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Thursday, July 24, 2008

Sound Transit: On the Ballot This Year!!

posted by on July 24 at 17:13 PM

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.

RSS icon Comments


Why isn't the County paying for bus service from the existing County budget?

I can see doubling bus service - heck, nationwide usage is up around 20-25 percent - but why are we encouraging people (ST) to travel from far away to work in the city instead of encouraging them to live closer to their work in denser urban areas?

Mind you, when we replace the state Viaduct, we're going to have to double local bus transit just to deal with the multi-year construction period.

Posted by Will in Seattle | July 24, 2008 5:27 PM

Unfortunately, greater numbers of participants don't improve the statistical significance of online polls, any more than Dan's directing people to that TV station in Utah improved the significance of their poll on whether gay marriage was a good idea.

Posted by Nat | July 24, 2008 5:35 PM

OK, ECB, you were right, and I was wrong -- but only partially wrong. Some folks (maybe not SLOG/ECB) said there was a Plan B we should support. Truth is, there WAS no Plan B -- we had to wait for one to be invented this afternoon.

Posted by Transit Voter | July 24, 2008 5:36 PM

Erica, agreed, this is a great plan. As a Prop 1 supporter, I thought you, Sierra Club, Cascade and the Stranger were shooting us all in the foot because we'd never get a vote on 50 miles of light rail ever again. And we're not. Instead of 50 miles in 20 years, this is 34 miles in 15 (actually 16 since we lost a year.) This plan is faster and (yes) actually better than Prop 1 because of the extra bus and Sounder improvements, but some people in Tacoma will vote no on this because it doesn't have light rail to them like Prop 1 did. But that's their loss and is small thinking.

Still, congrats to the ST Board today. On to November!

Posted by MoTown | July 24, 2008 5:45 PM

Well considering this packages is smaller than the previous transit portion, I'd say we were half right.

Posted by Giffy | July 24, 2008 5:46 PM

You were right about transit coming back on it's own. You're idiotically wrong about the number of people voting in a self-selecting online poll have fuck all to do with it's margin of error.

Posted by John | July 24, 2008 5:51 PM

COMMENT DELETED: Off topic and inflammatory. We'd rather not moderate your comments, but off-topic, gratuitously inflammatory, threatening, or otherwise inappropriate remarks may be removed, and repeat offenders may be banned from commenting. We never censor comments based on ideology. Thanks to all who add to the conversation on Slog.

Posted by FU | July 24, 2008 5:55 PM

It's refreshing that, even on those occasions you turn out to have accidentally been right, you still manage to heap on a serving of deep wrongitude with your little comment about the online poll.

Posted by tsm | July 24, 2008 5:57 PM

@7 I'd never write it that way, but I do wish the Stranger would hire a more professional news editor who is not so strident and demeaning. To put "We told you so" in bold just makes me so angry... it's that whole fascist liberal attitude all over again. Why is this woman, who is so reviled, writing for the Stranger to begin with. Every post she makes is met with a barrage of disagreement and negativity. But it's clear she enjoys it. The Stranger audience is hardly conservative... so what does she want???

Posted by Mary | July 24, 2008 6:01 PM

FU, that's her in the Schmader post. And you are Jiminy Cricket.

Posted by Michael Eisner | July 24, 2008 6:03 PM

Oh, ECB, you were SOoooo RIGHT!! The ENTIRE TIME!!!!

Please please please forgive us and please please please continue to enlighten us.

We're stupid!

We just don't know any better!

None of us have any education!!

We can't think about things ourselves!!!

We need you to tell us all about the new taxes!!

We need you to tell us how to live!!!


Posted by ECB's wet dream | July 24, 2008 6:08 PM

I would like to beg for your forgiveness, in the comments.

Please forgive me, in the comments.

It's your blog, of course, but I am just apologizing and begging for forgiveness. In the comments. Where the little people hang. The little, ignorant people who do not understand your infinite wisdom on all things transit, abortion, and plastic bags.

Please Erica, PLEASE forgive me. Please accept my apology in the comments.

Posted by Retard | July 24, 2008 6:14 PM

I voted against Prop 1 for this very reason.

I didn't think they'd get their shit together and actually do it this year. I'm glad they did. I'm a little worried about the timing. Personally, I think they'd have an easier time passing it after they actually get the airport link open and running next year. (Portland shows us that it is easier to pass additional lines once the first one is open.) But if it can get passed this year, that's great.

Although I have to agree that the smug "I told you so" is pretty unhelpful.

Posted by Reverse Polarity | July 24, 2008 6:15 PM

Please accept my apology (in the comments).

Posted by sinner | July 24, 2008 6:16 PM

The description of the board's debate process reminds us, yet again, why these plans should be devised by transit professionals (ideally with a ton of experience in places where transit truly functions), rather than by a bunch of political appointees who can't see past their own parochial interests.

