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
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.