Slog News & Arts

Line Out

Music & Nightlife

« This Week on Drugs | Reading Today »

Friday, April 4, 2008

Pre-Fab Opposition

posted by on April 4 at 17:48 PM

Once again, I’d like to riff off the story ECB wrote this week on a possible anti-light rail initiative.

The Tacoma News Tribune has a story about the waning momentum for a 2008 light rail ballot measure.

Part of the skepticism is that the big-money opposition is lined up against it (ha! I think that’s a reason to run an initiative: make conservatives waste money in 2008 fighting the progressive tide).

However, in the TNT story, Pierce County Exec John Ladenberg, a kinda-supporter of going to the ballot in ‘08, has a funny observation about the opposition:

He noted that the people who helped kill Roads and Transit are already gunning for the next one. One group sent out a press release Wednesday that said the new proposal was too expensive.

“I just laughed,” Ladenburg said.

“We don’t even know if we’re going to the ballot and we don’t know what our plan is. They already know what the plan is and they know it costs too much.

“Maybe we should ask them what the plan is.”

RSS icon Comments


"Standing astride history, shouting NO!"

The TNT can't run a horse race story without introducing the horses. The "Big Money Opposition" needs to fund-raise, dontcha know?

Posted by six shooter | April 4, 2008 6:06 PM

What ST's new proposal will involve is no tax sunsetting date, no limit on how much can be spent on capital or operations costs, no bonding cap, highly regressive taxes, and the gutting of every term in the 1996 law that restricts that government's taxing and spending rights. So yes, Ladenburg, it IS too expensive.

ST's projected Phase I costs went up by $5.5 billion over the past three years. It is extremely poorly managed. There's no good reason for those cost increases, and they are not attributable to capital expense price inflation.

ST has been an abject failure despite the fact that "it is building something." It is not worth it, despite the promises of new trains.

Posted by busker | April 4, 2008 6:59 PM

I have another quickie. It is of the band Everclear playing, thus indorsing, Mars Hill church. The Stanger should be all over this like flies on shit.

Posted by jomama | April 4, 2008 7:32 PM

Actually, they are 2.8 billion currently, they are no where near the 5 billion mark. Get your facts straight.

Yes, they are late and yes they are over budget but where did you pull almost 6 billion?

Posted by Brian | April 4, 2008 8:00 PM

I find it hard to believe that the voters will vote for any tax package in the middle of a recession....

Posted by Andrew | April 4, 2008 8:14 PM

I find it hard to believe that the voters will approve any new roads packages when we all know we have to cut global warming emissions, our transit systems are overfilled, and we have a backlog of existing roads and bridges that need to be repaired first.

ST needs to tell its chair to STFU.

Posted by Will in Seattle | April 4, 2008 8:49 PM

wow, you read that article oddly. At the board meeting, they were mostly positive, and afterward I asked Ladenburg point-blank and he said he would support it, so...

Posted by Andrew | April 5, 2008 2:10 AM

@4 says without a source $2.8 billion, while @2 says without a source costs went up by you $5.5 billion. The original price tag being $1.9 billion that means @2 is saying the total is $7.4 billion.

$2.8 or $7.4 -- obviously the public has no idea what phase I costs.

Could be because ST does not have an easy to find page where you can see the phase I promised projected cost versus the phase I actual cost.

Why would they hide that data?
Should you trust Sound Transit now?
By Mike Lindblom
from late 2007
answers this saying "The last time Sound Transit went to the voters for money, its leaders promised that within a decade, trains would run from the University District to the city of SeaTac.
They were wrong.
The full route will take twice as long to build and, at more than $5 billion, is about twice as expensive as the 1996 Sound Move plan that voters approved."

The article also says "Officials insist they have learned from hard experience" -- "a new chief executive, Joni Earl, ...put the project on solid ground" --
"'I think if you look at Sound Transit's record in the last two or three years, they've demonstrated their ability to complete projects or come in on schedule,'" Warman said." -- all staetments designed and calculated to elide the truth:

they have a >100% cost overrun and a ten year delay.

All they can say is they haven't had another cost overrun or another schedule delay again yet -- because they haven't done another phase yet.

Ten years late is not on schedule.

>100% cost overrun is not what was promised.

Perhaps transit supporters AND transit opponents should wait till we have a plan and a cost for phase II, before engaging in support or opposition?

