Slog News & Arts

Line Out

Music & Nightlife

« Sweeney Todd's London | Letter of the Day »

Thursday, December 13, 2007

ST Board Meeting: Nickels is the New Chair. Light Rail 2008 in Play.

posted by on December 13 at 16:41 PM

Today’s Sound Transit Board meeting immediately jumped into a discussion about when and why Sound Transit should go back the voters in ‘08.

Staff, along with its consultant Anne Fennessy of Cocker Fennessy, made a presentation to the board, based on a three-county survey they did. Over 2100 people filled out an on-line survey—the majority coming in from King County.

The findings sure seemed lined up to make the case that Sound Transit should go back to voters in ‘08.

Some findings they hyped:

Asked when a transportation measure should be presented to voters— 2008 was the huge winner. 64% said a transit only measure should go before voters in 2008. (43% said a roads only measure should go before voters in ‘08.)

Asked what made Prop. 1 lose—47% of those surveyed said roads and transit should have been separate measures. (The largest block, 48% said it cost too much.)

I should add: 31% said a joint measure should go before voters in 2008. However, 27%—the second biggest percentage on that idea—said no joint measure.

The theme from staff: Prop 1’s loss was not a rejection of transit, but rejection of the package.

A couple of footnotes on the meeting:

1) Board member and King County Executive Ron Sims warned the board to make sure they kept the governor and legislative leaders in the loop. “There shouldn’t be an appearance of moving forward without engaging government leaders.” This was pretty funny given that Sims totally left people like Governor Gregoire out of the loop earlier this year before he came out against Prop. 1.

2) Greg Nickels was elected the new chair.

RSS icon Comments


Good news! Nickels knows how to get shit done. Sims, however, is becoming even more of a freakshow on wheels.

Posted by Will/HA | December 13, 2007 4:50 PM
Posted by NapoleonXIV | December 13, 2007 4:51 PM

Sims should have considered his own advice when he went back on his own statements to the Governor two days later....

Posted by TheTruthHurts | December 13, 2007 4:55 PM

It's good to see the Stranger actually sending people to cover Sound Transit's meetings now.

Posted by Greg | December 13, 2007 4:55 PM

Good. The on line survey confirmed the Sierra Club poll and the other poll.

(Bad: using an on line survey for anything. what did it cost ?
can you post the results ?)

Posted by unPC | December 13, 2007 5:08 PM

Will the board make any changes to the ST2 plan if it is coming back for 2008? What sort of changes can be done in the relatively short time frame of 11 months?

I'm very happy that Nichels is the new chairman. We need Seattle to be represented considering we are the area that most requires mass-transit.

Posted by bellevue & belmont | December 13, 2007 5:12 PM


Actually - Sims' actions are leading to the best possible outcome for those REALLY interested in moving our region towards more transit and less cars.

THe Prop 1 folks said there's no way we'd ever see light rail expanded without roads. Events today proved them (and you) dead wrong.

Posted by Ron Burgandy | December 13, 2007 5:23 PM

All of this talk of Light Rail in 2008 and the need for more leadership on transportation leads me to one specific request... Please, please, please don't let that idiot Julia Patterson get anywhere near the next round of negotiations. She cares only about south king county, hates Seattle, and failed miserably as the face/voice of Prop 1. We can't afford to put a 2nd tier politician in charge of something so important. Sims, Nickels, et al, may have their faults, but at least they have the IQ, respect and gravitas to get things done.

Posted by Seattle Transit Rider | December 13, 2007 5:28 PM

The IPCC said earlier this year that humans are very likely contributing to climate change, and the planet's warming emissions must peak in 2015 and then begin to decline to avoid large scale, irreversible climate shifts.

Greg - "OK here's the plan. First we kill the monorail, then we build a tunnel on the waterfront, then a 1.3 mile trolley, and then we expand light rail that will start running in 2018 and will start reducing GHG in 2030. The way I figure it I'll get credit for saving the earth. When did they say we needed to reduce gases? 2015, my plan works, right?"

Posted by do the math | December 13, 2007 5:41 PM

The super important thing to note, and I know this from talking to many people in ST, is that they are bringing back a smaller package no matter what.

They can't by law bring the same package back, and they only studied that and smaller packages.

Posted by Andrew | December 13, 2007 5:41 PM

Nickels leading the charge? Oh, brother. He signed off on the original ST cost estimates as ST's finance Chair in 1995. He was head cheerleader for SMP, for WAAAY too long (he was the last elected to call bs on that financing plan). He pushed hard for the tunnel replacement for the viaduct plan, which was shot down by voters. He could not budget to do basic street repairs and bridge maintenance as Seattle's mayor for five years, so he had to get the public to pass a new property tax for that basic transportation maintenance ("Bridging the Gap"). He has not advance the ball on the SR 520 plans one bit, despite being mayor for many years and the centrality of that structure to our region's economic well being.

