After getting pummeled in races all over the Eastside, you’d think GOP clowns might wonder how they lost the confidence of suburban voters. While Republicans got horsewhipped on all sorts of issues, no issue united moderate suburban swing voters more than transportation.
A little background…
In ’05, the GOP lined up in favor of I-912, while Eastside cities voted against it. Sen. Luke Esser, citing his personal pledge to always send tax increases to a vote of the people, turned down a billion dollars for a new 520 bridge. In ’06, voters turned Luke Esser out on his ass. Bellevue Republicans like Jennifer Dunn tried to block a Federal grant for Sound Transit. Today, Bellevue city leaders are arguing over exactly how Sound Transit light rail should go through downtown Bellevue. The Eastside is trending Democratic because, in many cases the GOP is against the kind of “big government” suburban folks seem to want more of.
Where are GOP activists on transportation these days? Eric Earling is on the case, and he defends spending money on light rail because, well, people seem to want it:
The honest truth is a region composed of suburbs surrounding an urban center needs both transit options and significant spending on roads. Both are necessary for reasons of transportation planning and political demand.
Stefan is not convinced that supporting the RTID package is worth it if we get more “awful” light rail:
Exactly how is light rail “necessary”? And at what price is it still desirable? And since when is existence of “political demand” a good reason for voters and taxpayers to support a disastrous policy?
Anti-government types cannot fathom how folks would want to pay more sales tax for something that’s going to get them out of traffic. Perhaps light rail is a bad idea, but it seems to be a very popular bad idea.
In cities where light rail is built, folks are always skeptical. Why not just pour more money into buses? It’s cheaper! You hear folks say that. In Tacoma, their light rail line started as a bus line. During the first year light rail operated, the ridership had quintupled. Five times as many people rode rail as rode the bus! Buses don’t have that appeal, and they don’t go as fast, and they don’t spur development. There’s no wonder why Tacoma residents are demanding that the line be extended.
Even though Sound Transit’s initial light rail line isn’t finished, plans are being made for expansion east over I-90 to Bellevue and perhaps to Redmond. As a former Eastsider, I can tell you, folks out there are not quite as “gung-ho” on transit investment as your typical Seattle types. Don’t get me wrong, they like their Park & Rides, and they like those fancy commuter busses. Eastside leaders have done their homework and asked tough questions of Sound Transit. On the Eastside, folks of both political parties have come to the conclusion that light rail is something they want, and will benefit their cities well into the future.
Perhaps the most compelling argument I’ve seen for increased investment in transit comes from an unlikely source: conservative/libertarian columnist Paul Weyrich. Here are his thoughts on the issue.
I have written [articles] making the conservative case for rail transit, including streetcars. It seems the public agrees with us because while in State after State conservatives have won ballot initiatives in many of these same States transit initiatives also have won. The libertarians have made the case that money for public transit is a waste. They want more roads. That is a form of subsidized transportation as well. But they don’t see it that way because individuals can drive. However, in city after city which has adopted light rail an overflow crowd has elected to use it as opposed to driving.
Also, this amazing fact:
In 2004 the huge transit program in Denver, promising 118 miles of new rail lines, passed with support from Republican counties. The Democratic counties in the transit district voted no. Before any more propaganda is put forth by libertarians on the issue of support for public transit, folks ought to look at the facts. Who has voted for transit? And who is riding it once it is built? When those facts are evaluated the libertarian arguments go up in smoke. [Emphasis added]
If the GOP in friggin’ Denver can understand the benefits of light rail, why can’t these guys?