September 29, 2005
About A Positive Vision For Regional Transportation
"Skip" Chi-Doo Li is a Seattle attorney who has periodically contributed a number of very thoughtful, usually conservative-leaning guest op-ed columns to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer over the last several years. Today, he throws down the gauntlet to I-912 suppporters, mostly conservatives, who with a November statewide vote seek to roll back the gas tax hike approved by the legislature to fund a range of road projects. Don't JUST tell us what's wrong with the current plan, tell us your positive alternative, Lee says. Notice he does not only target I-912 supporters. Lee also wonders: Where is Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels on regional transportation leadership?
...Nickels, having established himself as a formidable political force in our city and region, last week turned his thumbs down on the monorail. Gutsy leadership, some say. How low the bar has dropped on gauging leadership, I say. With the kind of political muscle he has built up in his first term, Nickels is in perfect position to broker a creative solution to the monorail mess. A merger with Sound Transit or Metro, so we can get better coordinated regional transportation planning? Other possibilities? Do we need enabling legislation? Then why not get it drafted and start lobbying for support? Why aren't we being offered ideas culled from successful rapid transit systems elsewhere in this country and around the world, in cities and regions the size of Seattle and Puget Sound? Examples abound that could give us hope, and a vision of the possibilities here. Instead, the mayor just says no.
Statewide, Initiative 912 threatens to dismantle the funding for highway projects in just about every county. Proponents, led by former gubernatorial candidate John Carlson, claim that Olympia got it all wrong and that added gas tax revenues will not solve congestion in major urban areas.
They're right in this respect: We long ago reached the point of diminishing returns with highways. Building new and improving existing highways no longer even qualify as short-term fixes for traffic congestion in major urban corridors.
The Legislature and Gov. Christine Gregoire may be faulted for some sloppy patchwork but do Carlson & Co. offer any sensible alternatives? Have they even begun to offer thoughtful ideas on rail alternatives? Do they shed any light on how to fund and build a system beyond Sound Transit's first 14 miles, so we can really take care of the congestion problem plaguing the Puget Sound region?
Dream on. It's so much easier to just say no.
I don't agree with Lee's intimation that more road capacity isn't needed. I think it is. But some form of added regional mass transit, and not just more of the same old, conventional buses that get stuck in heavy traffic, must be delivered in a cost-effective, well-planned manner. I know, we haven't seen promising signs of that yet. Still, there are plenty of suburban Republicans who agree on the need for more transit, even if most of them aren't Sound Politics commenters.
I know this much: Republicans are badly needed to keep the brakes on government and spending (even though they're not quite doing that in Washington, D.C., are they?) But especially with respect to transportation improvements for Central Puget Sound, Lee is right: Republicans cannot simply be the party of "No," OR the party of asphalt-only. As former State Rep. Jim Horn, R-Mercer Island, learned.
The "vision" deficit on transportation must be addressed, and Republicans have to be part of the answer. A regional plan for Puget Sound makes more sense than a statewide plan, which is what the gas-tax hike feeds. Further, a regional plan here must target specific projects and guarantee the monies collected will be used only for those projects, not on anything else. Cost overrun protections must be clearly stated and strongly enforced, and, as the monorail debacle painfully illustrates, revenue projections must be conservatively calculated, and verfied by independent experts of unassailable integrity. The Alaskan Way Viaduct, the 520 floating bridge, I-405, and yes, regional transit, need to be the core elements of the package. Unconventional leaders must step forward, not the usual suspects. How do you want to pay?
CLARIFICATION: The "Matt" (and let's assume that's his real name) who is adding comments to this string is not me, I just wanted to make that clear. I would appreciate it if any future "Matts" who comment on my posts would kindly extend me the courtesy of adding their last initial, (and if that is an "R," their full last name). Thank you.
Posted by Matt Rosenberg at September 29, 2005
11:44 AM | Email This
Some kind of comprehensive review of current transportation resources could help to show ways that we can make existing options work better - highways, buses, Sounder, carpools, whatever. Has this been done already? I am not necessarily asking for another expensive study - I am just wondering if our transportation situation has been reviewed from a big picture perspective.
Before we commit billions of dollars to some new transportation option such as the monorail, we need to consider how to make our current options work better together. No single big expenditure alone - such as adding light rail or increasing highway lanes - is going to fix our local transportation problems. It is going to take a combinination of complementary improvements to significantly address our transportation problems.
2. I rode on Interstate 405 while it was being built in 1960. It was 2 lanes with a lot of orange cones... Now, year 2005, over 40 years later, Interstate 405 is still mostly... 2 lanes, yet our population in the area has increased by how much?
Skip is right that we can't just say "no" BUT it's the nonsensical way that the $$$ are being spent and the lack of wide vision/coordination/planning that is frustrating and why 912 will pass by a landslide. Here's a few thoughts based on living in places where a comprehensive freeway/transit plan works (I'm a native Washingtonian, but spent 20 years in the Navy living in Wash DC, Bay area, San Diego, etc):
- Elected regional transit board that covers the entire spectrum, with area representation.
- Short and long range integrated strategic plans with metrics tied to them OTHER than how many new riders take transit (that way we don't encourage things like ST light rail routing that in effect just moves people from busses to light rail)
- An overarching architecture with a series of transit hubs around the region with lightrail, heavy rail, and bus rail used to move people between the hubs-- not trying to use these to pick people up on city streets, screwing up vehicle traffic while you do.
- Tax incentives to encourage businesses to locate near transit hubs/corridors, encourage businesses to incentivize employees to carpool, use mass transit, etc (my employer used to give us 50% discount on monthly bus passes);
- Knock off the disincentive programs like jacking up parking prices, letting people pay to get into diamond lanes, etc-- these do more harm than good.
There you go-- some ideas, not all great, but if I can think of these, why can't our leaders?
And that is why I will support I-912-- it isn't 9 cents-- it's the nonsense.....
It isn't 9 cents -- it's the nonsense....
I am not against any of the projects. I am against the half a**ed proposal in the gas tax.
Start the viaduct.
But no plan put forth the finish any of the projects or how to fund the whole shebang.
It is about reforming a dysfunctional transportation from planning through execution. The dysfunctional system got us here. Just proposing projects is not a fix.
We've talked about fix for the system here at SP for a while, I am not going to rehash all the things that have come up here that are good ideas.
5. Non action by the Republicans is the reason why the Democrats control our state government. It is also the reason why I have a liberal democrat representing me in the 41st.
Matt, you're not just off base, you left the stadium and are sitting in traffic on 520. Your effort and Skip Li's are not just wrong in one area, they are based upon erroneous premises, and almost totally wrong. I'll address just one point in the interest of clarity:
Opponents are not required to provide some "positive alternative." This plan was a poorly conceived bastard-child of the 2005 Legislature, a plan of, by, and for Seattle Democrats. Call it a vision of those who live within sight of the Space Needle, which the rest of us will pay for and live with.
The clearest indicator that their efforts couldn't be justified comes in the form of the 90+ "emergency" tags applied to various bills. This "positive alternative" request has the scent of "win-win" audits, designed to deal with perception rather than reality. There's a much more fundamental debate going on. Everyone agrees that transportation has to work better, but from that point the two sides travel in opposite directions. Those of us who are not convinced that SOV lanes are history won't quietly assent anymore.
