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Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Re: Sims Takes No Position on Roads/Transit Initiative

posted by on September 19 at 15:33 PM

(UPDATE: My math was off in the initial post. I’ve changed it.)

I ran into Mike McGinn at city hall the other day, and he asked me where I was on the $17.8 billion roads/transit initiative.

McGinn, a leader of the Seattle chapter of the Sierra Club (ie, far left of the national chapter), is—just like the local Sierra Club—adamantly against the initiative.

Looking at the $7 billion that’s going to roads, which includes good things like repairs and bad things like pure expansion, the Sierra Club says that about 75 percent of that money is for the “bad” kind.

However, other environmental groups, like Transportation Choices Coalition, says only 37 percent of the roads money is for “bad” roads. TCC has endorsed the package because they think 37 percent is not too much of a bad thing in exchange for 50 new miles of light rail. And they argue that if the measure goes down, there’s no way a transit package on its own can come back next year.

McGinn and the Sierra Club are pushing for just that, arguing that Sound Transit should come back on its own in 2008. (Recent polling shows that voters oppose roads taxes more than they oppose transit taxes.)

Anyway, when McGinn asked me where I was on the package, I said this: While I don’t think it was initially the case that transit couldn’t come back in 2008 on its own, I think that has become the political reality because—for reasons I don’t quite get—Governor Gregoire does not want it on the ballot in 2008. (Maybe she’s worried that a transit initiative will bring out too many King County liberals? I’m only half joking.)

But since she’s reportedly dead against it: It’s not going to happen.

That’s what I told McGinn anyway. The political reality is that it won’t be on the ballot in 2008.

Here’s what McGinn said (very sarcastically): “Yeah, and the political reality was that there were only two solutions for the viaduct: A rebuild or a tunnel.”

Point well taken Mr. McGinn.

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"the Seattle chapter of the Sierra Club (ie, far left of the national chapter), is—just like the local Sierra Club—adamantly against the initiative"

Far left? God, how _American_ of you. This is MAINSTREAM MODERATE thinking in 90 PERCENT of the world. Only in America, in the most Blue of cities in the US, would you have the GALL to call the Cascade Chapter of Sierra Club far left .... anywhere else it would be regarded as moderate-right.

The calculations work out bad on everything:

1. transit - more single occupancy vehicles and low mpg cars/SUVs are ADDED than are impacted by transit;

2. wetlands - major net loss of wetlands;

3. global warming - major INCREASE in global warming emissions;

4. pollution - major INCREASE in pollution (air), pollution (water), pollution (land);

5. fish - major DECREASE in fish due to runoff, impacts, and other aspects;

6. environment (general) - major DECREASE in non-developed environmental areas;

and I could go on.

What chapter of the Sierra Club ANYWHERE would EVER endorse such a measure? Are you on DRUGS?

So the TCC sells out - that is the news item, quite frankly.

We all KNOW - and the documents EXIST even if the media is too SLACK to do its job at the PI Times Weekly Stranger SGN (heck, I threw them in cause probably they have the Guts to do it) and find them - that there is a backup plan for WHEN the RTID/ST2 plan fails.

Basically, it's a February ST2 vote.

Will RTID get reshaped into a county or two-county rebuild-bridges fund-520-bridge-80-percent plan? Probably. Will Pierce County not be included? Probably.

Global Warming is ... NOW. Not tomorrow. In fact, it may even be a bit late to do much that will have a good effect before 2020, but what we do TODAY has a major impact on global warming.

Meanwhile, BC is massively reducing global warming emissions and Canada's provinces are doing the same and so is Mexico.

But you want to sit on your hands and hope for the tooth fairy to solve it for you - yeah, right - and you want tax cuts too - same fairy tale.

Time to get real. Global warming is happening and hiding your heads in the sand won't stop it.

Posted by Will in Seattle | September 19, 2007 3:45 PM

i have nothing to add to that except:

if it has new roads, i vote no.
if it has new property taxes, i vote no.

this state needs a top-to-bottom tax reform. a carbon tax is a good start.

Posted by maxsolomon | September 19, 2007 3:49 PM

I hear you, Josh (and Mike). There's a powerful herd mentality amongst electeds in this state - at least, the Democratic electeds I'm familiar with. When a powerful governor, speaker, majority leader, or committee chair draws a line in the sand on a particular issue, there's a palpable reticence on the part of others to challenge or route around that resistance. When the mainstream media reports this as immutable fact, the herd mentality is only reinforced - because there's less space for substantive dissent.

Posted by Roger | September 19, 2007 3:53 PM

There's another way to look at the political reality here. Gregoire is heading into what will surely be a tight election. Is she really going to risk alienating her base -- largely urban and environmentally-minded (not to mention suffering a lack of transportation options) -- by blocking a green transportation initiative? Especially if enviros promise to raise hell in public? Doubtful.

No on RTID in November. Yes to Sound Transit in 2008.

Posted by Patrick | September 19, 2007 3:54 PM

Recent polling and past polling shows that BOTH roads and transit fail when they are apart.

Mike - that is a political reality.

Posted by bill | September 19, 2007 4:06 PM

Here is what the Sierra Club doesn't want you to know about

Vote yes on Roads and Transit.

Posted by art | September 19, 2007 4:08 PM

Bill@5, recent polling also shows that both roads and transit fail when they are together as well.

Posted by Roger | September 19, 2007 4:09 PM

Sierra Club seems to be the lone voice with a spine on this one. The choice of Transit Now or Never is just that: false. Transit is the future. Period.

