My posting has been a little sparse as of late. Why? I don’t think I ever really announced it, but as of the end of September, I’m a full time student at Seattle Central Community College. I have one year to go until I can transfer to UW. I’m excited to be back, but the workload is more than I was prepared for.
With full time school and a very interesting part time gig, I’ll be super busy for the near future. Some things I will be looking out for:
Roads and Transit. The latest polling puts the measure at the mid fifties, which is decent, but not great. I get the sense that Seattle’s great civic tradition of screwing the pooch on transportation will pay us yet another visit this fall. Already, the whispers of “vote this down, we’ll come back with something next year” can be read in the blogosphere.
If this this is voted down, I’ll tell you what is coming:
Last January, a commission led by former Seattle Mayor Norm Rice and telecommunications billionaire John Stanton called for a new agency of members who would plan and finance road and transit projects for central Puget Sound. The new Puget Sound Regional Transportation Commission would take functions from the Puget Sound Regional Council, the Regional Transportation Investment District (RTID), and Sound Transit.
The Rice-Stanton report [2.5 MB PDF] concluded that there are 128 agencies who manage aspects of transportation in the four-county area. “Our current system of transportation governance delivers inadequate results and will need fundamental systemic change to meet our region’s transportation needs in the future,” they declared.
Sound Transit and others fought the proposal, which passed in the state Senate but died in the House.
If ST2/RTID doesn’t pass, the punishment will not be doled out equally. Sound Transit, an organization with no friends in Olympia, will get the lion share of the blame. The Rice/Stanton plan will likely pass both the Senate and the House. (Some ask, “why would Democrats shitcan Sound Transit?” Remember, we’re not talking about regular Democrats. We’re talking about Olympia Democrats. This blogger was once told the story of a Sound Transit community meeting in north Seattle, where state Rep. Mary Lou Dickerson showed up in a t-shirt that read “Mag-Lev Mama.” That’s how out to lunch they are on this issue.)
If Rice/Stanton passes, Sound Transit will be folded into a larger agency which will, in all likelihood, be governed by an elected board. Seattle, home to transit loving liberals, will have its political clout diluted by the new governance scheme. A transit board member in, say, Gig Harbor will have the right to veto transit funding in Seattle. And that, ladies and gentlemen (and Sen. Ed Murray), is bullshit.
Don’t forget that even if Prop 1 goes down this fall, roads will still get built. Why? Gov. Gregoire won’t allow 520 to plunge into Lake Washington. Expansion of the south portion of 405 is popular on the Eastside (and already partially funded), and with traffic congestion statistics showing this stretch of road to be the most congested in the state, it will be an easy call for legislators. Roads spending, unlike light rail, has sometimes be handled by the legislature without a vote of the people. Initiative 912 notwithstanding, two gas tax increases came out of Olympia without public votes. This could very well happen again, but this time to fund the projects that RTID funds.
The “Let’s Wait ‘Til Next Year” crowd sometimes cites Sound Transit’s success at the ballot box in 1996 as proof that light rail can do a quick turnaround to be approved by voters. What they don’t tell you is that Sound Transit’s failed measure in 1995 was paired down significantly to gain approval in 1996. The package in ’95 included light rail north to Lynnwood, south to Tacoma, and east across the lake to Bellevue. The package voters approved in 1996 was much smaller in scope. In fact, Sound Transit 2 greatly resembles the original Sound Move of 1995. Even with the much-publicized blunders made by Sound Transit during the 90’s, approval of the original Sound Move plan would have put the region in a great position today.
People who want more high capacity transit are rolling the dice by voting “no” on Prop 1. Don’t assume you’ll get another chance to vote for visionary transit investment like this in the near future.