Connie Marshall spoke at a workshop for political candidates recently where she said the debate over transit versus roads had been settled, and transit won. I recall a lot of noise about alternatives to single-occupancy lanes, which has meant HOV lanes for the last 25 years, but no debate... Oops, they don't work...or at least they don't, if I believe the evidence of my eyes, and talk of buses sitting in traffic. I guess the HOV lanes on 167 aren't getting enough use; rather than admit error, we'll now spend a pile of money on a pilot project to charge us to drive in our own lanes. Transit is the latest "not SOV lanes" idea, I guess.
This is a political campaign, and by all indications, your side is losing. It's kinda cheesy blaming your opponents for that, which is how I view "Oh yeah? What's your suggestion, if you're so smart?" positive alternative talk. It's no more complicated than that. Our transportation system isn't working, but more importantly the system we use to provide a transportation system is broken also. I see no indication the powers-that-be can or will change this anytime soon. That means we will probably have to fix it ourselves. In the meantime, no more money for you.
If I want a burger, I drive to the drive through, order, pay and pick it up. I would not do so if I regularly got to the window, and someone told me I would be getting a single, although I paid for a triple...or it would cost double what they said at the speaker. That's transportation history in Washington State.
What's more, intelligent people don't believe what the likes of Lisa Brown or Greg Nichols or Ron Sims (especially Doug MacDonald!) say anymore. Prepare to be a spectator while we fix the problem.
7. Road capacity increases ARE needed, despite what these people would like us to believe. Remember that Kemper Freeman paid for a study that showed that we could cut congestion by 25% if we would simply increase lanes by something like 4% percent. If my single-digit number is wrong, somebody correct me. But I do remember this from a few years ago. makes sense to a lot us!
Hopefully you are getting the drift here.
You start with a reasonable plan in priority order. Then you build cost estimates and alternatives for these plans that encompass the entire project. None of this half-a$$ed, bait-and-switch, git r started, dishonest BS that we have come to expect of our State leadership.
THE LAST THING YOU DO IS THEN FIGURE OUT A FUNDING PLAN.
This whole process has felt more than slightly dishonest at every realm.
The worst thing we can do is add a 9-1/2 cent/gal GasTax without a clear, comprehensive plan that discloses ALL costs.
Frankly, the trust level with WSDOT and our Governor is mighty close to ZERO. The Legislature should have pulled this GasTax increase themselves rather than put the State thru this Initiative process. It is polarizing!!
I'm convinced 10% road capacity could be increased if the "keep right except when passing" law were actively enforced.
If you're not actively overtaking another vehicle WHY ARE YOU IN THE LEFT LANE?
Look next time and see how much open space is over on the right that people could be using while the person wanting to go faster behind is blocked. If people get to their destinations earlier--there's less cars on the road.
This is something California has figured out. And their accident and rates are as good or better than most states.
That seems a free way to get some extra capacity.
10. I say DOT MUST be completely reformed top-down, i.e. ALL social engineers must be introduced to the private sector immediately, that bone-tossed-to-the-labor-unions-otherwise-known as the apprentice program along with the living wage requirement eliminated with no hope of resuscitation, and various other reforms (can we say performance audit?) before we start talking about transit/road projects.
I'll add...it's not just about the money. I wouldn't mind an extra 50 cents per gallon, if it meant that I didn't have to sit in traffic. It probably wouldn't cost me any more in the course of a week, and would save me time besides. No amount of money will fix the problem, because we've got a DOT who believes SOVs are evil; they do not want to build more highway capacity. Take the two biggest projects on the drawing board, the Viaduct and the 520 bridge. We would spend 6+ billion dollars on two projects which would add NO CAPACITY...unless, of course, you consider bike lanes added capacity.
This stuff isn't complicated. One poster used D.C. as an example. That can be done, because Pennsylvania Ave. will always be the hub of activity and travel. It's a given that the I-5 corridor will be heavily populated, which means some type of fixed transit (rail, etc) makes sense. That isn't true of the rest of the tri-county area.
12. That also assumes, of course, that the projects could be built for the cost advertised. The recent history of transportation construction says otherwise.
Can't smile enough at the catchy slogan ("it's not the nine cents, its the nonsense"), but might add some thoughts on the dilemma I-912 poses.
First, virtually everybody agrees that we have an atrocious transportation mess, and after ignoring the growing problem for over two terms of "leadership" in this state, we need to spend a lot of money to catch up.
The issues remaining, however, are: (1) how we fund our transportation solution; and (2) just what the best solutions are.
The budget this last session provides an appropriate level for much needed transportation spending, but rather than carve it out of the total state budget, the administration and legislature created added taxes that fund far too much of those expenditures (rather than more funding from the general fund, and less from added taxes).
The problem is, if you vote for I-912, you are voting against the transportation spending (something I think we clearly need), even if your intent is to vote against the added taxation (that has such a negative impact on our economic engine).
And if you're voting for I-912 because you don't like the proposed work or "solutions" being funded by the new taxes, the problem remains: if you take away the funding, you will not have money for any solution.
I-912 does not solve our transportation problem, although it does reduce over-taxation (at least temporarily). So it is not any kind of a transportation solution (in fact it creates more transportation problems by further delay of improvements to our infrastructure), and if I-912 passes, the transportation issue will be back before our legislature next year, and--this is important--because any transportation solution will require money, the taxation issue will also be before our legislature.
If I-912 doesn't pass (highly unlikely), then at least the transportation problem doesn't get any worse, but the overtaxation or the wrong tax base problem remains. And that tax problem can be addressed in the next legislature (i.e. legislatively repealing or reducing the tax and taking more from general funding).
Bottom line, voting for I-912 doesn't really solve any problems. Voting for responsible legislators and administrators that adequately fund our transportation infrastructure and do not tack that cost on top of a bloated government budget, is the only real solution.
Look at Hwy 18, the current expansion between Maple Valley and Issaquah will add another lane of traffic in each direction, for a total of 2 ea. way. Several miles of wider highway will end and return to 1 lane ea. direction, just yards from the wider portion at Issaquah. A sensible plan would have continued those few hundred yards, and connected with the wider existing lanes instead of bottling up traffic when the road narrows briefly.
Recently roadside beautification was begun on the previously widened stretch from Covington to Maple Valley. For 3 million dollars, DOT authorized the contractor to kill the roadside grass, volunteer trees, and shrubs (which were actually looking very nice), to improve this area by installing bark and mulch, and hydroseed something...probably more native grass. It is VERY UGLY. So for 3 million taxpayers get beauty bark with our new roadside grass.
Take a look sometime at how much of this current contract goes towards wetland rehabilitation, it is a significant amount coming out of Highway funds.
It's not the 9 cents, it's the nonsense.
Voting for responsible legislators and administrators
How right you ultimately we are responsible for the mess. We have kept electing the same people with the same ideas to public office, then have not held them to account at the ballot box we they headed off into lalaland.
912 needs to be couple with incumbents not getting re-elected. The current crowd is not and will not listened to the voter. Install new blood, and if they don't perform replace them the next cycle. Hold 'em accountable.
16. Alaskaboy...First we need fair elections, so we CAN elect responsible representatives. Until then we can only slow down the huge drain on taxpayer money irresponsibly thrown away on these boondogle projects. Did KVI recently report that the Everett sounder only carries an average of 60 riders per day? At a cost of millions and millions and millions of dollars to build?
So Skip and his pals of the "don't let the unwashed masses make the laws" brigade are now trying to say that we don't have the right to say no unless we can come up with a better idea. Whatever happened to their "leave it to the legislature" platform?
