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Thursday, May 31, 2007

RTID Moves Forward

posted by on May 31 at 15:26 PM

The executive board of the Regional Transportation Investment District (RTID) approved the joint RTID/Sound Transit package this afternoon sans the dreaded Cross Base Highway, a proposed new four-lane, $477 million highway in Pierce County that would have cut through Fort Lewis and the McChord Air Force Base—and destroyed the last remaining oak-woodland prairie in western Washington. Pierce County Executive John Ladenburg, a Cross Base supporter, vowed to veto the entire proposal when it comes to Pierce County if it didn’t include the highway; Cross Base supporters and opponents each claim they have the votes to override the executive’s veto (all three counties have to approve the joint measure to put it on the ballot in all three counties). If Ladenburg does veto the joint ballot measure, and if the county council fails to overturn the veto, the ballot measure could still move forward in King and Snohomish Counties, but that’s hardly an ideal scenario.

Today’s lengthy meeting was a mix of praise (from environmentalists), criticism (from Pierce County officials and commuters) and mutual back-patting (from the board). “The package you’re looking at today is something we think we can advocate for,” said Rob Johnson, political director for the pro-transit Transportation Choices Coalition. “The environmental community is willing and excited to get this package on the ballot this fall.” However, Mary Ann Lincoln of the Spanaway Community Association, who lives in Spanaway and works in Redmond, insisted that Pierce County residents need the Cross Base Highway to commute. “I have spent five hours a day in my car. I have arrived at work angry and frustrated and that’s no way to arrive at work,” Lincoln said. She added that the number of drivers the new highway would serve “is probably a lot more people than the environmental community has in their organizations.”

The joint ballot measure includes $1.1 billion to replace the aging SR-520 bridge across Lake Washington, plus anywhere from $700 million to $1.2 billion in tolls. (Currently, RTID is using the higher number; more on that in a moment.) Additional funding for the $4.4 billion project—up to $1 billion—could come from a $1 billion “pool” of future state and federal money anticipated by the legislature; however, the more of that money pays for the 520 replacement, the less will remain for replacing the Alaskan Way Viaduct, the other recipient of funding from the “pool.”

RTID adopted the higher toll revenue estimate, according to a story in yesterday’s P-I, because the agency now predicts that evening peak-hour traffic on the bridge will be 28 percent higher than anticipated. (That’s cars, not people, so that figure doesn’t indicate higher transit use.) However, that increased revenue estimate also assumes that tolls will be around $3 each way—the highest toll level RTID considered. Given that tolls have a diversionary effect—people find other routes, or avoid trips during peak hours—you’d expect that higher tolls would mean fewer bridge users, not more. And if it doesn’t, it’s hard to see what problem building a wider (six-lane versus four-lane) bridge is going to solve—if single-occupant car traffic is just going to go up and up no matter what, what’s the point of building a larger, more expensive bridge?

The proposal now goes to the RTID Planning Committee for final adoption on June 8. From there, it goes to the Snohomish, Pierce and King county councils for placement on the November ballot.

RSS icon Comments


it’s hard to see what problem building a wider (six-lane versus four-lane) bridge is going to solve

It's going to solve the problem of no HOV lanes as is the present situation on the current bridge.

Posted by Angry Andrew | May 31, 2007 3:44 PM

Spanaway to Redmond? Somebody making that commute has no credibility at all when it comes to the smart use of transportation resources.

Posted by Matthew | May 31, 2007 3:49 PM

Ladenburg already threatened to resign from ST's board if the Cross-Base Highway was dropped from RTID. We'll see . . . .

Posted by oscar wildman | May 31, 2007 3:54 PM

Matthew beat me to it. When she took the job in Redmond and/or moved to Spanaway, did she somehow think her commute wouldn't be painful? And we're supposed to spend zillions so she can drive a 110 mile daily round-trip through a congested urban area without it being occasionally frustrating?

