Election ’08: Sound Transit Proposition 1 – are you undecided?

As mentioned earlier, one of the doorbelling campaigns under way today in West Seattle, checkbox.jpgas by-mail voting gets into full swing, is for Sound Transit Proposition 1 (aka “Mass Transit Now!”). This one may be a tough decision for West Seattleites, as it’s mostly about projects in other parts of the region (with some money for studying West Seattle). We have the full text, plus the pro and con websites, linked from the WSB Election page, but if you would rather talk about it in person – here’s the perfect chance: Monday night’s Sustainable West Seattle meeting, 7 pm at Camp Long; Andy Silber from SWS’ transportation team says speakers will be there “representing both the pro and con positions.” Meantime, we recently asked pro-Prop 1 spokesperson Alex Fryer what supporters would say to West Seattleites who are asking “why should I support it – what’s in it for me?” The answer, ahead (and then we’d love to hear what YOU think):

From Alex Fryer of “Mass Transit Now!”:

As a West Seattle resident, I can answer your question from personal perspective.

We in West Seattle benefit from building 36 miles of light rail. Consider this: I rarely go to Bellevue. But I’d go a lot more often if I could take the No. 56 to 1st Avenue South, get off at Lander Street, and hop on light rail. West Seattle folks who work at Microsoft could take the same bus and arrive by light rail on campus. Traveling to the airport? Same bus route, different direction on light rail. University District in minutes.

By 2030, 70 percent of residents in the Sound Transit area will be within easy distance to light and commuter rail, either by bike, foot or a single bus ride – no transfers. Everyone in West Seattle fits in that category.

Proposition 1 also plans for the future. Here’s the web link:

Sound Transit will begin planning studies on a Ballard-West Seattle-Burien route. Board members Dow Constantine and Larry Phillips made sure that when the Sound Transit board considers a third phase around 2016, they will have on hand completed studies that include light rail service directly to West Seattle.

Proposition 1 is good for West Seattle and good for the region. We all benefit when people get our their cars. We live under one sky, and reducing climate pollution by riding clean, electric-powered light rail is good for all of us. West Seattle’s economy is dependent on the region’s. And the region needs to keep moving as 40,000 new people move into the central Puget Sound region each year.

Disagree? Agree?

20 Replies to "Election '08: Sound Transit Proposition 1 - are you undecided?"

  • Alvis October 18, 2008 (7:17 pm)

    I call dibs on cancelling out Alex Freyer’s vote.

  • bj October 18, 2008 (8:36 pm)

    It’s a NO NO NO for me! After having to pay a $2,244 license tab (because of the late monorail tax) on our motorhome that we keep in the Kent valley (never comes inside the city limits) I will not support anything else that puts ridiculus fees on us.

  • Ben Schiendelman October 19, 2008 (1:18 am)

    BJ… the monorail has nothing to do with sound transit. This vote is ONLY for sales tax, not for anything else.

    Why on earth would you not want this? Do you just not leave West Seattle?

  • wsguy October 19, 2008 (6:56 am)

    The consultant formulating the plan now known as Prop 1 is Parsons Brinckerhoff, who supervised the Big Dig project in Boston. From Wikipedia: “The Big Dig was estimated at $2.8 billion in 1985, and cost over $14.6 billion as of 2006.” “The project has incurred criminal arrests, escalating costs, death, leaks, and charges of poor execution and use of substandard materials.” “On January 23, 2008, Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff, the consortium that oversaw the project, would pay $407 million in restitution for its poor oversight of subcontractors, some of whom committed outright fraud, as well as primary responsibility for the death of a motorist.”
    We cannot afford our own Big Dig in Seattle. Yes to more buses, NO to Sound Transit/Parsons Brinckerhoff.

  • Sandra M October 19, 2008 (9:21 am)

    My impression is that this proposition puts a lot of money into light rail at a time when we need to focus on strenthening our bus service, which is so much more accessible to the public. These are tough economic times.

  • Julie October 19, 2008 (9:42 am)

    It’s a little silly to vote against this just because “it’s mostly about projects in other parts of the region”.

    Wake up! What affects the region affects us!

    On the “yes to more buses, no to Prop 1” argument: Prop 1 has more money for buses! But keep in mind that buses cost more to operate than light rail, and there’s a limit to how many buses you can effectively put on a route. Light rail has far greater capacity than a maxed-out bus route.