Otherwise you are knee jerking, not thinking.

Posted by Diogenes | April 5, 2008 6:22 AM

The $5.5 billion Phase I cost increase over the past three years is shown by two documents from ST.

The 2005 financial plan is on ST’s website. It has a “Sources and Uses” table showing YOE Phase I spending plans of $6.6 billion. The second ST document is the November 2007 SEC filing available from It also has a Phase I “Sources and Uses” table, showing $12.1 billion in anticipated spending.

Of the $5.5 billion increase over the past three years, some is attributable to new capital spending wishes by ST: $1.3 billion additional for U-Link, and about $240 million additional for airport link. The rest has nothing to do with capital expense (ROW acquisition, construction labor, building materials, etc.) price inflation.

Anybody have any better projections about Phase I build-out period cost increases from ST? Those are figures from ST that show the lack of adequate controls and lousy management in place there.

Posted by busker | April 5, 2008 6:53 AM

@ 8 -

Contrary to what you seem to think, there's a great source of information about ST's current Phase I spending plans - that SEC filing it just made to sell its new bonds.

Here's the breakdown, showing the massive new Phase I build-out period spending predictions:

Tax Revenues: $6,925,000,000
Federal Grants: $1,821,000,000
Bonds: $2,398,000,000
Fares/Operating Revenues: $431,000,000
Local Grants/Interest Earnings: $567,000,000

Total: $12,143,000,000

Sounder Commuter Rail: $1,268,000,000
ST Express Bus: $785,000,000
Link Light Rail: $4,175,000,000
Transit Operations: $2,712,000,000
System-wide Activities: $533,000,000
Debt Service: $1,218,000,000
Contributions to Reserves: $1,450,000,000

Total: $12,143,000,000

All those ST estimates are expressed in YOE dollars.

So "No. 8," about the newspaper story you quote - that number Lindblom pulled out of a hat doesn't begin to capture the full extent of ST's spending plans. Plus, the staff and board clearly are doing a lousy job of managing costs. Now ST says it has to spend $12.1 billion on Phase I - go ahead, try to show how that increase over the $6.6 billion anticipated Phase I costs described in the 2005 financial plan could be justified.

ST has no frigging idea what is going on from a cost perspective - that's why none of this can be explained. The "No. 8" approach (quoting Mike Lindblom) won't get anyone anywhere.

Posted by busker | April 5, 2008 7:24 AM

Photo at:

Beverly Morris, bottom right, screams and collapses as the casket carrying her brother, U.S. Army Spec. Charles Jankowski, arrives at the Panama City-Bay County International Airport in Panama City, Fla., on Friday. Comforting Morris are her sister, Felicia Kirkland, left, and Jankowski's girlfriend, Karen Hainley. Jankowski died from wounds from an exploding improvised explosive device near Baghdad, Iraq, on Friday, March 28, 2008. He will be buried on Monday, April 7, 2008.
(April 04, 2008)

Posted by Brave and mighty SAVAGE warrior Dan | April 5, 2008 9:05 AM

@9, 10:
thanks for additional data but attack mode comments are misdirected. I was talking about light rail only and capital cost only, I think that's what Lindblom is talking about, whereas you are talking about light rail plus everything else and capital cost plus everything else such as finance and operations.

It's all good info -- but yoru nos. do not relate to Lindblom's no.

Your comment "go ahead, try to show how that increase over the $6.6 billion anticipated Phase I costs described in the 2005 financial plan could be justified" is misdirected -- perhaps you should direct it to @4 -- I didn't justify anything just wanted to get clear data out there.

The info I cited says light rail phse I is ten years late, and over 100% over what was promised to voters (not counting finance and operations) and I see nothing in what you write that disagrees with that. So, so far we know, ten years late, >100% over budget.

Yes of course there can be additional overruns and data if you count the things you are counting, too.

The overall point is how come you have to go to SEC filings and how come ST does not have this basic data on an easy to find web page ?

@4 where are you?
got a source?

your $2.8 billion no. is challenged by Lindblom's "over $5 billion" and by @2, 9, 10.

Posted by Diogenes | April 5, 2008 9:11 AM

I'm thinking the threat of John Stanton's initiative is all the more reason for Sound Transit to go to the ballot this year.

