March 15, 2005
Can You See The Mistake
The statistics don't lie. Projections for federal and state transportation funding between
2004 and 2013 show that King County will get back 84 cents on every dollar it provides for
transportation funding, Pierce County will get only 80 cents, Snohomish County 88 cents, and Thurston
County a mere 59 cents on the dollar. Meanwhile, large rural Eastern counties will get
significantly more than they pay in: Stevens County will get $1.56 for every dollar they provide, Pend
Oreille County, on the northern Idaho border, will get $2.60, and Ferry County will get a whopping
$3.52. A 2001 report for the Senate Judiciary Committee showed that overall, Western Washington
provided 82 percent of the state's transportation revenues but received only 78 percent of
transportation expenditures; Eastern Washington, providing 18 percent of revenues, received 22 percent
I have seen this same argument for decades, often applied to rural states, rather than rural areas
within states. It has always struck as so obviously bogus that I wonder about those who
make it. Are they simpletons, or are they dishonest?
But maybe I am too hard. Perhaps some things are easier to see if you grew up, as I did,
in a rural area. So let me start with a simple example. Suppose that we want a
highway that people can use to drive from Chicago to LA. Let's call it Route 66, since that was
(and is) its name. Where will most of the money for Route 66 be spent? In rural areas,
as you can see with just a glance at the map. Building highways is, everything else being
equal, more expensive per mile in the cities, but nearly all the miles of Route 66 are in rural
areas. Or to take an example from Washington state, let's suppose we want a highway connecting
Seattle and Spokane; let's call it Interstate 90, since that's its name. Again, just a glance at a
map will show you that most of the money for I-90 will be spent in rural areas.
Now let's imagine we can look down at the drivers on the rural sections of Route 66 or I-90.
Will all of them be people who live in those rural areas? Of course not. Many of
them will be long haul truckers moving goods from city to city. Many others will be
tourists from the cities. So much of the benefit of the roads in these rural areas goes to
those who live in the cities and suburbs.
Roads aren't the whole story, of course, when you are trying to decide whether one part of a state
(or nation) is benefitting at the expense of the rest. But we are so interdependent that it
is hard to sort these things out. And just looking at state budgets doesn't tell the whole
story; regulations often hit some areas much harder than others. I think it nearly certain
that Washington state's Growth Management Act damages Eastern Washington proportionately more than
it does the urban Puget Sound. (I think it also damages the urban Puget Sound, but that's
an argument for another post.)
So I don't propose to try to decide here which part of the state is the bigger loser by an analysis
of dimes and dollars per person in expenditures, or even to make a rough estimate of the costs of
regulation. But I can appeal to general principles, and there the answer is clear.
Cities are fundamentally dependent on rural areas. In his
Plagues and Peoples*,
historian William H. McNeill puts it this way:
A civilized pattern of life therefore required rural cultivators not only to produce more food than
they themselves consumed in order to feed urban dwellers, but also to produce a surplus of children
whose migration into town was needed to sustain urban numbers. (p. 63)
That was true when civilization began in Mesopotamia; it is true now. If farmers do not
produce a surplus of food, there can be no cities. And the rise of civilization can largely
be measured by the ability of farmers to produce larger and larger surpluses. Everything you
see in Seattle (or any other city) depends on the ability of farmers to raise more food than they
eat. (And to a small extent, fishermen.) Everything.
The second point, that rural areas must produce a surplus of children, may require some
explanation. Until the last century, cities were so disease ridden that they could not
replace population losses from diseases without a continuous stream of people from the countryside.
Now, although disease does not check the numbers in American cities, very low birth rates do. If
Seattle were to depend on its own food for survival, it would die in a few weeks; if it were to
depend on its own children to continue, it would die in a few generations.
Cross posted at Jim Miller on Politics.
(*Plagues and Peoples is the single most interesting work of history that I have read.
McNeill argues that much of history can be explained by the diseases that established themselves
among civilized people. These microparasites took a terrible toll on the civilizations,
but also gave them a weapon against peoples on their borders who were not exposed to them
regularly. People in the cities, who lived off the rural surplus, were, to use McNeill's
term, "macroparasites". (Libertarians will like that comparison.) Over time, both
the microparasites and the macroparasites evolved so as to be less damaging to their hosts.)