Defeating RTID does not mean defeating transit. Defeating RTID is a vote for Transit Only in '08. Hillary or Obama and a transit only ballot measure. Now we're talking!

To quote a great woman, "We have enough pavement." 'Nuff said.

Posted by Brice | September 19, 2007 4:10 PM

"Yeah, and the political reality was that there were only two solutions for the viaduct: A rebuild or a tunnel."

I think we all knew that the current "solution" -- inaction until the thing falls down on its own -- was always a possibility, and in fact quite likely.

I suspect that's also what we'll get if RTID doesn't pass. Inaction. It's the Seattle Process at work.

Posted by Orv | September 19, 2007 4:19 PM
Defeating RTID does not mean defeating transit.

According to the poll that Josh mentions, Transit doesn't have a chance if it's on the ballot by itself.

Posted by Sean | September 19, 2007 4:22 PM

oh really roger.

can you show me which poll shows that roads and transit together fails?

I have 6 showing it passes

you aren't talking about that piece of shit survey usa poll? I wouldn't wipe my ass with that.

Posted by bill | September 19, 2007 4:26 PM
(Recent polling shows that voters oppose roads taxes more than they oppose transit taxes.)

Sure. But the fact that transit would lose by a smaller margin than roads doesn't matter - it still loses.

Posted by Sean | September 19, 2007 4:29 PM

Bill@5: That's just plain wrong. Polling over the years has shown consistent support for expanding rail transit. The political problem is not that voters won't support a transit only package, it's that the business and roads lobby won't fund a campaign for a transit-only package. If there's not an aggressive "yes" campaign, then the risk is that the anti-tax and Kemper Freeman/Jim Horn anti-transit nuts will be able to make the election about taxes instead of about transportation improvements. Additionally, many key legislators who ultimately control what gets on the ballot are hostile to Sound Transit. There's also a more legitimate concern that if Sound Transit goes to the ballot then a lot of the road safety projects like replacement SR 520 will never get funded (this is where Gregoire is coming from).

Mike McGinn and the Sierra Club are right to be concerned about the climate impacts of the new road projects, especially 4 new lanes on I-405. But, many of the rest of us in the environmental community support the roads and transit measure because we're concerned that if we don't pass it now, it'll be years before we get going on the next phase of light rail. Building a comprehensive transit system that people want to ride is critical to avoiding new roads in the future, giving people more choices to get out of their cars and making better land-use decisions in the future. And, we're also guessing that as light rail gets built out and as people become more concerned about climate change, we can stop some of these road projects that are not slated to begin construction until after 2020.

Sierra Club doesn't deserve to be bashed for their reasoning. We're all opposed to building new general purpose highway lanes because of the land-use impacts and because of climate change. We only disagree on what's likely to happen next if the measure fails.

Posted by Bill LaBorde | September 19, 2007 4:29 PM

Ah Bill, I am just looking at Elway's latest poll that shows transit failing by itself and roads failing by itself.

Why must you make everything so complicated.

The piece of shit suurvey usa poll also showed them failing seperately for what that is worth.

Posted by bill | September 19, 2007 4:31 PM

@7: Liar. There is no poll showing a combined measure losing.

@11: The survey usa poll didn't even ask about the combined measure, just hypothetical separate measures. Piece of shit indeed.

Posted by Sean | September 19, 2007 4:33 PM

Bill L says "we are all opposed to building more GP lanes"

really Bill?

than why did you support Ed Murray's two gas tax increases that built a lot of new GP lanes?

You make no sense sometimes.

Maybe because you understand that public policy involves compromise. Nobody every gets %100 percent of what they want.

And in this case nearly every environmental group did the same thing you did in 2003 and 2005 and said 75% aint bad.

Posted by artfunk | September 19, 2007 4:39 PM

You kids need to wise up.

Sims won’t endorse the measure because it is fucked up. The RTID part leaves huge funding gaps. Some deserving roads projects are not funded at all.

The ST part is ludicrous from a financing perspective. The wrong tax – exclusively - would have been imposed, and way too much of that. Plus there is nothing in that measure to prevent contractors from going wildly over budget, all on the taxpayers’ dime.

Sims, Nickels, Ladenburg and the rest of the ST board screwed up – they trusted their lawyers. The lawyers gave them a bad package, and none of the brainiacs on the ST board figured that out until AFTER they approved it on May 24.

Now they’ve been clued in. Some horrified people read what the boards of ST and RTID approved for the ballot, and explained to them what was in there.

BOTH parts – the RTID part and the ST part – have big problems. The politicians are trying to give each other cover for not supporting the November measure, but the bottom line is that there are a lot of very good reasons these proposals must not be approved.

Posted by Mr. Ed | September 19, 2007 4:42 PM

Will in Seattle--if you have proof of a secret plan for ST to go to the ballot in February 2008, provide it. If you don't, then quit making shit up.

And Josh said the local Sierra Club chapter is to the left of the national organization, not in general--you should really read more carefully.

McGinn is right that political reality can change. He assumes it will change for the better. It can also change for the worse--which I fear is far more likely given our moderate, Olympia-minded governor and our ineffective Seattle delegation to the legislature. Need I remind you that Ed Murray was a co-author of marriage of Roads and Transit and the powerful Helen Sommers led the effort to force an elevated viaduct. With friends like this I am not as confident as Mr. McGinn.

The Sierra Club should have fought this marriage 18 months ago when they could have made a difference. Instead they lob bombs at the 11th hour and ask us to trust that all will be well.