The people have every right to say NO to the gas tax and they don't have to come up with their own version of a highway bill in order to do so.
But more importantly, this argument is based on a ridiculous idea. The idea is that we have bad traffic now, but if we build a wonderful system of public transporation, we won't have bad traffic.
This is an idea that only exists in the imaginations of people who hav never driven a car in New York City, Washington DC, Tokyo, London or many other major cities with massive public transportation systems.
I'm happy to vote NO on the gas tax by voting Yes on I-912. The people who chose to run for office and who draw a salary to run state government can go back to work and come up with a solution that is acceptable to the voters of the state, and if they don't we'll vote them down one more time.
18. I believe the answer here is tolls. Yes, I know most people don't even like the thought but it's the only way in a state that sticks us with taxes that never go away and only go up. You use the road so you pay for it. Once it's paid for it's a lot easier to get rid of the toll booths than it is to roll back a gas tax that the state will not give up in the future when the projects are done.
19. I believe the answer here is tolls. Yes, I know most people don't even like the thought but it's the only way in a state that sticks us with taxes that never go away and only go up. You use the road so you pay for it. Once it's paid for it's a lot easier to get rid of the toll booths than it is to roll back a gas tax that the state will not give up in the future when the projects are done.
I did not sign the initiative because I wanted bad roads. I want good roads.
I also happen to want a legislature that obeys the will of the constituents. I want a Department of Transportation that does not resist an audit and is not beholden to corrupt union thugs.
I see these signs along the highway that say, "It's your nickel: watch it work!" Hell, I never see anyone working anywhere near those signs. I have to laugh at the irony.
I-912 is not about resisting progress- it's about critically-thinking independent people refusing to be ingested by liberal-controlled government.
When this government can put forward a reasonable proposal, and when the DOT can submit to a systemic audit and housecleaning, I will be more than happy to shell out a couple more cents per gallon. So far I haven't even seen my previously-extracted nickel at work.
I believe no solution will work unless we start with the most immediate problem...WSDOT. Any money we spend before that will be wasted.
I don't doubt that I have to pay for improvements. I doubt that I'll get the improvements I pay for.
22. Matt, your stunning capability to miss the entire point of the 912 revolt is amazing. Govt. has done an incredibly shoddy job of meeting the needs of the citizens for so long that your expectations apparently have fallen to meet them. Our state govt. has poured our tax dollars into committees, review, environmental study's, etc., etc., etc. rather than do something constructive for the last 20 years. Now they have a giant backlog and problem and their only answer is to push through a gigantic tax increase with no clear accountability, no guarantee the money will actually be spent on the listed projects and leaves completion openended with 100% likelihood of additional taxes in the future with the same lack of accountability.
I agree vision is needed, but so is practicality and it is sadly lacking in Olympia and elsewhere around this fine state.
I'm convinced 10% road capacity could be increased if the "keep right except when passing" law were actively enforced. If you're not actively overtaking another vehicle WHY ARE YOU IN THE LEFT LANE?
Sorry, Matt, but I'm just not buying this complaint. Occasionally, you will encounter a slow moving vehicle in a left lane with clear road ahead, but more often than not, these "slow" left lane drivers were just driving responsibly. Whenever I have had this discussion with a complainer, it turned out that they wanted to drive wrecklessly, but were prevented by "slow people going only 10 mph above the speed limit."
Do you really believe what you wrote?
You say "Bottom line, voting for I-912 doesn't really solve any problems." So, if I vote against it, all issues are resolved? I don't think so.
I currently pay tax for updates on our roads. This is configured into the equation when planners lay down tar. Nope, I will not give another 9.5 cents in the name of "new" added projects which can't be finished with this funding model.
I've been keeping a very close eye on WSDOT for some time now, and honestly, it seems like they've made the best choices they could with the 2005 tax package. They don't want the entire state to be burdened with 520 and the Viaduct, and they want to provide enough money to the viaduct that Nickels and King County have to come through with some of the funding - it puts their feet to the fire in exactly the way we want.
The majority of the money in the package, though, is not going to "unfinished projects." It's going to complete projects that we're going to have a hard time doing without. Someone here said that passing I-912 won't make the problems worse - but that's simply not true. We're getting more people, and the roads we have are deteriorating. The problems we have now do get worse over time, all else being equal - and we'll see that.
I'm glad that the vehicle weight fees aren't at stake here, because something we do desperately need more of (more than anything else) is rail capacity - and those fees go toward projects to improve freight rail across the state. As gas prices continue to go up (with or without I-912), trains become cheaper and cheaper to move goods.
26. What we have now is a bad plan being proposed by the legislators, governor and current political leadership with the gas tax versus no plan as proposed by I-912 supporters.
Those aren't good choices.
Sorry to flog a dead transit, but how can one overlook this: "We long ago reached the point of diminishing returns with highways. Building new and improving existing highways no longer even qualify as short-term fixes for traffic congestion in major urban corridors."
The "law of diminishing returns" is an economic one. People have voted with their feet. With their transportation choices, actually. It is supply/demand. The public is saying that it needs more lane capacity.
Are busses full? No.
Are HOV lanes full? No.
Is the Sounder full? No.
Does the monorail make any sense whatsoever? No.
Does light rail pencil out? No.
Will anything in the current transit proposals being proffered do anything about this? No.
Which is the only transport mode that is at capacity? Cars/roads. That's the list.
Will anything in the current transit proposals being proffered do anything about this? No.
The only possible explanation for this is that a pseudo-enlightened elite wish to foist their socialized and unpopular solutions on a disbelieving public.
Bait and switch. Ponzi scheme. Wrong medicine for the ailment. Call it what you want.
It stinks. Oh, and it won't work. You can quote me. Take one simple course in economics and you can't be a liberal any more.
28. Reporterward: What is wrong with the plan as offered?
scott158: My bus is standing room only, every day. My train to Portland sells out on a regular basis. Sounder has only been in operation for a few years - and I'm not sure how you say it's not full, it has excellent ridership to Tacoma. Everett's just getting rolling.
What do you mean, light rail "doesn't pencil out"? That's just rhetoric - it's paid for and in the pipe, and it'll serve some of the busiest corridors in Seattle.
I don't know if you've noticed, but gasoline is getting expensive. Sound Transit and Metro are both seeing record ridership right now, and it keeps going up. We have a social problem - we believe we can keep using cars. The reality is, we don't produce enough energy to power them, we just dig it up - and we're hitting a wall where we can't dig it up fast enough. There's no "new technology" that makes energy - we have to find things to burn to fuel personal vehicles, or we have to generate the electricity to do so. That isn't happening, and most of the people who plan transit and communities know that - and are trying to plan accordingly.
30. By the way, scott - take an economics course. You'll see that this is the only market where cars/roads works, and it's only because of HUGE government prop-ups - hundreds of billions of dollars of roadwork every single year. Add on the tens of billions of bailouts for the airline industry every year, and you may eventually figure out what every other first world nation has - trains are more energy efficient, and for 100-500 mile trips, they're faster than planes.
31. The government sure seems to be a cure all for a lot of our ails doesn't it? Where is the private sector? If the monorail is such a good idea and so many riders will use it why isn't the private sector jumping over themselves to build it and charge ridership fees? The same goes for Sound Transit...where are the entrepreneurs that should be jumping at the chance to make $$$$ from ridership fees?
