36.73.120. No public vote needed! Those should be slapped on ASAP, don't you agree?

crossrip

Posted Wed, May 7, 4:16 p.m. Inappropriate

The big difference between ST's first vote and its successful 2nd vote was the turnaround in Snohomish County, which went from 36% yes to 54% yes. Bob Drewel and Joni Earl have been well-rewarded for that effort, which included promising to bring light rail to Everett, in response to Everett Mayor Ed Hansen's vocal opposition to ST's initial plan.

Posted Wed, May 7, 5:01 p.m. Inappropriate

I think one of the bribes was the promise that Paine Field would no longer be considered for commercial flights by PSRC. Payoff indeed!

sjenner

Posted Wed, May 7, 6:53 p.m. Inappropriate

I know why the vote failed so spectacularly. It was a sinkhole of a proposal. It didn't promise anything but the taking of more money from the voters. It must hurt to know that a large number of voters were smart enough to see through the curtain of crap that surrounds the dealings of Metro.

Djinn

Posted Thu, May 8, 12:58 p.m. Inappropriate

Gogerty responded at 6:41 a.m.: "There was no road money .. all transit .. " The 2014 Prop 1 measure would have devoted 40 percent of its revenues to the 39 cities and the unincorporated road fund.
Metro measures were approved countywide in 1972, 1980, 2000, and 2006. the 2014 measure was after subarea equity was removed as policy. I hope the cities and counties continue to seek efficiency, fairness, additional transit service, and better maintenance. Seems like more funding will be required. so, as Gogerty stated, we need better measures and better campaigns.

eddiew

Posted Thu, May 8, 2:41 p.m. Inappropriate

You list all the instances of Metro's tax hikes (sales taxes, for the most part). You failed to reference the huge regressive tax hikes from Sound Transit (1997 and late 2008).

That's far more taxing for buses and trains than the peers employ. For example, Sound Transit and Metro already haul in THREE TIMES the tax revenue per weekday boarding for transit compared to how it’s done in the three-county Portland metro area.

Enlighten us: explain what makes you think "more [tax] funding will be required". The bus drivers don't get paid THAT much more here. The capital costs of Sound Transit's lines are to be paid for mostly by federal grants and bond sale revenue. Taxing at the levels Sound Transit does isn't required for debt service.

Moreover, why do you think tax hike proposals should be put to voters? Why shouldn't the legislature just impose a payroll tax on large employers and use that to fund transit? I couldn't care less if Emirates has to pay another million dollars for a Boeing jet, and if Microsoft charges OEMs slightly more to license software nobody I know would be worse off.

crossrip

Posted Thu, May 8, 2:09 p.m. Inappropriate

Sorry, I have to disagree with your premise and your example. In the case of Sound Transit, Seattle could have easily "gone their own way" and in my opinion, we would have a better system (for everyone). Right now, our light rail system (which is the most expensive piece) goes from the airport to downtown. Ridership is ridiculously low given the cost, but not surprising given the route. Look at a density map of Seattle, or a map showing employment centers in the area and it should become obvious. Downtown is a great destination, but everything to the south of there (on Link) is not. There is nothing terrible about those stations (except for Mount Baker) but there is nothing great about them either. Speaking of Mount Baker, you could swing a dead cat in the general south end of the C. D. and come up with a much better spot. It avoids all the apartments and is next to a greenbelt. It might work as a feeder station for buses but the connection from bus to train is terrible.

Meanwhile, we still don't have light rail to the UW. If you asked any long term or short term resident, or a committee, or federal agency what the system should look like, at a minimum they would say it would include the UW and downtown. Put stops in between, at First Hill and Capitol Hill and you have a good start. Unfortunately, we are still waiting for that "good start" (and it won't have a First Hill station). Then, when that is all done, we wait for other stations that make some sense (the other part of the U-District, Roosevelt and Northgate). Good so far, but why does Northgate get done before Lake City? Lake City has way more people. Why does Northgate get done before Ballard. Ballard has way, way more people. The same question can be asked of South Lake Union, which has horrible traffic as well as huge amounts of density. None of these other areas are even planned yet. We are building a BART style system to cater to the suburbs when cities throughout North America (including this one) are growing faster than the suburbs. When you add the fact that suburbs usually have good freeways (often with carpool lanes) it is really mind boggling. We are building rail to Lynnwood, even though an express bus can get from there to downtown in 15 minutes (during rush hour). Meanwhile, a bus trying to get from Capitol Hill to South Lake union (a distance of about a mile) takes longer. Just to put things in perspective, there are about 35,000 people in the entire city of Lynnwood, and about 45,000 on Capitol Hill.