Josh--do us all a favor and start talking to leaders in Olympia about what they believe is likely if this package fails. The state has never funded or supported transit in any meaningful way. They build highways.

Posted by tiptoe tommy | September 19, 2007 4:43 PM

Josh Feit writes:

Calculating the $7 billion that’s going to roads, which includes good things like repairs and bad things like pure expansion, the Sierra Club calculates that about 30 percent of the roads are the “bad” kind.
However, other environmental groups, like Transportation Choices Coalition, says only 15 percent of the roads are the “bad” kind.

Josh, are you sure you have that Sierra Club estimate correct? I thought they were interpreting it as 30% good/70% bad. I mean, if they're really saying the RTID mix is 30% bad, which would make it 12% of the overall package being bad, then what's there to oppose?

Anyway, I've looked at that RTID blueprint and I don't know enough about all these projects to give my own breakdown of "good"-vs.-"bad" roads. On the face of it, the TCC 15% bad sounds low. By the same token, the mix can't be predominantly bad roads because there's no way you can count the 520 replacement as a bad road.

If the 520 replacement is not an environmentally good road, then there is no such thing as an environmentally good road. The 520 replacement is a breakthrough good road, a pro-transit game changer almost on a par with light rail itself. Why?

Because not only does all the capacity being added consist of HOV lanes on a route that desperately needs HOV lanes, and not only is it supposed to be rail-expandable in the future, but it is going to be tolled. There's no getting around that. There's no paying for it without tolls, and not just half-ass HOT lanes but congestion pricing on all four non-HOV lanes.

Half the battle of addressing our dysfunctional transportation system in this region (and this nation) is breaking through the free-lunch mentality of metropolitan freeways.

Posted by cressona | September 19, 2007 4:45 PM

Bill Laborde:
Thank you for your thoughtful post.

I'm trying to imagine how your scenario would play out. Would organizations that have championed the bill until this point suddenly turn after a victorious election and stab their erstwhile negotiating partners by legally attacking their hard-won road projects? Not only would this represent a radical shift in modus operandi for those groups, it would commit them to years of expensive and unsexy legal fights. How do you raise money from members to tilt against funded road projects that you were previously on record supporting? I want to believe you but history leads me to wonder.

So which orgs are going to lead this fight? Are they lawyering up for this hydra battle? Are they willing to issue a press release to this effect prior to the election? Which roads specifically (besides the cross-base highway) can we look forward to being challenged?

Posted by Patrick | September 19, 2007 4:47 PM


The 520 rebuild is clearly important, and no one is arguing that it should be scrapped. However, RTID DOES NOT FUND IT.

Posted by details devil us | September 19, 2007 4:53 PM

(hit post too rapidly there)

RTID leaves a 1.3Billion shortfall in funding for the 520 rebuild, even with projected revenues for tolling. This package is reckless- in addition to the drastically needed 520 fix, there are 33 other bridges in this area that are also in serious need of repair that are ignored. where will the funding for those fixes come from?

Posted by details devil us | September 19, 2007 4:55 PM

The RTID plan has a finance plan for full funding of the bridge. It includes tolls, RTID money, local money, state money and federal money. Added together it fully funds the bridge.

You should actually read the details or at least the plan.

Posted by gore | September 19, 2007 5:03 PM

I take no pleasure in saying this, but Michael McGinn should be ashamed of himself. He is the role model for the Sierra Club's "let them eat cake" attitude toward our region's transportation system.

Michael lives in a single-family home in an in-city Seattle neighborhood. I'm sure he bought it for a reasonable price back when Seattle was cheap. Now I'm sure it's worth a fortune.

I hear co-workers talk about buying single-family homes in way-out places like Issaquah and Kent and Duvall that have required them to chain themselves to their vehicles. And you remember Reagan Dunn's "drive until you qualify" comment about housing? All this is part of the problem.

But Michael McGinn, like many of his cohorts, has no right to say that. He took his opportunity for cheap single-family housing, and now he's going to deny someone just as determined as he is that same opportunity? Maybe before Michael tells some other young family to downscale their American dream, he should try downscaling his own family's American dream.

Michael, as a typical local Sierra Club leader, is a bit like someone who's the offspring of immigrants taking the attitude, "This country's too crowded. We should stop those foreigners from coming here." (What a coincidence, I think I've just happened upon a touchy subject for the national Sierra Club.)

P.S. Yeah, getting personal here. Just as Rudy Giuliani should get personal about Mitt Romney's hiring illegal immigrant labor for his home every time he wants to cast Giuiliani's New York as a "sanctuary" for aliens.

Posted by cressona | September 19, 2007 5:10 PM

Patrick--I can assure you that many of us who support this package will not only fight crossbase, but will work to make sure all new lanes are managed with congestion pricing. If you read the RTID language you will see that there is a clear commitment to moving in this direction. It won't surprise anyone that we will want to push to reduce vehicle miles traveled. Many of the environmental organizations in this state were involved in the negotiations leading up to this package and won real concessions.

I'll bet many who oppose this package thought Ralph Nader was a good gamble in 2000 too. Look how that turned out...

Posted by tiptoe tommy | September 19, 2007 5:12 PM

I'm with Will @1 on this one...

Raise the already too high sales tax? I'm personally a fan of higher sales taxes, but where are all the liberal folks who normally oppose such things?

Nice misleading ads already hitting the airwaves around here that only tout transit, as if that was the only part of this voters are saying Yes to.