They are not there because the ridership is not there and will never be there. Until we give up the utopian dream of one government fits all as far as transportation goes we will never have enough money. Gas taxes should go to building and maintaining roads and existing infrastructure period. We have experimented with rapid transit (Sound Transit) and so far it is nothing more than an expensive failure as far as cost per person moved and it does not look to be getting any better.
As I look at Seattle and see the million dollars a day go to their monorail project which so far has accomplished nothing and gone nowhere for quite a while I can only wonder how many improvements and repairs could be made on the roads which drivers have supplied most of the cost of and got ZIP in return.
Cliff: Did you see my comment on the hundreds of billions of dollars of roadwork? The private sector CANNOT compete with what is effectively free for the car driver - car drivers say "look at what I'm supporting most of the cost of" - but they're complaining about local taxes, which are just the tip of the iceberg - how much does it cost per trip when you count FHWA?
Trains are cheaper - it's proven all over the world. We just don't let them compete here.
So, Ben...ever google your name? Any idea how many hits it generates? Any clue as to what political persuasion it reveals?
"it's paid for and in the pipe"???
just don't smoke it. someone who actually knows something will come by shortly and post a EFF or other link regarding ridership and "Paid for."
You need to get out more. Empty seats abound.
Do you have even the foggiest notion of all the people who can't ride public transport? I've not had such a job since grad school. Where I took numerous econ courses and did rather well, matter of fact. Virtually no one that I know in a professional capacity can ride public transport. And I suppose long haul trucking will work just as well over dirt roads. And cement will set up while waiting for the interurban.
Does the concept of "insular existence" register with you at all? Projection?
This isn't Capra, and you're not Mr. Deeds.
Link funding is not dependent on ridership except for the ridership that's already on the same corridor. It will generate new ridership - as every other rail transit system has - because businesses and developers recognize the permanence of a rail system as opposed to a bus route, and relocate there. Have you seen Vancouver, BC? Look at the high-rise condos next to the light rail stops.
Nobody "can't" ride public transport. They choose to live and work in places where it doesn't make sense for them. Businesses move to where it does make sense because it's much cheaper for them. Perhaps you should learn something from private industry.
35. We need regional gas taxes, not state taxes. King County has a transportation mess. Adams, Asotin, Ferry, Whitman, Lincoln, Grant, Spokane, Stevens counties, etc, do not have transportation messes. According to the DOT's own report on the gas tax, Spokane County accounts for 7% of the state's population but will receive 3% of the total gas tax revenue. Hardly a good deal! To even justify the gas tax in the Eastern half of the state, they propose make-work projects. Drive from Ellensburg to Spokane on I-90 and what do you see? Clean, smooth pavement all the way and perfectly manicured gravel highway shoulders. Why? Because they spend money on the East side of the state on unneeded or barely needed projects so as to pretend that we all get something. This is nonsense, not 9 cents. We need regional taxation plans. And regional spending plans.
Effectively free for the car driver? Can you elaborate? Tell me how driving my car is free, please.
If trains are indeed cheaper why do we need the government to supply this service? If they are so cost effective and able to be paid for by ridership fees why cannot the private sector make money providing this service? We have grandfathered rail lines throughout the city county state and country and the only train service that I know that makes money is the dinner train, a private enterprise.
Mass transit is dead as a cost effective solution for transportation until the citizens in this area choose not to drive their cars and trucks. Sure you will have riders, but riders that cost how much per trip? We just stop spending on roads and instead pay for transit to be used by a minority? Delusional thinking that's what it is....
Ed: I tend to agree, but transportation infrastructure costs do go up faster than density - energy costs just go down. That 7%/3% is normal. The reason eastern Washington roads have smooth pavement is because they don't have the traffic that western Washington roads do.
Cliff: When you choose the difference between taking the train and taking your car, you are paying for a lot of the rail infrastructure in your train ticket, but not a lot of the road infrastructure in the immediate costs of driving your vehicle - gas and wear and tear on the vehicle.
As I said, the government has to prop up the trains because the government tips the scales so badly in building highways. The private sector in other countries makes lots of money on passenger rail - and even in our own country, before heavy railroad regulation came into play, people traveled almost exclusively by train. Why didn't they build highways until the FHWA did it? The same reasons you're trying to use against the railways now - it wasn't cost effective. If the only train service you know of that makes money is the dinner train, you don't know much about trains - Acela and much of the NE corridor service makes money, and once the initial capital costs are incurred to get service up to par, Amtrak Cascades is expected to turn a profit. It's already fairly close. And before you say "shouldn't it pay for the infrastructure costs," let me ask you - does I-5? Where are the tolls?
I-912 is an indication to me that private vehicle transportation is taking a downturn. People are starting to wake up to the fact that the government arbitrarily charging them for road construction isn't really that great of a deal - and as roads get worse, rails will become a more effective form of transportation again.
Background: Steel wheels on steel rails are between four and ten times as efficient (depending on rail design) as rubber on concrete. A typical rail car weighs about 2,500 pounds per passenger at capacity, and newer electric trains have that down to 1,500 or so (I believe our Talgos are about 2000) - so we're also moving less mass per passenger than the average per-person vehicle weight on the road. Rails are also much cheaper to lay than highway, and much cheaper to maintain - a typical double tracked rail line for passenger service costs between five and ten million per mile (dependent on speed and electrification), but a highway can cost twenty to thirty million per mile for initial install, with further maintenance of a few millions per mile per few years - a rail line, once laid, usually incurs under a million per mile every decade.
As I said - most places, even major urban centers in the US, have figured out that it's cheaper for them to lay rail and run passenger service on it than to maintain roads. As fuel becomes more expensive, it becomes a smaller percentage of rail operating costs than of private vehicle operating costs - and trains can be electrified, while private passenger vehicles likely cannot in the near future. Since we have a lot of very cheap energy in western WA via the hydros, systems like Link are already likely to become cheaper than bus service to operate.
"Nobody "can't" ride public transport. They choose to live and work in places where it doesn't make sense for them."
So what you're saying is that people should cater their lifestyle to what the government provides instead of the government providing solutions to the people's needs?
I can accept that ridership of rail will increase over time. The pill I have trouble swallowing is that it will be anywhere close to predicitions.
I don't know the answer, but would love if someone could tell me the last mass-transit infrastructure project that was finished on time, under budget and within the original scope of the project? I can remember any, but I do have a short memory. This is why I support 912.
I took scott's advice and GOOGLED your name. I found out that you hate Republicans, corporate America and GOOGLE on an incredible number of LEFTIST Blogs.
I do respect folks that stand up for what they believe in...even though I may disagree. You are an excellent writer and you do have passion for your beliefs.
I am curious about your background. I have found many folks with your background to come from fairly privileged backgrounds. I come from a blue collar family that lived from paycheck to paycheck. My mom stayed home with 3 kids...I am the oldest. We all worked our way thru college 100% with no help.
Ben, I've found that how people look at life often comes back to where they came from and how they were raised.
Honestly....do you know what it is like to live from paycheck to paycheck with no family safety net????
Matt: I-912 isn't funding mass transit infrastructure projects. It's funding roads. You won't be cutting any funding for Sounder, Link or Cascades by voting for I-912 - those are funded by vehicle weight fees and the MVET.
The reality of transportation is that people have to live in mid or high density areas for it to work. Period. No matter what kind of transportation you have, unless you have free energy, you choose to live close to a population center if you want to find a job. That has nothing to do with the government - they're making a business decision.
You see - if you privatize all transportation infrastructure, then the companies get to decide what lifestyle people get to lead based on what makes them the most money. The government tries to find a common ground between what people want to do and what's realistic (like light rail).
