I went to a Friends of Seattle event last night titled:
Post-Proposition 1: The Future of Transportation in Seattle
*Seattle City Councilmember Jan Drago, Chair of the Transportation Committee
*Rob Johnson, Transportation Choices Coalition’s Regional Policy Director
*Mike O’Brien, Sierra Club’s Cascade Chapter Chair
*Greg Walker, Sound Transit’s Policy and Planning Officer
*Moderated by the Seattle Channel’s C.R. Douglas
(As an aside, would it kill you to have a blogger on your panel? I’m not saying this as a plug for myself. Maybe one of these guys, or this guy, or one of these guys. I’m just sayin’.)
A thought for anyone who puts on a panel discussions. Please try to make more time for questions for the panel. I’ve always found the Q&A time more informative than anything else. It would be nice to be able to ask questions throughout the discussion, instead of just at the end. While I don’t go to a lot of these things, for the ones to do go to, this is SOP. And that’s a bummer.
About the discussion:
What was the deal with C.R. Douglas’ questions, over and over, about roads? Nobody gives a shit. We’re Seattle liberals, C.R., we don’t care about finding more money for I-405. On a more serious note, finding money for more highways isn’t a problem. Even thought voters said “no” to Roads and Transit, lots of roads projects are moving forward.
LIGHT RAIL ON 520
Also, what’s the deal with light rail on 520? Douglas and the panelists waxed on and on about it being built, and, in the Sierra Club’s case, before it’s built on I-90. From what I’ve learned, light rail won’t work on 520 if it’s built before light rail is built on I-90. It’s a complicated issue, but arguing for 20 minutes on something that isn’t even technically feasible… well, that’s the Seattle way.
Some complained about Sound Transit using sales taxes to pay for light rail. I don’t see what the problem is. I mean, wasn’t it his income tax plan that swept Ron Sims into the governor’s mansion? Yeah, the sales tax isn’t the best way, but it’s what we got. So it’s either pay for this stuff with it or wait, and I don’t want to wait.
DON’T TRUST THE DISCOVERY INSTITUTE
Jan Drago is working with the Discovery Institute guys to find a way to dig a deep-bore tunnel underneath Seattle from the stadiums to Mercer. Why she would partner-up with an organization that doesn’t believe in the scientific method, I have no clue. I would never dirive in a faith-based tunnel, and I don’t want to pay for one either. While I generally like Drago, she’s totally out to lunch on this.
When I learned that the Mayor was slated to give an introduction before the panel discussion, I had to smile. See, Greg Nickels is Sound Transit board chair. While the panel included some knowledgeable people, including a Sound Transit policy guy, it didn’t include anyone from the board. Mayor Nickels has way more say about what happens “Post Prop 1” than anyone, really, and he only spoke for five minutes before the panel. Like I mentioned to a friend:
So before the panel talks for two hours about what they want to see happen, Mayor Nickels is going to talk for five minutes about what’s going to happen.
Other Guy: [Nods and smiles]
But that’s usually how things operate in Seattle. We like to sit in a circle, talking about our feelings, while the People Who Are Making Things Happen are hashing it out in the next room. Mike O’Brien talked about how he’d like to see a greenhouse gas study of any ST2 plan, but then said “we need lots and lots of light rail.” There’s nothing wrong with doing tests, but what’s the endgame? Are we going to suddenly find out that light rail is worse for the environment? It’s not clear what the motivation is here.
What drives me up the wall is that we heard all of this last year:
“Vote no so they’ll come back with something better.”
Well, that’s what’s happening (to my surprise), and it’s aggravating that Mike’s answer to C.R. Douglas’ question, “will you support Sound Transit this fall?” was “gosh, we’ll have to see what the package looks like.”
The right answer? “You bet, C.R., we’re following the lead of Mayor Nickels, an environmental leader in his own right, and we’re all for light rail this fall. Enough waiting, let’s go!” While I understand his concerns with park and rides (a minor issue, at best) and 520, the idea of supporting a light rail package that isn’t paired with something like RTID should be an easy, easy call to make.
