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Monday, January 25, 2010

Poll: Voters Support $2.1 Billion Light Rail This November

Posted by on Mon, Jan 25, 2010 at 3:50 PM

Nearly two-thirds of Seattle voters would vote this November to raise $2.1 billion from property taxes to fund another light-rail line, along with bicycle and pedestrian improvements, according to a poll Mayor Mike McGinn released today. The three-question survey, taken last Thursday through Sunday, also found overwhelming support for replacing the downtown seawall and funding education services with a $241 million levy and $300 million levy, respectively. Pollster ConstituentDynamics asked 1,001 likely voters the following question:

This November, voters will decide a tax measure to fund light rail, pedestrian, and bicycle infrastructure. The measure authorizes up to two point one billion dollars in taxes over thirty-five years. If the election were today, would you vote yes to approve, or no to reject this tax measure?

66% Yes
21% No
13% Undecided

The poll, paid out of McGinn's own pocket, suggests he may try to put light rail on the ballot this year. McGinn commissioned the survey, which includes two other questions, to show the city council this morning that voters support replacing the seawall with a property tax levy. While including the two non-seawall questions in the poll serves to assuage fears of voter fatigue with recurring requests for higher taxes, the question about light rail is particularly pressing. During his campaign, McGinn pledged to put light rail on the ballot within two years. And last month, he said he may try to push the vote this fall. This poll suggests he could pass both the seawall and light-rail measures despite rising (but largely unfounded) skepticism that voters are fed up with levies.

But the poll, conducted in part by McGinn's campaign consultant Bill Broadhead, may include a couple result-skewing feature. For instance, the light-rail question in the poll doesn't make it clear that Seattle property owners are picking up the tab. In past light rail-measures—such as the one voters passed in 2008—the poential rail line extended into several suburbs, which help pay for the line with a regional sales tax. McGinn's light-rail proposal, as he put forth on the campaign trail, would require Seattle voters to go at it alone. Moreover, the poll doesn't say how much the average property could pay per year.

And $2.1 billion would be a steep tab for Seattle voters. When McGinn proposed a light-rail extension during his campaign, he said costs could be minimized by using existing public rights of way, noting that Portland opened its fifth light-rail line, requiring only three years of construction and $575 million, which is roughly one-quarter the proposal that McGinn polled. McGinn's proposed line from West Seattle to Ballard is the same line, roughly, as the ill-fated monorail, which got mired down in complicated financing before losing voter support. So any light-rail measure would have to woo voters with sound financing in addition to a manageable price tag.

Results of the poll's other questions appear after the jump.

Seawall Replacement:

This May, voters will decide a property tax measure to fund replacement and seismic improvements to the downtown seawall, built by city engineers in 1934. The measure authorizes property taxes of up to two hundred forty one million over thirty years, at approximately twelve cents per thousand dollars of assessed valuation. If the election were today, would you vote yes to approve, or no to reject this excess levy?

70% Yes
19% No
11% Undecided

Education Services:

Next year, voters will decide a property tax measure to fund educational services, including preschool, early childhood education, and family support and involvement. The measure authorizes property taxes of up to three hundred million over seven years, at approximately thirty-two cents per thousand dollars of assessed valuation. If the election were today, would you vote yes to approve, or no to reject this levy lid lift?

76% Yes
19% No
5% Undecided


Comments (21) RSS

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Will in Seattle 21
by the way, tonight, just for fun, we killed Jim McDermott's attempt to get an early endorsement, and tabled the endorsement rules for KCDCC.

Fnarf, when you grow up, you might learn something about politics. Until then, sadly, you'll just post your opinions and not get how it actually works.
Posted by Will in Seattle on January 26, 2010 at 11:45 PM · Report this
Martin H. Duke 20
@2 you're totally disregarding the effect of bonding. If light rail is bonded over a longer period of time than the seawall than it's won't be ten times as expensive per year.
Posted by Martin H. Duke on January 26, 2010 at 7:14 AM · Report this
@17 Probably not without State approval, which seems very unlikely.
Posted by giffy on January 26, 2010 at 6:23 AM · Report this
Will in Seattle 18
No, we're shooting for pull tabs to pay for the Billionaires Tunnel.

After all, if you're gambling more than a Billion, you might as well go in style.
Posted by Will in Seattle on January 25, 2010 at 11:52 PM · Report this
It seems very ambiguous about being a property tax for light rail. Could it be car tabs? Or MVET?
Posted by Your Name Hear on January 25, 2010 at 10:25 PM · Report this

Seattle is sinking.

Posted by Plastic Exploding Inevitable on January 25, 2010 at 8:19 PM · Report this
@14 Good fucking god, did you just try and use an advertising slogan to make a point?
Posted by giffy on January 25, 2010 at 8:12 PM · Report this
Forget considering the impact on the 7th generation. The City should totally go over to the yes/no push poll result on all major decisions. Random people basing their reactions on scant information and limited consideration will always make the best decision. Unerringly. Right?
Posted by Zander on January 25, 2010 at 7:17 PM · Report this
$2.1 billion doesn't buy a lot of track. Some back of the envelope calculations.

A rough cost is $100 million a mile for new track:
- $1.2 billion for the 11 mile Mid-Coast extension in San Diego
- $273 million for the 3 mile 19th Ave extension in Phoenix
- $175 million for a 1.6 mile extension between San Jose and Los Gatos.

Sometimes cost per mile is much more: $1.4 billion for 7.3 miles for the Portland-Milwaukie extension, which includes a new bridge over the Willamette River. That's $191 million a mile.