Cynical: I was raised by a single mother in Olympia. She worked and attended Evergreen (loan-free) while raising me, and moved us to Seattle so I could go to a better school. Throughout my early years, my mother and I used public transit to get around the city because it was too expensive to drive and park. I don't have any formal education past high school, although my girlfriend is now working on her doctorate at the UW while I work. She mostly supports herself (her half of rent/utilities) through working as a TA, and I work in software. My income is about $40,000 a year (less, though, because I'm a contractor and sometimes have time between jobs). When she's done, we'll probably move to wherever she gets a job, and I'll work on either an architecture or engineering degree while she teaches. I do not have much of a safety net.
For the last several years, I've taken a strong interest in urban planning and transit systems as community building tools - I'm most interested in the work of socialist freaks like Peter Calthorpe and Christopher Alexander, architects and engineers who have ideas to help us build more livable communities. I don't consider Seattle livable - I like Portland and Vancouver, and I want to help us get to where they are without destroying our farmland, but without taxing families.
Nice that you would take the trouble to Google Ben's name. Too bad we can't Google yours.
Oh, by the way: Yes, I do think my interest in transit has to do with my background. I used to have to rely on it - and I know many people who do now. I'd like to make it good enough that people don't feel like they're "relying" on it, but rather that it's a viable alternative, like it is in most European cities and some larger American ones. I know enough about the psychology of driving to be aware that adding lanes on our (Seattle) terrain won't do much to help our traffic, and I see the only way Seattle can continue to grow as being through high capacity transit the likes of Chicago or New York (who got started on their systems when they were Seattle-sized).
I just noticed that I put "without taxing families" as a tail-end to that comment. Let me clarify: I don't like seeing taxes on single-family dwellings go up - they're splintering communities as people move away from housing they can't afford. I'm not sure if high-density condos can help, because they're expensive as well, but I think that flooding the market could help drive down the prices of housing in the urban centers around Seattle. I can't afford a house, so that's partly self-interest - I'd like to be able to eventually - but I think it's seriously damaging to the local economy that people are losing mobility due to housing.
I have seen some so-called "progressive" property tax schemes that are worth looking into - taxing parking lots more heavily and improvements less, in order to encourage efficient land use. A lot of Pennsylvania does this, and it's helping traffic congestion in some of their cities because it makes districts more compact and walkable.
44. I don't understand why some people are so unwilling to build roads, to the point where they feel the need to tell everyone else WHERE and HOW to live. It's just plain tyrannical.
45. Bostonian: Unwilling? Who wants to pay for them?
Ben: I did not read all that you have posted (long day at work and I'm tired) please forgive me if I am wrong in my analysis of what you have written.
I don't totally disagree with you and I have not totally made up my mind on I-912, but I am leaning for it. Where I differ on the project list with you is that I do agree many needed projects are on the list, but a whole lot of pork was added to get the votes needed to pass it (GOP and Dem). A reasonable 4 to 5 cent gas tax would have covered what need to be covered. Also, the idea of tolls should have been formally accepted by Nickels and Sims before any money got allocated to AVW and 520.
I also disagree with you on the gas tax being the way to fund transit. Our main goal for all fossil fuels should be to reduce consumption. SB 6103 allots for annual increases in fuel consumption to get to the $8.5 billion. If our goal is to reduce fuel consumption 10 to 15 % in the next 20 years, that will cost us over $2 billion on this bill, which means we will have to extend out bonds, costing not us, but the next 2 generations a lot more money.
Lets assume for a minute I-912 has passed; where does this leave us? The leadership in the state will have an opportunity to look at how we will fund transit for the next 30 years. Obviously, a gas tax is not what the public wants. It has its advantages, but also has many disadvantages.
I do agree with you and the article, that republicans have completely dropped the ball on this. The GOP must be for something instead of being against everything. The problem most of us have with democrats in D.C. is the same problem with republicans in Olympia. This does not just apply to transit but health care, education, etc... the list goes on.
Grassroots republicans need to be the kick off point of starting this debate.
We are paying 49.4 cents per gallon gas tax for every mile we drive. (combined federal and state) plus vehicle registration fees. A large portion of that money is being used to fund Sound Transit and the light rail lines. You say it doesn't cost?
We have basic road improvements that need to be made state wide to enable our roads to withstand a moderate earthquake. We cannot afford these improvements because a large portion of our 49.4 cents is being spent on transportation infrastructure that the large majority of people will not or cannot use.
These roads that need improved carry, by far, the bulk of everyone in the W Washington area, the food we eat and all of the products we buy.
Common sense tells you to get your basic infrastructure up to snuff before even thinking about spendy transportation plans that may or may not benefit us in the future. But then again there doesn't seem to be much common sense in a state run by liberals...
An alternative to transit funding:
Raise tabs to a more than reasonable $50 a year. Index the rate of increase to match inflation, in $5 increments.
Dump the weight fees, the idea that heavier vehicles cause more damage is not sound. A F-350 driving 10K miles a year does not damage roads as much as a Fiat driving 25K miles a year.
Use local tolls to pay for maintainance projects.
Drop the gas tax completely and replace it with a milage tax. This could start at .5 cents a mile (half state/half local or regional). You could go as high as 1 cent for heavier vehicles (which mile for mile, do more damage to the road). You could also lower it for fuel efficient cars or drop the whole think for alternative fuel cell cars. (give the private sector motivation to produce by creating demand).
If you drove 25K miles a year, you would pay $125 to $250 when you renewed your registration. If the driver lies about the milage, they are only hurting themselves when they go to sell the car and have to make up the difference & get a huge fine for falsifying their miles.
Milage Tax vs Gas Tax
One of the things people like about the gas tax is that people who drive more pay more for roads. A milage tax has the same advantage.
Gas tax supporters like that the gas tax encourages people to drive fuel efficient vehicles. A milage tax on a sliding scale has the same advantage.
A gas pump can not discriminate who is pumping from it (a hummer, a boat and a lawnmower pay the same tax for roads).
100% of the gas tax goes to the state and gets rationed out to regions. A milage tax could be split up so that the state takes a portion and the region or city the car is registered in gets a portion also. Nobody from Eastern WA should feel like they are only paying for Seattle and vise versa.
A milage tax can discriminate. Farm equipment that does not drive on roads could be exempt as could equipment working on state roads projects, thus lowering the cost of the project, causing the state to have to bond less money for the same results. We all save on the interest.
This idea goes for the rest of the public motor pool also, police, fire, EMS, road crews, school buses etc...
Without a gas tax, the state would have another tool in the box to get business to Washington. Much like they give Boeing B&O exceptions, critical industries could be give milage tax exemption to do business in the Washington instead of OR or ID. (Oh no, I am talking about corporate welfare)
Exceptions could also be used as a tool for other projects if the state so chooses. (become an official school carpool and get a 50% break!!!)
The main objection to a milage tax is that it does not PUNISH people for using gas.
I don't have all the answers, but we should at least start the conversation.
This would require constitutional change and protections against tax increases or a rebirth of the gas tax. I-912 (like or not), opens the door to this public debate.
Interesting thread, best give and take I've seen on this site in some time.
A couple thoughts:
Many of the pro-912 folks seem fixated on the fact WSDOT needs to be fixed. In truth, this line of argument is more perception than reality. DOT has undergone significant changes thanks to legislative changes, largely pushed by Republicans in the last several years. These include quarterly accountability reports, performance audits, benchmarks, etc. All available for perusal at: http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/accountability/
All that might not be perfect, but taking an in-depth look at the material there tells me the bark of "WSDOT has to be reformed or no new taxes" is either disingenuous or ill informed.