Posted by cdc | May 31, 2007 3:55 PM

The cost/benefit ratio to Seattle of RTID is TERRIBLE. Very little spending, lots of taxes, projects not set to start for decades, etc. The Eastside roads projects would be huge net gainers: lots of Seattle tax money would go to I-405 and SR 167 widening. The big projects in Seattle? Making Mercer Street nice and new and pretty for Vulcan's development. RTID = CRAP.

Posted by Johnny | May 31, 2007 3:59 PM

I know Lincoln. She is always angry. It has nothing to do with her commute. This goofy highway is a multi-million dollar, environment wrecking threat to the continued existence of McChord AFB. It would be THREE MILES south of the existing SR 512 which connects I-5 to Canyon Road just like the Cross Base Highway would. If, and it is a big if, there is a need for more east-west road capacity in southern Pierce County, adding a lane to the existing 512 would be far cheaper, less damaging, and accomplish the same goals.

Ladenburg was a vocal opponent of the proposed regional transportation governance bills considered during the 2007 legislative session. His behavior on this issue is doing nothing more than advancing the cause of regional governance. He is now the poster boy for regional governance.

Posted by Siwel | May 31, 2007 4:02 PM

RTID is crap for Seattle, but where would you build a highway through the city anyway?

We don't need highways in the city, we need transit and st2 gives us a lot of that.

Fuck Spanaway they can have their fucking highway I won't ever drive it, and I will sleep better knowing that .5% of their sales tax is paying for my transit while only .1% of my sales tax is building their road.

Posted by Angry Andrew | May 31, 2007 4:09 PM

OMFG, I may have to actually vote for it, if they actually listened!

Not that I love RTID, but at some point, you have to realize we need lots more transit sooner rather than later, and if they met the main objections (e.g. more SOV new highways while not repairing and replacing existing highways and bridges), one needs to realize compromise can sometimes be better than being obstinate.

But, as someone pointed out, basically Seattle taxpayers are still subsidizing suburbanite low mpg drivers with our Seattle tax dollars.

Posted by Will in Seattle | May 31, 2007 4:59 PM

RTID bad for Seattle huh? Not according to Dow.

Projects start late huh? Not according to the plan.

Darn facts.

Constantine works to get Seattle area mobility projects into RTID package

The Regional Transportation Improvement District (RTID) package approved today by the panel’s Executive Board includes several key projects to improve mobility for Seattle and Seattle area residents, said Metropolitan King County Councilmember Dow Constantine.

The project schedule also accelerates completion of these Seattle mobility projects in time to ease the disruption caused by the upcoming demolition of the Alaskan Way Viaduct.

“We needed projects that would provide real benefits to commuters who use the SR 99 corridor, especially during the impending viaduct demolition. I also wanted to ensure that the Seattle projects on the list would serve transit as well as automobiles,” said Constantine, the only member of the RTID Executive Board who represents part of the city of Seattle. “I believe that the Seattle investments in the RTID package accomplish both these goals.”

Among the major Seattle area improvements included in the RTID package are:

—A rebuilt South Park Bridge: This improvement is critical for freight mobility, and for keeping the SR 509/First Avenue South corridor moving.

—A new Spokane Street Viaduct off-ramp at Fourth Avenue: This ramp will improve bus access to the downtown transitway, while allowing traffic to bypass a busy railroad crossing.

—An elevated Lander Street crossing from First to Fourth avenues: This critical freight mobility project gets trucks over the railroad tracks. It also allows buses from West Seattle to more easily access the transitway corridor to downtown and provides an additional east-west corridor for general traffic. These projects, in conjunction with the planned state investment in a major new SR 519 interchange near the stadiums, will help transit and cars keep moving as the viaduct comes down.

—Mercer Corridor improvements on State Route 99: These investments will improve east-west mobility and will help knit together Queen Anne and the growing South Lake Union community.

—A new Interstate 5 off-ramp at Industrial Way: This project will save time for transit commuters from South King County and Pierce County and ease I-5 congestion by allowing buses to exit directly from the HOV lanes on the left rather than crossing several traffic lanes to exit at Spokane Street.

