Some folks are asking me what I think about this, so here goes:
First off, I’m not surprised. The Sierra Club’s campaign against Proposition One was predicated on an anti-global warming message as much as it was a “we’re lukewarm on light rail” message. When I went to the No on Prop 1 kick-off last year, few of the participants were actually excited about light rail. They were more excited to punish people living in Eatonville. Different strokes.
During the Prop. 1 campaign, the Sierra Club went into the campaign basing their opposition on the package’s increase in highway miles. Over time, their opposition shifted in part to a financial one. They attacked the Seattle to Tacoma line, saying it cost too much. (But they did that with numbers from Ron Sims’ budget office, numbers no transportation planner ever signed off on.) Re-reading Ron Sims’ Op-Ed against Proposition One, it seemed more like an anti-light rail screed than anything else. The fact that the Sierra Club is following Sims off a cliff is no surprise to me.
I do think they have a point about parking spaces. Sound Transit shouldn’t be building a large number of additional parking spaces for any of their stations. That said, whenever Sound Transit does outreach to suburban communities, the first response is always, “where’s the park and ride?” You have to understand the folks you’ll serve with this stuff.
Park and Rides, of course, are necessary to get people onto buses. You have to coax and cajole people to get on the bus. You don’t have to do much to get people onto trains. Nerdy transit studies have shown that people will walk much further to get to a train station. I do. People don’t walk that far to the bus stop. I sure don’t. I’d much rather walk than ride on a bus that’s stuck in traffic.
In the first place, many of the proposed light rail stations are sited on current Park and Ride lots. Sound Transit should do like they do in DC, where the parking lots at suburban Metro stations are pay-to-park. That’s a perfectly reasonable option.
So I wish Mike O’Brien well on his soul-searching. I spent all of the campaign telling people that coming back to the ballot with a transit-only package in 2008 was an impossibility. I’m glad I was wrong (so far). How ironic is it that the very groups who promised us a 2008 transit-only vote are the same ones who are now dragging their feet?
Want to have your say? Join me and others at:
Post-Proposition 1: The Future of Transportation in Seattle
Thursday, March 20, 2008
Spitfire (2219 4th Avenue, between Bell and Blanchard)
$10 suggested donation includes a drink
Members from both sides of the Prop. 1 debate, including…
*Seattle City Councilmember Jan Drago, Chair of the Transportation Committee
*Rob Johnson, Transportation Choices Coalition’s Regional Policy Director
*Mike O’Brien from the Sierra Club
*Greg Walker, Sound Transit’s Policy and Planning Officer
*Moderated by the Seattle Channel’s C.R. Douglas