As an analogy, consider the United States' preemptive invasion of Iraq allegedly over WMD. How did Iran and North Korea, two nations that actually were putting together a nuclear arsenal, respond? By doubling down on their own nuclear programs. And it was arguably entirely rational and self-interested of them to do so. Beat 'em to the punch.

If Stanton's initiative passes, it does a lot less damage if Sound Transit expansion is already locked in than if it's still up in the air. Beat 'em to the punch.

Beyond that, I kinda feel like having ST2 on the same ballot as an anti-light rail initiative would undermine the latter. Stanton and his minions would be forced to fight a battle on two fronts; they'd have to grapple with spreading themselves too thin. I believe, inevitably, all the political mass on both sides would gravitate toward the ST2 campaign. Do you really want to gather tens of thousands of signatures for an initiative you're only going to be able to campaign for with one hand tied behind your back?

Posted by cressona | April 5, 2008 9:36 AM

How about just making it simple. Roads get paid for with fuel taxes. Buses and light rail get paid for from the farebox (and build with business loans for expected revenue from the service). Everyone pays for what they use.

Posted by Fritz | April 5, 2008 11:53 AM

Cressona do you have any polling on whether or not people would like a partially elected board? A fully elected board? Has ST ever asked that question?

I'd say that if Stanton wants to do it, it's a done deal. Statewide there will be no problem getting signatures and the proposition that there should be coordination of transportation investments for all RTAs will be very popular.

If the board was all elected, then the state could give the right to raise taxes without a vote. With the huge pro transit feelings of the people, a majority of the board would have to be pro transit as well.

The pro Prop 1 groups outspent the no groups by 4 to 1. These primarily pro transit people will back candidates region wide. Why would you think that Stanton's initiative will end up being anti-transit?

Posted by bob | April 5, 2008 12:17 PM

"The info I cited says light rail phse I is ten years late, and over 100% over what was promised to voters"

Dude, voters always are promised all kinds of stuff. What you need to remember is that promises to voters have no legal significance. Voters could have been promised 75 miles of light rail by 2006 for $2 billion AND NONE OF THAT COULD BE ENFORCED IN A COURT OF LAW. Campaign promises are just free speech: the sponsors can lie with impunity (as long as there's no defamation). I'm sure voters were promised ponies and sunshine in the run up to that vote in 1996, and it just doesn't matter one jot now. So whatever you're hung up on, get over it.

Posted by Mr. Id | April 5, 2008 2:23 PM

"ST's projected Phase I costs went up by $5.5 billion over the past three years. It is extremely poorly managed."

Like most axe-grinding anti-transit cranks around here, Busker has to make things up to make his point.

Yearly audits, performance audits, Expert Review Panels, Supreme Court rulings, State Treasurer opinions...all this stuff flies in the face of nutball opinions shoveled out by cranks like Busker. These cash-rich/ego-poor frustrated middle aged white guys STILL haven't got over the fact they lost their 10 year battle to stop light rail from being built in this town.

Since Mark Baerwaldt has never had a job or meeting he needed to get to (along with the band of retired old guys who form the Kemper Kult), of course he doesn't see the need for reliable and effective mass transit.

In the end, much of the Old White Guys Against Rail movement is rooted in pet technologies which were ditched for rail over the years: Baerwaldt is a monorail fanatic; Emory Bundy invested in a loony Personal Rapid Transit venture; much of the Kemper Freeman Kult has been dabbling with "emerging" technologies such as PRT for decades (along with their beloved freeways).

Now, this gaggle of crazies has settled on oppressive tolling schemes. Lexus Lanes work just great...for Lexus owners....the poor people get their crappy bus service, natch.

Only in Seattle will the media entertain the likes of Busker. The guy has been posting this garbage for years - each time he's challenged with basic legal and financial facts, he falls flat on his face. Which is what happens when you lead a solitary, lonely little life....

"Here's the breakdown, showing the massive new Phase I build-out period spending predictions:"

Yeah, and when the State Treasurer (no fan of Baerwaldt-style transit boondoggles) took a look at Busker/Baerwaldt's "predictions", he used one word to describe it: bogus.

Posted by Wally | April 5, 2008 2:42 PM

Busker is right about one thing: delay makes costs go way up.

But since he spends all his waking hours trying to delay the inevitable (and has pursued this obsession for over a decade) it seems a little funny he would bitch endlessly about the results of his own actions. At least he won't get bored chasing his own tail.