—Seattle also contributed the majority of the funding to increase the RTID contribution to the 520 corridor to fully fund bridge replacement.

“This final package is a significant improvement over the previous draft. It is better for the environment and better for Seattle area commuters,” said Constantine. I want to credit both the environmental community and RTID staff for working together on a package that addresses key environmental concerns and improves mobility.”

Posted by arf | May 31, 2007 5:02 PM

OK ARF, Now, how much tax will Seattle taxpayers pay, in total, to RTID for those things? And when will the RTID taxes stop?

Posted by barf | May 31, 2007 5:58 PM

Slarf - this kind of thinking (this region is getting more/less than what they're paying) is exactly why this region gets shit done for transportation. Buck up and let the money go where the problems are, and be thankful it's not for a lot of roads.

Or vote for the NEDM option.

Posted by slarf | May 31, 2007 6:33 PM

Dow is usually spot on - but he's dead wrong about the Mercer project - which will actually INCREASE the amount of time and number of congested intersections for traffic going from Seattle Center toward I-5 (I suppose it does guarantee that Paul AllenCo. will now pony up for the RTID campaign, which is the real reason this ill-advised beautification project was included).

Posted by Mr. X | May 31, 2007 7:35 PM

it’s hard to see what problem building a wider (six-lane versus four-lane) bridge is going to solve

Problem: no HOV lanes. Solution: devote all additional lanes to HOVs. Beneficiaries of 100% of the expanded capacity: bus riders and carpoolers. (Actually, I'd make these bus-only lanes, but that's a quibble.) Anyone who ever had to deal with the horrific 520 reverse commute can see how much potential there is for transit along that corridor and yet how little incentive there is to take transit because the buses get stuck on the bridge along with the cars.

This is why a six-lane bridge with two dedicated HOV lanes is better from an environmentalist/pro-transit standpoint than a four-lane bridge. Now you could say, "Why don't we do a four-lane bridge with two HOV lanes then?" Well, that's a bit like saying, "Why don't we vote for Ralph Nader instead of Al Gore?" Or, "How about I dump my girlfriend so I can hit on the newly available Anna Kournikova?"

If that's not enough, isn't this 520 bridge replacement supposed to be rail transit-ready, so that it could be retrofitted for light rail or monorail some time in the future?

And if all that is not enough, the 520 financing plan establishes a Seattle-area precedent for general tolling, not just on special HOT lanes but on all lanes.

I mean, really, if an environmentalist doesn't like a tolled, HOV-laned, rail-ready 520 plan, it's hard to imagine a highway plan they could ever like.

Posted by cressona | May 31, 2007 7:39 PM

Oh, and since there isn't enough money in RTID to actually pay for the $400+ million Mercer/SR99 trenching project - guess who will be stuck with the final tab? (If you guessed Seattle taxpayers, give yourself a kewpie doll, or a free lottery prize from Greg Nickels' next fundraiser).

Posted by Mr. X | May 31, 2007 7:39 PM


The lanes will be carpool lanes, not HOV only. There is a big difference - particularly since WSDOT is already talking about letting SOV's buy their way into carpool lanes on other state highways.

I-90 was supposed to be rail transit ready, too (as was the Downtown Bus Tunnel). I wouldn't put too much faith in that if I were you.

Posted by Mr. X | May 31, 2007 7:42 PM

Seattlelites should buy more suv's then they would be contributing more tax revenue to the RTID.

You can't have it both ways my friend. Either Seattlelites are green loving tree hugging hybrid driving bus riding moral superior beings which therefore would not contribute a lot of excise tax to the RTID plan. Or they will and they drive a lot of expensive suv's just like those people in the suburbs you look down your nose at.

Which is it?

Posted by ditto | May 31, 2007 7:45 PM

@16 Exactly.
RTID only costs you a lot of money if you own an expensive car, otherwise it's $1 per $1000 you spend at the store and nothing else if you don't own a car at all like me.