I would say that our government is now symbiotic rather than parasitic, but it is easy to find
examples of governments that are almost entirely parasitic.)
Posted by Jim Miller at March 15, 2005
11:31 AM | Email This
Another dynamic in the debate is that most transportation routes (highways, rail, even ferries) connect two urban areas. Nobody builds transportation routes TO rural areas, they build them THROUGH rural areas. Do the residents of these rural areas drive away from where they live, then through, and then back again? Nope.
Of course, there is great benefit in being close to a major transportation route, which is why the hotels and gas stations and restaurants are always just off a highway exit. But the highway is built so residents (and goods and services) of one urban area can quickly get to another.
2. Very good point. The people who come up with these bogus numbers just hate it when people like you look into reality.
one thing you forgot to mention is that more often than not what rural folk are being 'blessed' with is some rube Goldberg solution to a non-existent problem at the expense of what is needed to improve their problem as THEY THEMSELVES DEFINE IT.
Take for example Pierce County residents, proud ‘owners’ of our own ridiculous little Hooterville trolley, great photo-op for local politicians but worse useless as a legitimate solution to the Regional gridlock that has and will continue to stifle economic recovery in this region.
For the expense that was laid out for this ‘toy’ the same investment would have funded bus service throughout Pierce County for the next century that would be second to none in the entire country.
What is more both Pierce Transit and Sound Transit currently run buses between the Tacoma Dome Station and 9th & Commerce which duplicates this service wasting thousands of hours of service time and tearing up the roads which have cobblestone under them by running heavy vehicles back and forth on them unnecessarily .
So what is the bottom line – as I see it we have invested almost a hundred-million dollars in a ridiculous little electric rail over a route that I can and often do walk in fifteen to twenty minutes and people who really could benefit from bus service improvements get nothing so that businesses that are heavily invested in by both City and County Council members and their circle of friends have a multiplicity of publicly funded services.
The moral of the story is just because money is being spent it does not equate to a net benefit for the residents of the County and to portray it as such is the height of disingenuousness.
Eastern counties consume more taxes pro-rata because of large road costs and other costs to tie them into the state.
It is very tax efficient, on the other hand, to have a new condo serviced in downtown Seattle as they pay tons of taxes and require few services in relation to the taxes paid.
You're making the "universal service" argument here that is so familiar as the rationalization for subsidized (and regulated) "basic service" telephone rates. With the universal service subsidy (the lower costs of providing service to urban areas are inflated by the higher costs, per user, of rural service) apologists argue that each user needs to support the "system" to ensure there is a system. A system which, by the way, happens to include some people that choose to live in higher cost locations.
Though a fan of rural folks and rural areas (believe me I'm a big opponent of the CAO) nonetheless, a rationalization is a rationalization and the universal service argument is false as Friedman has pointed out. The system will not go away without a subsidy to higher costs users (they will simply choose to pay more for the service) or potential users make more rational economic decisions on where they live if they don't like the price. By the way, anyone notice that the unsubsidized cell industry hasn't dried up and died?
Friedman's theories apply to roads construction as much as telephone service with the single exception that tolling, as a pricing and allocation mechanism, needs to replace the gas tax as the financing mechanism and government construction needs to be driven by market receipts for highly used roads with private firms granted rights to construct temporary road franchises (with the right to recover receipts from said roads over a period of time). This was the mechanism by which the remarkable public transportation projects of the late 1800s were financed in many big American cities. And it was an enormous success.
I would like to see Pierce Transit charge for using Tacoma Dome Station, and divert those service hours that Tacoma Link duplicates. Rail is permanent, developers love it, rubber wheeled buses could be used on other routes, like connnceting the rest of Pierce County, restoring regular service to Orting. Portland TriMet did not eliminated bus service to Gresham as part of the MAX Line opening, but rerouted the buses, they took awhile to get to Downtown Portland. Portland built their's on the cheap, and that will come back to harm them in about 10 years.(No Subway, 200' long blocks, cars are 90 feet long, 2 car trains are the maximum they can use). Still 3 routes(3 lines now, carry a third of the system's ridership,)
As for the Gas Tax, which thanks to the Constitution of the State of Washington, can only be spent on Highway Purposes(I still wonder how some of the things the WSP does can be construed as Highway Purpose), it should not have this disparity. That is why I am for the idea of voting on a Local Option Gas Tax for King County, as it will not be touched by any of the 38 other counties.