Similarly: like most rich, isolated nutcases, Mark Baerwaldt will leave his Belltown perch at some point. Maybe buy an island someplace, or a villa in a gated banana Republic country. One gets the idea the only reason he sticks around is to pursue this singular obsession of fighting light rail and the agency building it. Talk about a noble cause!

Posted by Wally | April 5, 2008 2:54 PM

The idiots of this region continue to argue instead of doing something about transportation. I'm surprised Phase 1 is being built at all. It's late and overbudget mostly because you assholes keep suing. If folks in DC, NYC, and the Bay Area did this when their systems were proposed and built, they wouldn't have mass transit either. Keep waiting for your perfect solution. It ain't gonna happen.

Posted by Wake up! | April 5, 2008 2:59 PM


Light Rail opens between downtown and the airport in 15 MONTHs. An extension to UW breaks ground in 5 months.

Do these facts show ST is getting something done? Of course they do.

Should we vote to extend this line further this fall? Absolutely.

Posted by clarity | April 5, 2008 3:24 PM

Wake up, it is truly amazing. Critics said light rail taxes would bring this region to its knees, kill dozens of people, and suck the life out of our bus system. I suppose the jury is still out on the blood, death and destruction part. The rest of the country and world are investing in mobility and infrastructure. Here, we just like sinking money into internal combustion engines, cars, and the fuel required to keep all those engines stuck in traffic. Infrastructure and mobility are for sissies!

- Why would you think that Stanton's initiative will end up being anti-transit?-

Maybe because this is their stated goal? Would that be enough to tip you off, Bob?

Read Ted Van Dyk's Crosscut column on the subject. The strategy has always been to use rail money to pay for a gold plated 520 re-build. The version with all those fancy parks and lids to protect Stanton's vulnerable Points Community from unwanted freeway noise. I-405 deserves the light rail cash, too. And maybe a brand new elevated Viaduct.

Stanton and his group are smart enough to know they need to hide their true intentions. Their own polling indicates public opposition to the diversion of transit revenues to freeways. Ted Van Dyk: not so smart.

John Stanton has stated he has never ridden a bus. He also believes transit is for the poor and infirm. Not his kind of people. Stanton wants a transponder on every car, and a tolling gate on every onramp and offramp. That will teach the unwashed masses to get out of his way on the freeway!

Bob, can I ask why you would trust the motivations of a right wing think tanmk, a group of old tyme Republicans, and a billionaire who dislikes public transit and who doesn't understand transportation at all?

How on earth are we to believe these folks have our best interests in mind?

Posted by TransitCabal | April 5, 2008 3:33 PM

Is that you Wally? I thought the governance was put together by a commission headed by Stanton and Norm Rice, a lefty Democrat.

Why would a right wing billionaire spend so much effort on this when he could just defeat the votes with campaign money. Didn't the pro side have a $3 million advantage last time and very favorable polls months in advance?

Do you have links to Stanton stating he never rode a bus or any of the things you attribute to him?

With 75% of the people in favor of more light rail how would electing board members favor roads? It sees that Stanton could support anti-rail candidates for the county executive positions get all the positions appointed the way he would want.

Posted by bob | April 5, 2008 4:00 PM

Read the Van Dyk article - no reference to Stanton's position - but apparently Rep. Deborah Eddy (D) and Fred Jarrett (D), liberal that just quit the Republicans are looking at the PSRC as an over agency for the region - they are not right wing anti-transit and apparently a few ST supporters are part of the effort, from the comments:

All I can say is WOW! Mullin, Vaska and Gorton are all ultra-pro Sound Transit. Reid Shockey was nothing but a go-along to get-along type on the ST Citizen's Oversight Committee. Now they want to take power from ST? Doubtful.
Posted by bob | April 5, 2008 4:47 PM

@16, OK, so we're supposed to pretend that this entire history of deception/cost overruns/broken promises is all OK, and not dare point this history out as ST comes back to voters for another blank check.

@17, Um, could you at least make a token effort to demonstrate that Busker's numbers are wrong before resorting to name calling, or is that too much to ask?

Posted by Mr. X | April 7, 2008 10:19 AM

Comments Closed

In order to combat spam, we are no longer accepting comments on this post (or any post more than 14 days old).