Anything that involves King County -- you know, where most of the people live -- "offends" the other counties. And don't ever expect to be able to move around Seattle proper on REAL rapid transit, because it's SO MUCH more important "to get light rail to Federal Way" (where it will be barely used by a couple hunded commuters a weekday, each of whom will still need a car to get to the station and for the rest of their sprawling lives).

Posted by D.P. | July 24, 2008 6:16 PM

Well, what can we say? We were wrong, you were right. Thanks for putting us in our place.

ECB, you rule. Is our apology in the comments accepted? If not just tell us what to do, thanks. We really want our apology accepted (in the comments).

We'll never question your crap reporting and foolish opinions ever again. that is, as long as our apology is accepted in the comments.

Posted by zipcar | July 24, 2008 6:21 PM

D.P., Federal Way is in King County.

No one's getting screwed here, South KC pays for South KC, Seattle pays for Seattle, and so forth. The awesome news is that if there's ever an ST3, all money raised in Seattle will have to build the intra-city transit network we all want :)

Posted by John Jensen | July 24, 2008 6:29 PM

Until and unless this new plan gets 51% of the vote in November, there's nothing to apologize for. I'm optimistic, but we'll see...

Posted by Frank | July 24, 2008 6:29 PM

@18 ECB is accepting apologies in the comments. So make yours. Do not disagree. Act now before apologies are no longer accepted in the comments.

ECB is always right.

On rare occasions, she will accept apologies in the comments. This will be brought to your attention with bold "TOLD YOU SO" glimpses at her deep-rooted insecurities.

Posted by please | July 24, 2008 6:33 PM

Uh, I don't care if light rail goes to Snohomish County from the college football stadium. I'll vote no, and keep a ton of money in my pocket, and in the pockets of those I care about who won't ever ride the fucking thing.

Posted by Roberto | July 24, 2008 7:00 PM

It's a little early to blow your "We told you so" horn, isn't it?

And the number of people voting in an unscientific poll reduces the margin of error not at all.

Posted by RonK, Seattle | July 24, 2008 7:22 PM


We have a winner. The stranger desperetly needs a new news editor.

Posted by someguy | July 24, 2008 7:28 PM

I said this would happen all along, so obviously I have nothing for which to apologize (in the comments or otherwise).

Cressona, on the other hand...

Posted by COMTE | July 24, 2008 7:35 PM

They also shredded Sims' proposal because he wanted to raise $120 million dollars by lowering Sound Transit's debt-service ratio -- the amount set aside to cover contingencies when paying back bonds, and a key number in determining the agency's fiscal health and bond rating. In other words, Sims would place the entire agency in jeopardy to grand stand on buses.

Combine that with the fact that he only notified his fellow board members (and, as importantly, the agency's finance staff) about a $120 million amendment on the morning of the vote, and you begin to see how foolish he looked at today's meeting. Expect to see and hear more nonsense from him from now until November, and probably well beyond that point, too.

And a CORRECTION for Erica: The plan itself passed 16-2, but placing the plan before the voters (a separate resolution) passed unanimously. Sims and von Reichbauer decided they had already made big enough asses of themselves for one day.

Posted by Tyler | July 24, 2008 8:25 PM

What's so awesome is not just that this passed, but that it passed with such an emphatic majority. And that majority included Transportation Secretary Paula Hammond, a.k.a. the governor's voice.

Actually, I was a little surprised in the end that she did go along with it, considering that she co-sponsored Ron Sims's bus service amendment that ended up getting shot down. It was disconcerting that she would put her name on that embarrassing, little, last-minute monkey wrench.

Oh, and it's just awesome too that Ron's poison pill got rejected. Do you really want to be accepting amendments to ballot measures from the opponents of the ballot measures? Hey, why not let Kemper Freeman, Tim Eyman, and Doug MacDonald help craft ST2 too while you're at it?

Posted by cressona | July 24, 2008 8:32 PM

God, Erica and the Sierra Club are going to be even more insufferable than usual this year.

Yay for rail on the ballot this year. Boo for the crowing from sore winners like the OP.

Posted by Greg | July 24, 2008 8:55 PM

One correction to the original post: Hammond ended up voting yes in exchange for an amendment that frontloads all the new bus service to 2009, rather than doing half in 2009 and half in 2014. This is great, because it deflates the criticism that light rail doesn't do enough right away. Now there will be immediate relief in the form of new express bus service, and later relief through more light rail. If a slogger is reading this, can you make sure the correction gets made? I found out about this last-minute amendment at the Seattle Transit Blog, so you can verify it there.

Posted by Zef Wagner | July 24, 2008 8:56 PM

COMTE @23, thanks for the shout-out. Glad to see you attended the Erica C. Barnett School of Graciousness.

