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« Dept. of Unwantedness | Update: Seattle 2007 »

Friday, August 31, 2007

Sierra Club Victory Still A Long Shot

posted by on August 31 at 16:42 PM

That’s what I think, anyway.

As Josh notes below, I didn’t cover the hearing on the Sierra Club’s court challenge against the makeup of the anti-roads and transit committee, which will write the “con” statement for this November’s voting guide.

While I didn’t go to the hearing, I did talk with Sierra Club political director Mike O’Brien immediately after the ruling. He told me that although “we lost our motion” asserting that Sound Transit didn’t have the authority to choose the entire con committee this morning, there’s still a chance the judge could rule that anti-roads views should be incorporated into the “no” voters’ guide statement. (Currently, the entire Sound Transit-chosen committee consists of anti-transit activists whose message will go over poorly and may even help the measure in pro-transit King County.) “The problem with the hearing today is that Sound Transit still gets to pick the opposition,” O’Brien said. As for getting an anti-roads message into a “con” statement written by an anti-transit-dominated committee, O’Brien said, “I’m not optimistic.” Neither am I, but I hope, in the interest of fairly representing all points of view opposed to the measure, that they do.

Meanwhile, on another front, two challenges to the ballot title are moving forward—one in King County Municipal Court, and one in front of the state Supreme Court. The challenges allege that the ballot title violates the single-subject rule at the county and state level, respectively. However, at this late date (the ballot and voters guide go the printer on September 17) it seems unlikely that the judges will choose to derail the entire proposal.

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Ironically, this whole mess is a prime example of why we have the single-subject rule in the first place.

Posted by otterpop | August 31, 2007 4:52 PM

Please don't kill the train.

Posted by Sean | August 31, 2007 5:04 PM

It's not like we live in a democracy.

We live in a police state.

And there is a Plan B, already admitted by the ST2/RTID folks, if RTID dies.

But instead they want you to live in fear that the global warming gas creating, single occupancy car increasing, pollution creating, wetlands killing, salmon killing RTID has to be voted on or they will kill ST as well.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

Kudos to the Sierra Club for sticking up for the environment against the road-building lobby and the politicians who accept funds related to it for their personal campaigns.

Posted by Will in Seattle | August 31, 2007 5:11 PM

BREAKING! "Plan B" Revealed!

Walk, bitches! Swim, damn you!

Posted by ivan | August 31, 2007 5:19 PM

Don't the devils at SoundTransit also select the pro-Roads&Transit voter pamphlet signers?

How does that work?

Posted by The devils at ST | August 31, 2007 5:57 PM

In the interest of full disclosure, let's see the "pro" statement as well.

Actually it would be great if someone would post all four in one place (statement for, statement against, and the two rebuttals).

Posted by good for the gander | August 31, 2007 7:00 PM

Devils! Just when I was taking Portland for granted...

Posted by Grant Cogswell | September 1, 2007 1:24 AM

The word needs to get out about what really is involved with RTID. Here is what it does NOT provide money for:

_ the billions needed for whatever will go into the corridor where the SR 99 viaduct is now;

_ the additional billions that would be needed for SR 520;

_ the billions needed for repairs and new pavement on I-5 north of the ship canal bridge that Seattle taxpayers are going to have to pay for in a couple of years;

_ all the money Seattle taxpayers would have to come up with to pay the remaining costs of the Mercer St. and Lander St. work that RTID won't cover.

From Seattle voters' perspective, RTID is terrible policy for another reason. In addition to creating massive unfunded liabilities (see above), it ships literally billions in Seattle tax dollars over to the eastside for new highway lanes on I-405. Why? Because that was the price exacted by suburban electeds for their support.

In November Seattle voters must not let idealism trump common sense. We love the promise of more transit, but this particular mixed-message ballot measure would bring us the light rail extensions at FAR too steep a price.

Finally, I agree completely with one aspect of the Sierra Club's positions: we need NOW to begin implementing variably-priced RFID chip tolling to reduce congestion and GHG emissions, as well as to raise revenue from those imposing those types of externalized costs on the environment and the public. The November ballot measure does not do that.

