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Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Leave Out the Bad News

posted by on April 17 at 13:57 PM

There’s a poll out there. (I think I’m sparring with Goldy about it.) But I’m not sure we’re disagreeing. I’m not even sure what he’s saying. I’m saying: I think it’s unfair and self defeating to be required to vote for roads to get mass transit.

Anyway, the whole thing started cuz Goldy published the results of a Sound Transit poll on the joint light rail/roads measure (61 percent in favor) to disprove the notion that it would flop in November.

Problem is: The data isn’t so solid. When the pollsters tested the negatives (see questions 54-60), they basically just toss out some boiler plate anti-government, anti-tax stuff like “Taxes are too high already, we can’t afford another $16 billion,” rather than offering up the real negatives like: Oh, despite this $16 billion package, there’s not actually enough money earmarked here to finish the 520 project. Oh, and, if you knew that mainstream environmental groups were coming out against this package, would you still vote for it?

If they had asked those kinds of questions, the positive numbers would have surely come down.

Additionally, they don’t test the real ballot title. Here’s the real ballot title: “Regional Transportation Investment District (RTID) and Regional Transit Authority (RTA) Prop. #1 Regional Roads and Transit System.”

Go to question #15 to see the title they tested. It’s all about the great projects the measure would fund. Pollster wonks tell me testing the real title makes a big difference.

More important, I’d like to see stand-alone polling done on a light rail ballot measure and a roads ballot measure. My guess is that light rail would do just fine and roads would not. So, why are we voting for roads?

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Because we can't magically stop using roads or keeping them in working condition. This city isn't designed for mass transit only; I may ride my bike or take the bus 85% of the time, but the other 15%? I use roads. Buses use roads. Improving 405 and 167 isn't exactly a crime in my book. We don't have many regional mass transit options, and we need to realize that, like it or not, mass transit alone can't meet everyone's needs. Maybe in the distant future, yes. I don't care if the issues are linked, and I think it's ridiculous to pretend that we don't need to fund both.

Posted by gottadisagree | April 17, 2007 2:05 PM

Will the Slog editors please erase (CENSOR) Josh Feit's posts after 5 minutes? That's what happened after Nancy addressed him yesterday with a respectful, thoughtful and rational comment concerning Paul Wolfowitz.

Posted by keenan | April 17, 2007 2:09 PM

Okay Keenan.

Posted by Tim O'Dell | April 17, 2007 2:21 PM

@1 - nah. We can put them on a fix them and upgrade them for HOV and transit budget. Just repairing and rebuilding the interchanges and bridges alone will keep us busy and possibly have us run out of money.

But we need to start on our new goal of 25 percent reduction in global warming gasses by 2025 (our WA state goal just passed).

Time for action is now. Not tomorrow.

Posted by Will in Seattle | April 17, 2007 2:53 PM

Supposedly the ST board is using these poll data to "make sense" of 8,000 comments it received over the past eight months. The idea is then the board can tell ST staff how to finalize the details of the measure voters will be presented with.

These people are looking at the wrong kind of information entirely. None of those poll questions should be used to finalize details of the ST2 measure.

I'm telling you . . . Sen. Murray was right: we need an accountable governing agency that can plan for the transportation needs of the region. If it takes ST2/RTID losing for the legislature to get the needed cover, then I'm afraid that is the only rational course for us to take.

Posted by stunned | April 17, 2007 3:05 PM

Like the 520 project Will. It maintains SOV capacity while adding HOV and bike lanes with the possibility for light rail in the future. Plus well working roads that move traffic reduce green house gases. Cars stuck in traffic produce substantially more CO2 then moving vehicles.

As for the poll once people are given both sides support rises again. however it does highlight the need for an effective campaign. I nominate the person who ran the anti-915 and anti Viaduct campaigns. She(?) seems to do quality work.

Posted by Giffy | April 17, 2007 3:07 PM

Josh, just for argument's sake, let's set aside the whole idea of freeing Sound Transit 2 from the RTID albatross. The question I have for you -- and really for myself and for other transit supporters -- is this... Is there some reconfiguration of the RTID package that we could tolerate seeing coupled with ST2?

Here's my own tentative answer to that question. I'd be feeling pretty tolerant if the RTID board could do both of the following:

  • Fully fund 520.
  • Nix the cross-base highway.

Posted by cressona | April 17, 2007 3:13 PM

Tim@3, are you an editor? You didn't keep your word. But that's to be expected by the hypocritical, propagandizing, fascist media "news" agency at the Stranger. Wolfowitz passes along a pat on the butt. Way to go girls.

Posted by keenan | April 17, 2007 3:28 PM

@7: The RTID money from Pierce County has to be spent there (per the law), and that's why the cross-base highway needs to be funded. Developers want that baaaaad - it opens up a bunch of east pierce county.

Plus, the big negatives on RTID from the perspective of Seattle voters wouldn't change: far too much Seattle tax money going to the east king co. subarea for I-405 work, NOTHING for west seattle, I-5 congestion not being addressed, nothing for the residents of Seattle north and west of Ballard. In general, and as Nickels put it recently, RTID gives too little to Seattle, and what it does give won't be coming on line until too far in the future.