I said a Seattle system would be better for everyone and I meant it. Seattle is growing faster than the suburbs, and a lot of that growth is in "hard to reach" spots (like South Lake Union, Ballard and Fremont). For a lot of suburban riders, it isn't enough to just get to (downtown) Seattle. They need to get somewhere else in the city. These people are out of luck, and will be out of luck for years. On the other hand, if we build a "city first" transit system, then they could take a bus to Seattle, then transfer from there to a train.

That doesn't mean that we couldn't extend the rail system in other directions. I'm all for that. But the first priority should be to serve the highest residential and employment areas first. Those are in the city. Unfortunately, a system that incorporates the interests of fickle suburban voters will not provide that system. A suburban voter will ask the same "what is it in for me" question, but unlike a city voter, be more likely to vote no. That's why we have rail to Tukwilla, but not the UW (yet) and why we will have rail to Lynnwood before we have rail to Ballard (if we ever have rail to Ballard).

RossB

Posted Thu, May 8, 2:47 p.m. Inappropriate

Sound Transit is not worth it, by any measure.

There are some large commercial property developers -- primarily on the east side of Lake Washington -- that will get richer because of it (Kemper Development Company, Wallace Properties, Wright Runstad). These rail lines never will be of significant value to the vast majority of people here though, and people are getting absolutely shafted by the unaccountable board's abusive taxing and spending practices.

crossrip

Posted Thu, May 8, 2:19 p.m. Inappropriate

I also don't think you should ignore the current realities on the ground with regards to Metro. Unlike Link, it isn't a new system, but rather, a system that is slowly bleeding. The longer we wait to fix the problem, the more it will cost to do so. It is possible that in six months, we can try again with a county wide proposal. Last time I checked though, there was nothing planned. We would probably have better luck in two years (during the presidential election) but waiting that long means further cuts. The deeper the cut, the more it costs to restore service. Seattle has a chance to at least save their part of the system. This will benefit everyone. Strangely enough, it will include a tax that will probably be more popular (there are few taxes as unpopular as the car tab tax). This means that some of the other areas could easily try the same thing and they might be successful. I hope so (for everyone's sake).

Furthermore, if the state or the county (or the voters in the county) restore Metro service, then Seattle will simply have extra transit. This won't hurt the rest of the area in the least. There are plenty of examples of higher services in Seattle (the UW, Harborview, etc.).

RossB

Posted Thu, May 8, 2:53 p.m. Inappropriate

There already is far more taxing for buses and trains here than the peers employ. For example, Sound Transit and Metro already haul in THREE TIMES the tax revenue per weekday boarding for transit compared to how it’s done in the three-county Portland metro area.

Enlighten us: explain what makes you think more general taxing for transit is required. The bus drivers don't get paid THAT much more here.

This “tax Seattle property owners for more Metro service” plan you tout would be a ripoff. If it passes, Metro would come up with a new service plan that beefs up service outside Seattle using its heavy existing sales tax revenue (mostly supplied by Seattle households), and then use the additional Seattle-only property tax revenue for Seattle service.

If Metro has to make do with what it has the service plan would be based on rational systemwide policy choices.

That second scenario is better, for a number of reasons.

Metro doesn't use its existing Seattle-only tax revenue just for Seattle service. Apparently Seattle already is paying for some 45,000 hours of bus service from Metro each year using property tax revenues generated by the Bridging the Gap proposition. Try locating anything on the county's website showing how much Seattle is paying each year to Metro of those Bridging the Gap funds, and what Metro actually does with that money. It probably just goes to cover countywide administrative expenses.

Moreover, why do you think tax hike proposals should be put to voters? Why shouldn't the legislature just impose a payroll tax on large employers and use that to fund transit? I couldn't care less if Emirates has to pay another million dollars for a Boeing jet, and if Microsoft charges OEMs slightly more to license software nobody I know would be worse off.

crossrip

Posted Fri, May 9, 2:12 a.m. Inappropriate

That all works until a) the Brazilians and the Chinese clean Boeing's clock, and/or b) Boeing completes its move to South Carolina.

NotFan

Posted Fri, May 9, 9:15 a.m. Inappropriate

Boeing could well lose market share to foreign competitors and move lots more operations to the SE US. Those things would happen though even if it is taxed much more heavily by local transit providers for the next couple of decades.