    Voting against Proposition 1 because “it’s too expensive” is penny wise but pound foolish. To carry the same capacity as the proposed light rail, over the same time period–even if it could be done–would cost much, much more for buses than for light rail, because their operating costs are far higher. It seems, on the surface, cheaper to just buy more buses than to build light rail–but you have to pay more drivers, and maintaining roads isn’t free. Buses put lots of wear and tear on the roadway. You have to pay for that. Light rail also has operating costs, but not as high as buses. In Portland, which is far ahead of us in transit, the operating cost for light rail is 39 cents per passenger mile, and their buses are more than twice that at 82 cents per passenger mile!

    There’s a lot of complaining on this blog about how much traffic congestion all the building in West Seattle is going to bring. Well, you’ve not got much chance of halting the building. We’ll need that light rail capacity for all those people–buses are just a stop-gap (and more expensive, because of the operating costs) solution. But West Seattle has to get in line behind other corridors, so the sooner those corridors get served, the sooner we can have some relief.

    Think we can’t afford it with the economic situation looking so dire? Paul Krugman, who just won the Nobel prize in economics, reminds us infrastructure investment is exactly what we need in difficult economic times. Think jobs.

    Vote for Prop 1 and help make some progress.

  • lina October 19, 2008 (9:52 am)

    it’s got my vote YES! I fully agree with Julie’s post.
    even though these are tough economic times, a stronger infrastructure will only strengthen OUR regions’ ability to recover and grow in the long run. it is worth it- time to get out of our tunnel vision and think about long term planning rather than short term gratification. Maybe I am being overly optimistic but I do believe that over time this economic crisis will improve and we are going to want community investments and transportation to be there when we emerge from economic hard times.

  • PSPS October 19, 2008 (10:21 am)

    My big complaint about these projects is the method of funding. Where’s the sense in paying for a mass-transit system (or anything government-related for that matter) via a regressive sales tax?
    I can’t envision any scenario where this would actually happen, but Washington should abolish the sales tax and, instead, institute a graduated income tax (like in Oregon.)
    The way it is now, our billionaires in Medina and The Highlands get most of the monetary benefits of our society while their workers shoulder a disproportionate share of the cost of maintaining it.
    The Plutocrats and their supplicants will say that the ultra-rich “consume more” and, hence, do pay more. But how many Queen-Mary-sized “pleasure yachts” can Paul Allen buy to compensate for the inequity? (He actually dodges the sales tax on such a large purchase because it is technically “delivered” at sea, making it tax-exempt. This is the same ruse Boeing uses to dodge taxes when it “delivers” aircraft in flight over the ocean.)

  • Anne October 19, 2008 (12:26 pm)

    I just hope that everyone will really stop & THINK-about their vote & what it will mean.Think about our economy,about what this bail-out will mean financially to you as an individual/family.Think about what it will cost in higher sales & property taxes if the proposals on the ballot pass.Then THINK if you can afford it.I’m undecided on Prop 1 right now-I wish more money was going toward funding bus service-which could be done pretty quickly.I’m unsure if light rail is the most efficient/affordable way to go.But I’m giving it lots of thought & appreciate reading & hearing other points of view!

  • Julie October 19, 2008 (1:54 pm)

    Anne: for the average family, Prop 1 will cost on the order of one or two extra tanks of gas per year.

    One thing that keeps getting overlooked in all the fuss about how much things cost is that some expenses are investments–that is, they pay off in the long run. So the question you need to “stop and THINK” about isn’t, “how much is this going to cost now”, it’s “what is the payoff on this investment”, and “What will it cost if we don’t make this investment?”

    Not making infrastructure investments is a very costly long-term strategy! It costs in lost jobs, lost time, and citizens having to pay more money to provide individually the function that the infrastructure would provide collectively.

    PSPS, I totally agree. We need to keep pushing for a progressive income tax instead of sales taxes. But I think we’d be ill-advised to cut off our nose to spite our face, and fail to make the infrastructure improvements we need, just because we haven’t convinced the rest of the state to use a sensible taxing mechanism, yet.