Posted by Fuck your SUV! | May 31, 2007 8:35 PM

Arf: Those aren't trick questions.

How much tax will Seattle taxpayers pay, in total, to "RTID" for those ramps etc.?

When will the RTID taxes stop?

You slogged about what Dow C. wants the message to be. Fine. What does Dow C. say the tax impact will be? Fair question, no?

Posted by barf | May 31, 2007 9:31 PM

barf@18 writes:

How much tax will Seattle taxpayers pay, in total, to "RTID" for those ramps etc.?

When will the RTID taxes stop?

You slogged about what Dow C. wants the message to be. Fine. What does Dow C. say the tax impact will be? Fair question, no?

No, it's not a fair question. You see, transit must not be questioned. Asking questions about how much the RTID is going to cost and how long the taxes are going to be levied and how much they will actually deliver is like asking a Bushite how long we're going to be in Iraq, or how much the Iraq war is going to cost or how many people are going to be killed. To transit advocates transit is a holy crusade just as the war in Iraq is to the Bushites, anyone who questions either one of these holy crusades is of course evil and bad and either wants to destroy the environment and kill us all with global warming or let the terrorists win, so shut the fuck up and pay your increased taxes (for transit and for the war in Iraq once the bills come due from our Chinese banking overlords).

Posted by wile_e_quixote | May 31, 2007 10:12 PM

This is just a scam by self-interested politicians.

The Nigerians wouldn’t think this would sell.

The only thing the RTID promises to do, technically, is "pour some concrete."

But the taxes could be enforced forever in huge amounts.

Posted by NO in NOV. | May 31, 2007 10:16 PM

I have to confess, I've been of a mind that, 'tis better to have a joint ballot with the dreaded cross-base highway than a joint ballot without it if the ballot stood a better chance of passing with it. The good that comes from 49 or 50 miles of new light rail dwarfs the evil of six-miles of sprawl-inducing, habitat-killing freeway.

I can only hope that, while bowing to pressure from the greens, the RTID board has calculated that nixing the cross-base highway doesn't hurt the ballot's chances. My guess is that they're savvy enough that they have made this calculation, which means that we greens are a force to be reckoned with across these three counties, which is a good thing in its own right.

I do kinda feel sorry for Erica C. Barnett in all this, though. I mean, if this measure passes and this region goes on to build 50 more miles of light rail as well as its first fully tolled highway, Erica might just have to find some other place to live -- a place where like-minded environmentalists can paint their utopian visions while still being able to complain about all the freeways and the dearth of mass transit. ;-)

Posted by cressona | May 31, 2007 10:17 PM


Cross-base doesn't produce many yes votes. That part of Pierce County is pretty hostile to any sort of tax increase, even when they perceive themselves as directly benefitting from the taxes. It was always a big base of support for the Eyman initiatives. Cross-Base Hwy was a loser environmentally and electorally.

Posted by Bill LaBorde | May 31, 2007 10:30 PM

Bill @22, happy to hear. Now I can only hope that your organization and Sierra Club are happy with today's news. And happy enough to get behind this thing.

Posted by cressona | May 31, 2007 10:43 PM


"Happy enough" is a good way to put it. Bad stuff remains on the RTID project list but, in addition, to removing Cross-Base, we feel that the new policy language in the RTID plan gives us a foothold to change the way several of the RTID projects are ultimately built out and operated in the future. I guess the best way to put it is we're now at a point where the good of adding 50 miles of light rail has begun to outweigh the potential harm from the RTID projects.

And, we're going to do everything in our powers to limit that harm. We've entered a new era. Dealing with the reality of climate change is going to change everything. The RTID money will be spent on improving all the corridors promised in the plan passed today, but what it means to "improve" a corridor is going to change drastically over the next 20 years. Stay tuned.