The large corporations around here -- which are primary beneficiaries of transit -- do not have ANY skin in the game now. Sales taxes for transit should be cut way back, and taxes directed at large employers hiked significantly.

crossrip

Posted Thu, May 8, 4:37 p.m. Inappropriate

The past is no guide to the present. In 1995-96 there was not the same extreme anti-tax ideology being spouted by the Seattle Times, the talk stations, and voters across King County. Seattle is circling the wagons not because it wants to, but because it has to. The Prop 1 vote was not close outside Seattle. It would have lost by 20 points or more if not for Seattle's votes - and Seattle wasn't enough to carry it to victory.

This isn't a problem of finding the right solution and crafting some deal to get it done. The problem is much deeper. Until suburban anti-tax ideology is addressed, Seattle has every right to attend to its own needs.

junipero

Posted Fri, May 9, 1:49 a.m. Inappropriate

40 years ago, Seattle was 45% of King County. 20 years ago, it was 34%. Now, it's 31%. But the city's "progressives" have yet to get the message.

They also refuse to grasp the reality that the East Side is increasingly leaving Seattle in the dust, economically speaking. Bellevue and Redmond, together now more than 175,000 people, have median household income of about $100,000, almost double Seattle's median household income of $52,000.

40 years ago, Bellevue and Redmond had 14% of Seattle's population. Today, they have 29%. Their interests and focus are increasingly divergent from Seattle, whose "progressives" have yet to grasp the message.

Seattle's "progressives" still imagine that when they tell the rest of King County to jump, the county will ask, "How high?" While it's still true that Seattle carries a lot of weight, the city is no longer in a position to dictate terms.

I do give the new mayor some credit for realizing this with respect to transportation. Murray has just told the dreamers to sit down and shut up on the question of the city going it alone on buses, but one of these years he and/or others will be forced to confront larger realities concerning Seattle's position relative to the East Side.

Unless, that is, the "progressives" on the West Side are content to serve as Bellevue's Federal Way or Tacoma. We shall see. The $15 minimum wage could wind up being the straw that breaks the camel's back. I have to wonder: Was Ms. Sawant secretly financed by Kemper Freeman, or are we getting ready screw ourselves by ourselves?

NotFan

Posted Fri, May 9, 8:01 a.m. Inappropriate

sorry .. you're wrong about the anti-tax environment .. it was alive and well during that time .. just for fun .. look up Initiatives 601 and 602 .. both very tough tax rollbacks .. and one of them passed .. I'll let your history lesson tell you which one.

and .. the first Sound Transit vote, of course, failed outside the city, just like Prop 1 but passed big on the retry. Thinking Seattle could have gone on it's own would not only have been silly, remember where the traffic comes from, but a financial disaster.

rgogerty

Posted Thu, May 8, 5:54 p.m. Inappropriate

What this blog thread lacks is some gallows humor. How about compulsory sterilization for everyone over the age of 50?

afreeman

Posted Thu, May 8, 11:10 p.m. Inappropriate

Sterilization of everyone over 50? Unclear on the concept, I'd say.

NotFan

Posted Fri, May 9, 8:19 a.m. Inappropriate

I'd reserve that for commenters whose comments exceed the length of the original piece.

Posted Sun, May 11, 1:56 p.m. Inappropriate

Not too many women produce children after the age of 50.

sarah90

Posted Fri, May 9, 5:16 p.m. Inappropriate

The recent and current examples of mishandling of transportation mega-projects are also a factor. The enormous amounts of money spent on behalf of special interests for amenities and features for suboptimized projects on the waterfront, the 520 bridge termination and the cosmetic expenditures to beautify Mercer Street and a few affluent neighborhoods are mind-boggling. All do little or nothing to increase capacities or reduce congestion for taxpaying commuters.

So, these taxpaying commuters do not believe what leadership says about transportation. The process has become trivialized and is reflected in the vote.

jmrolls

Posted Sun, May 11, 8:45 p.m. Inappropriate

Taxing my house for everything is not the solution.
TAX my CAR

Posted Mon, May 12, 11:16 a.m. Inappropriate

"Luckily, both can be fixed."

Yeah, right. I know marijuana is legal now but you really do need to cut back.

The message from east King County (outside Seattle) was clear. That vote and the message from the State legislature sent a clear message. Seattle is on its own to fund transit which serves the city.

nwcitizen

Posted Tue, May 13, 9:49 a.m. Inappropriate

the mayors actions would agree with you .. I don't

rgogerty

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