We should reject any ballot measure that does not directly address road demand; RFID chip tolls, gas taxes - these need to be a part of the mix. THOSE are progressive, green measures. Just pouring money into light rail is bad policy because it actually enables profligate vehicle useage.

Posted by wishkah | September 1, 2007 7:48 AM
we need NOW to begin implementing variably-priced RFID chip tolling to reduce congestion and GHG emissions, as well as to raise revenue from those imposing those types of externalized costs on the environment and the public.
RFID chip tolls, gas taxes - these need to be a part of the mix. THOSE are progressive, green measures.

From where I sit they are intrusive, coercive measures that justify using the power of the state to track citizen movements. That might be "green," whatever that means, but if it somehow is "progressive," then that overused word has ceased to have any meaning whatever.

Pushing such "solutions" in the name of "halting global warming" IMO is little different from the Bushies pushing such solutions to "combat Islamofascism."

It's an absolutist, lunatic fringe position, and politicians who push it (yeah, YOU, Ron Sims) will find themselves in private life again pretty damned quick.

Posted by ivan | September 1, 2007 10:55 AM

"From Seattle voters' perspective, RTID is terrible policy for another reason. In addition to creating massive unfunded liabilities (see above), it ships literally billions in Seattle tax dollars over to the eastside for new highway lanes on I-405"

Besides promoting the lunatic fringe position, wishka also continues to use lies and misinformation to push his/her windmill-tilting agenda.

Ironically, because of wishka's deceiptful tactics, he has a lot more in common with the Kemper Freeman road lobby than he may wish to acknowledge.

First off, the 405 project is a done deal. Previous gas tax increases - which the Sierra Club supported - sealed the deal, funding all but the last, most congested section of freeway between Renton and Bellevue. The battle over 405 was fought and lost years ago, and sheer common sense (I know, difficult concept) says the state will fund this project some day, it's just a metter of when, and how many more years commuters (including buses) will have to sit in pollution-generating traffic jams. The coalition which fought 405 expansion was disbanded a while ago. In many ways, wishka proves the "thousand tiny princesses" theory, where every last crank has got his own little stupid project to fight. Public opinion in King County (not Capitol Hill) shows strong support for a 405 fix. In a democracy, and in a diverse region, you don't always get what you want. In the end, Will in Seattle's "police state" comment could not be further from the truth.

We'll know we're living in a police state when the fringe elements and ideologues get to pick projects the public doesn't like and doesn't want.

Get it, Will and wishka?

Second, the absurd comment (never backed up with data) that Seattle will be exporting billions to Bellevue is wrong on so many levels, it's hard to know where to start. Did wishka and Will just make that charge up because they "feel" it's correct? Do they think the $5 billion 520 replacement project only benefits eastsiders, too? Have they ever bothered to look at the throngs of Seattle commuters heading east each morning? Do these clowns understand that there are only north-south corridors through the region, and that surface+transit ain't gonna work on sr-99 if 405 doesn't get fixed - and that tens of thousands of cars will continue to be diverted right trough the heart of the city on I-5 if the last section of 405 isn't widened?

The loopy left has been quite good at shooting themselves in the foot over the years, but this anti-RTID/ST effort sets the standard for circular firing squads.

There's a Plan B alright: lots more political and actual gridlock, complete with escalating costs, shrunken light rail extensions, and ideologues on both fringes battling over smaller pieces of pie.

For the purists, failure is ALWAYS an option.

Posted by baker | September 1, 2007 1:12 PM

I'm not happy with the ST2/RTID plan, but Will in Seattle's "Plan B" sounds a bit like Nixon's secret plan to end the war in Vietnam.

If there's a Plan B, where is it, and what evidence do you have that it would actually be viable? How is this anything but political vaporware?

Posted by Cascadian | September 1, 2007 1:47 PM

Light rail boosters in favor of Roads & Transit (RAT) should stop calling the anti-RAT crowd anti-transit.

It's not true.

We are anti-more-rail, not anti-transit.

We are anti-massive-transit, but we support mass transit. We want more and better of the mass transit we already have. King County's Transit Now should be doubled in size and scope, maybe tripled.

All the numbers show that we have to make the bus system work better on existing and improved roads to prevail against congestion and global warming.

We have to tame the road network, not bypass it. Why are green activists so lily-livered about taking on the battle for transit priority on existing road space?

