Constructively Deconstructing the Criticism of Mayor Ed Murray on Transit

Metro Bus

Local transit advocates are righteously pissed at Mayor Ed Murray for his public and private opposition to an initiative that would raise $30 million a year in property taxes to buy back looming Metro bus service cuts within Seattle. And Murray—who has always bristled at the charge that he is in any way “anti-transit”—is righteously pissed right back. So as a public service, I thought I’d take a moment to explain the two sides to each other in the hope of encouraging a Murrayesque consensus.

First of all, Ed, you have to understand that when critics call you anti-transit what they really mean is that you are not sufficiently anti-car. Nobody really thinks you hate buses and trains (well, nobody whose opinion you should care about). They just think that you are way too conventional in terms of your transportation thinking. Not 1950s conventional. But 1990s conventional. And a lot has changed in Seattle since you first headed to Olympia. The shift toward transit, bike, and pedestrian oriented transportation planning that may have seemed radical a quarter century ago is the consensus in Seattle today. And many transportation advocates here rightly fear that your lack of buy-in will get in the way of their urbanist vision.

It’s a balance thing. You may be more pro-transit than the majority of legislators. But that’s not good enough for Seattle.

As for Murray’s critics, you have to understand that he really means this when he says this:

Regionalism must be an element of any transit plan: Any transit financing plan – either short-term or long-term – must reflect the reality that Seattle’s economy depends on people coming into the city from throughout the Puget Sound region.

Ed and I have been having this argument for years. This isn’t just talk. He passionately believes in taking a regional approach to transportation planning, and chafes at any suggestion to the contrary. It’s one of the reasons I didn’t vote for him. But of course, he’s absolutely right. I mean, there’s at least as much utility in saving bus routes serving commuters heading to and from Seattle as there is in saving routes that operate entirely within city borders.

So regionalism should be an element of any transit plan. But the same could be said of the minimum wage, paid sick leave, and universal preschool. All of these would be better implemented at the county or state level. But they’re not. So Seattle has chosen to go it alone. Because that’s the only practical political option we have.

Still, nothing seems to shake Murray’s core belief in the efficacy of regional transportation planning, or his skepticism of Seattle-only solutions, be it for funding light rail expansion or saving the bus service we already have. So if you want to win Murray’s support for a Seattle-only bus funding measure you are going to need to convince him that it is both absolutely urgent and absolutely short term—and that you absofuckinglutely pledge to support his efforts to achieve a permanent regional solution. (Personally, I’m in a fuck the rest of King County mood at the moment, but I understand that’s not constructive.)

Shorter Goldy: Ed, stop being so defensive about being labeled “anti-transit”—it’s meant as a relative term. And everybody else, you need to pledge to support Ed’s regional approach. Then maybe we can all quit the kvetching and save some bus routes.


  1. 1

    Robert Cruickshank spews:

    Here’s the problem. King County voters said no to a regional funding plan, and outside Seattle it wasn’t close. That means Seattle is facing big cuts to bus service that it didn’t vote for.

    That leaves three options: 1) sit back and let the cuts happen, 2) try again with a countywide solution even though it’s very hard to see how the outcome would be any different, 3) Seattle saves itself while continuing to work for a regional solution.

    The problem with this post is it buys into Murray’s framing. The people backing Initiative 118 aren’t anti-regional. Ben Schiendelman is very regionally focused, have you ever seen his proposed Sound Transit maps? They’re instead staring big cuts in the face and are determined to do whatever it takes to stop them.

    The question then isn’t do we pursue a regional solution or not. Everyone wants a strong regional system. The issue in front of us now do we save Seattle buses now or try again for a countywide vote even though we don’t have MVET (and even that might fail countywide) and even though we have no expectation that Olympia will suddenly change its mind after 15 years and help fund transit?

  2. 2

    Theophrastus spews:

    Excellent summary, Goldy, thank you.

    The axiom of ‘regionalism’ perhaps ought to be directed more loudly toward the mayor: the larger the region, the more diluted is the interest in change for (the core of) that region.

    Our city effort’s ain’t never gonna play in the sticks. So if you seek for consensus (and revenue) there, you will be fighting harder.

  3. 3

    Craig spews:

    Murray should just shut the fuck up, support 118 and work with transit advocates reform long term and regional solutions. This is not the time to screw around with transit and give the Seattle Times ammunition to sink this proposal. Ugh!! Why is are local Mayor doing this!? Political ego plain and simple.

  4. 4


    @1 I’m not buying into Ed’s framing. I’m just explaining it. If you want to deal with Ed, you need to appreciate his thinking on this. I think he genuinely fears that passing a Seattle-only solution will dilute Seattle support for a regional solution. Even if Olympia gives us an MVET, it doesn’t pass without overwhelming support from within Seattle… and even then maybe not.

  5. 5

    Robert Cruickshank spews:

    @4 well that’s a different matter. I support I-118 and I also support a broader regional solution. Seattle will vote for that too because it would include an expansion of existing service, whereas I-118 just protects what we already have, and just for six years.