  • Jeff October 19, 2008 (2:12 pm)

    Vote yes! The PI has great points in their endorsement for it. Obama has said he will spend more on public works projects. If we vote yes, we have a better chance of getting more federal dollars. How will Seattle get any federal transportation money if we have just voted down Sound Transit two years in a row?

  • Anne October 19, 2008 (3:15 pm)

    Julie-what you say may be true.You say that for the average family Prop 1 will only cost about 2 tanks worth of gas a year,& that’s pretty affordable.However,there are more issues on the ballot that if passed will also cost money.That’s on top of the already higher costs of so many other things-food,utilities,health care-the regular everyday things.People who thought they could retire-are facing having to work longer-those who had invested in their kids education-have seen that dwindle-so people will have to dig deeper into their pockets.I guess my biggest point is that people need to be more informed-that’s where the “stop & think” part comes in.I have lived here all my life as have my parents & grandparents & great-grandparents.I have children & grandchildren here & investing in Seattle’s infrastructure so that they can live in a modern,vibrant city is important to me.But I will cast my vote carefully & that’s all I ask everyone to do.

  • Julie October 19, 2008 (4:04 pm)

    Anne, I do most certainly agree we need to vote carefully. Here are some of my thoughts, in case they’re helpful:

    Note that if the parks levy passes, your taxes won’t go up over what they currently are–they’ll actually go down somewhat, because this is replacing a current levy with a smaller one. But your taxes would go up over what they would be if it failed.

    The Pike Place Market levy would increase your taxes, because this is a new levy.

    The parks and Pike Place levies are property taxes.

    Note that there’s a cost to not passing these levies, too. It’s harder to calculate, but as a resident of Seattle, you’ll be materially affected by the negative economic and quality-of-life effects of not maintaining/improving the Market and municipal parks. Those must be weighed against your paying less in taxes, if they fail.

    And, of course, some of the measures that aren’t directly tax increases will affect your pocketbook. Notably I985, which looks like it will actually end up increasing congestion, and hampering transit infrastructure investment. This could be an extremely expensive measure!

  • gwen c. October 19, 2008 (7:05 pm)

    part of the problem is that much of the opposition to public transit seems to be the Kemper Freeman line of reasoning (that it will bring THOSE PEOPLE to my neighborhood) and part of it is that it will raise your taxes. well, yes, it will. but the problem is that it ends up being a lesser raise i taxes than the levy it replaces, and given this it is disingenuous to call it a “tax hike.”

    i live in a neighborhood that is entirely bypassed by anything Sound Transit-related. if you want more buses, as i do, you need to vote FOR prop 1, not against it. see, what takes pressure off the King County Metro system creates more opportunities for more buses and more service. my commute won’t change directly, but fewer cars on the road and more options for more people means more Metro service. if you remember getting to the Eastside before Sound Transit, you know, say, the 255 has improved greatly, much has the 194 since it’s not the primary way to Tacoma anymore. as for the Big Dig comparison, that’s once again deeply disingenuous; Seattle is *not* Boston; the company that was given the contract for the Central Artery was a)working on a *road*, not transit, and b)a company that doesn’t even do business in or near Washington. you can talk about buses on freeways all you want, but given that I-985 seems to be winning, all those lanes the buses use are about to lose their transit speed advantage. you know, the sheer irony of using a statewide initiative to mess things up for Seattle…oh, yeah, that’s old news. a transit district is the only real way around that.

    i make just about the average amount of money for a female in King County. i don’t fit the target demographic for much of this site, but i work in, grew up in, and love West Seattle; even if much of it is too elite for me, there’s always the Husky Deli, the 24-hour laundromat, Zatz Bagels, the library, and the Thriftway (hey remember when there were two Thriftways in west seattle?) nevertheless, we live in entirely different economic worlds, and it galls me to see people claim that one-and-a-half tanks of gas a year isn’t affordable when, frankly, i know the demographics of WSB and modern West Seattle well enough to know that if i can afford it, there’s pretty much no earthly reason that you can’t. yes, i grant that a sales tax is regressive, but i want to remind y’all that unless the entire tax system is overhauled, there’s no choice but to consider sales tax increases. that’s another discussion, though.