What isn’t a sure thing this year is the Sound Transit board getting the message that we want them to go to the ballot this year, not next year, not the year after that. No more waiting. For transpo/enviro nerds, we’ll always be able to argue about variable tolling, congestion pricing, and arcane land use code issues. But winning this fall is the most important thing.
Transit-riding Voter spews:
I’ve lost track of the number of such navel-gazing forums I’ve attended over the last year or so. You’re right on the mark, re Seattle’s ability for endless talk and resulting inaction.
Panel should’ve been made up of ST boardmembers, board leadership, who could give us some real meat. And along with Nickels, provide us some solid idea of what’s likely to come this year.
And they are the people to whom attendees should be speaking, re the message that the public wants a solid, responsible ST2.1 plan to vote on This November!
Well of course you should have been on the panel based on your superior analytical skills.
After all, wasn’t it your prediction that if Prop 1 lost the legislature would pass governance reform to kill Sound Transit?
And Gregoire and Chopp would never let light rail on the ballot in 2008?
And the roads would get funded anyway?
With that track record, I am guessing the public would love to hear your predictions for the future. That way they would know what was not going to happen.
Proud To Be An Ass spews:
Goldy: “It would be nice to be able to ask questions throughout the discussion, instead of just at the end. While I don’t go to a lot of these things, for the ones to do go to, this is SOP.”
At public panel discussions? You sure? Most of the panelists I see want to hit the door after taking 2 or 3 questions, and they don’t appreciate being interrupted when making their pitch. The public is herded through at the Q&A at the end.
I really wanted to go but I was afraid I might physically attack O’Brien. Sounds like I didn’t miss much.
Ben Schiendelman spews:
I cornered O’Brien afterward for a minute to talk to him – I don’t understand what his issue is. He’s not representing his membership AT ALL.
The Real Mark spews:
“would it kill you to have a blogger on your panel?”
What makes a blogger any more qualified to be on the panel than, say… the local dogcatcher? You guys sure have a high opinion of yourselves.
I was going to wonder why the guy from the Sierra Club was there without a balance from someone in the transportation industry (trucking company, etc.) to represent the impacts on area commerce, but then I remembered these kinds of discussion groups are intolerant of differing opinions.
@3 Will’s blogging this time.
Somebody should do a study on how much this navel gazing costs us. Not just the expense of silly panel meetings, but how much the loss of a year translates into the loss of taxpayer money on transit and road projects.
We know these projects need to be done. Look at the ferries, the Murray Morgan bridge in Tacoma and economic loss this winter with Snoqualmie Pass closures.
Light rail north to Shoreline and east to Bellevue seem like no brainers and we don’t even have light rail in King County yet.
Every day second guessing is costing us big.
Deputy Mayor spews:
Your right. You should be on every panel. Your’s is the best damned analysis I’ve read since Prop 1 lost.
I agree. Why do these panels (either on tv or the radio or in person) never include bloggers or citizen-activists who probably know just as much (or more) than the panelists? It drives me crazy when it’s the same old voices.
Roger Rabbit spews:
How about a rabbit? Shouldn’t there be a rabbit on the panel? Rabbits are experts on muscle-powered transportation.
Roger Rabbit spews:
“Some complained about Sound Transit using sales taxes to pay for light rail. I don’t see what the problem is. I mean, wasn’t it his income tax plan that swept Ron Sims into the governor’s mansion? Yeah, the sales tax isn’t the best way, but it’s what we got. So it’s either pay for this stuff with it or wait, and I don’t want to wait.”
The sales tax is a deal killer for senior citizens. Until that’s fixed, senior citizens will vote against light rail. You may think this is just Roger Rabbit ranting, but it’s not. Talk to any senior citizen.
Roger Rabbit spews:
Dollars-for-donuts the only thing ST will “fix” is to dump roads that will be built anyway from the ballot measure, and come back with the same pie-in-the-sky light rail scheme that voters rejected last fall (and will reject again this fall).
Roger Rabbit spews:
I don’t have a lot of faith in the ability of our local politicians to listen to the people who have to pay the bills they’re running up. Exhibit A: The $500 million baseball stadium we voted down.