Perhaps this is the time to realize, is the Gas Tax itself obsolete? It has lost value to inflation, alternative fuels are getting more popular, and cars are getting more fuel efficient. Oregon is punishing Hybrid Owners by doubling Liscense Fees(from $15 to $30 a year) for the fact they own a fuel efficient car. What's next, an extra $15 if you have a flex-fuel vehicle? A combined Hybrid-Electric, Flex-Fueled Vehicle under that logic would be $45 a year. Throw in a movement in California to modify Toyota Hybrids into Plug-In Hybrids. and we are talking $60 a year.
Sorry to get off on that outrage-tangent, back to what I was trying to talk about the Gas Tax replacement. The options are possibly unsellable, even as user fees. A VMT Tax would be construed as an IOP even if safegaurds were in place(Like the state contracting it's collection and administering to a third party), and Tolls, with Electronic Collection reducing the need for Toll-Booths. Use is not the only thing that damages the roads, but also weight of the vehicles. I think that a Gross Weight Tax could be a good option, provided it was something like 1 cent per pound of weight.
7. Hey MASSTRANSITFAN how about you answer this, since ‘Rail is permanent, developers love it’ can I take that as further evidence that the tax breaks every stinking one of the condo projects in Tacoma’s downtown are enjoying (at the expense of TACOMA’S TAXPAYING RESIDENTS WHO ARE CURRENTLY UNDERWRITING AND WILL CONTINUE LONG INTO THE FUTURE thanks to the Tacoma City Council) are just one more example of the local political graft and corruption that is a way of life in Tacoma and Pierce County.
8. And furthermore you should consider changing your 'handle' to WASTEOFPUBLIC$FAN
Sounds like the gas tax is one of our most fair taxes. As pointed out earlier those who pay it get nearly as much back in benefit or a little more. What percentage of the benefit of federal income tax dollars do the wealthiest 1% who pay over half of all the taxes get? What percentage of the benefit of the income tax do the vast numbers who don't pay any receive?
I'm sure it's not nearly as close as the gas tax, one tax that I can live with because of all our taxes in this country and state it happens to be relatively fair.
10. This, I presume, is in response to the move on the part of Eastern Washington to secceed. The argument against succession includes this tired old argument that they are getting all of this free pork. The other consideration is that if the East could leave Olympia and all of its boondogling behind, they could get a lot more miles of road built on less money. Even if it is true that they are getting what appears to be something for nothing, they could do it a lot cheaper themselves. And then charge tolls!
11. My impression is that the folks on the east side of the Cascades want those on the west side to practice the number one trait of all good neighbors, namely mind their own damn business
As always when I read your posts, I come away scratching my head, thinking "He sounds articulate but he makes no sense." Are you seriously contending that the agricultural portion of Eastern Washington is basically self-sufficient and could go it alone without the cities? Who the hell paid for the dams and water projects that make agriculture over there possible? There was nothing there before Grand Coulee was built. It was a dust bowl and still is once you get out of the Columbia Basin Water Project area. Without mechanization and technology, the wheat farms of the Poulouse are an impossibility. And Seattle would die without the overpopulation from rural areas? That really is might nice of those folks in Grant County.
We're a dependent society. We are not hunter gatherers any more. Despite the fondness that many anti-government types seem to hold for those self-sufficient days, the good ol' days really weren't that good.
13. I'll tell you EXACTLY WHO DID NOT PAY FOR the dams or any thing else over there and that is any one of the voters who are registered as having either the KC court house or KC Democrat party headquarters as their residence. Next question please.
14. Eastern counties consume more taxes pro-rata because of large road costs and other costs to tie them into the state.
Of course...that's why on Friday afternoons and evenings, traffic is heavier eastbound than west on I-90, and the reverse on Sundays...
Barchester - I read my post again and saw no argument in it about "universal service". I'm not saying that roads in rural areas are something people in those areas deserve; I am saying that they benefit those in urban areas as well as those who live next to the roads.