Nice misleading document that is linked to @6. Makes it sound, for example, like the 520 Bridge replacement is funded by this, instead of the FACT that it's only partially funded and we will not be able to finish the bridge without raising taxes even MORE down the line.

I could go on...

Posted by Mickymse | September 19, 2007 5:13 PM

Does anyone else find it odd that we're going to spend billions to rebuild one bridge and WILL NOT put light rail on it (520) and then spend hundreds of millions more to remodel another bridge (I90) so it WILL carry light rail?

Posted by otterpop | September 19, 2007 5:14 PM

details devil us @21

Cressona, The 520 rebuild is clearly important, and no one is arguing that it should be scrapped. However, RTID DOES NOT FUND IT.

Hey, details, you apparently don't have much of an eye for details yourself. RTID does not fully fund 520, but it does provide almost a billion dollars toward it. And as I said in my post you're responding to, most of the difference is going to be made up for with – God forbid I should mention a good thing – congestion pricing.

This said, I would be happy to see someone from WSDOT or the press provide a full breakdown of the funding for 520, taking into account RTID passing.

Posted by cressona | September 19, 2007 5:15 PM

Cressona @24, It is certainly not our responsibility to fund the bad choices people make when they move out to Kent and Duvall just so they can have their large suburban house with two-car garage and big backyard and the like.

My husband and I live in a West Seattle townhouse. We sacrificed on space to live in-city. We are a one-car family, which necessitated planning to be along good bus routes. And I expect to look for work in the Downtown area and/or along major bus lines.

People make choices, and we need to start making them live up to the consequences of those choices. I'm happy to support efforts to encourage more affordable housing, rapid mass transit options, and a livable and sustainable city, but RTID mostly works against that.

Posted by Mickymse | September 19, 2007 5:21 PM

details devil us @ 21 and 22

520 is a state highway. The deal has always been the state pays for the replacement of what is there now, and the RTID is paying for what is new. What is new are lanes for transit and HOV's

And then you trot out the latest anti talking point, "what about the other 33 bridges?" Since you are so big on details, provide their names and we can see if they are on the capital plans for King County, the state gas tax, or local jurisdictions. RTID was never intended to fix every road in the region. After all, we have over 30 years of deferred maintenance from the Reagan revolution to make up for.

Posted by tiptoe tommy | September 19, 2007 5:24 PM

bill@14: The only recent poll I've seen is the Survey USA poll, which is flawed in all kinds of ways. I haven't seen the new Elway poll (please share the toplines with us), but I'm guessing that roads only does significantly worse than transit only, and if it indicates that transit only would fail right now, I would want to know a lot more about the sample and whether it captured the correct Sound Transit boundaries.

This was one of the big problems with the Survey USA poll; it tested the joint ballot measure across the entire 3-county area rather than just the urban/suburban areas that will actually vote on the measure. All the other polling I've seen shows much higher support for ST2 than for RTID. This is why the road lobby was so desperate to prevent ST2 from going to the ballot without RTID.

Posted by Bill LaBorde | September 19, 2007 5:26 PM

Here's what I get from WSDOT on the Bridge:

This project is currently estimated to cost between $3.9 billion and $4.38 billion.

* Project with Montlake Interchange likely cost: $3.90 billion
* Project with Pacific Interchange likely cost: $4.38 billion

State, regional and local lawmakers are working to develop a finance plan to address the region's need for a safe and reliable SR 520. Lawmakers will present the finance plan to Governor Gregoire by January 2008.

Recently, the Regional Transportation Investment District (RTID) proposed a funding package that includes:

Funding Source - Amount

Federal sources - $311 million
State gas taxes - $560 million
State pooled fund - $600 - $1,000 million
RTID "Roads & Transit" package - $1,100 million
Tolling - $700 - $1,200 million
Finance costs savings & sales tax transfer - Up to $340 million

**Total Funding -- $3.3 - $4.5 billion*

Posted by Mickymse | September 19, 2007 5:28 PM

You know, I've heard so many reasons why we should put off getting serious about climate change. "It's bad for the economy." "Global warming isn't real". "There's not enough data". Whatever. That's just plain ignorance. Global warming is simultaneously a civilizational imperative and the single largest business opportunity of our generation.

But I am getting serious cognitive dissonance from what the pro-RTID camp is, in effect, telling us: "we won't get transit if we get serious about global warming". What?

Global warming is prime reason I support transit. While I love the experience of rail transit, it is not worth acquiring at any cost. Our planetary life support system is more important. Period. I absolutely refuse to cooperate with this hostage situation. NO ON RTID. Let's figure out who's the real opponent to environmentally-responsible rail transit (i.e. a stand-alone ST2) and start turning the screws. Seriously.

Posted by Patrick | September 19, 2007 5:28 PM

Mickymse @29, sounds like you're make a much better no spokesperson than Michael McGinn. Y'know, I'd accuse these Sierra Club leaders of hypocrisy, but that sounds a bit too sinister -- like they've actually taken a moment and thought about these issues.

Oh, and on some level you're right when you say, "People make choices, and we need to start making them live up to the consequences of those choices."

But you also have to acknowledge that people always will make choices based largely on their own self-interest. The essence of good public policy is to make it in their self-interest to make the choices that are beneficial to the whole community. Waiting another two years or more for a significantly scaled-down light rail proposal to re-emerge doesn't exactly help in that regard.

Posted by cressona | September 19, 2007 5:33 PM

@18 - I don't have to prove it.

