Saturday, October 6, 2007

P-I endores Prop 1

The better of the two dailies has endorsed Prop 1 in this rather guarded editorial:

For those who want more mass transit but no new roads, we hear you. We also empathize with those who fret about the sales tax increases, car tabs and the potential for light rail extensions and roads proposed by the package to cost closer to $160 billion. In an ideal world, Prop. 1 would be split into two separate questions, not one.

But, here's the thing: It's not so bad that we'd toss the baby (transit) out with the bathwater (roads). We're already invested in light rail, and we can't wait for the 2009 (that will be on time, right Sound Transit?) opening of the stretch connecting Sea-Tac Airport to the University of Washington.

That's my feeling basically. ST2 includes hugely important rail infrastructure, and RTID includes a few bad projects (405) and a few really desparately needed ones (South Park Bridge). I think on the whole, it's far more good than bad.


Anonymous said...

This package is essential. There are a few projects I'd cut, but we don't have the luxury of time to wait for the perfect eco-friendly package.

Think we should wait until it gets split apart? Go for transit-only? Think again. Voters have rejected exactly that kind of package repeatedly. First in 1958. Then in 1962, and again in 1968.

Probably the most heartbreaking failure was in 1970. That year we had a chance to vote on a bond just for light rail and buses. It was called Forward Thrust. The cost was $400 million, which is about $2.1 billion in today's dollars. Even with the federal government covering the additional $900 million of the cost ($4.8 billion in 2007 dollars), the measure failed.

Sounds like the olden days, huh? Not at all. Have we become more progressive in our thinking? Hardly.

In 1988 voters approved an *advisory* measure backing light rail, but then rejected a big rail-only package in 1995. A scaled-back version squeaked through by a narrow margin a following year. (It was just .1 percent over the threshold in Pierce county.) That got us to where we are today. But there is no reason to think that a big ambitious plan will be approved. It's been tried over and over, and failed repeatedly. That's why we have this kind of compromise.

We can deal with the political reality, or adopt a pious stance that gets us nowhere but more ecological destruction.

Anonymous said...

But we do have the luxury of waiting 11 years to build any additional light rail under this plan? And 20 years to build 60% of the light rail?

And the RTA didn't have to pass in Pierce County. Just like this election, it needs to pass in the entire district (the bulk of the three county area). It passed by 10 percentage points in 1996, and we have passed two transit only measures since (2000, 2006). The people want transit and we'll get it sooner if this is rejected.

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, we can't do a give-me-transit-tomorrow voteand expect to get anywhere. I wish we could. The RTA failed in 1995 because it was demolished at the polls in eastern King county, and in Pierce and Snohomish counties.

Here's what History link says:

On March 14, 1995, voters in King, Snohomish, and Pierce counties reject a $6.7 billion regional transit plan. The Regional Transit Authority (RTA) proposal for rail and bus transit improvements wins majorities in Seattle, Mercer Island, and Shoreline, but is soundly defeated on the Eastside and in King and Snohomish counties. A scaled-down "Sound Transit" plan is adopted the following year.

Put together another big transit-only package, and it will get creamed again. Sad, but true.

Kemper Freeman was the bad guy then, too, with the same nonsense about rail being too expensive, and we should be happy with faster buses. "Busways," he called it then.

Ben Schiendelman said...

"But we do have the luxury of waiting 11 years to build any additional light rail under this plan? And 20 years to build 60% of the light rail?"

If this passes, we *get* the option of accelerating the project, just as was done in Dallas and Salt Lake City. If this fails, it will only take longer. We don't have the luxury of waiting 20 years to build more.