Surprise! The Seattle Times urges No on Prop 1!
THE Sound Transit tax increase, Proposition 1, is a bad proposal. We opposed the same tax a year ago and do so again.
It’s not the same tax as last year, but more importantly, it’s not the same package, which is what the Times really hopes the reader will infer from that lede. They think they’re so clever.
First, it is too much. Half a cent on the sales tax adds up to a 9.5-percent tax in Seattle and about that much systemwide. That would be one of the highest sales taxes in the United States. It says: “Don’t spend your money here.” It retards our economy. It hurts the poor.
You know, if you’re really so concerned about the size of our regressive sales tax, then how about showing some support for a goddamn income tax? No? Really? In fact, WA’s state and local taxes as a percentage of personal income has been steadily dropping for the past decade and a half, and is now ranked about 34th nationwide, so you can complain all you want about the size of our sales tax, but if you actually cared about an informed debate you might want to add a little context.
Proposition 1 is being marketed as the solution to an immediate need. Salesmen have made up phrases like “immediately increase buses,” “immediate solutions to relieve gridlock” and their favorite, “Transit Now.”
But with Proposition 1, what you get is a Tax Now — a tax that goes to 9.5 percent Jan. 1. A few buses and commuter trains come soon, but most of your money would go to light rail not fully open to you until the 2020s. It is not “Transit Now.”
Yeah, God forbid we invest in anything we might need in the future. What a bunch of selfish little babies.
This bias against helping people now is why King County Executive Ron Sims argued to keep Proposition 1 off the ballot. As head of the government that owns Metro, the transit agency struggling to meet existing need, he didn’t want to wait until the 2020s.
So… is the Times suggesting we should add another half cent to the sales tax to buy more buses now? I didn’t think so.
Then the sales pitch shifts. The salesmen admit light rail is not about now. It’s about the future. It’s about getting people out of their cars.
Now they’re just making shit up, substituting their own internal dialogue for actual reporting.
This is an improbable view of the future. Most people don’t want to get out of their cars. As the world changes, they may buy cars that burn fuel from tar sands, canola, algae or wood chips. They may have electric batteries charged by power from the sun, the wind, nuclear reaction or the heat of the Earth.
But most will have their own wheels because they have their own places to go.
Um… has anybody on the Times ed board ever viewed the world from anywhere but Mercer Island? Where I come from, a lot of folks own cars and use transit. Maybe they don’t own as many cars as they would have without access to light rail, and maybe a lot of folks put off the expense of owning a car until they have kids… but they still own cars.
I’d say that an improbable view of the world is one solely predicated on a few decades of the sort of failed transportation policy that has gotten us into this mess.
No doubt, more people will take transit. But they will demand service over a wide area — and a price they can afford. Wide and cheap. A spider web of service.
In King County, that’s Metro: It costs 0.9 cents of tax on every dollar and has buses that go to more than 9,000 stops.
Really? So why doesn’t Frank Blethen take the bus to work? I’ve been by his house. (My dog peed on his security gate.) He lives a short walk from a bus stop, and there are buses that go straight to Fairview Fanny. So if buses are the be all and end all of transportation, why isn’t Frank riding ‘em. (Oh yeah, I forgot… buses are for poor people.)
If Proposition 1 passes, on every dollar you will be paying another 0.9 cents (the new 0.5 cents plus the existing 0.4 cents) to Sound Transit. The map of light rail in the mid-2020s will not be a spider web, but a simple “T.” It will have a few stops at hugely expensive stations.
Well now, that’s simply a lie. We’ll be paying the existing 0.4 cent tax regardless of whether Prop. 1 passes. They really should be ashamed of themselves.
And as for dismissing the light rail map as a simple “T,” um, really? Is your argument against expanding light rail really that we don’t have enough light rail now to make it worth expanding? Or that the package isn’t big enough? Do you actually read your own editorials before sending them to press?
Eyeball the station on Highway 99 at SeaTac. It is a monument — to something. But it is still one transit stop.
And your point is? That we don’t have enough transit stops? Um… that’s the whole point of Prop 1… to build more transit stops.
Buses have their drawbacks: They can get stuck in traffic.
They often smell of urine and poop.
But they can be unstuck with bus lanes. More bus lanes are coming — on Aurora Avenue, Northwest 15th Avenue in Seattle and on the proposed Highway 520 bridge.
And.. um… where else? And what about the sort of grade separated transit that much of the light rail line offers, zipping commuters over, under and around street traffic? Didn’t think so.
Buses are cheaper than rail and more flexible.
More flexible, yes, but that’s actually a downside if part of your goal is to encourage more dense development around the stops. As for cost, buses require a smaller capital investment, if all you’re going to do is put them on the existing roads, but they’re significantly more expensive to operate over the long run. Over the long run, rail is actually cheaper if you amortize the capital investment over the long life of the infrastructure.
Proposition 1 slights them: The two center lanes on the Interstate 90 bridge, which now serve buses and Mercer Islanders, become rail-only. Buses are kicked out. Buses will also be kicked out of Seattle’s downtown transit tunnel.
Well, you gotta admire their honesty. Since really, the Mercer Island based Times ed board’s entire opposition to light rail is based on the fact that it threatens their coveted single occupancy vehicle access to I-90’s HOV lanes. Under Prop 1’s plans, there will still be HOV lanes on I-90; they just won’t be open SOV drivers going to and from Mercer Island. Boo hoo.
But one more thing about trains vs buses. People like trains a helluva lot more than they like buses, and given their druthers they’ll almost always choose the former. So shouldn’t government be providing the services voters actually want, as opposed to the services the Times thinks we should want?
Finally, it is said that Proposition 1 is not about us, but our grandchildren. So it is. It is a proposal to extend two costly rail lines and to oblige our grandchildren to pay for them. The sales tax is raised to 9.5 percent. It is a lot, and it goes on for a very long time.
Um, let’s see now. I’m 45 and my daughter is 11. Prop 1 only authorizes the additional half cent tax to be levied through 2038, by which time I might have a grandchild about the same age as my daughter is now. So no… I don’t think it accurate to state that the measure will “oblige our grandchildren to pay” for the rail lines. Our children yes, but our grandchildren no.
However, our grandchildren will have the opportunity to ride this modern, grade separated, hydro-powered electric light rail system. And depending on where they choose to live, they’ll have the freedom of choosing whether to take on the additional expense of owning a car.
That seems like a pretty good deal for our grandkids, and our region. If only the previous generation had had the foresight and inter-generational generosity to build this thing 40 years ago, we wouldn’t have to pay for it now.