Posted by Bill LaBorde | May 31, 2007 11:47 PM

the two or three county vote will be an opportunity for the electorate to speak to three governments: the state and its two three-county creations, ST and RTID. the voters will face an all or nothing choice.

as Laborde states, there are good and bad projects in the RTID package. that is also true of ST2, though he does not state that.

Constantine and other RTID executive committee members did a pretty good job of improving the RTID package, but we have to decide if they did enough. they took the $800 million freed up by the AWV project collapse and allocated it to good maintenance and transit-friendly projects (e.g., Industrial Way ramp, South Lander Street overcrossing, SR-99 BAT lanes, South Park bridge, South Spokane Street viaduct, and the Mercer Street project for Vulcanland).

But is that $800 million just the bicycle on a rack hanging on the back of a global warming SUV?

Is using one-tenth of the sales tax for highway widening at a time of global warming good policy? fair? efficient? the sales tax is about one-third of the RTID revenue stream. Is that alone a fatal flaw and grounds to defeat the RTID and ask the Legislature to do better? Why is not the gas tax higher?

RTID funds four general-purpose lanes on I-405 between I-90 and Renton ($1.2B), SR-509 freeway extension to I-5 (unpriced), a SR-167 freeway between Auburn and the Port of Tacoma, a wider much more sprawl will be induced?

What assurance do we have that systemwide dynamic tolling will be enacted?

Is 50 miles of LRT really a good thing? What 50 miles? The south King and Pierce County ST2 funds seem very weak investments. They could have done much better. are the RTID and ST2 packages really integrated or just simultaneous?

if we spend this much on RTID and ST2, will there be fiscal capacity to expand arterials, maintain our existiing transportation infrastructure, and expand the sidewalk network?

Posted by eddiew | June 1, 2007 7:48 AM

Our friend eddiew reminds me of a nice, little logical fallacy. A politician keeps saying, "I'm a supporter of mass transit." Then a particular mass transit proposal comes along and they say, "Just not this particular project." The only problem is, every time any mass transit proposal comes along, they still will say, "I'm a supporter of mass transit, just not this particular project."

Is the sales tax perfectly fair? Is the RTID project list perfectly greenhouse-gas benign? Is the Pierce County light rail extension the ideal use of light rail (actually, I think it is, but that's another argument)? Are we 100% sure that everything will work as expected? On and on and on.

If the same perfect standard of rightness had been applied when New York was considering building its subway system, there would be no New York subway today. In fact, if the same standard had been applied throughout American history, America never would have built any infrastructure, never would have entered the Civil War or World War I or World War II, never would have purchased Alaska or Louisiana, never would have established Social Security -- never would have undertaken any public endeavor that involved risk and potentially done some harm in the process of trying to do good.

My favorite line is when eddie here asks, "if we spend this much on RTID and ST2, will there be fiscal capacity to expand arterials?" -- and yet at the same time he nails RTID for, well, expanding arterials. I guess, when you're trading in sophistry that you yourself don't even believe, it's easy to fall into these inconsistencies.

Posted by cressona | June 1, 2007 8:16 AM

I think eddiew's criticism of the south Link extension is quite valid (eddiew is one of the smartest transportation thinkers out there). Ideally, we probably should be spending that Pierce County ST2 money on extending Tacoma Link out into the densest Tacoma neighborhoods which would best match existing land-use patterns and maximize ridership. But, the consolation of the SR 99 alignment is that we get some tremendous opportunities for transit-oriented development and a chance to rescue Federal Way and Fife from the hapless auto-oriented design that it has suffered under since the 50s.

And, I think we'll get the extension of Tacoma Light rail anyway. The City of Tacoma is getting very serious about potentially investing to extend Tacoma Link with two street car lines - one up through the Stadium District to the 6th Ave. Business District, another up the 19th Ave corridor to the Hilltop. Local streetcar advocate Morgan Alexander has done a fabulous job of organizing local citizens and the Tacoma City Council and Pierce Transit board. Find out more at ""

Posted by Bill LaBorde | June 1, 2007 9:29 AM

Bill and eddiew, I beg to differ on light rail to Tacoma. Extending Tacoma Link is a fine idea, but is a project with a much smaller cost per mile. Extensions can be easily funded by Tacoma, businesses, and neighborhoods as Bill points out. Sound Transit will likely have some funds available over a 20 year plan to help extend Tacoma Link as well.