Remember, last time Seattle voters voted for additional car tab taxes for a transportation project they were bent over and used without lube for three years. Their memories aren't THAT short.

Posted by Phil Chuck | April 17, 2007 3:28 PM

I would vote for a roads package for existing highways that fixed bottlenecks and badly designed interchanges (Mercer Mess anyone?), improved bus and carpool access by completing HOV lanes throughout the highway network, and improved integration with transit. I strongly dislike the idea of new sprawl-generating highways anywhere. I would prefer if the package included a toll network to pay for future maintenance, rather than relying upon high sales taxes.

The local Sierra Club did a good job recently of listing the highway projects they would support, and I mostly agree with them.

Posted by Cascadian | April 17, 2007 3:53 PM

Is the roads package really that egregious? It's not like they're proposing to blaze a 12 lane I-605 through the Cascade Mountains. it's all pretty reasonable stuff, including many miles of HOV lanes and North Aurora BRT lanes that will greatly benefit transit.

Don't get me wrong, I'm pro-transit. But the RTID package on the table here seems fine. Sure, if I had my druthers, I could cherry pick a few projects that I don't like, but hey, that's politics. You've got to give something to get something.

I can see the concern -- voters just might trash the whole $16B and throw out the baby with the bathwater. But I don't see that happening here, because there's something for everyone. Maybe I'm wrong, but I just kinda sense that we've gotten beyond the Eyman years, that the anti-tax folks are not the force they used to be.

As for the "too little" going to Seattle, it's a fair point. But keep in mind that Seattle just passed its own sizeable road maintenance package.

Posted by Frank Bruno | April 17, 2007 3:56 PM

I kinda like Frank Bruno's "baby with the bathwater" argument.

Here's a bit of a strained analogy. Let's say you're fighting a battle where you're overwhelmingly outnumbered. Say 100,000 soldiers to 20,000. That's how things are now with roads-vs.-transit in this region. And suppose you had an opportunity to get 60,000 reinforcements but at the same time the enemy would get 40,000 reinforcements. Obviously you'd take that deal, if only to even things out a bit. The 60,000-to-40,000-soldier ratio assumes that ST2 would get 60% of the money and RTID would get 40%.

So you see, if the ST2/RTID spending ratio can be something like 60/40, it would be a much bigger win for transit than roads, not only because it's more for transit but because transit has so much ground to make up. If we defeat the joint measure, all those projects will be that much more expensive with the further delay and that much more tenuous with the politics here. And whom does that hurt more, roads or transit? Well, transit obviously. This is why, I've got to tell you frankly, it's going to take a really nasty RTID to get me to vote no.

Maybe I shouldn't be so frank. I'm glad to see pundits like Josh Feit and groups like Sierra Club playing a bit of brinksmanship if only to make this RTID package a bit saner. I know they're not just playing bad cop -- that they really do hate RTID and the coupling of ST2 with RTID -- but I'm willing to take any means necessary to achieve a more palatable package.

Posted by cressona | April 17, 2007 4:57 PM

which Seattle voters won't support the RTID road projects?

the ones in Ballard/Magnolia and West Seattle that voted to build a new 6 lane elevated highway on Seattle's waterfront?

Those global warming, icebergs are going to melt, you will kill our children messages didn't seem to resonate.

Posted by Blippo | April 17, 2007 5:13 PM

I know this is hard for you Joshy but the poll is bogus - this was not done by a neutral pollster or paid for by a neutral owner (like the viaduct poll). Go to the demographic stats at the beginning of the poll. See where it says 29% from North King County? Ok NKC is Seattle plus Shoreline and Lake Forest Park which is about 670,000 thousand - while the three counties King 1.8M + Pierce .75M + Snohomish .67M for a total of about 3.22M which would make NKC more like 20% - more pro transit people less pro roads people - check my numbers and figure out what areas got shorted - maybe some blogger wonk can do it for you.

The other reason is that the supporters of road capacity, many of whom also support transit, will not fund the transit campaign, they will put their bucks in the pro roads vote. Boeing may support transit but they need freight capabilities. The anti transit messaging that didn't appear in the poll will come out in a campaign and there will be little to counter. Remember the viaduct vote? $500,000 reduced the viaduct support by 8%.

And much of the ST support is based on the fact that 98% of the people think the other 2% should ride transit.

Posted by Kush | April 17, 2007 5:24 PM

There's a new law that joins RTID/ST2 into one ballot measure (instead of two measures that would both need to be approved for either to be approved).

BUT that has a direct appeal provision, straight to the Supreme Court.

Word is, The Supremes will be separating ST2 from RTID in time for the election.

Just want to vote for transit? You'd get that opportunity.

Posted by little birdie | April 17, 2007 5:59 PM

-The local Sierra Club did a good job recently of listing the highway projects they would support, and I mostly agree with them.-

Now there's a grand idea: let Seattle dictate to the rest of the region what their priorities should be. That bird sure will fly well in Pierce and Snohomish Counties!

