City Sound Transit: On the Ballot This Year!!
posted by July 24 at 17:13 PMon
The Sound Transit board just voted 16 to 2 to place a bus and light rail expansion package before voters in King, Pierce, and Snohomish Counties in November.
The proposal includes light-rail extensions to Lynnwood, Redmond Federal Way, a 65 percent increase in Sounder commuter rail service, and a 25 percent in regional express bus service, with half of that front-loaded into 2009 and the other half scheduled to come online in 2014.
After a long, arcane discussion about debt service ratios (King County Council chair Julia Patterson worried that South King County, which she represents, has less of a cushion if things take a turn for the worse financially), King County Executive Ron Sims attempted to add $120 million to the package for bus service in King County. After an impassioned speech in which the county executive somewhat disingenuously avowed his “love” for “spines” (i.e. fixed rail systems, which he has consisently opposed), the board ripped Sims’s motion to shreds. “I think it’s probable that [the amendment] would offend voters in Pierce County,” said Pierce County Executive John Ladenburg, pointing out that Sims’s proposal would only improve transit in King County. Noting that the proposal would reduce Sound Transit’s financial cushion in South King County, Patterson added, “I don’t want to vote for an amendment that speeds up [bus] service delivery at the cost of being able to get light rail to Federal Way.” Finally, Sound Transit attorney Desmond Brown pointed out that Sound Transit is only allowed to fund express bus service, not local intracity service like most of Metro’s routes, and the board scotched Sims’s proposal. Sims, as expected, voted against the entire package, as did King County Council Member Pete von Reichbauer.
As an aside: When the roads-heavy Prop. 1 failed last year, everyone—from liberal bloggers (“Don’t assume you’ll get another chance to vote for visionary transit investment like this in the near future”) to Slog commenters to environmental groups—told me and former news editor Josh Feit it was our “last chance” to get light rail in the region. If we didn’t accept a giant roads package, they argued, we would never, ever, ever see transit in our lifetimes. The Stranger consistently said they were wrong—writing, for example, in our endorsement against Prop. 1:
Supporters of the roads and transit package love to talk about all the light rail we’ll be giving away if we don’t vote for the $17.8 billion package. The SECB sees it differently. If we turn roads and transit down, the invaluable transit side of the package can come back next year (which would be great given that Democratic Party turnout will be huge), or else in 2009, when the light rail track from Sea-Tac Airport to downtown will be rolling out and making the on-the-ground case for expansion. True: Voters turned down a rail package in 1968. But this isn’t 1968. This is 2007. Global warming is an international crisis, Al Gore just won the Nobel Peace Prize, and Sound Transit is already building a $5.7 billion line that will demand expansion in its own right.
And on that note: The light-rail package is currently polling at 59 to 36 percent on today’s Seattle Times poll. Admittedly, those numbers are unscientific, but the number of people voting (nearly 5,000 so far) reduces the margin of error substantially.
So to those who insisted there was no way in hell light rail was coming back this year: We told you so. Apologies will be accepted in the comments.