Tell you what, I'll be perfectly happy to admit that I was misguided in my support for Prop. 1 last year. I'll be perfectly happy to admit I was wrong when (and if) this new Sound Transit proposal passes in November.

Up until that time, I'd rather be focusing my attention on this year's ballot measure, not last year's. We can all take the bait and drive up Slog's traffic by engaging in an endless cycle of recrimination and "told you so's." But there's a more relevant matter at hand. I think we can do a little better than the "PUMAs" trying to refight Hillary's primary battle when the alternative is John McCain.

Posted by cressona | July 24, 2008 8:56 PM

Sorry. I am going to have to vote against this. I love the idea of rail and realize that buses are an important part of our regional transportation system because we haven't really developed a rail system yet, but I hate buses. I hate riding on them and I hate them in traffic with me. So being a proper Seattle Citizen, I am going to have to vote against this until they can figure out a way to give me just the piece I like without having to compromise. I mean, fuck everyone else. Right? Isn't that what being a Seattle voter is all about? Who's with me?!

No On Prop Whatever!!!!

Posted by Clint | July 24, 2008 9:03 PM

The vote was unanimous, not 16-2. Who's going to apologize for that mistake?

Posted by Just Sayin' | July 24, 2008 9:11 PM

Ya-fucking-hoo. Great news. My only beef is that it will take so damn long to build the line. Ugh.

And I recently moved to Colombia City and found ECB's bike maps on the Wiki. Now I won't get run over on rainier.

Cheers, ECB.

Posted by Rotten666 | July 24, 2008 9:15 PM


You can rest assured that as a Seattle resident, not one dime of your tax money will go towards buses. Sound Transit's sub-area equity policy states that revenue generated within a particular sub-area (there are five sub-areas, one of which is Seattle) will only be allocated to projects within that sub-area. Seattle's sub-area (called "North King County") has allocated its entire budget towards Link light rail, not ST Express bus service. Therefore, while other taxpayers sub-areas will be funding bus service, you will not, because you live in Seattle. Hope you can vote comfortably for ST2 now.

Posted by Tyler | July 24, 2008 9:39 PM

WooHoo! I'm happy to accept 'I told you so's' under these circumstances. This is a great package. I never thought that Prop 1 would be the last chance, but I did think it would take 2-4 more years to get a big transit package back on the ballot. Erica and Josh, you, along with the Sierra Club, were amazingly prescient about the historical and political forces that push Sound Transit, without the crappy road projects, back on the ballot this year. CHEERS to you and CHEERS to Mike O'Brien and friends.

And, CHEERS to Chris Gregoire too! I was doubtful Paula Hammond would vote for this package, but her vote shows that Gregoire wants voters to see her as the pro-transit candidate, in contrast with the asphalt loving, transit hating Dino Rossi.

Posted by Bill LaBorde | July 24, 2008 9:55 PM

This is sexcellent news! If I lived, worked, or spent any time whatsoever in "Redondo Beach" or that godforsaken area across the lake, I might actually have the chance to use the proposed system.

However, I have decided to do the responsible thing and live close to where I work, in an actual neighborhood in an actual city rather than a taxpayer-subsidized commuter town. So I get jack from this package.

In a word, NO.

Posted by joykiller | July 24, 2008 9:56 PM

WooHoo! I'm happy to accept 'I told you so's' under these circumstances. This is a great package. I never thought that Prop 1 would be the last chance, but I did think it would take 2-4 more years to get a big transit package back on the ballot. Erica and Josh, you, along with the Sierra Club, were amazingly prescient about the historical and political forces that push Sound Transit, without the crappy road projects, back on the ballot this year. CHEERS to you, Erica and Josh and CHEERS to Mike O'Brien and friends.

Oh, and CHEERS to Chris Gregoire too! I was doubtful Paula Hammond would vote for this package, but her vote shows that Gregoire wants voters to see her as the pro-transit candidate, in contrast with the asphalt loving, transit hating Dino Rossi.

Now let's win this thing in November. A win on ST2.1 will truly mark the end of the era of big freeways in Washington state.

Posted by Bill LaBorde | July 24, 2008 9:57 PM

It's ok - I've already been apologized to by certain ST board members who were upset by our speaking out against prop 1.

Even if we faked some confrontational photos for the press so you can think they were still upset at us.


Posted by Will in Seattle | July 24, 2008 10:24 PM

oh, and @3, there was a plan B. they just didn't want to admit it.

Posted by Will in Seattle | July 24, 2008 10:27 PM

I'm glad the Stranger came out against Prop 1 last fall, but think the apologies should be directed to the Sierra Club who had the strength to stand by their convictions while the election control board couldn't make up their mind. Something about "paving the roads with baby mice"?