The U.S. Census Bureau reports that Seattle already has one of the highest transit-use commuter market shares in the USA.

The anti-RAT folks I've talked to want to keep growing that success with a mass-transit system that goes to more places with more service, and gives transit vehicles higher priority in places where they get stuck in traffic.

Spending billions and billions of tax dollars on 50 more miles of train tracks is a profound misallocation. Spend the money instead on making a thousand miles of bus routes all over the region run better.

The crying need in our mass transit around here is to attract and pick up more new daily passengers with better service to where people live and work, not give existing urban bus riders the new daily experience of standing on a train as a substitute for not sitting on a late bus because Metro can't buy and deploy enough buses to meet demand. And because municipal public works agencies won't make bus transit movement a serious priority in signal and lane design. Cities take the easy way out -- wait for Sound Transit to come to the rescue with a light rail station.

Make streets work for buses and make the buses move on the streets! Mayor Nickels has published a giant plan on how to do this, the Seattle Transit Plan, visible via Google. Peak hour bus priority on Third Avenue in downtown Seattle shows the way.

Plus make buses emission free. More electric trolley-buses, more and better hybrids, and fuel cells when available. Use appropriate sized-buses, too. Big ones and small ones.

The battle against global warming must be won on the streets, not by spending billions more on tunneled and elevated train tracks to expand the line that Sound Transit says is already bought and paid for under the 1996 10-year (OK, 20-year) Sound Move Plan.

(Don't worry Sean, the train from Westlake to the Airport won't be killed, and according to Sound Transit, the train to Husky Stadium is a done deal too.)

Sound Transit's 4-car light railroad train, by the way, is a low-capacity beast for a crowded corridor. Central Link Light Rail will expand the definition of congestion to include shoulder-to-shoulder crowding on 800-passengers-maximum trains. Even if Central Link were to run SRO full and packed to its shiny rail-car walls with minimum time between trains, the capacity offered is a spit in the ocean of mobility demand.

20 million person-trips per day in all modes are forecast in Sound Transit's computer models for the time when "maximum rail" would be operating.(Note: Sound Transit now carries no more than 13 million person-trips in an entire year!) A few hundred thousand daily train riders -- after two more decades of light rail construction -- doesn't mean squat. Nor would full use of the trains' peak capacity be significant as a share of travel demand.

Don't get me started. The rest of the story is at Public Interest Transportation Forum, designed to let Prop 1 RAT voters know what they will be getting for their doubled car tabs and doubled Sound Transit sales tax.

Posted by Jniles | September 1, 2007 2:51 PM

@9 – Ivan is a Nazi. His plan? Nothing but more sales taxes. That would worsen the overly-regressive tax structure of this region. If Ivan were not a Nazi, he would back user fees so those who use the roads pay a fair share of the environmental and upkeep costs they otherwise would externalize. Paranoid about RFID chips, Ivan? Get over yourself.

@ 10 is cluesless. Tha poster takes exception with the proposition that “Seattle will be exporting billions to Bellevue.”

Here are the facts showing how much Seattle taxpayers would be paying toward the road expansions on the eastside.

The breakdown of how much RTID money gets spent where is on pages 30-32 of the RTID Blueprint for Progress (at The amount of revenues raised during the first 20 years is shown on page 88.

The taxes and bond debt that would be the responsibility of King County over the 20 years would total $8,503 million. Parenthetically, the debt would still be outstanding then, and additional hundreds of millions would still need to be collected AFTER that 20 year period (RTID doesn’t disclose that estimate). The expenditures on projects in King County would be $5,380 million. These are "YOE," or nominal dollars (as are all others in this post).

The comparable figures for Pierce Co. are $3,030 million and $2,047 million, and for Snohomish Co. the comparables are $2,967 million and $2,092 million, respectively.
The ratio of money spent to tax/debt obligations is by far the worst for King County.

The numbers for RTID spending in Seattle vs. the amount of RTID taxes Seattle taxpayers would have to pay, plus the amount of debt Seattle taxpayers would need to pay off, reveals a staggeringly bad ratio for Seattle taxpayers. Seattle taxpayers will contribute approximately half of the tax revenues of the portion of King County within these taxing districts.