Life’s hard when you’re the “man in the arena.”
That’s just been my experience.
@ 4 and 5
Being as the local Sierra Club has lots of members, many of whom disagree on lots of things, I’m not surprised. Mike’s an ok guy, though.
“Talk to any senior citizen.”
11 & 13 – you are so correct on the senior citizens voting NO. I for one, take care of my Grandma, so I tend to have to hang out at the senior center quite a bit here in Issy, and not one single one of the people I have met there will approve this next transit plan. As for the stadium, well us folks here in Washington are quite used to saying no then the decision makers, saying oh well, we’re gonna do it anyways. I suspect that will likely happen with ST2. It will be crammed down our throats, even if we were to vote 60-80% no.
Ben Schiendelman spews:
Hannah, I don’t know how you expect several billion dollars to simply appear. The legislature doesn’t like Sound Transit.
It was a good forum. I fell to pieces laughing when Drago talked about the grand tunnel scheme.
GM Cassel AMH1(AW) USN RET spews:
On the tunnel from the stadiums to Mercer:
If my memory is any good, and it is debatable. Doesn’t the Puget Sound area sit on a rather seismically active area. I do believe that three tectonic plates are involved. Those being the Pacific Plate, San Juan Plate and North American Plate. When I was on Whidbey Island for most of my Naval Service, we had earthquakes everyday. By and large most of them could not be felt. King 5 used to hook up with the UW’s seismic lab and it was on the evening news and at 1100 with Jeff Renner.
So I was just wondering, is this a good idea?!?!?!?
Marmot's Whistle spews:
Diversity of opinion exists within the Sierra Club, but one area where everyone agrees is the need to take serious steps to reduce our global warming pollution. The land use patterns we promote are likely to make more difference than any particular mode or alignment of transit. Obviously, better transit is needed to help denser, compact, walkable communities function better. That includes as much focus on local transit as on regional transit. Should we be enabling people to make effortless commutes between Puyallup and Lynnwood? Maybe expectations of what defines a reasonable commute distance need to change.
I’m sure the Sierra Club will support a 2008 Sound Transit ballot measure if that plan contains the good projects that Mike O’Brien and others have been describing. Funds for multi-modal station access instead of just huge parking garages will help achieve the land use patterns we need to combat global warming. LRT to Northgate is needed to make the north-south spine work better and allow bus service in north Seattle to be redeployed for better local connections. We aren’t going to have LRT on 520 in a 2008 ballot measure, but any east Link LRT plans need to be compatible with LRT on 520 in the future. The 520 bridge design and EIS process is the place to push for inclusion of light rail on a new bridge– within the 6 lane footprint.
Sales tax saturation is a real effect. It doesn’t just apply to senior citizens, although is probably more acute among this demographic. We need to use tolling revenue from Lk Wash bridges and eventually all limited-access highways in the urban area to fund transit. This source is more equitable than higher and higher sales tax to pay transit costs. The lowest income tier can receive a rebate of tolls paid to reduce burden.
Nice try using a pipe-dream to make your highly regressive Sierra Club-Ron Sims congestion pricing plan less regressive. Toll rebates are just as likely to occur as sales tax rebates. And sales tax is exempted for food and medicine already. Seniors pay only a small portion of the taxes the rest of us pay, including property taxes. Ever try to run a school levy in a community dominated by senior voters? The folks who bear the smallest burden ALWAYS complain the most. Except, of course, when it comes to the super-rich.
And since when did the Sierra Club decide it wanted to defend consumerism and the unhindered purchasing of landfill-bound overseas imports? Last time I checked, unbridled consumerism is what was driving greenhouse gas emissions
What we’re witnessing here is the Seattle-centric Sierra Club trying to judge and punish the other 4/5ths of the rest of the region – for the sins of their forefathers.
At least our Metro Planner/Sierra Club Activist friend Marmot Whistler (as well as Mike O) are softening their rhetoric and ramping down the disinformation campaign from last year. That is a good sign. These guys should be commended when they at least recognize reality as a viable concept.
Perhaps Jan Drago is more open-minded than Goldy?