Steven - I made two main arguments and am not sure where you disagree with me. First, I said that the argument repeated by Kaushik is false because much of the benefit of roads in rural areas goes to those who live in the suburbs or cities.
Second, I argued that if we want to discuss who depends on whom, we should recognize that civilization depends on the ability of farmers to produce a surplus, and so cities are necessarily dependent on farmers.
And I might add that your picture of Eastern Washington seems, well, incomplete. Eastern Washington has had 2 Congressional districts since the 1914 election. So there were people there before Grand Coulee, and there was no great population spurt after it was built.
Where I grew up in the Wenatchee valley, there was irrigated farming, but the water did not come from a federal project like Grand Coulee. Instead we got our water from a canal that was owned by, as I recall, a cooperative. (One of my jobs as a kid was to clean the headgate, which was fun, though I did worry about rattlesnakes.)
That was the pattern in most of the fruit country then and may still be. And the Palouse country, with its record wheat harvests, is mostly dry farming. Besides farming, there was a substantial lumber industry in much of Eastern Washington.
Consult any decent encyclopedia if you are interested in knowing more about what actually occurs on the other side of the Cascades.
16. Since Jim Miller took exception to the interpretation of data in my piece arguing why liberals and urbanites ought to endorse the idea of splitting Washington state, and in the process accused me of being a "simpleton," I thought I ought to respond. First, I noticed that Miller is not contesting the numbers themselves. Nor, does it seem, is he contesting the idea that Eastern Washington is a net recipient of transportation money from the West. What he is saying, instead, is that this is so obvious a fact, and so easily explained -- the East is geographically bigger than the West, and therefore has more miles of roads, essentially -- that it is not worthy of the significance I place upon it.
On some abstract level, that may be true (there is actually a practical problem with Miller's reasoning, but more on that below). But the political reality in this state, which Miller conveniently ignores, is that a large number of people in Eastern Washington believe that Western Washington is ripping them off, that somehow liberals in Seattle are scooping up the lion's share of the collective moolah, perhaps as part of some nefarious plan to keep the state's rural residents in a perpetual state of penury.
As the figures I cited demonstrate, that does not appear to be the case when it comes to transportation funding (it is also not the case when it comes to education funding, according to the 2001 Senate Judiciary report I cited). And that, I would argue, is quite significant as it relates to the political resentments that currently exist between urban and rural areas in Washington state. In other words, there is a manifest divergence between perception (that King County is ripping off the East) and reality (actually, we're getting back less money than we put in) which, as I argued, feeds a resentment in the East that feeds the right-wing, anti-government populism that dominates the politics of rural Washington. Here's the obvious example of the warping effects of that resentment: rural Eastern Washington counties voted overwhelmingly for I-695, which, unsurprisingly, has then devastated local governments in Eastern Washington. The town of Republic, in Ferry County, had to give up one of its three police officers because of funding cuts, for instance. The impact on the West, where opposition to I-695 was strongest, was far less severe. Somehow, though, the shrinking of those local governments nonetheless gets blamed on the West. When one of the Okanagogan County commissioners testified in Olympia in favor of Senator Morton's proposal to split the state, she complained that her county was in dire straits because it was losing backfill money provided by the state. Well, that disappearing backfill money was a subsidy that the state provided to rural counties to help them deal with the impact of I-695, which their own citizens voted to enact. In other words, the West finds itself in a no-win situation: we can't provide the level of services we want for ourselves because of political opposition from the east, yet when we offer subsidies to the East (in spite of the rejectionism of eastern voters) we get blamed for not subsidizing enough.
As for the undue impacts of Western-imposed regulatory mandates on the East, I'm inclined to agree with Miller. Does eastern Washington need a Growth Management Act? I doubt it. The smart version of the Eastern case for secession goes something like this: we're happy to give up the extra dough we get from you guys, in exchange for the autonomy to order our economic affairs in a way that we think will ultimately redound to our benefit. I honestly don't know whether it is true or not that Eastern washington would come out ahead, but I'm willing to give those who actually live in the east the benefit of the doubt.