The leadership in Pierce County was unanimous in wanting to extend light rail to Tacoma. Light rail might be a poor investment if all jobs began in Tacoma and ended in Seattle. I know that is the Seattle world view. But in reality there are many who live in Tacoma and work in South King County. Countless others would use the link to Sea Tac. Even for those who work in Seattle, a 60 minute commute will look more and more attractive when the freeway commute is the same length in 2030.

As for RTID, my attitude is that the Seattle projects and the environmental concessions that were fought for have made this a better measure than when it started. Lets just call it the last roads package we ever pass.

ST 2 and RTID aren't perfect, but I doubt the region could do any better if they went back to the drawing board. The regional players would be the same, the compromises would still need to be made--things would just cost more. Lets not let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

Posted by tiptoe tommy | June 1, 2007 11:27 AM

Bill's plans for Tacoma light rail extentions to Tacoma neighborhoods miss one little key point. The job centers in this region are Seattle, Bellevue and Redmond. The affordable housing is in outlying areas. 3 in ten Pierce County residents come to KC everyday for work.

We need more jobs in Tacoma? You bet.

Then why does Bill oppose the extension of 167 to the Port which will create 80,000 jobs?

Why does he support continuing to distance our affordable housing from our job centers?

In Bill's mind we'll create new jobs in Tacoma either by luck or by tod developments. We'll have 1,000 more $7 per hour baristas at neato little cafes near street car stations with million dollar condos above.

Bill represents the new brand of environmental elites.

Pretty urban villages for the wealthy - good.

Jobs, affordable housing and transportation/transit options for average folks - bad.

Posted by arf | June 1, 2007 11:39 AM

It is hard for people like Bill to not wet themselves in excitment everytime they walk by the new Whole Foods on Denny and see pretty people sitting out enjoying $15 salads with pomogranete seeds below the shinny new condos that rich boomers are buying as their "city homes" in addition to their "built green" 5,000 sq foot home in Suncadia.

It is the new environmental utopia.

Posted by rob | June 1, 2007 11:52 AM

arf@29: I've said many times on this blog and others that I have no problem with the extension of SR 167 to the Port of Tacoma in its current configuration. Since the extension includes no interchanges, it truly is designed for freight mobility and not to spur sprawl in the Puyallup valley (as with some of the earlier designs).

Posted by Bill LaBorde | June 1, 2007 4:30 PM

"I think eddiew's criticism of the south Link extension is quite valid (eddiew is one of the smartest transportation thinkers out there)."

eddiew is a real transit planner? I thought he was just another one of those guys sitting around in their basements, living off SSI, drowning us in with the same old theoretical morrass every chance he gets. (arf is right: you would think these doctrinaire lefties would have figured out the old adage about the 'perfect being the enemy of the good,' after similarly pin-headed Ralph Nader ran "Big Oil Al Gore" into the ground)

Nobody is going to be happy with any big transportation plan - eddiew just proves that all you need is an internet connection these days to get people to pay attention to your fringe ideas.

[i]Ideally, we probably should be spending that Pierce County ST2 money on extending Tacoma Link out into the densest Tacoma neighborhoods which would best match existing land-use patterns and maximize ridership[/i]

Huh? The PSRC doesn't designate any Tacoma neighborhoods outside of downtown as urban centers. Nevertheless, it looks like ST studied the ongoing spewings of the loony ivory tower "expert planner" left, and came up with low ridership figures. But, hey - if eddiew had just done the study, maybe we would end up with more of his wonderful Buses Sitting In Congestion (BRT).