In fairness, we also need to accept that those for and against 912 are all dealing with sticker shock. This backlog of congestion relief and safety projects across the state is now so large that any full discussion of their cost - and the taxes necessary to pay for them if we want them - is downright painful, regardless of where you stand on the issue.
We also need to be fair and lay a lot of the blame for that backlog in large part on Governor Locke and the GOP legislative leadership in the 90's. At a time when state coffers were flush, they bickered away an opportunity to start addressing these needs. They both deserve blame. Locke for bad leadership, the GOP leaders from Eastern WA for being tone deaf to the growing transportation needs of Western WA communities. Today's GOP leaders in the Olympia strike me as much in tune with the entire state.
Above all, I think Matt R's point is essentially correct. Despite the fact 912 will pass, many of its proponents have no real plan to solve these problems, just complaints. Given that this issue has been a hot topic in the state for a decade, that speaks very poorly of some of the pro-912 folks. Transportation problems in this state for Republicans in particular to become just the party of “No” as the Democratic party has done to its disgrace at the national level.
Related to that, this thread highlights how some folks insist on - pardon the pun - their way, or the highway. We live in a state that leans Democratic, and that has a strong environmental movement and reasonably well-organized unions. There is no earthly way we will be able to solve the complaints of the anti-mass transit crowd, while eliminating all the costly environmental restrictions and pro-labor union provisions that affect transportation spending (especially road construction). Nice ideas? Perhaps. Politically possible? No.
It would thus benefit everyone if some of the 912 supporters would quite whining, deal with the hand your dealt, and propose a solution. 912 is going to pass no matter what you think about it. The real question that separates the serious public policy thinkers from the complaining hacks is whether or not you have the stones to put forward an alternative plan. The legislature put forward a plan, with some notable Republican support. A lot of people don’t like it which is fine, that shows we have a healthy democracy. But for heaven’s sake, just saying “No” doesn’t solve the problem everyone can agree exists…and given the length of time that problem has existed, just saying “No” is inexcusable.
Finally, related to that last point, those that have put in a robust voice for electing more responsible and constructive elected officials are exactly correct. Regrettably though, that sort of change doesn't happen over night.
There are a lot of people here bitching about how this will not get "anything done" and only covers "engineering" expenses I will remind you that engineering for a project such as a highway takes on average 2 years.
Think the DOT is ripping you off? There was a study done on a high rise built in New York city for $250M. A purely commercial adventure the costs were as follows:
Preliminary Stuff (Land, Studies etc): $25M
Actual Construction: $135M
Design time? Two years.
The bulk of the DOT money is going to be spent on engineering.
52. Cliff - Sound Transit doesn't collect a dime of gas taxes. Its primary sources of funding are sales tax and vehicle excise taxes paid only in parts King, Pierce, and Snohomish Counties. State gas taxes are by law required to go to state highways. So whether you agree or disagree with 912, the irony there is a tax to pay for road construction is about to be repealed with the strong support of people who believe in spending more on new road capacity rather than mass transit.
Eric; I like your post, very thoughtfully laid out.
I do disagree with you on a few things.
I half agree with you that WSDOT has made many improvements in their efficiency. The Nickel Package projects did have some best practices and audit provisions that appear to be working. You are correct there. But the legislature did not change those laws, they only implentend them onto the Nickel Package. The performance audit piece to SB 6103 is different. (None of know yet if it is better or worse). But I do agree that WSDOT is better (not all the way there just yet), but better.
The gas tax is a horrible transportation revenue source long term (read above). Another idea needs to come forward. I-912 maybe the best way to send this message loud and clear to the legislature. As I am sure you have notice, they don't hear whispers to well down there. The people need to scream and shout to get them to notice. I-912 does that.
If I-912 fails, it will be business as usual down in Oly and the improvements which are made will be obsolete by the time all the projects are finished.
I do agree with Eric that the GOP needs an alternative plan and that republicans need to stop being anti-tax for the sake of being anti-tax.
I am all the bit a right-wing nut as the next guy, but if you don't like a tax, then state why. The generic "taking my money" and "govenment waste" are played out. Lets here some really ideas of where money is wasted and what can be done about it.
I don't like taxes either, but I got whole list of government services which could be cut. The problem is everyone (even republicans) only want other peoples programs cut. Nobody volunteers to give up their piece of the pie or the pork in their district.
I heard a joke once goes something like this; what is the difference between a pork project and developement? Developement is in your neighborhood.
55. T.J. – thanks, and regardless of the merits of 912, I agree with you on the need for Olympia to get a slap in the face from the voters to wake them up from their stupor, in which they seem to not quite to grasp the true level of voter malcontent. I personally think the initiative process is a rather blunt instrument to do that, and would be more effectively done by voting for or against members of the legislature in 2006…but it is what it is. The shame is that while many people while vote for 912 as a means to send a message to Olympia, the message many in the legislature will get is that it's not worth their time to work on transportation issues anymore because voters will just say no. They’re wrong, but that’s what many will do, which I suppose makes legislative elections in 2006 even more important.
"Matt: I-912 isn't funding mass transit infrastructure projects. It's funding roads. You won't be cutting any funding for Sounder, Link or Cascades by voting for I-912 - those are funded by vehicle weight fees and the MVET."
You're looking at the transportation reality as an array of individual problems. This fractured view is exactly why 912 exists.
If we weren't wasting money on a train to and from everett, unused HOV lanes and a monorail, we could pay for the projects 912 takes money from, couldn't we?
The way I read your post, you're saying "we wasted the money on transit, but this is different." I was simply trying to illustrate an important point: Either A) transportation promoters routinely lie to the public about transportation projects or B) transportation promoters are incapable of accurately putting together any transportation plan.
Dastardly or inept... does it matter?
Ben...are you saying that the American Dream is now high density condos near work and mass transit? Maybe if state and local government were not wasting so much taxpayer money, you could afford a house of your own.
It's not the 9 cents, it's the nonsense.
Sound transit may not get any state gas tax revenue but it certainly receives federal (taxpayer) funds which are derived from the federal (taxpayer) gas tax. These are tax dollars that could be used elsewhere and why we have an increase in the gas tax. Same with the vihicle tabs....could this not fund the new Viaduct? Fund needed projects?
There is only so much federal (taxpayer) money to go around for these little pet projects, when you have Senators and legislators that push for funding of these boondoggles and do not push for funding for road maintanence, repair and upgrading we have shi**y roads and unhappy taxpayers.
dl: The American Dream is based on free energy. It doesn't exist. Reality is based on good urban planning practices and good transportation.
Cliff: This gas tax does not fund transit. It DOES NOT FUND TRANSIT. How many times do I need to repeat this? Go to the WSDOT project page and look at all the projects with little "P"s next to them - and tell me how many of them are funded to completion by this project - it's over 90% of them. There are very, very few projects that don't get full funding, and that's because they're ongoing or too big for the state to cover all in one package.
Almost everyone here regularly argues that King County and Seattle should be paying for their own problems. The 2005 transportation tax package DOES THAT by forcing the city and county to help pay for the viaduct and 520, rather than burdening the entire state.