Now, back to the I-90 roads-through-rural-areas example cited by Miller. It sounds nice, but is predicated on a fallacy, at least with respect to the specific circumstances of Washington state. Every assessment of the transportation needs of the state indicates that the infrastructure requirements of the West, where the vast majority of the population resides, are far greater than those of the East. We have a Viaduct that is in danger of collapsing, and a 520 bridge that is in danger of sinking, and an I-5 corridor through Seattle that has degenerated to the point that it will need to be substantially rebuilt, and an I-405 that suburban Republican politicians are clamoring to expand, and so on. In fact, the price tag for Western Washington projects that are crucial to the economic lifeblood of the state is huge. The list is really quite long; check out, for instance, the RTID project list that was hammered out by two-fisted urban liberal Dems like Dwight Pelz and suburban corporate-class Republicans like Rob McKenna. And those projects don't just benefit Seattle and its environs; agricultural produce grown in the east, for instance, moves along those roads to western markets. Yet, as the data shows, the densely populated urban counties of the west are not even getting their share of the money, much less the actual funing levels they need to maintain theeir infrastructure.
As to Miller's claim that cities are dependent on rural areas: that's true. But it is equally true that rural areas are dependent on the cities. As I pointed out above, where do you think the agriculture grown in eastern Washington gets sold and consumed? We couldn't survive without their production; their economy would collapse without our demand for their production.
Interdependence, however, is not a good, or particularly relevant, argument for continued union. No one is seriously suggesting that we put up a brick wall topped with barbed wire between east and West (at least, I hope not). We are talking about whether to alter a rather arbitrary political boundary. As is often the case with a dysfunctional marriage, I happen to think that it could be beneficial to both parties to split up and start anew. The wealthier, urbanized West could concentrate on its own priorities, the rural east on its. Who knows? We might actually learn to like each other better if we weren't yoked together.
No, I will not change my name.
Second, you have your sources that it is a waste of money, I find sites on the Internet that have a better name for TacomaLINK. On LightRailNow.org they call it the Little Tram That Could. It solves a geographic problem. SOUNDER cannot get into Downtown Tacoma, because existing lines do not go their fo good reason, it is on a steep hill. I think Tacoma Sounder, if using Multiple-Units instead of Locomotive-hauled Coaches, would be a waste. The current 7 car train, with the capacity of about 140 seated(each), would be 7 seperate locomotives carrying that many passengers, too much power. From sources on the net and TRAINS Magazine, the locomotives SOUNDER uses can pull up to 10 coaches. At full load, that is up to 900+ riders per train, and the train I saw pulling into Kent a week from last Friday was Standing Room Only. You see, every time you critics say it runs empty, I ride it, just out of curiosity. It would cost too much to tunnel into Downtown Tacoma. The three Sounder Trains, to make up their capacity, it would take 54 of the new 55 passenger Over The Road(Greyhound-type) coaches that Sound Transit just bought.(Now that is a waste of money). That is 54 Drivers that would be hired, instead of the grand total of 6 people that Sounder needs to move them. In fact, get this, the SOUNDER crews are not Sound Transit Employees. They only have 10 people involved in day to day operations, and that is the Tacoma LINK crew. I do not know if BNSF follows some new formula for calculating crew pay, or the old one, which factored in things like the weight the Locomotive put on it's driving axles. Still, those 6 employees, 2 per train, cost less than 54 bus drivers.
I like the idea of extending it to the Puyallup Indian Reservation(one certain buisness, can't use it on here), provided the tribe pays and cuts Sound Transit in on the profits, and since the money would be collected in Pierce County, pay to extend the line part of the way to Federal Way.(Money Sound Transit raises has to be spent in the subarea it was collected.)
As I said, I do not hate cars, just bad drivers. My mom got hit by a car, while she was crossing in a legal crosswalk, by a distracted driver(Cell Phone, I heard.) She is lucky to be alive. Incidenetly, when I finished my last quarter at EWU, and came home, this very incident got me to try to learn to drive again, so I can at least help my parents out.
Also, firsthand knowledge, I know Spokane County does not use their money well on roads. The SR-904, Interstate 90 Interchage at Four Lakes is dangerous. I remember one year, EWU lost 2 professors killed in a car wreck at that spot on a snowy night, commuting between Cheney and the Branch Campus in Spokane. Both Road Maintenance and the STA seem to suffer at times West of Sunset Hill(the western limit of Spokane itself) and the Spokane-Lincoln County line.