You have to prove that an agency that is planning to build a multi-stage transit system over decades has absolutely no backup plan for what to do if any stage of the measure fails.

Only an insane group would NOT have a plan.

I happen to know it exists. Even if I can't reveal my sources.

But try to hide behind words, and pretend that Iraq is a threat to the US. Like we'll buy that.

Common sense alone says there must be a plan. There actually is a plan, but admitting the existence of a plan in the event of the failure of RTID/ST2 means that people will perceive that there is a Third Way of just saying No to RTID/ST2 and then saying YES! to ST2.1 ...

Posted by Will in Seattle | September 19, 2007 5:34 PM

artfunk@16: First, I do support the joint ballot this fall, so I must be willing to accept compromise at some level (for exactly the pragmatic reasons you would want me to support this kind of compromise). But, I was never out there as a supporter for either gas tax measure. I did vote No on 912 to uphold the 9.5 cent gas tax but not because I wanted to add lots of new GP lane miles.

And, that was then, this is now. We've now committed to cutting GHG emissions in this state and there's no way we can do that if we keep building new GP lane miles. So, out of pragmatic desire to get 50 more miles of light rail track on the ground, I'll support the joint ballot this Fall but I'll fight like hell to minimize the number of new GP lane miles that actually get built because of it. I'll also fight like hell to ensure that this is the last measure that funds any significant new GP lane miles.

Posted by Bill LaBorde | September 19, 2007 5:37 PM

"People make choices, and we need to start making them live up to the consequences of those choices."
Posted by Mickymse

Spoken like a true Seattle elitist.

Do a redfin search for homes in West Seattle 250k or under. I come up with 4.

Everybody has a choice? You don't read the paper much do you?

"Seattle median house price tops $500,000"

The greenstreamists are worse than the christian conservatives when it comes to intolerance.

The Sierra Club and the 700 Club have a lot more in common than their names.

Posted by jim | September 19, 2007 5:39 PM

Bill you have a transportation identity crisis. I am surprised you can figure out what bus route to take in the morning.

Posted by artfunk | September 19, 2007 5:42 PM

and I'm glad to hear cressona - for once - admit that if people make bad decisions to live in the suburbs and own 2-4 SUVs to commute 40-60 minutes to work we in Seattle who pay more to live closer to work (and have a higher property tax burden, even when we rent, to pay for parks in both Seattle and in King County) - shouldn't be subsidized by us.

It's time for Seattle to stand up and be PROUD of being green. We are the Emerald City. And if you want new roads - well, pay for them YOURSELF.

Want your bridge repaired? OK. Want your road converted to HOV? Sure. Want a new highway with new interchanges to pollute more ... we'll get back to you on that when you ditch your 13 mpg SUVs.

Posted by Will in Seattle | September 19, 2007 5:42 PM

Mr. LaBorde,

Frankly, that's a terrible plan. Don't vote for something that's clearly corrupt and goes against your very stated objectives. That's precisely the kind of "compromise" that will prevent us from ever getting to where we need to be. We need to take a stand, not keep trying to fix things later. Global warming is now, and the solution has to be as well. Not political compromise, not fighting later against what we endorse now.

Posted by future spine ain't spine | September 19, 2007 5:44 PM

Patrick @ 20: None of the environmental groups made any promises to support construction of the road projects. Everyone knows that we're all worried about the impact those GP lane miles will have on our ability to reduce GHG emissions. We'll engage in whatever political and legal tactics are necessary to prevent much of those new GP lane miles from getting built. For example, if the joint ballot passes there's probably no way to avoid two new lane miles from getting built on I-405, but we can certainly make a good case for not building a new 3rd and 4th lane and instead investing that money on rail transit on the I-405 corridor. In that scenario, mobility actually improves, but without as much climate or land-use impact.

Posted by Bill LaBorde | September 19, 2007 5:44 PM

p.s. my first house was $115K, which I sold for $230K to buy a $265K townhouse that is now worth $500K. Just because I don't move a lot and lose money on transaction costs for property doesn't mean I'm wealthy ... even if I do save a lot by nature. I've only ever owned two cars - one was 11 yo when I sold it and my current one is 11 yo ... so just because you want a new car every 2 years don't complain if it costs you money. And I'm pretty typical for Seattle.

Posted by Will in Seattle | September 19, 2007 5:46 PM

I'm not questioning your sincerity, but I'll believe it when I see a joint press release and a list of projects that will be targeted.

And even then I will not be using my vote in November to postpone action on global warming.

Posted by Patrick | September 19, 2007 5:52 PM

tiptoe tommy @25:

Patrick--I can assure you that many of us who support this package will not only fight crossbase, but will work to make sure all new lanes are managed with congestion pricing. If you read the RTID language you will see that there is a clear commitment to moving in this direction.

Re. Cross-base Highway, I thought the conclusion from folks in the know is that it's effectively dead, and that its partial presence on the RTID is merely a face-saver for Ladenburg.

What I'm really curious about though is how much opportunity there is to make sure that some of these new suburban lanes are congestion-priced. If we're adding lanes to an existing freeway and making them tolled – i.e. HOT lanes – I'm not about to call that a good thing environmentally. But I'm not about to call it a bad thing either. But I'll take neutral over negative.

It sounds like fighting to have lanes be congestion priced could stand more of a chance on certain routes than just fighting to keep the lanes from being built period.

Posted by cressona | September 19, 2007 5:56 PM

Will--you are far better off than most people and you know it. Most of us who are lucky enough to still live in Seattle either got in early like you and I, or make well above the median income.