I have heard NOTHING about the tax package from ANYONE here that's been an accurate representation of any actual problem. It's understandable that most people don't know how transportation funding works or what needs to be done - what's not understandable is things like saying a Fiat does as much damage as a truck based on mileage clearly without knowing the first thing about the physics or engineering involved. A Fiat is 2000 pounds, a truck is 6-8000. Damage is not additive - you'd have to drive a 2000 pound vehicle over the same road more than ten times to equal the damage of a 6000 pound vehicle. If you don't believe me, ask a road engineer to explain the math - they all have phone numbers and they all respond to e-mail.
I'm sorry to be "supporting government" (oh no!). WSDOT has been dead on target with almost all of their recent projects, and given their increasing level of public response and financial transparency (have you even been to the damn site to look at all the documentation they make available?), I have no reason to believe that any of these projects are "pork" or otherwise unnecessary.
If you see a PROBLEM with the 2005 transportation tax package as passed largely by BOTH Republicans and Democrats, let me know and I will either try to explain why WSDOT did what they did to the best of my understanding or we will SPEAK TO the project engineer in question and get those questions answered. I have done this - I do this regularly. Check out my last few livejournal posts about the Point Defiance Bypass project for passenger rail - http://www.livejournal.com/users/naruvonwilkins.
Oh, yeah, and TJ: THE GAS TAX DOES NOT FUND TRANSIT. I understand you haven't had time to read my posts, but please don't make assumptions. Vehicle weight fees fund rail and freight. Gas taxes fund roads. Those things are in our state's constitution, and they make sense. All of these projects were debated to death last year in session, and there is NO reason to kill them now and discuss them again just because the public didn't bother to get in on the VERY LONG public comment periods all of these projects have had.
Matt W here that made the left lane squatter comment not the transportation comments, and yes Huckleberry I absolutely believe that we're losing capacity because of squatters that don't follow the law. Anybody who is not actively overtaking (even if it's by a 1/4 mile per hour) a person to the right--is breaking it.
Same thing in HOV lanes. There may be a legal exemption for that one I'm not sure, but if they not passing somebody on the right and a car is behind them trying to move forward at a faster rate--why in the world don't they move over?
Maybe they're on their cell phone or haven't looked in their rearview mirror since 2004.
Sorry Matt R. about the confusion. I actually didn't notice your authorship until your clarification. Didn't mean to sully your name--the blog is a good piece worthy of discussion. E-mail is behind the scenes if you want to talk with me.
61. Matt W: I agree on left lane abuse - we should hit the abusers harder for it. Granted, I also believe that HOV should always be left lane with dedicated entrances/exits - you can move a LOT more people with BRT like what we're working on with 405 or north I-5 than you can with a lane of 1.6 passengers per vehicle. :)
Cliff - in all honesty, I don't know the source of the $500 million in federal funds Sound Transit is getting for light rail over several years. That money is not a large percentage of Sound Transit’s overall budget for regional buses, commuter rail, and light rail. Either way, my understanding is the transportation packages at the federal level are much like the state package that includes the 9 cent gas tax: heavy on roads, with some spending on transit. I don't know the exact percentages but I believe that trend is true. Granted, there is the aspect of earmarks/pork that go mostly for road projects of debatable value (like Don Young's bridge to nowhere of recent press fame), but I don't think that is related to the debate about mass transit.
The tone of your comments indicates you're generally unhappy with local mass transit spending in general. If, however, you took all the mass transit spending you're unhappy with and applied it to roads spending I suspect you would hardly make a dent in the backlog in this state. And as I noted above, it is politically impossible in this region to abandon mass transit and push solely for roads, so it is a waste of breath to argue for such scenarios.
As much as some high profile examples such as the Sound Transit’s light rail and the monorail are derided and become poster children (in some cases deservedly so) for anti-mass transit advocates, the truth is many such programs work – they just don’t get the same attention in the press. Sound Transit’s regional bus service is an outstanding success and ridership on the Tacoma to Seattle portion of the Sounder, which has been in operation much longer than the Everett run, is also doing very well. Don’t get me wrong, some projects deserve harsh scrutiny. The monorail would be laughable were it not such a serious drain in Seattle tax dollars that would better be spent on other opportunities, and the light rail line deserves continued scrutiny to ensure its past problem are not repeated. But on the whole, many mass transit programs are doing their job.
Many anti-mass transit folks like to talk about conspiratorial “social engineering” to get people out of the cars and anecdotal examples of when they see HOV lanes not in peak use or individual buses that aren’t full. In reality, mass transit in this area really does three things: provide fluid local urban transportation, provide some public transportation in suburban areas, and provide transportation for commuters. The first and second items do sometimes create instances of skimpy ridership on individual buses on local runs (not the commuter rates which should be much fuller), but that’s the reality of any mass transit system.
The commuter routes, strike me as usually very effective in providing options for people other than cars, that then help relieve congestion for people for who prefer cars in general and/or for whom mass transit doesn’t work (it obviously can’t be all things to all people or it would be wildly inefficient).
Take this example, drive up I-5 from Seattle after the morning rush hour on a typical weekday and stop at the Park & Rides in Lynnwood off 44th St, off the 164th St exit, on both sides of 128th St exit, and at Eastmont in South Everett…they’re all generally near capacity. Related to that, you could set up a video camera at say the 130th street overpass in north Seattle and watch the number of buses that roll south from Snohomish County between 6 and 8:30 am headed to the U-District and Downtown. If you’re sitting in traffic watching them head south, you’ll notice two things: one, they’re generally full or close to it, and two, even the HOV lane itself slows down noticeably at times because so many carpools and buses are using it.
With that in mind, it seems to me that despite the long overdue need of increasing road capacity in this area, starving mass transit programs to pay for road projects in a region whose geography will never support a road only system, and whose growing popuation density validates a reasonable system of mass transit, is irresponsible.
63. Will do!
The $500 million Sound Transit is getting from the federal government is part of the FTA's New Starts grant project. New Starts grants are highly competitive, and have to show not only a track record of project completion and service.
So let's talk about project completion, although it has nothing to do with I-912 or gas taxes, because they don't fund it: Sound Transit's original Sound Move document was a farce. It would have required vast amounts of money, and had little or no oversight - just like the monorail. The people responsible for it LOST THEIR JOBS, and were replaced in 2000/2001 with experienced transit planners and project engineers. This is EXACTLY what needed to happen, and it did.
Initially, the new personnel were not responsive to Public Disclosure Act requests. Over the next two years, due to the work of reporters like Jane Hadley and columnists like Joel Connelly, this has improved steadily. Right now, I can e-mail Teri Lapetino or Sue Comis with ST and they give me answers quickly, plus offers to come into the office to look at documents they don't offer electronically.
Since the restructuring, I have not seen any boondoggles. I have seen significant work on the light rail (they have open houses, last night there was one for Airport Link) that seems to be on schedule. I have seen ST Express bus onramps and offramps and HOV extensions on I-5 and I-405. I have seen the fourth daily round trip for Sounder from Tacoma to Seattle, and I'm keeping a close eye on the planned work to extend Sounder to Lakewood, down to attending the Tacoma Rail open house two weeks ago to ask them engineering questions and walk the new alignment.
Claims that Sounder "costs $100 per passenger trip" are the same as saying that I-5 cost $1000 per passenger trip in its first year of operation. Sound Transit's operating costs on Sounder are on par with other commuter rail systems, and as they ramp up to fill out their infrastructure and ridership increases they will save the state money on road maintenance and expansion from Tacoma to Seattle. Their capital costs are higher than originally expected because Amtrak and the WSDOT were expected to shoulder more of the burden of track replacement and upgrades (like the Ballard crossovers). WSDOT and Amtrak are both short of money to do so, partly because Seattle does such a bad job of urban planning that the rest of King County is ballooning, and partly because the federal government hates the idea of competing with the vehicle or airline industries (like most first world rail does effectively).