Also, I heard for awhile, that Washington might have been one of a few states that had at least 1 at-large congressman, which in-effect, Eastern Washington had three congressmen. The law mandating single-seat districts was passed in 1967 to prevent the South from trying to get around the VRA. Eastern Washington could have more clout if their was a way to have smaller Congressional Districts. In 2003, they had a lot of clout in Olympia, the House Minority Leader, Senate Majority Leader, and Senate Minority Leader came from NE Washington, including the latter two, from Spokane. The House Minority Leader ran for Congress, and won, The Senate Majority Leader, Jim West, ran for his dream job(Mayor of Spokane), and won! In the case of West, he was not replaced with an Eastern Washington Republican. There were things that needed Jim West in his home district more. Public Employees Unions were running City Hall, not the COuncil and Mayor. In fact, tried to toss out directly-elected Mayoral Contests, before the first guy came up for re-election! Nice to see a strong man being the Spokane Strong Mayor(they called it since they created the office in 2000, replacing the Council-Manager form of Government). It seems that Senator Lisa Brown, a Spokane Democrat, was the only one of the Eastern Washington Leadership that did not have political ambitions. Jim West's election as Strong Mayor nearly cost the Republicans a supposedly safe senate seat in Eastern Washington. Jim West was not as safe in 2002, he nearly lost, 52-48. the guy who took over only got 51% of the vote.
I think the best option for allocating the Gas Tax money that is distributed to Counties, is that if the County has a local-option Gas Tax, the state matches it. It may mean that county gets less money.
Tell us, where is the mistake.
I've studied this for years and I can't find it.
Eastern counties consume more taxes pro-rata because of large road costs and other costs to tie them into the state.
Ummmm, yeah, Erik. You may want to invest $3.49 in a state map. The eastern counties are not "tied into" the state. They are part of the state.
Sure sheds some light on that sophisticated urban dweller world view....
I think that the majority opinion of Tacoma residents is that the little Hooterville Trolley is an unmitigated waste of money, check out the cost per inch that this boondoggle cost and then lets hear you defend it when compared to what that same investment would have provided in bus services that serve the entire County.
Seems that you found it convenient to side step refutation that your contention that ‘Rail is permanent, developers love it’ is total B.S. The only thing driving development along the rail line is that the City Council has taken money from other residents and given it to developers in the guise of tax breaks. (Check it out and you will find that City and county Officials or people in their circle have a fiduciary interest in damn near every one of these concerns)
Most Tacoma residents also have a better name for TacomaLINK. Most of them are not suitable for polite company.
To say that ‘it solves a geographic problem’ is in a word ludicrous. Why don’t you do a little original research and divide the total development, implementation and operation cost of our little toy train for the next hundred years by the per service hour cost for operating bus service. Divide that by 100 years and compare that number to the number of yearly service hours required to ‘blanket’ Pierce County with first rate bus service and then defend TacomaLINK in that light smart guy.
So what if your mom got hit by a car, what does that have to do with weather or not the Hooterville Trolley is or is not a wise transportation investment?
You respond to my post:
Barchester - I read my post again and saw no argument in it about "universal service". I'm not saying that roads in rural areas are something people in those areas deserve; I am saying that they benefit those in urban areas as well as those who live next to the roads.
The argument you've issued, that urbanites benefit from roads in Eastern WA, is the "universal service" argument. Universal service theory argues that subsidies can be justified by speculation about who will or will not use them. The basic error, or missing piece, to most of the arguments for or against these subsidies lies with the failure to recognize that the debate is driven by the sloppiness of the pricing mechanism; i.e., the gas tax, which then encourages the many responders here to try and replace the indifferent calculations of the marketplace with speculation based discourse.
In a free market, the pricing mechansims that tend to succeed are those that best create a correlation between user, desire and capacity to deliver. I would venture you can find cases of eastern Washingtonians who rarely use state financed roads in eastern Washington as well as western Washingtonians who rarely use state financed roads in eastern Washington. In a free market the best pricing mechanism would likely allocate cost to use such that a Seattle businessman who travels frequently to Spokane would finance those roads he uses even if they are in Spokane, and vice versa for a Spokane businessman if he drives frequently in the Puget Sound area. The big, big failing in all of these schemes is the use of a highly inefficient, and inaccurate, pricing system, the gas tax. Tolls, espcially combined with privately financed roads projects, would best create and maintain roads where they are needed and would refrain from building them where they are not.