  • jcricket October 19, 2008 (7:56 pm)

    Yes, it will take a while for light rail to get anywhere (least of all WS), but big projects take time. By that argument we should never build anything that takes more than, oh, 1 month to get finished. Let’s never fund light rail because it will take 5-10 years to build a line. See how little it costs in 30 or 40 years and how bad traffic is then as all the buses we’ve been incrementally adding clog the road ways morning to night (with the HOV lanes gone and everyone still in SOVs – thanks Tim Eyman).

    Get over yourselves. We live in a big city, stuff’s gonna cost billions, and we’ve been underfunding all of it (roads, buses, trains, etc.) for 30 years due to the short-sightedness of many.

    Yes, we should have a progressive funding mechanism (i.e. an income tax), but Washingtonians freak out at that every time it’s raised. So for now, sales or property tax is all we’ve got. Complaining that’s not a sustainable way to fund things (schools, parks, roads, transit) while rejecting an income tax is just silly.

    A big yes on Prop 1. If we don’t build for the future we’re f*ed.

    BTW – even the “Big Dig”, which had tons of cost overruns and other problems isn’t something Bostonians would “take back”. They love it, it solved some pretty big infrastructure headaches, and things would be far worse had they not undertaken it. Oh yeah, they also build deep tunnels and huge bridges all over the world just fine, so calm down.

  • S Day October 20, 2008 (11:05 am)

    How many times are they just going to “study” around here? I’m voting NO until I hear something about more hours in this area at the very least. Additions to Kent would be great too.

    In 20 years I can get to U District in minutes rather than an hour? Great. But that’s 20 years away and I think I’ll have a car by then.

  • BillR October 20, 2008 (3:38 pm)

    I can appreciate and like that so many people still find much of interest to discuss about funding a rail system. I encourage you to visit the discussion at Camp Long tonight at 7:30….

    Two perspectives I do not see people offering in the discussion here:

    First: Climate Change is real and we must, one way or another decrease our dependence on fossil fuels for transportation. Rail can do this, but it’s a massive infrastructure investment. However, so can a vast bus network…. It’s not the riding experience that rail is, but it is a much more flexible system

    Second: Oil is depleting much quicker than we realize. It was recently revealed that the US now pumps less oil than at any point since 1946. This is not so much because vast sources of oil are offlimits to us ( as the Drill here Drill now crowd would have you believe ), but because we in the US long ago used up our best oil fields. We just don’t have a choice; we must build alternatives to the auto and fast. This is my main beef with light rail… compared to the way the federal government is throwing money around right now, rail is a much better deal for the taxpayer than “toxic debt”… however I fear the 10 to 15 years we need to wait for a completed rail line is just too long. We need many many more buses in the interim. I really wish we could have both!

    In any case, we look forward to seeing you at SWS tonight…

  • dwar October 21, 2008 (2:35 pm)


  • RW November 2, 2008 (10:10 pm)

    I really hate voting no for this, but I am inclined to do so, and also to vote against the Pike Place and Parks levies as well, for the same reason – I do not trust those who would ultimately spend this money. I admit I don’t have all the facts and figures in front of me regarding past spending related to Sound Transit, but hasn’t it been notoriously over budget and off schedule? And is it just me, or is anyone else skeptical that a transit line will be built from here to Bellevue without additional funding of some kind in order to either strengthen the bridge for a rail line or a tunnel. I’m really not sure how they propose to do it – I’m sure someone must know.

    I’ve only lived here a few years, (having moved here from Chicago where I was spoiled by a wonderful mass transit system), but I lived here briefly in 1987, and when I moved back here, I was struck by the lack of progress made regarding transportation – traffic congestion, mass transit, etc. I bought a new car in 2005 and had to pay $600 in monorail fees for something that was never built. Buses are used as the only means of mass transit, and they have to use roads that are overcrowded. I know the monorail is ancient history and not part of this discussion, but it does bring up the point that historically it doesn’t seem to me that we have a whole lot to show for our money. I want to know how we change that before we give more?!?

    As I said, I hate to vote no for this because we need mass transit badly. If it IS struck down, what happens next?

    Also, can anyone clarify something for me: Seattle Props 1 and 2 specify that property taxes can be raised by a maximum of $2.60 per $1,000 of assessed value, which is over $900 for a $350,000 house. Am I wrong on this? The numbers I keep hearing are $70-$80. Is the figure I came up with spread over 6 years?

  • WSB November 2, 2008 (10:13 pm)

    Hi, RW. I will check on those numbers. — TR

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