And obviously Nickels was the main architect of and a voice in support of RTID/ST2, which went down in flames.

They picked the worst possible head. He is derided in Snohomish and Pierce Counties. Nickels has been a huge negative force working against true progress on the transportation front. Everyone in Olympia still is pissed at him for the viaduct pigheadedness that led to the worse-than-useless advisory vote.

I don't mean to be negative here, but the guy is covered in big hairy warts . . .

Posted by Nickels? | December 13, 2007 5:42 PM


Who cares if people were wrong about ST2 coming back in 2008? It's great for *everyone* that it is. We need to heal our wounds and fight for more transit, not relive the battles of the last year or gloat about victory.

Ron Sims needs to step up and fix some of the problems he found with ST2. If that means bypassing sub-area equity in the short term with loans (and speeding up development for the most important light right branches), awesome. If means shortening the route, great. But let's start the debate on those issues -- not about the issues of 2007.

Posted by bellevue & belmont | December 13, 2007 5:48 PM

I would like to thank everyone who said it was an exaggeration that we would have an ST vote in 2008 and it was impossible.

You owe me a drink tonite.

Yes. You.

P.S.: You think global warming was an issue in 2007, you ain't seen 2009 elections ... it's gonna get BIGGER.

Posted by Will in Seattle | December 13, 2007 5:59 PM

will you said there was a plan for a vote in february - you were wrong

Posted by uwerewrong | December 13, 2007 6:08 PM

@2 that monorail couldn't have gotten built, even if we had Santa Claus with 12 flying reindeer to built it. Blaming nickels is just asinine.

@11, you have no idea what you are talking about Nickels HATED rtid.

@13, no one owes you shit, you're already drunk off your own self-righteousness.

Posted by Andrew | December 13, 2007 6:11 PM


Anybody who think the monorail should be or should have been built and was undermined by a conspiracy should be banned from any online discussion.

The minute I read "monorail" in any context besides "thank god we didn't build that", I stop reading.

Monorail was a stupid idea hyped by stupid idiots who smoked way to much pot.

Why do all local blogs bring out conspiracy nuts? Public access not working anymore?

Seriously. Shut the fuck up about the monorail.

Posted by Some Guy | December 13, 2007 6:19 PM

Oh dear. This will:

1) damage Sound Transit’s standing in Olympia, where Nickels is deeply unpopular and remembered for his a) incompetent oversight as chair of the Sound Transit Finance Committee when it all went wrong, and b) his attempt to roll the Governor and Speaker with his waterfront tunnel. Who did he think they were, City Councilmembers?

2) damage Sound Transit’s standing in the region, because it will now have a Seattle face, which always plays well, right?

3) make it easy for light rail opponents: attack Seattle and the guy from Seattle who can’t count, and whose cost estimates can’t be trusted.

4) maybe even lead the state legislature to PROHIBIT a light rail ballot measure in 2008!

Posted by You Must Be Joking | December 13, 2007 6:45 PM

I'd just like to point out 'Some Guy' is not 'Some Jerk', and if Seattle had been willing to pony up the $2.1 billion the monorail cost, Hitachi/Cascadia would have built that shit on a fixed price contract. 20% over the initial estimate is hardly the fiasco revisionist jackasses like to paint it as.

The failure lies squarely with Joel Horn and his crew of accounting incompetents, and I still regret not kicking him in the balls when I saw him at El Puerco Lloron. Who needs a conspiracy when incompetence and overweening ambition explains everything?

Take your revisionist history and irrational hippie hatred and stick it up your ass.

Posted by Some Jerk | December 13, 2007 8:22 PM

G.N. looked good on the SLUT though.

Posted by photo op | December 13, 2007 8:55 PM

anyone go to this at Town Hall:

Governor Gregoire, King County Executive Sims, and Mayor Nickels have appointed a new Stakeholder Advisory Committee to provide input on a central waterfront solution for the Alaskan Way Viaduct. The first meeting is on December 13. The State, King County, and City of Seattle will work together to develop a recommendation for the central waterfront by the end of next year.

Posted by chas Redmond | December 13, 2007 11:43 PM

Lunacy. Hang on to your dreams, son.

Posted by Andrew | December 14, 2007 1:24 AM

I resent the implication I'm anything but a cold-eyed realist. Look north to the Canada Line, and you'll see what could have been. Rapid transit being built on a fixed price design/build/operate contract.