When will the people truly responsible for our transportation mess take the responsiblity?
Let's recap. The Republicans in 1998 pushed Referendum 49, which cut the MVET and directed it into transportation and local government to help take care of the numerous problems we have in this state. Actually a pretty good idea, which I voted for.
One year later, Tim Eyman comes in and gets rid of the MVET. Fortunately, we are still in a good economy, so with only minimal cuts, the status quo is maintained, however, nothing can be done to take care of problems.
Five years have gone by, and except for a directed gas tax increase, no extra money has been spent on transportation problems. And what has happened? They have gotten worse and worse. The good news, our tax burden is one of the lowest in the country now, down from being in the middle before 695. The bad news, we have roads like Mississippi.
Maybe it is time to realize that cutting taxes is not always a good thing. Or, at least admit that there are consequences to our actions, especially when you can't just run a deficit and have your children pay for it like President Bush.
Great take on this subject by P. J. O'raurke
Tacoma LINK feeds Sounder, and It carries good ridership. When I do my research rides on it, it is full, but that is the afternoon run. A 7 Car Train, seating 130 People , can accomodate 910 passengers, to have a bus take over just one run of Sounder will require 23 40foot buses, or 11 if they were the Double Deckers used up in Victoria. As I have said, I do not think an Engineer and a Conductor make as much as 23 bus drivers. Also, even transit agencies, wasting our money, had never thought of a direct bus from Puyallup or Sumner to Seattle. I had an assignment with my temp agency at Seahawks Stadium, and I just happened to be getting off a bus near King St. Station, and saw the morning rush, as a train had just pulled in, the bridge was barely able to handle the crowd waiting for the light to change. Also, negotiating with BNSF was not exactly easy. Tacoma Link can be extended, just if they had the political will. They can do it the way Portland is extending the Streetcar line that created the Pearl District, small, short, and cheap extensions,
What would really be a waste of money, is an idea I got watching Modern Marvels on the History Channel, widen the lanes of I-90 east of Vantage and west of State Route 904, turning it into an autobahn-style road.
Also, I would like to see the King County Executive, if he was really in the land-grab buisness, confiscate Myrtle Edwards Park in Seattle. If the trolleybarn their goes, the legacy of the last Conservative on the Seattle City Council will be gone, and a key part of the revival of three Seattle Neighborhoods will go by the wayside, because of a sculpture garden. First, I want to know where the Seattle Art Museum got $85 Million to build a sculpture park on that spot? Second, who let them hijack the parks department's right of emminent domain. The merchants are screaming to keep the 99 running(The waterfront line, even though now named after George Benson, it has a route number).
Sandeep - Thanks for your response. My apologies for being a little snarky, though I did take back the comment immediately. But I wrote it because things really may look different to someone, such as myself, who lived on a farm next to a state highway (US 2) for some years while I was growing up.
It was quite obvious to me, even as a kid, that the road did not serve only people who lived in Chelan county. We could tell that by looking at the trucks or even the car licenses. (At that time, the letters on the licenses showed which county the car was from.)
Nor is it clear to me that those who build roads in the rural areas all come from those areas. I would expect that the big highway contractors are mostly located near or in urban areas.
It is a simple point, but I will repeat it one more time: The benefits of roads in rural areas do not go just to those who live in those areas. I'd like to see you go back to the state senator from Seattle and see if he disputes that point -- which seems, as I said, though perhaps too harshly, obvious to me.
You raise another question about needs. As far as I know you are right that the Puget Sound area has the biggest needs for roads now. And whose fault is that? I don't know, because I was not living in Washington when the state began to neglect its roads. But I can make a couple of observations -- which you may want to think about.
First, this area is spending billions on a light rail system that even its opponents admit will not have benefits equal to its costs. That same money could alleviate many of the road problems. It is not, for the most part, Republicans who back (un) Sound Transit.
Second, early in Locke's first term, several moderate Republican legislators proposed raising the gasoline tax to build more roads. When that happened, I expected Locke to support the proposal, which made sense and which could help him politically. (He could use it to divide the Republican party.) He did nothing for months and they got shot down by talk radio. Why didn't he take up their proposal? I have never seen an explanation, but I suspect there was resistance within his own party and own administration to the building of roads, period.