    But right now Murray is saying that maybe the problem in April was low turnout. That was part of the issue, but I don’t see how higher turnout would have ensured passage. More importantly, I can’t imagine voters outside being very happy about being told to vote on the same plan again.

  6. 7

    Ben Broesamle spews:

    Everyone wants a strong regional system.

    Support for Sound Transit’s plans is definitely growing from the 57% Yes vote on the 2008 Sound Transit Prop 1 for ST2. Even most of Magnolia and West Seattle voted yes. Source.

    But King County Metro buses aren’t all regional. Buses in Seattle, numbered 1-99, stay within the City of Seattle for most if not all of their route. That is what I-118 is attempting to save: local buses with local funding.

    We need to keep and expand the hours on the local buses we have, AND, IN ADDITION, expand our regional system.

    The two are not mutually exclusive.

  7. 8

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    We need to start planning Seattle’s 22nd-century infrastructure now!

    Roger Rabbit Commentary: That’s right, China’s going to buy up all the oil reserves, and Chinese will drive cars, while Americans had better get used to riding bicycles! We’re becoming a third world country and we need third world infrastructure, such as bicycle lanes and electric streetcars.

  8. 9

    keshmeshi spews:

    But right now Murray is saying that maybe the problem in April was low turnout. That was part of the issue, but I don’t see how higher turnout would have ensured passage

    I don’t know if greater turnout would have helped, but I still found it absolutely absurd that a ballot got sent out for just one measure. Half the time I don’t even vote on levies (and I strive to vote on everything) because it annoys me to have to deal with voting so often. Plan it so you can put at least two measures on the same ballot, or fuck off.

  9. 10

    Scot B. spews:

    The problem is, Murray is mayor of Seattle, not the King County executive. His job is to represent Seattle voters, if necessary against the interests of rural King County.

  10. 11

    sally spews:


    I agree that a regional approach would be better. But why should I pledge to support Ed’s plan and let him steal the credit if he comes up with a lesser plan.

  11. 12

    eponymous coward spews:

    The rest of King County made it abundantly clear that they don’t want to pay higher taxes for more transit (or even the SAME transit- they want a tax cut and less busses).

    So I say, that’s fine, people in democracies should get what they vote for, good and hard. Seattle’s made it clear they’ll pay more taxes and get more transit.

    Murray may think that he and the mandarins in government may know what’s better for Auburn and North Bend than they do, and the voters shouldn’t worry their pretty little heads about it, but at this point I’m with Goldy- if they want to vote to be Alabama (low tax, low service), let ‘em.

  12. 13

    RossB spews:

    Excellent post. I like this part: the same could be said of the minimum wage, paid sick leave, and universal preschool. All of these would be better implemented at the county or state level.

    Yes, I completely agree. If anything, the negatives associated with raising the minimum wage in only one area are worse than the negatives associated with improving transit in only one area. A business might decide to locate in Kent or Shoreline rather than in Seattle because of the higher employment cost. But either way, everyone benefits if Seattle has good transit. If you take a crappy bus from Bellevue to downtown Seattle, then a really good bus from there to Fremont, everyone is a winner. Likewise with universal preschool. Yes, we would all be better off if everyone everywhere did the same, but at least someone is doing the right (and smart) thing.

  13. 15

    sally spews:

    Trying to advance a regional political agenda right now is counterproductive, if not flat-out ridiculous. The regional agenda was rejected everywhere but Seattle. If Murray would come up with a Seattle agenda that’s better than the one proposed (which was in the works for some time and which Murray should have known about), he can take credit. But from what he’s done so far in office, I don’t expect his proposal to be anything but sh*t.

  14. 17

    headless lucy spews:

    re 15– A regional solution helps Seattle because it brings people into the city — where they spend money. This is just icing on the gravy of the huge and regular out-gorging of tourists from the cruise ships.

  15. 18

    worf spews:

    I’ve seen no indication that Murray is likely to collaborate with anyone outside of his very narrow political circle. He understands upper middle class, non-status quo threatening liberalism, but I think he views anything to the left of that with the same derision as Rahm Emmanuel. And he is nearly as vocal in his derision as Rahm.
    He is petty, thin skinned and petulant. We have a spoiled two year old as mayor.
    I guess some one had to make Paul Schell look good….

  16. 19

    LOLman spews:

    @18 – LOL. McGinn already took care of making Paul Schell look good… great even. Murray has the easiest act in history to follow.

  17. 20

    Anandakos spews:

    Goldy #4,

    he genuinely fears that passing a Seattle-only solution will dilute Seattle support for a regional solution.

    Why is that? The text of I-118 is explicitly written to grant the council the right to raise property taxes by 22 cents per thousand. It doesn’t mandate that it do so forever.

    If a “regional” solution can be dragged from the redneck wheat farmers who run the state Senate then the levy can be repealed.

    But they are who need to be scared into compromising, not Seattle.

  18. 22

    worf spews:

    @19- even Schell never called a press conference to tell every one that he opposed something because he heard that someone had said mean things about him, which was the sum total of the take away from today’s presser.
    Ed Murray opposes Plan “C” because Ben Schiendelman is allegedly a big meanie.
    What a twat.