As for your snide remark claiming I believe Iraq is a threat to the US--FUCK YOU! I am more of a progressive than your sorry elitist ass ever was. I have spent large portions of my life working for environmental and peace and justice organizations for less than 15K a year.

Good people disagree on this issue, try and be one why don't you.

Posted by tiptoe tommy | September 19, 2007 6:06 PM

Cressona @ 44

You are correct that Crossbase is fundamentally dead. But since the Sierra Club hasn't really been paying attention they keep trotting out that argument--never mind the details...

As for your question about whether there is an opportunity to congestion price the RTID package, well here is the language in the RTID plan that addresses that:

“The RTID Board will work with Washington state and its tolling authority, if necessary, to implement variable pricing, HOT lanes, tolling, and other management tools in the following King County corridors: SR 520, I-90, I-405, SR-167, SR-509.”

Sounds to me like there is plenty of opportunity there to work to congestion price the freeway network in this region. And that is what I intend to do once we vote to build 50 miles of light rail.

Posted by tiptoe tommy | September 19, 2007 6:43 PM

Treasurer Mike Murphy said that he couldn't sign off on RTID taxes being used for SR 520 bonds. So RTID might not even be useful for its main intended purpose - securing the SR 520 debt. That was the initial red flag with Seattle Monorail Project also.

Posted by whiskey a go-go | September 19, 2007 7:01 PM

@38 and 40: No transportation identity crisis, just a recognition that in trying to emerge from 60 years of fucked up transportation decision-making in this region (from the 1930s when we started ripping out the Interurban and streetcar tracks, to the 1960s when we gutted Seattle to build I-5 through the heart of the city, to all the subsequent failures of voters to leverage federal money to build a rail system), with a fairly hostile pro-roads legislature, and in the context of a completely fucked up tax structure, our realistic near-term choices are not all that great. Yet, we need to move forward with building out our rail system if we are going to give people choices to get out of their cars and avoid future demand for new roads. As more rail is put into service, the politics of transportation will change, just as they have in so many other cities, and future measures will be all transit and no roads (this is exactly what happened in Denver). I don't see it as compromise so much as I see it as the strategic way to move forward in a political climate that's changing but still pretty shitty.

Posted by Bill LaBorde | September 19, 2007 7:16 PM

What I often wonder when I read these smug city people posting about the suburbs is how many of them have actually driven around the areas that they talk about. First off, King County has about 1.8-1.9 million people. Roughly 600,000 of those people live in Seattle. The rest live outside the city. When you're sitting here bitching about these roads projects in the suburbs, you're talking about projects that benefit the majority of the population in the county. Those who are opposed to this roads and transit package because they think that it's going to come back with just transit are nuts. The reason it was packaged with roads is because the suburbs are where the votes are. The suburbs want roads, but are also willing to pay for transit. You take away the roads, they're not going to be generous with your city transit. And then you're nowhere.

In addition, as I sit here in my suburban house in my neighborhood that's as dense as any Seattle residential area, I'm within walking distance of a gigantic scar that runs for miles across the suburban landscape that allows Seattle to have drinking water. Nearby that is a gigantic scar across the land that allows Seattle to have electricity. You people are simply remarkable. Perhaps some of you should come out here sometime instead of sitting on your ass in the city. You might see that things aren't as black and white as you think they are.

Posted by Bax | September 19, 2007 7:34 PM

Patrick @ 43: A press release would be redundant and not newsworthy. The environmental groups that work on transportation issues have been pretty clear and pretty consistent in their opposition to new GP roads over the last few years. We've done everything we could to reduce the percentage of GP capacity in every state and regional transportation package over the last 10 years. And then when the final package is negotiated we have to decide whether to support or not. Sometimes we've opposed, sometimes we've held our nose and sometimes we've supported. With this package, we have a proposal that's roughly 15% new GP capacity. The lowest ratio of any proposal presented to voters, and quite a bit lower than what the architects of RTID ever imagined. So, most of us are supporting this proposal. The Sierra Club, because they read the political reality a bit differently than most of the rest of us, are opposed. But, I can assure you that if this passes, we'll all be working together to alter and/or price the bad road projects.

Posted by Bill LaBorde | September 19, 2007 7:34 PM

Dear Mr. LaBorde,

Please understand that I will not allow you to change the terms of our "contract."


The Devil

Posted by otterpop | September 19, 2007 7:44 PM

Bax: I think there is some truth to your argument that a lot of Seattle activists fail to appreciate the needs of people living outside Seattle, and fail to understand that many people have valid reasons for living outside Seattle. (I've just moved back to Seattle after living in Tacoma for 10 years. We lived there because my wife worked there and I could often get away with working from home and had to commute to Olympia a lot, anyway) But, many of us are working to make sure we can tie the whole region together in a way that allows more people to make more of their trips via transit. We're also working to make sure that we plan communities in a way that doesn't require you to get in a car every time you need to get something at the store or wanna grab a bite to eat. And, at the same time, creating those nodes of development that make it easier to access transit to get to work. That said, we shouldn't be building new roads to serve the exurban fringe. That just turns all us taxpayers into enablers for environmental destruction.

Posted by Bill LaBorde | September 19, 2007 7:50 PM

@44, RTID is a Cross Base highway starter, in which I-5 access would be built for the thing, and then there is another $60M allocated pending the outcome of a mediation. The result of a mediation tends not to be politicians walking away from money.