I'd set the price per mile at $170 million a mile: there's water to cross to get to places like West Seattle and Ballard. Geography in Seattle is more similar to Portland than it is to San Diego, San Jose, or Phoenix.

That $2.1 billion gets Seattle 12 miles of light rail track: enough to fund the 10+ miles from West Seattle to Ballard, with a little left over for contingency and (perhaps?) a maintenance base.

$2.1 billion is not going to ever be enough for even a second light rail line.

Also: where's the money for operating the line? Farebox recovery won't be 100%, that's for sure.

Posted by SDooDad on January 25, 2010 at 6:23 PM · Report this
@11 No it doesn't. It takes over half an hour.…
And thats to go 13 miles.

Our light rail takes one minute longer…
And its over a mile further away.

Yeah there is a walk, but there was nowhere else for the station to go unless you wanted to tunnel it and that's $$$ all to save a short ass walk no different that most airports I've been in.
Posted by giffy on January 25, 2010 at 5:29 PM · Report this
That $2.1 billion better come with four light rail lines, not just West Seattle to Ballard. Cities from Salt Lake City to Portland to Phoenix are building multiple light rail lines this decade for a fraction of that cost.

No more ridiculous tunnels or stupid elevated lines - it takes 40 minutes plus a half mile walk to get to the airport from downtown because of the expensive dumbass grade separation, so car drivers can keep exclusive dibs on their lanes. It takes Portland 17 minutes on light rail from downtown to the terminal. Build it on the street. We're paying for it and we don't need to appease the suburbanites.
Posted by mexicat on January 25, 2010 at 5:19 PM · Report this
Fnarf 10
@9, no. Not my bag. And if Will's there, no chance at all.
Posted by Fnarf on January 25, 2010 at 5:18 PM · Report this
michaelp 9
OMG!!! Fnarf - are you going to be at the Seattle Dem's SOTU watch party? Seeing you and will in action in person would be the shining spot of my year!!!
Posted by michaelp on January 25, 2010 at 5:05 PM · Report this
Fnarf 8
"people in various neighborhoods who have no idea who I am"

Because no one who knows who you are is willing to talk to you unless they physically cannot get away.

"Then I translate their concerns and issues into action phrases that work."

Yeah. Action phrases. Jumbo shrimp. Deafening silence. Clean coal. Oxymorons, straight from the moron.
Posted by Fnarf on January 25, 2010 at 5:00 PM · Report this
Will in Seattle 7
Actually, unlike at SLOG Happy, what I do is listen to ordinary people in various neighborhoods who have no idea who I am, Fnarf.

Then I translate their concerns and issues into action phrases that work.

In case you wondered, they think you're an elitist. (actually, they think I am too, oh well)
Posted by Will in Seattle on January 25, 2010 at 4:43 PM · Report this
michaelp 6
I do love how presumptuous the Mayor is with respect to there being a vote in May on a seawall levy.

But, to the meat and why these poll numbers don't matter:

These things all sound great when you hear it, but when you see the numbers, and when there is an actual campaign, complete with opposition, everything changes. There will be opposition to expansion of light rail to two neighborhoods that aren't even in the top ten for density, there will be opposition to the seawall levy as a waste of mitigation and time, considering the tunnel is slated to include a seawall replacement (and, of course, people like Cary Moon who think the Mayor is moving far too quickly on seawall replacement), and...well, the education levy shouldn't draw as much fire from opponents, depending on the state of the local economy at the time of the election.

Asking a hypothetical before there are any details is about as useful as a hippie in Alabama.
Posted by michaelp on January 25, 2010 at 4:42 PM · Report this
Fnarf 5
Will, there's no point in having a vote or a poll when we've got you to tell us what you're hearing from voters all over the city. I mean, that pretty much settles it, right?

Or are you perhaps mistaking nodding that means "christ, this guy is freaking me out, what the hell is he rambling about, when the fuck are Sue and Larry going to get back?" for nodding meaning "why, yes, Will, I agree with whatever you say, old chap, old bean"?
Posted by Fnarf on January 25, 2010 at 4:33 PM · Report this
MrBaker 4
By the time light rail would start taxing me Rapid Ride busses will actually run those sane routes, and I get to pay for both?
The idea of light rail polls 66%
he better run that vote before people catch on.
Posted by MrBaker on January 25, 2010 at 4:33 PM · Report this
It's kinda Bloomberg-on-a-shoestring to have Mike using personal funds to buy pollster services.
Posted by gloomy gus on January 25, 2010 at 4:29 PM · Report this
2.1 billion in new property taxes. Just some quick math here. If the $241 million seawall proposal will cost the average household $48 per year. McGinn's fantasy trains to Ballard and West Seattle will cost close to $500 per household. It would be the largest tax increase in the city's history.

I see why the poll question didn't include any mention of the cost.

Posted by ouch!!!! on January 25, 2010 at 4:10 PM · Report this
Will in Seattle 1
That agrees with what I've heard from Seattle voters throughout the city on this.

Sadly, it seems the City Council cares more about the NON-citizens on the "stakeholders" groups than it does for the people who ELECT them.

The Billionaires Tunnel is dead. Take the money from that and build light rail instead and give us either Surface Plus Transit or an Elevated Viaduct rebuild.

Or pass the mandatory PUBLIC VOTE in Seattle. Like that will happen .... ain't no votes for that.
Posted by Will in Seattle on January 25, 2010 at 4:00 PM · Report this

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