Finally, let me leave you with this question: Who was the last governor to have a significant road building program? Was it, by any chance, the last Republican governor, Spellman? That's not a rhetorical question; I was out of the state for many years and really would like to know.
MTFAN - Yes, Washington did have an at-large Congressman, Don Magnuson, who won the seat in the 1952, 1954, and 1956 elections. One oddity: Magnuson was a Democrat, and the Republicans won all six districts in the same elections. Part of Magnuson's secret was that he had the same last name as the popular senior senator at the time, Warren Magnuson.
Washington isn't the only state that has had at-large elections for House seats, by the way
One opponent of Sound Transit, Dori Monson, cannot get some facts straight. Especially saying Ron Sims had been chairman for 6 years. He had only been chairman between 2002-2004, and the current chair, as it rotates among Counties, is John Ladenberg, Pierce County Exec, and a Republican.
Also, I have been discussing on railfan boards, about Light Rail, and found out, that some of the newest systems to open in the country are in Red States. Houston, 2003, Salt Lake City 2000, Dallas and Denver have been opening extensions. In fact, I saw on Sound Transit:In Motion a few months back, that Ladenberg did his own research, and quoted the fact that Denver's was criticised as a train to nowhere, and now, the people love it, they even called for expansion of the first 5 mile line before it even opened.
Also, the 1940 election was funny, the Democrats won all 5 Districts, and accused fraud in the election of Arthur Langlie as Governor, to the point of delaying the ratification.(I saw this year's ratiification of election vote on TVW, a Democrat brought that up).
It's funny (not) that I get caught almost every morning in Kent by the Sounder train, and, as it sits at the station, mournfully awaiting customers, holding up legitimate traffic, I notice that it is virtually empty.
Now I'm not calling anyone a liar, but WTF?!!
It is interesting how the design of the car can help perpetuate the myth of empty trains. The car is a split-level, with two levels, and a mid-level. I tried to get pictures of the people getting off that day, but I was trying to get on the train. I got a few pictures on my webshots page of people getting off in Sumner, and these people just got out of the car I was in. My Camera may be a 5MPEG, but it still cannot reset itself quickly. I only wished, for the Everett Train, that they delayed ordering the extra cars, until 2002, but how did the board no in 1998 that somebody in Colorado would have a new, self-propelled car to use by then. www.coloradorailcar.com is the site you can find this low-cost option. This DMU as it is called carries 90 passengers, and can pull two coaches that are unpowerd. It would be perfect for the Everett Train.
Also, they use the East Platform in the mornings, and west platforms in the evenings, although track conditions may force a change, that is why ST has had to pay for adding new crossovers. My thing that I find outragous, is that all trains up here on BNSF rails are dispatched in Fort Worth, and if on UP rails, Harriman Center in Omaha takes over. 100 dispatchers in Fort Worth doing an illegal job action, stalled 4000 commuters up here, and 60,000 commuters in Chicago, but LA Metrolink had no problem, they bought the track from BNSF, and do there own dispatching. Once the Lakewood segment goes on line in 2007, BNSF will not be much of a problem between Reservation Junction and Lakewood, because the train will be on track owned by either the city of Tacoma, or Sound Transit.
One thing about Sound Transit, in it's desperate attempt to please critics that will not care, is they televise board meetings on KCTV and other Government Access Channels. They have rubbed-off on the Spokane Transit Authority , they also televise there board meetings. They promised to be more open to get voters to approve a 3/10 of one percent sales tax increase. The 5 year sunset clause helped, the bare bones service plan that would take effect within a month was another. For Example, the 65 Cheney-EWU route would not serve Cheney, but would stiill go to the EWU campus, as it often is full.(The Show Eaglecard and ride free program helped boost already strong ridership).
32. And I thought Physiocracy was dead, this being the 21st century and all. I guess Quesnay would be proud. Fscking idiot.
What is this obsession with the gas tax? As far as I can tell, it represents 6% or less of state revenues, but it's the only thing discussed when it comes to comparing the halves of the state (and even then it looks like it correlates pretty closely).
So where is the other 94% spent?