The only difference is that the Canucks covered the amount the bid exceeded the budget instead of knifing their project. The contractor is picking up the construction overruns to the tune of $300 mil.

But hey, I understand those of you left in Seattle need to rationalize the monorail was somehow fatally flawed to avoid abject despair over the bleak future of transit on the west side. Enjoy the bus! I know I'll enjoy raising a pint to ST2.5 going down to defeat next year. Schadenfreude's a bitch.

Posted by Some Jerk | December 14, 2007 3:49 AM

Josh, is that Santorum on your nose?

Or is this another Walter Cronkhite moment?

Posted by Is that Santorum on your nose? | December 14, 2007 10:36 AM

To me, the top priority is getting a plan that's funded for 520 and the viaduct and the bridges that are in really bad shape, like south park. We should know those costs first before we get locked into anything else. Also, the post above about the need to reduce GHG is right on. that should be a central goal of any transit plan.

Posted by Stuart Jenner | December 14, 2007 11:20 AM

@14 - I said there was a backup plan for a scaled back transit vote in the Spring.

Sadly, because I outed it, they have to pretend that it wasn't there, so to save face it will be later in the year.

Stuart Jenner is on the money about what it needs to be.

ST2.1 will win at the ballot when it's voted on, and all the pro-roads people know that they've shot their wad - the only roads and bridges getting built are existing ones being replaced, repaired, or having interchanges or HOV lanes added.

The world has changed. The politicos will adapt, after a bit more whining about it.

Posted by Will in Seattle | December 14, 2007 11:29 AM

When are we Seattlites going to come together and actually support comprehensive transit? Only an integrated, single mode network will work to serve the most people in the most areas. Building a myriad of pet projects to please this group or that group will lead neither to a comprehensive network, nor a wide base of support to sustain it. All around us, from Vancouver to Portland to Denver, we see cities kicking our ass, while we hold on to our fights.

The fact is, Sound Transit is here to stay. When the initial line is completed in 2009, it will be the largest and only viable means of exclusive right-of-way public transportation in the region. Now it's time to build that one line into a network. Any other project will distract from effective regional transit.

The SLUT was obviously a huge waste and distraction from the debate. But you have to give Nickels credit for getting it done. And in 5 years, idea to opening. The streetcar was something he could do within his jurisdiction and he delivered on that promise. Now that he is chair of ST, he can put these skills to work on our real transit system, Link Light Rail.

We all hate Nickels for his bullshitting. But he is a smart politician who actually shows that he is willing to listen to the public. After the Viaduct vote, he promised to listen to the people. He is now the largest supporter of the Surface-Transit option, after Steinbrueck and Moon. And for ST2/RTID, he went out of his way to stay out of that debate. He stated that he was not comfortable with the roads portion of the proposal. While Gridlock Greg is not going to please everyone, he does have the big picture in mind and has proven to bring results.

Anyone who thinks people in the hinterland and Olympia will suddenly rally around Seattle simply by anointing a different face to the board is crazy. Seattle's eternal failure to accomplish anything is just as much a product of our County/State reliance as it is from within. (For example, Portland is able to succeed because the city constitutes a majority of its county and the metropolitan area is within this county. It's more of a city/county paradigm. It is not fighting an East Side or other counties.) It's time for Seattle to stand up with a united front and fight for its rights. The Governor has proven time and again that she is willing to let others take the lead (and blame) for controversial, yet needed, projects. Nickels may be the only one able to take this lead.

Posted by sam_iv | December 14, 2007 11:54 AM

Josh--why don't you tell us more about this online survey that you put so much stock in. My understanding was that the people who filled it out were solicited by environmental and various other interested organizations and that it was not meant to be a representative sampling of public opinions in the three county area. Also--at least on "Ask the Mayor" the other night--Nickels did not say he favored going back in 2008. He said that he was open to a vote in either the fall of 2008 or 2010. It is certainly not a foregone conclusion at this point that Sound Transit will be going back to the voters next year.

Posted by Scott H | December 14, 2007 1:47 PM

The is a good opporutnity for Nickels to do sometime he's never done: be a regional mayor. Most of his forays into things beyond the city limits have been to make deals to protect Seattle's turf, period.

All of his moves have been about his voter base, not about all the people who actually live in Seattle because even though they may not vote in Seattle, the work in Seattle, play in Seattle, own businesses in Seattle, or just plain care about Seattle and having a great big city close by. Nickels has never projected himself this way. He's always been about the turf politics inside his city.

Will he finally become a Mayor for all the rest of the folks?

Posted by Thor | December 15, 2007 7:30 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).