If you've followed the Cross Base highway over the years, you will remember that it at first seemed like a spectacularly bad thing that couldn't be true. After the each wave of green protest, and after each failed attempt in Olympia, those in the know were sure it was finally dead. But then each year, more seemingly inexorable progress.

An RTID passage would be a big political win for the CBH, and because serious money would finally be spent, it is easy to see how RTID turns CBH from a bad dream into an actually real nightmare.

I find it amazing that Ladenburg was willing to kill light rail for the sake of his pet highway, but there you have it. There is similar blackmail like that in RTID wherever look. I suppose you could call it negotiation or compromise...

The thing is, if you keep giving in to bullies, the bullies keep winning. I'm not going to be bullied into making global warming worse, so I'm voting NO on RTID.

Posted by scotto | September 19, 2007 7:54 PM

@42: So you worked your way up the property ladder when the bottom rungs were still accessible to middle-class folks. I'm happy you were so lucky. But now the ladder's been pulled up and most of us are stuck out in the suburbs. We don't live out here just to spite the environmentalists.

Posted by Orv | September 19, 2007 7:54 PM

Bill LaBorde @50:

With this package, we have a proposal that's roughly 15% new GP capacity. The lowest ratio of any proposal presented to voters, and quite a bit lower than what the architects of RTID ever imagined. So, most of us are supporting this proposal. The Sierra Club, because they read the political reality a bit differently than most of the rest of us, are opposed.

Bill, I think you got the cause and effect in the Sierra Club's position all wrong.

When you get right down to it, this debate isn't really about global warming or planning a regional transportation system, it's about purity vs. pragmatism, populism vs. the establishment. I can guarantee you that people like Mike O'Brien and Mike McGinn and Tim Gould and Kevin Fullerton did not arrive at their position by asking, "What will be the ramifications if this package fails?" That is not in their nature.

They arrived at their position the same way a settler in the West Bank arrives at their position concerning a two-state solution. They arrived at their position the same way a Lou Dobbs viewer arrived at their position concerning the failed immigration bill. They arrived at their position from the simple starting point, and end point, "We do not compromise on principle."

Their analysis of what happens after the ballot measure fails was not the reason for their position; it was simply a rationalization made up after the fact.

Posted by cressona | September 19, 2007 8:16 PM

@54, Long term, RTID highways are not going to make your life better.

First, RTID highways will make global warming worse -- not a good thing for you -- and second, more highways are not going to fix congestion.

Anybody who has lived around here for a while, has seen highways clog up, then the construction of new highways, then the new highways being clogged... This isn't just us: Study after study says that new capacity on conventional highways inevitably fills up, and then you are back to where you started, but at greater expense, and greater environmental damage.

If it's light rail you want -- and who doesn't? -- then wait till you have a package that will buy you light rail -- without making you pay extra for a mass of expensive, ineffective, destructive, 1950's technology.

Posted by scotto | September 19, 2007 8:20 PM

2008 election

we should remind Chopp and Gregoire that the Democrats gained seats in 1996 when they ran simultaneously with Sound Move.

existing state law allows the other 36 counties outside the RTID those powers as single counties. if the law is not changed, Snohomish, Pierce, and King may go it alone in 2008.

existing state law also includes transportation benefit districts that may be all of parts of counties in 2008.

a crucial Olympia transport decision during the 2008 Session will be tolling policy. They will decide what is tolled and how: should they optimize flow or optimize revenue; should the toll revenue be restricted to transport purposes, including transit service, or used only for capital?

We need to implement tolling whether the joint ballot measures passes or fails.

RTID has many failings. One of the worst is its reliance on the sales tax.

Posted by eddiew | September 19, 2007 8:39 PM

scotto writes:

Long term, RTID highways are not going to make your life better.

It's comments like this that make me wonder whether you've ever been outside the city limits.

When you say this, you're not talking about the people who actually live and use the freeways, you're talking about elitist assholes who live in the city and never, ever, ever go to the suburbs. RTID highways will make life better for those people who live in the suburbs. Again, those of you in the city need to get out of it sometime. If RTID fails, 405 is basically gonna be 8-10 lanes wide within the next few years everyplace but the stretch between 167 and I-90. When I read people here talking about how it's the end of the world if 405 gets expanded between 167 and 90, well, guess what: it's not. It's simply a ridiculous argument that shows you've never actually been to the area you are talking about.

RIGHT NOW they're expanding 405 in Kirkland and Bellevue. RIGHT NOW they're tearing up the shoulder on 405 to add additional lanes between 112th Ave. SE and I-90, which is a chunk of the job of expansion between 167 and 90. They're already expanding the roads you claim to be so desperately against expanding, which shows you just don't have a clue about the areas you're trying to mold. The fact that you somehow think that you're gonna magically reduce global warming by keeping 1 stretch of 405 from getting expanded is quite frankly beyond naive.

If you vote this down, 405 will be expanded anyway. And you'll just make sure that any mass transit expansion in Seattle is dead.

Posted by Bax | September 19, 2007 8:41 PM

@58, For years, I worked in Issaquah and Bothel, lived in Bellevue, and, depending upon the job, commuted to or from Seattle. Plenty of miserable experience in awful traffic.

There's a lot of magical thinking in your post. Somehow, more RTID highways does not mean more cars, which does not mean worse global warming. Somehow, highways don't fill up as soon as you build them -- I'm wondering, are you young and just haven't seen it happen with your own eyes?

Posted by @58 | September 19, 2007 9:04 PM

@56: What it comes down to is that I'd rather have an imperfect plan than nothing. I'm not willing to wait 20 years in the hopes something will eventually come along that's as pure as the wind-driven snow.