In fact, here, I see eddiew arguing against streetcars altogether here

... yet now, he wants to replace a decent light rail line connecting Tacoma, Federal Way and Seattle with a low ridership Tacoma streetcar he thinks will be a waste of money?

Bill LaBorde, if your buddy eddiew is so smart, how's about asking him why he can't even stay consistent with these ongoing Monday morning quarterback sessions?

And why is it that these left-leaning enviros always seem to pick the least-popular transit possible? Could it be that they think some day the government will actually be able to force us all on a crowded, slow, bumpy, jerking, loud, stinky bus?

Posted by Splenda | June 1, 2007 7:57 PM

re the new SR-520: will not all the lanes be tolled, whether restricted to HOV or not, so none should be considered general-purpose lanes. The policy debate should quickly shift to whether the tolling should be systemwide and dynamic, as opposed to fixed rate and limited to the two Lake Washington bridges, the Narrows, and SR-167.

The new limited access capacity funded by RTID should all be tolled: I-405, SR-167, SR-509. It would be better for all classes of users: transit, freight, and general-purpose. If the purpose of SR-509 and SR-167 projects are to move trucks, they should certainly be tolled to limit their congestion as well as their induced sprawl.

cressona at 26: I used the term arterials as different from limited-access highways or freeways. The RTID legislation was written by former state senators McDonald, Finkbinder, and Horn, now all out of office. Their primary objective was to expand I-405. ESSSB 6140 has been amended several times, but still has their basic approach. The RTID must spend 90 percent of their funds on highways of statewide significance (HSS). Some arterial state routes are eligible and all the limited access ones are.

Our debates are not roads v. transit, but go deeper over the type of road and the type of transit.

There are many worthy transportation projects that need funding but are not included in either ST2 or RTID. Among the most importanct are rehab of I-5 North in Seattle (about $2B), adding sidewalks to arterials in all the areas developed after WWII, and expanding arterials inside the urban growth line that are not HSS. Long stretches of such arterials do not have sidewalks (e.g., SR-99, SR-522, SR-104, SR-516, SR-7, Greenwood Avenue North, Meridian Avenue North, Des Moines Way South, Military Road South).

In short, the RTID list was developed under restrictive rules from Jim Horn.

Yes, I agree, we should not let the perfect be the enemy of the good. But over the next several months, we will discuss just how good the joint package is. We will have to live with it for 20 to 30 years, as both three-county governments are likely to bond against their revenue streams to afford their project lists. How trustworthy are those two three-county governments?

I have been a King County voter since 1972 and have cast affirmative votes on all transportation measures before me except three of the four monorail votes. I voted for Referendum 51; it would have used the gas tax. I voted yes on the two RTA measures in 1995 and 1996 even though I objected to the three-county formulation. I am willing to vote yes on measures that are less than perfect.

rob: in partial defense of Bill LaBorde, slow empty Link LRT trains will not do the working stiffs much good. Intercounty bus and Sounder could be improved much more quickly and provide better service for their trips.

The one-tenth sales tax is about one-third of the RTID revenue stream. In King County, the combined six-tenths of ST and RTID would raise the overall sales tax rate to 9.5 cents. In recent years, the Denver, Phoenix, and San Diego regions adopted transportation packages that included sales tax increases, but all three states have income taxes and rely less on the sales tax.

The legislature and RTID could have used different taxes. Reliance on user fees related to the rate of use of the roadway system would have been more fair and efficient. It would be best if the taxes sent a price signal to roadway users. We should use the law of demand to our advantage.

The RTID legislation allowed use of a vehicle fee, tolls, and the local option gas tax. Seattle will levy the commercial parking tax. The RTID could have asked the Legislature for amended revenue authority, but they were satified with the reduced sales tax. An MVET rate of 1.2 percent would have raised about the same stream as what RTID would have from eight tenths and the one-tenth sales tax, and would still have been less than the SMP 1.4 percent. They could have pursued local option gas tax, sales tax on gas or car parts, an odometer tax, or more tolling. They settled for the one-tenth sales tax. I may decide that is a fatal flaw.