Until you remove the mechanism of a public vote for raising taxes (democracy), some level of regional equity will be required. Sure, 520 is important to a Sierra Club member who lives on Queen Anne and works at Microsoft; but try to tell people in Lakewood they get to pay for a project they will likely never even see, let alone use.

Same goes for other urban transit projects in King County. If Joe Blow in East Pierce County doesn't even get a chance to vote to fix a road project in his own back yard, why in the world should he vote for the Sierra Club's light rail project connecting Bellevue to Seattle?

We could go back to the days where Seattle and King County were trying to build a moat - but when you look at the interconnectedness of our entire region's transportation system and economy, those days are long past us.

Posted by JBelk | April 17, 2007 6:30 PM

For all the posting Josh has done on this poll, it still seems he hasn't even read the thing.

He continues to claim that there is no support for road improvements in King County or Seattle.

If he did read the poll, he would learn that support for light rail on I-90 is in a virtual dead heat with improvements to I-405.

Josh, read first and post later.

Blippo makes an excellent point. Despite all the opposition from people like Josh and the Seattle environmental elites against a elevated freeway - guess what, those liberal neighborhoods of West Seattle and Ballard/Magnolia supported a new freeway on the Seattle waterfront.

The greenies are over playing their hand.

They can't seems to settle on any sort of guiding standards for making these decisions on what they will support and what they won't.

TCC supported a 6 lane highway to move 120,000 cars just because it was going to be underground for a couple of blocks and there would be a bench and some trees on top of it.

I think they actually believed that the CO2 would stay in the tunnel.

Posted by Heather | April 17, 2007 9:18 PM

Will @ 4 and Cressona @ 7: I think that's exactly right. It's not an issue of roads vs. transit, it's an issue of how we make the best set of transportation investments that improve mobility without doing environmental and fiscal harm. The RTID package doesn't even fully fund the 520 bridge replacement, or the SR 167 extension in Pierce County, while it blows hundreds of millions on roads like Cross-Base and SR 162 that will induce sprawl and increase GHG emissions. That's just nuts.

Posted by Bill LaBorde | April 17, 2007 9:22 PM

Giffy @ 6: Your assertion about GHG emissions would only be true if you could guarantee little or no overall gain in vehicle miles traveled. The reality is that new lane miles induce more sprawl and fill the roads with latent demand. This means more vehicle miles traveled (and therefore more gallons of carbon-based fuels burned). And, on top of that, the new cars induced onto the road mean that you're back where you started in terms of congestion within just a few years. So, however you look at it, more lane miles equals more GHG emissions, not less. The only way to get beyond this viscious carbon cycle is to reduce VMT is by not subsidizing driving while providing people with more low GHG intensity options (i.e., transit and better land use practices, along with cleaner fuels and cleaner vehicles).

Posted by Bill LaBorde | April 17, 2007 9:32 PM

Bill makes no sense. Bill you need to read the actual EIS for these projects.

Surprise surprise - congested, clogged highways where cars are sitting in traffic spewing Co2 is not a recipe for a cooler earth.

emissions would be lower for both build
alternatives compared to the No Build Alternative (Continued
Operation Scenario). Consequently, the project is anticipated to slightly
improve regional air quality compared to the No Build Alternative.
Both the 4-Lane and 6-Lane Alternatives are expected to result in higher
use of HOV and transit than the No Build Alternative. Both of the build
alternatives have a lower predicted VMT than the No Build Alternative.
The 6-Lane Alternative has a slightly higher predicted VMT than the
4-Lane Alternative in the project area; however, this amount is so small
that it is not reflected in the daily projected emissions.

And Bill, the numbers for 405 master plan are very similar. Want me to post that one too?

Posted by Heather | April 17, 2007 10:38 PM


Care to defend your buddies TCC and why they supported the underground highway on Seattle's waterfront to support 120,000 cars a day? You think if we planted some trees next to 405 they would support that project too?

Bill why did you support new gp lanes on 405 just a short year and a half ago?

Did Ed Murray threaten you?

This is from your WASHPIRG newsletter Bill. Did you write this?

"The transportation package includes almost $1 billion to improve I-405. WashPIRG is part of a broad coalition of environmental groups, Sierra Club, Futurewise, Washington State Labor Council, and AFL-CIO.

Posted by Godfry | April 17, 2007 10:46 PM

Heather @ 20:

520 might be a special case because it's replacing infrastructure rather than adding general purpose capacity (and it will be priced). This is why all the environmental groups are happy to support a 4 or maybe even 6 lane rebuild of 520. But,if you're arguing that building more lane miles generally reduces the overall number of gallons of petroleum consumed - that there will be no gain in vehicle miles traveled- that's absurd.

EIS's don't even measure greenhouse gas emissions. And on what highway corridor has there ever been an increase in capacity without an increase in traffic volumes? Again, a significant increase in VMT will more than make up for any gains from reduced congestion. And, the congestion relief is always temporary.

Posted by Bill LaBorde | April 18, 2007 12:15 AM

Godfry @ 21:

See comment numbers 24 & 29 at for my answer to your question about WashPIRG and other environmental support for the last two gas tax increases.

Posted by Bill LaBorde | April 18, 2007 12:39 AM

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