I used to live near Detroit; I've seen first-hand what happens when politicians decide pushing for transit is more political trouble than it's worth.

I also know there isn't unlimited time to wait for a perfect solution. If you make it hard enough for people to get into the city for long enough, the jobs start to move out to the suburbs, too. Pretty soon you don't have a nice orderly in/out commute pattern; you have a majority of people commuting from suburb to suburb, and it becomes impossible to provide any sort of public transit because not enough people are going in the same direction at the same time.

Posted by Orv | September 19, 2007 9:23 PM

Regarding McGinn's comment on Viaduct options - the so-called "Surface/Transit" option would have been crushed by an even bigger margin than the tunnel was if voters had been given the opportunity to weigh in on it. To say that it has wide public support is pure spin (but I'll grant that the same clueless electeds and mucky-mucks who spent tens of millions studying a tunnel that didn't have any real public support either have apparently bought into it).

And Will in Seattle, a buttload of your Fremont neighbors commute to jobs east, north, and south, so I wouldn't pin the whole evil car commuter thing on everyone in the region but us big city folk. SR-520 and I-90 (and SR 167, SR 522, and SR 527....) have been had equal inbound and outbound commute traffic for quite awhile now (that said, I get the point you're making at 42, which is that your equity only increases your net value if you sell and move to Omaha or something - it's not enough to get you ahead buying somewhere else here and your wages likely haven't risen nearly as quickly as your property values - or your property tax bill).

So if all of this passes what's the sales tax on a restaurant bill gonna be - like 10.5-11%? Can I have a side of regressivity with that?

Posted by Mr. X | September 19, 2007 9:40 PM

as i've stated before in other comment sections, we should ignore della and burgess. draft McGinn.

and McGinn does live in a single family home. he also rides his bike nearly religiously.

Posted by rtm | September 19, 2007 10:31 PM

I'm voting yes.

I love Seattle to death. It's my favorite city, but seriously, the only problem I have with it is there is no rail transit. To a smaller extent, the horrible traffic outside the city is a problem for me as well.

If paying a little more in sales tax is going to give me light rail where I want it most, and ameliorates the traffic conditions around the city, I will absolutely vote for it.

I don't have a problem with it being sales tax because everyone pays the same. I pay it, someone in Pierce county pays it, and Kemper Freeman pays it. We are all in it together in paying the sales tax and we all get something out of it.

520 will be payed for by the state and federal government, a solution will arise for the viaduct (once rtid is decided), and people will love light rail once it comes in 2009 and people will most likely demand that their rtid money goes to buying more (most likely the money that would have gone towards the cross base freeway).

Global warming should certainly be on all our minds but honestly it's misplaced energy to try and stop this kind of progress. The projects in RTID need to happen, most of which probably will happen (taking money away from other projects), and as far as carbon emissions it's not going to make that big of a difference in the big scheme of things. If you want to make real change, tell your governments to fund more green power plants, require cities to build green buildings, and devote more money to green technology research.

That is the way for real change, not this ridiculous thought that by somehow marking "no" on a well thought-out and studied plan, will make any impact at all on reducing global warming in the long run.

Don't destroy, build. You won't get anywhere by tearing down freeways. If you want to progress, drive an electric.

Posted by Cale | September 20, 2007 5:02 AM

There's a lot of magical thinking in your post. Somehow, more RTID highways does not mean more cars, which does not mean worse global warming. Somehow, highways don't fill up as soon as you build them -- I'm wondering, are you young and just haven't seen it happen with your own eyes?

Magical thinking? More like realistic thinking. Magical thinking is the idea that people are going to get out of their cars if we don't expand 405 between 167 and 90, and that that's somehow going to reduce global warming. Look, the battle with the car is over, and has been for decades. The car and the highway have won. We're going to have more cars with or without the RTID because of population growth in this area.

The way you combat global warming is by making cars more fuel efficient and reducing their emissions, not by sticking your head in the sand and thinking that people are going to stop driving. If some people in some areas are able to live without a car, more power to them. For the vast majority of the people who live in this state, that's not an option, and it's never going to be.

Posted by Bax | September 20, 2007 5:24 AM

rtm @62:

and McGinn does live in a single family home. he also rides his bike nearly religiously.

I'm sure he does. And this goes back to a suggestion I made earlier. Instead of "Let them eat cake," the local Sierra Club chapter's motto for regional transportation policy should be "Let them ride bikes."

Posted by cressona | September 20, 2007 6:36 AM

Thank you Mike! The idea that transit can come back alone can be a political reality, but only if voters reject this package that despite your math figures contains too much "bad". I am unsure what trade-off TCC seems okay making in the vision of gaining transit. The roads package is not a SAFETY or FIX IT FIRST package as they often advocate for in the legislature, but instead contains many EXPANSION and URBAN SRAWL projects that are entirely against the goals of what Sound Transit could provide for our cities. Does anyone remember that it was only a few months ago that Sound Transit Chair John Ladenburg was willing to resign his post and oppose the entire package if the funding for the horrible sprawl inducing and habitat destroying SR 704 was dropped? The political compromises made to come up with this final package are unaccetapble on all fronts, and thank you to the Sierra Club for taking a stance. Also, the Sierra Club is not alone. I found that Conservation Northwest is opposing the inclusion of funding for Cross Base Highway into the final package and has some great signs from their old Stranger ran ad at

Posted by seattle southender | September 20, 2007 10:34 AM

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