  19. 23


    @20 I’m not defending Ed’s perspective. I’m just trying to explain where he’s coming from based on our past conversations. My take is that Ed sees this trend toward localism as undermining local support for regional solutions. You know, we have ours, now you go fend for yourself.

    Personally, I think that self-sufficiency is part of the charm—it sends a political message to Olympia that Seattle won’t allow itself to be taken hostage anymore. I wish it wasn’t necessary, but that’s the political world we live in at the moment.

  20. 24

    Theophrastus spews:

    @21 Bertha is the state’s problem. We’re talking about city/county “regionalism” here (…and yes, it is a mess)

    This whole discussion just about canonizes the old proverb “all politics are local”.

  21. 25

    sally spews:

    @24, no, it doesn’t. The same people who are pissed at Murray for being talking about regionalism to supposedly fix an immingent/emergent situation are the ones who voted FOR that regional semi-solution. However, we’re pissed that Murray is apparently too stupid (or too childish) to see reality when it stares him in the face. If the “region” won’t go for it, then Seattle will, but he doesn’t want to give us the chance.

  22. 27

    Better spews:

    The problem with “regionalism” is that it’s the opposite of socialism and it’s also a slippery slope.
    First we stop trying to have everyone in the state do well, just the region. Then we fuck the region and we only care about our our neighbors in our little city state. Then we stop caring about our neighbors and all we care about is ourselves. We will be come what we despise, greed driven conservatives.

  23. 28

    Better spews:

    I was under the impression that any cost overruns of Bertha were not shared by the state, but were going to be covered by Seattle, and Seattle only. Am I wrong?

  24. 29

    sally spews:

    @27 and @28: It’s not a slippery slope. The county initiative was tried; it failed (how many times do we have to say that?). Seattle needs a decent bus system because we’re the big job area. If anybody has a better idea on how to save Seattle’s buses, they’re free to suggest it.

    There’s now a fight going on about cost overruns between all the parties involved in this tunnel debacle, but no, they weren’t to be covered by Seattle. The state legislation was written specifically to keep Seattle out of that situation. Of course, since the Legislature hates Seattle (everyone hates Seattle), they could do whatever they want next session, I suppose.

  25. 30

    seabos84 spews:

    in my NOT humble opinion the unwashed working stiffs outside the good ‘hoods of Queen Anne, Cap Hill, Wallingford… voted AGAINST another f’king tax on their car tabs.
    (pst! anyone ever hear of Tim Eyman ?? How did he get famous??? )
    Lots of these peeps aren’t working big shot jobs, 60 bucks is a dent, and the bus system don’t work too great for too many of them trying to get from their low cost dwellings in bumblebee to their low pay jobs where-ever else.
    I know this next transition will be tough to grok for the droolers out there – BUT – WHY are we trapped in a community investment funding scheme driven by f’king liars like Rodney Tom, Eyman, Grover Norquist …????

    Because the cowards and or cravens and or lying sell outs like Murray, Ross, Inslee, Patty Pathetic Murray, Cant-Do-Shit, Dwight & Jaxon and … many of whom have been in office since the Gingrich ‘revolution’ of ’94 or before – well, ya see, they’re cowards and or cravens and or lying sell outs!

    BTW – I’ve voted for these useless f’cks for decades, listening to the fear fear fear of “Lessor of Two Evil”!!

    Fri. the 16th is filing deadline for 98 state reps & 28 or so state senators.


  26. 31

    Chairman Odrama spews:

    @27 “The problem with “regionalism” is that it’s the opposite of socialism”… That is a bad thing?

  27. 33

    pragmatic spews:

    One partial solution that I don’t see being discussed is adding more park & rides. In the outlying areas, say Enumclaw and Maple Valley, everyone has a car and cars need to be part of the solution.

    Eliminate the milk runs and provide transit only to P&R sites in such areas. This can work for a lot of people. The trips to the P&Rs would be local, on roads that generally have capacity to handle a lot of cars. The busses would eliminate some auto trips from there to other major centers.

    In order to work, though, the exiting notion that P&R service shuts down at 7pm or so has to change. If Metro expects people to leave their car at a P&R, they need to know they can still get home at 11pm without waiting an hour for the next bus. 15 minutes would be reasonable up to, say midnight.

    It’s time for Metro to step forward and explain why or why not this type of solution can help fix their budget.

  28. 34


    @33 Park and Rides can be part of the solution, but not everybody can afford a car. $200 to $300 a month minimum monthly car expenses (insurance, fuel, maintenance) even without a car payment; almost certainly more. Then another $100/month for your bus pass.

    Basic car ownership is expensive.

  29. 35

    pragmatic spews:

    Goldy, are you saying that people who live out in Maple Valley don’t have a car? That seems highly unlikely. It is pretty much a necessity of living in an area like that. I would agree that people living in, say, Bothell could do without a car but would probably be living close to the business district rather than out in Brier.

    As long as a car-less person is living within walking distance of a P&R, they would be covered by my model. For the rest, the P&R system could be improved to work much better than it does.