Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Here comes governance reform

At one of the News Tribune blogs, David Seago reports on Gov. Gregoire's visit to the editorial board. There's good news and bad news.

The bad news:

The governor said she was prepared to introduce her own RTG [Regional Transportation Governance] legislation for the 2008 session, but she agreed to let state Sens. Ed Murray, D-Seattle, and Mary Margaret Haugen, D-Camano Island, take the lead in crafting a proposal...

RTG means no more Sound Transit, no more Regional Transportation Improvement District - bodies comprised of elected city and county officials from Pierce, King and Snohomish counties.
Daimajin has discussed at length why this is a bad idea. Briefly, I oppose it strongly because (1) new agencies tend to be paralyzed by indecision and incompetence for several years, while Sound Transit is now operating smoothly; (2) Any new entity is likely to both dilute the vote of pro-transit Seattle and lose most of its rail transit focus; and (3) an elected board is unlikely to approve the taxes necessary to build a good rail system.

By the way, Ed Murray is the one you can thank for the ST2/RTID marriage in the last election, in spite of representing one of the most liberal districts in the state.

I was led to this blog entry via David Brewster on Crosscut, who adds:
The first political showdown will be Sound Transit's decision next February whether to go back to the ballot in 2008, this time with no roads component. House Speaker Frank Chopp opposes the 2008 submission, fearing that some of his Democratic candidates in the suburbs will be forced to take a stand on a tax increase. Olympia has threatened Sound Transit that if they go ahead with the 2008 vote, they can expect to be punished by enactment of a regional governance entity that will weaken Sound Transit's autonomy and its dedicated taxes. Waiting to 2010 for the Sound Transit II vote may also give enough time for the regional governance entity to be enacted.
How far back has the Prop. 1 failure set us? A generation?

A wee bit of good news via Seago:
And the notion of "sub-area equity," Gregoire said emphatically, has got to go. That gave us a little shudder, because the principle that the money raised in each county should be spent each county is pretty much Holy Writ in Pierce and Snohomish counties.
Sub-area equity prevents us from building a system that serves the most riders. If key leaders are starting to recognize that, it's a good thing.

Still, in state races I'm pretty much a single-issue voter on transit, and the Governor has yet to give me a reason she'd be better than Dino Rossi, which is pathetic.

UPDATE: Sen. Murray has a fair response in the comments, that you should read. It is certainly true that he renounced his support for the ST2/RTID marriage quite some time ago, which is something I should have pointed out in the original post.

As for his claims about opposing RTID from the start, he sponsored this bill about RTID, and Section 8 (an amendment added by the Senate) is where the linkage is established. Judge for yourself (I'm no journalist), but to me that's ancient history. I'm glad to see our Seattle delegation standing up for a 2008 ST2.1 vote, and that's what matters.

7 comments:

John said...

On the other hand, if sub-area equity were disappeared then we could fund extensions to the eastside and northgate much quicker. So the few years of strife may be worth it.

I think the sound transit should eliminate sub-area equity and possibly have more taxing authority. I think we absolutely need regional planning, however, so that we have a board that decides to focus on transit, HOV, and tolling as opposed to new roads.

Of course, it'd be a nightmare if the regional planning authority decides to focus on roads and buses more. And Sound Transit is in a very good place right now, it doesn't make sense to demolish it.

Anonymous said...

I have no current plans to work on a regional proposal. No one has shown much interest.
I support ST going to the ballot this fall should they make that decision and will oppose any efforts in the legislature to prevent them.
My interest in regional issues remains one of planning. We fail to look at the best way to move people and focus on road corridors vs light rail corridors. That is not how you get to an integrated transportation system.
I am not responsible for the uniting RTID and ST. I spent five years, including this year attempting to kill RTID legislatively. The RTID board and their legislative supporters will tell you they considered me their biggest problem in Olympia. Actually I can provide you with the tapes of the hearings that clearly show my record on this brain dead republican idea.
It was ST board members, including ST's board chair who insisted they be join and stay joined.
I did agree with the Gov to put them together in hopes that we would come up with a better RTID, I was wrong (as I have said for the past year).
The other points you make are great. Subarea equity is killing our ability to speed up ST's plans.
Regards,
Ed Murray

daimajin said...

John, the Rice-Stanton governance would probably not even bring light rail to the Eastside. This is about roads, and I think when Gregoire and others say "sub-area equity" they are referring to the Viaduct and 520.

Cas said...

Here's the dilemma with sub-area equity. It's true that it doesn't make sense to spend as much money in Pierce and Snohomish County as in King County. But so long as the taxes are the same regionally, it doesn't make political sense to ask people in Tacoma and Everett to pay just as much as Seattle and Bellevue when they won't get as much direct benefit. Voters outside of King County will never approve that.

Politically, it makes sense to spend money in sub-areas proportional to the revenue raised there. What that tells me is that we need to raise more money in Seattle and East King County for the high-priority projects in those areas, and for quicker construction schedules. Then Pierce and Snohomish can build their part of the regional system at their own pace based on their own revenue and political priorities.

daimajin said...

Yeah I agree with you cas: we don't need to do away with sub-area equity, in fact, it would be politically disastrous. However, we should get ride of uniform sub-area taxation, because not everyone as the same appetite for transit, just as they don't have the same appetite for roads or other public works.

serial catowner said...

The only reason to play with a political hot potato like sub-area equity would be to draw a red herring across Tim Eyman's path. Frankly, let it die on the vine.

What we're seeing is a last-gasp effort by the roadbuilding coalition to stave off the 21st century. The tide has set sharply against them, and the willingness of the public to finance suburban road projects will not be improved by tolling, the collapse of suburban mortgages, or the rising price of gasoline.

WRT to ST, what we've seen in Denver and Salt Lake City is a willingness of the public to approve extensions after they've seen the first segment in operation. That extensions are planned and, apparently, even funded in Seattle before the completion of the first segment may mark an understanding by planners of what needs to be done, but may not (as we saw with the Monorail) prove that the public is onboard.

The whole idea of creating a regional authority is one of the stupid and recurring ideas from brain-dead pundits like Van Dyk and the equally brain-dead "business" types (usually PR experts or lawyers) with whom he hoists cocktail glasses. Good grief, why not just proclaim a regional "Transportation Czar"? The only way to make this "regional authority" idea worse is to link it with a specific policy of building more roads and not allowing extensions of ST. Let them stew in their own juices.

Michael said...

YES, we should get rid of sub-area equity. And then we should make our ST leaders do a much better job of educating the folks outside of Seattle as to why more $$$ needs to be spent in Seattle.

Better transit in Seattle opens up more capacity on the roadways for commuters from the 'burbs.

Solving the 520 and Viaduct issues has a huge impact on the movement of freight and other goods.

Freeing up or increasing capacity around SeaTac, the Ports, etc. is what helps rural exports gets out of Washington and imports come in cheaper.

The entire state and the entire region benefits from more emphasis on the biggest bang for the buck, which will often come in Seattle.

As a compromise, perhaps there's a formula that could be worked out rather than equity, so that a larger percentage could be spent in Seattle, but outer areas would be guaranteed spending?