On page 31 of the RTID Blueprint for Progress there is a breakdown of what would get spent by RTID in Seattle. Taking half of the SR 520 and I-90 spending ($537 million), and adding in the "Seattle Mobility Project" (paving in front of Paul Allen’s developments in South Lake Union), plus the Lander St. Overpass and the South Park Bridge contributions (total: $547 million) gives a figure of $1,084 million.

That's it for Seattle spending by RTID. That isn't going to help inter-city vehicle congestion in the slightest. Where will the rest of the money for those projects come from? Nickels isn’t saying.

So Seattle taxpayers would be on the hook for paying half of King County's tax obligations to RTID, and tax obligations to retire half of King County's share of RTID bonds. The YOE cost of those expenses to Seattle taxpayers during the first twenty years would be $4,252 million (again, hundreds of millions in taxes would be collected to pay off debt by RTID AFTER that 20 years is up). In exchange, what would Seattle get in the way of road upgrades? Only $1,084 million in project spending.

RTID is a massive ripoff of Seattle taxpayers, who would be exporting billions to build new highway lanes to benefit Bellevue property developers.

Posted by wishkah | September 1, 2007 3:56 PM
@9 – Ivan is a Nazi. His plan? Nothing but more sales taxes. That would worsen the overly-regressive tax structure of this region. If Ivan were not a Nazi, he would back user fees so those who use the roads pay a fair share of the environmental and upkeep costs they otherwise would externalize. Paranoid about RFID chips, Ivan? Get over yourself.

Did I say that was my plan? No. That's what *you* say my plan is. And surprise, you're full of shit.

Actually, my plan is to restore the Motor Vehicle Excise Tax to the pre-Tim Eyman I-695 levels. That was a "progressive" tax because semis, buses, RVs, and SUVs, which gobble the most resources and which cause the most wear and tear on the highways, pay more than scooters, motorcycles, and subcompacts.

But people are scared shitless of Tim Eyman, so instead they want to track our every move with surveillance devices, and they tell us to get over ourselves.

Welcome to the Green Taliban.

Posted by ivan | September 1, 2007 4:48 PM

Ivan – Some states uses RFID-tolls(“EZPass” in Maryland is an example). Nobody there is complaining about losses of privacy or government intrusion. So why do you think that’d be a problem here?

Try giving a reasoned argument against congestion-reduction tolling; it would increase capacity and raise revenue, based on use.

And your MVET-only financing plan wouldn’t raise nearly what ST could raise by the sales tax taxing rights it would nail down for decades if RTID is approved. So your plan wouldn’t fly from ST’s perspective, and nobody cares what you think.

Posted by wishkah | September 1, 2007 8:58 PM

Did I say it was a MVET-only plan? I did not. You will find out much to your chagrin that this kind of tolling on all roads will not fly here. Nobody wants self-righteous little twerps like you calling the shots.

Posted by ivan | September 1, 2007 11:31 PM

Try a reasoned argument for once, son.

Let’s see if we can’t identify where we agree. You haven’t contested a single fact I’ve posted in the three entries above. In particular, you don’t disagree that RTID would ship billions of Seattle taxpayers’ dollars out of Seattle to build new freeway lanes along I-405. Those facts on that subject I’ve cited come from the RTID ordinance that will be put before voters in November.

Regarding your unreasonable fear of RFID-chip tolling: you don’t disagree with the concept of “user-pays.” Tolling would reduce GHG emissions, it would eliminate some unnecessary trips, and as the I-5 work over the last couple of weeks shows, a mild disincentive reduces SOV usage.

You apparently also appreciate the wisdom of providing a demand disincentive – it would reduce congestion at the known chokepoints at the key times of day, and it would raise revenue from those willing to pay to use the system at those locations and times.

You simply claim that the electeds aren’t willing to try changing the law to allow congestion-reducing variable-priced tolling because they fear it might be used against them should they seek reelection.

In other words Ivan, you like the concept of tolling, but you think those we’ve elected are too weak to try implementing it. Have I got that right?

Posted by wishkah | September 2, 2007 10:03 AM

1. you haven't posted any facts, only opinions.

2. I do not like the concept of tolling.

Posted by ivan | September 2, 2007 3:17 PM

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