Posted by kinsoli | July 24, 2008 10:45 PM

Why don't more cities have subways? I know Seattle was built on saw dust, but doesn't that just make it easier to dig a subway tunnel? Isn't time to put the underground city to good use instead of lame ass basement tours?

Posted by I *heart* ECB, so nyeh, nyeh, nyeh! | July 24, 2008 10:46 PM

Will @37, what (and where) was this Plan B you cite? I work in the field and saw nothing. What did they gain by never showing, by letting this other process work its way to today's conclusion?

Posted by Transit Voter | July 24, 2008 10:48 PM

I actively supported Prop. 1 and I'll actively support this one. But before all you "I told you so" smug fuckers start jacking off all over each other, remember this:

We're going to get all the roads, too. Don't even dream that we're not.

Posted by ivan | July 24, 2008 11:28 PM

You told me so!

Posted by Will from HA | July 25, 2008 12:01 AM

*WOW* is the celebrating premature.

Posted by Big Sven | July 25, 2008 12:47 AM

"We boldly stepped forward and asked the voters for some money! Yay us!"

Posted by Big Sven | July 25, 2008 12:49 AM

I wonder how many voters will vote for this in the middle of a recession? Voters vote with their pocket books; just remember that and a tax increase, well several will be on the ballot this fall, are not an easy sell.

Oh and those who think Erica is being a b*tch, just remember who she wanted to be President. I am not surprised she posted such vicious filth.

Posted by Andrew | July 25, 2008 7:12 AM

BTW, I will vote against ANYTHING that does not provide massive improvement in bus service and rapid transit IN THE CITY OF SEATTLE. If this does not provide improved evening and weekend transit service I will vote against it.

Posted by Andrew (part 2) | July 25, 2008 7:23 AM

I will accept this transit measure, but I still think that Prop 1 was better, and I feel cheated that the Stranger, Sierra Club, etc went against it. For shame.

But yeah, glad they pulled something out of their ass. I didn't think they could do it.

I am also with Cressanova, we need to wait until it passes before we can be happy. And who's to say you won't be suggesting we vote against it in 3 months???!?!

Posted by Original Monique | July 25, 2008 8:57 AM

@34 is right -- this plan looks like it shafts people trying to get around within Seattle at the expense of much more thinly populated far suburbs. I'm in the South End, but I'm wondering why they couldn't at least toss a street car Ballard's way.

Posted by croydonfacelift | July 25, 2008 9:00 AM

@39: We can build all the tunnels you want. They're only, like, $500 million per mile. Bargain!

Posted by Greg | July 25, 2008 9:17 AM

sexy, sexy trains!!!!!!!!

Posted by ooooh, ooooh | July 25, 2008 9:44 AM

@47: All good points. Don't count your light rail trains before the voters fund them.

Posted by J.R. | July 25, 2008 10:12 AM

I spent a year phoning, schmoozing and harassing board members, I went to board meetings, I called people up, I wrote letters.

We wrote op-eds in the Times, we blogged every day over at

I'm not apologizing to you, we're the fucking reason it's on the ballot.

You're the most self-absorbed person in the world.

Posted by Andrew | July 25, 2008 10:17 AM

@40 - plan B was the plan before they added the crossbase highway and doubled the road miles.

Before they gave in to the pro-roads lobby.

That was Plan B.

Posted by Will in Seattle | July 25, 2008 11:00 AM

@52 for the win!

Posted by Mickymse | July 25, 2008 11:00 AM

We've been lobbying them too, @52. We also were crystal about what they had to do to get it passed.

They listened.

It was the other counties, Snohomish and Pierce, that were the holdouts.

Posted by Will in Seattle | July 25, 2008 11:03 AM

There's certainly a lot of people to thank for the vote yesterday. Lots of work was done behind the scenes, both by electeds and their staff. If it wasn't for a lot of hard work by some staffers in Seattle, at Sound Transit, and in Snohomish County we wouldn't have all been celebrating yesterday. They'll never get the publicity, but this wouldn't have happened without them.

I was definately one of the skepitcal ones from last year, but I was also the one that said if Prop. 1 went down that the environmental community would carry the flag to try to put Sound Transit back on the ballot without the roads. I'm glad to say that we did, and along with EnviroWA, Sierra Club, Futurewise, CBC, Bike Alliance and WCV I think that the environmental community deserves some credit for this thing on the ballot in November.

Now on to November and let's win there too!

Posted by Rob Johnson | July 25, 2008 11:07 AM

I'm glad this is on the ballot. Now let's pass the damn thing.

Posted by Cascadian | July 25, 2008 12:26 PM

@52: She's being deliberately tongue-in-cheek... simmer down now ;)

Eee Sea Bee: Are you going to any of the STB blog things? There's one tonight.

Posted by AJ | July 25, 2008 3:51 PM

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