I am curious how much teeth there is in the RTID proposal on tolling. The ballot measure is the chance to include it.

The main objection to the South King and Pierce County subarea ST2 projects is the lost opportunity to do so much better with the scarce transit funds. South-first Link LRT includes a deviation of about 10 minutes to serve MLK Jr. Way South; there were few projected riders along an East Marginal Way South Link LRT alignment. That 10-minute deviation makes south Link LRT a very poor intercounty line. Today, between the Tacoma Dome and downtown Seattle, bus takes 45 to 50 minutes, Sounder takes 60 minutes and is more reliable, and in about 2027, south Link LRT is projected to take 71 minutes. The bus is a better mode for the intercounty trips. The heavy capacity of Link LRT is not needed. The high capital cost is wasteful. If we do nothing on I-5 South, the bus speeds will degrade somewhat. But we should not do nothing; we should provide HOT lanes on I-5 south and use the center access ramps ST has built at South 317th Street in Federal Way and build center access ramps at Industrial Way near South Spokane Street (that project was added to the RTID list this spring after the AWV project stalled; the Constantine booster mentioned it above).

Under ST2, the South King and Pierce County funds go to relatively weak investments. They could do so much more.

It is true that many Pierce County residents work in King County, but it is not true that a slow south Link LRT line would help them much. It would take too long to construct and be too slow to attract their commutes. They work at many scattered worksites and are better served by better Sounder and bus networks.

An alternative Pierce County investment would be in intra Tacoma mobility enhancing its desireability. Not only could the existing Tacoma LRT be extended to TCC as ST studied, but it could be extended south to PLU via Pacific Avenue. The City of Tacoma wants to study a streetcar system, but has not fiscal power. ST2 has plenty. ST owns the Nalley Valley rail line between the Tacoma Dome and the Thurston County line. They promise Sounder service: peak-only and slower than bus. Instead, it would be used by diesel LRT and foster redevelopment in South Tacoma and Lakewood.

A key transit design question is always right-of-way. The Tacoma LRT has mostly reserved ROW. The City of Tacoma could allow that for the extensions. The half-baked SLU line, the ST2 First Hill line, and the Portland streetcar do not have that priority. Toronto has a good streetcar network along with excellent subways and bus. The Nalley Valley line would be reliable.

splenda: yes, it is hard to attract transit ridership in Pierce County. Though the TCC line did attract relatively low ridership, so does the south Link LRT line, and it is much more costly and takes longer to build.

The most valuable transportation resource we have is the street grids of the cities developed before WWII. That is where increased density can most easily be handled. South Sounder supports the old downtowns of Puyallup, Sumner, Auburn, and Kent that developed in the first part of the 20th century around the Interurban.

are we at an affirmative vote yet?

Posted by eddiew | June 3, 2007 6:42 PM

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Posted by srxont kjianc | June 5, 2007 10:25 PM


Pasted in below is the passage you found contradictory. It was in the context of Diehard discussing Seattle streetcar expansion largely with him or herself. I raised the opportunity cost problem.

Posted by eddiew at 11/19/05 10:40 p.m. in reply to: #889627

transit funds are scarce. why not treat the electric trolleybuses like streetcars: in-lane stops, faster fare collection, better stop spacing, signal priority. would then get the network without spending on new infrastructure. the capital funds needed for streetcar tracks, cars, and bases could instead go into improved service frequency and attract more ridership. the electric trolleybus can climb the counterbalance, Madison Street, James Street, and Yesler Way.

There are worthy streetcars. It depends upon the degree of priority they are provided through traffic. The half-baked SLU line, the Portland streetcar, and the ST2 First Hill connector do not seem like good investments, as they do not or will not have priority, other than in-lane stops. Alternatively, most streetcars in Toronto and the Tacoma line do have reserved rights-of-way. Politically, it is difficult to convert general-purpose ROW to transit for any mode.

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