WSDOT and ST have an excellent record - ST from 2001 on is on schedule and under budget. I have heard reports of WSDOT projects going over in the late nineties, but so far nobody's been able to give me something specific that wasn't well within 5% tolerances planned for by the agency.
Excuse me, first line, last comment should be:
"not only a track record of project completion and service, but a need due to geography and population centers."
Matt W. - thanks for adding your last initial, and for joining the discussion!
The last transportation system to come in on time and under budget was the subway system in NYC at the turn of the last century. Oh, by the way it was built by a private company. In the fifties (1957) the leases ran out and NYC government took over. Fare immediately doubled. What at one time cost a dime (1950's) now cost many dollars thanks to NYC.
There is no free ride. Auto owners pay fuel taxes, licenses, value fees, etc. which really are user's fees. In return it is reasonable to expect that they be provided with reasonable, uncongested roads. After all auto owners do provide the equipment, insurance and maintenance and operators to fulfill their transportation needs.
Over the past three decades no new roads were built. Yet the population of Puget Sound not only increased dramatically, but shifted to suburbia.
Readers have witness the development of small towns: Bellevue, Woodinville, Lynnwood, Marysville to name just a few. Readers also witness the shift of jobs from Seattle to developing towns, Microsoft for example is not in Seattle, Boeing is not in Seattle.
In short, Seattle is no longer the business center of Puget Sound. Seattle is decaying. Its infrastructure no longer competes with other population centers. Families prefer to live away from Seattle. And voters have the last vote with their feet. They move.
Plans have been offered by any number of folk for consideration. And those plans fall on deaf ears and blind eyes. The result is a disconnect. The people who are responsible for the infrastructure refuse to admit that they don't have a clue. They people who rely on their personal vehicles have reasonable expectations that are not being met.
Instead of reasonible discussions, heavy handed, half-ass, expensive, reckless plans are put into motion by the people we elect in a process that is questionable.
Fixed track railroads do not provide a viable alternative for the Puget Sound population because of a number of reasons. The proof is the failure of Sound Transit to attract ridership that even comes close to paying the operating costs.
Once again people like Freeman have offered plans for consideration at great personal costs. Freeman and others were not given the time of day.
The voters voted down the last round of gas taxes that we are now paying. The voters will vote down this round of gas taxes and probably be paying them in 2007.
The disconnect seems to be permanent. Prhaps the next vote will be with my feet.
Ben names a number of European cities as glowing examples of puublic transportaton systems. the reality is that they are not glowing examples of public transportation. And by the way they too suffer from the same dysfunctional planning. Their roads are congested. Proven once again with government you pay moe and get less.
Thanks for sharing your background and circumstances with us. It is refreshing to have some non-trustfunder telling working people how to live!
Frankly, I think many of your goals are very noble and actually doable. The biggest problem is the UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES of trying to regulate your way to a more livable community. Many towns have read the same controlled, heavy regulation books. The Bibles of your movement. Unfortuately, too many of the true believers actually only take snipets from those books and glue them together for a plan that is no longer "smart-growth", it is NO GROWTH.
You end up with a huge number of planners and social engineers running the ship....not the elected officials. They all have some decent intentions, but huge blind-spots on the impact of their regulatory approach. They are quick to cross the line and ignore individual property rights "for the good of the community" as THEY SEE IT. These bureaucrats have government jobs, nice benefits and a great union to help them stay ahead of the curve in order to be able to afford to live in their "IDYLLIC" community.
The unwanted consequences is that eventually the bill comes due for all of this. It often blows up and ends up in class warfare because private sector working people cannot afford the high cost of living due to much higher taxes & fees required to pay for all these planners, enforcement etc.
Eventually you end up like Oregon....the citizens rebel and you get a Property Rights Initiative that guts even the best of intentions. It's going to happen here in Washington SOON. Just look at the BS science the Dept. of Ecology is pushing trying to regulate virtually ALL water in the name of salmon and the environment.
Washington will be the next state where a revolution happens. Without the construction industry, our economy would be DEAD right now. If you stop the construction engine (which is what Ecology is trying to do), eventually you must seriously raise taxes & fees....or cut key services.
Thanks again for your background and good intentions. You will fail Ben not because of people like me....but because of the huge backlash against the goofy, LEFTIST PINHEAD crowd
that has and will continue to go way too far!
Ben, what is your criteria for measuring success or failure regarding government funded public transportation?
Additionally, please explain why you feel that government alone should be responsible for planning and facilitating transportation systems?
Historically the most successful transportation systems were privately funded and managed. It appears that the "profit motive" produces solutions far superior to government bureaucracy.
Do you agree?
Historical examples are the private companies that provided NYC with bus systems and subway systems for over 50 years. And the private companies actually paid the city for the privledge. Rather than suffering high taxes, citizens actually reaped the benefits of lease payments. Why in these elightened times are citizens complelled to pay higher taxes?
Many of the ferry systems in and around New York are privately operated. the fares are consistent with the fare in Washington State. Yet the operators provide ammenities not found on the Washington Ferry Systems. For example the ferry operating between New London, Conn. and Port Jefferson, NY offers riders a restaurant, bar and television. A pleasant respite as you ply the waters of Long Island Sound. And the fares are collected after you board by the purser. No delaying lines and expensive ticket takers and sellers. During the one hour voyage, passengers are expected to pay the purser the fare.
The Long Island railroad is another example of private enterprise winning the day.
As I previously stated, historically private enterprise seems to offer solutions more competively than government agencies. I am sure the readers of this blog can offer many other examples to be found throughout the country and the world.
Lately it seems people are relying and empowering government and resulting agencies without considering private sources. The Washington State Ferry System which enjoys highway status would be a good place to start. Why not privatized it? It would bring income to the state and the citizens would receive better service for less money.
Why not consider offering franchises and leases to private bus operators on routes between cities. Lynnwood, Everett, Seattle, Bellevue. Perhaps there would be some interested companies. The benefits to the tax base are worth the try.
Same with other modes of transportation. Privatized it whenever possible.
Air transpotation is perhaps an excellent example of privatation a niche transportation market on a regional and national basis. My point is that privatization often proves to successfully compete with govenment beauracies. Consider UPS, FedX and the Post Office. How do you send your packages? The Post Office uses UPS.
Want to minimize congestion on the freeways and introduce additioan roads or lanes. Privatize it.
Using government to build and maintain roads is actually a relatively new concept. I am not sure it is successful.
Privitizing freeways has worked well in many places like Orlando for example.
The fact that privitizing has had virtually ZERO discussion once again shows that the bureaucrats are totally in charge. They cannot fathom the fact that private industry could do a much, much better job with tolls.
I totally agree on privatizing road system operation - or at least trying it. The key is to get road, air and rail onto a level playing field again so that the market *can* sort it out.
I disagree with several comments here that transportation systems haven't come in under budget or on time (MAX airport line is a good example) - you can always say "well, that wasn't the whole system" - but the key here is that TriMet learned from their mistakes and has been doing things right since. Actually, I'm not sure that MAX originally was over budget - I'm just taking your word for it.
The problem with the current "privatization" of the airlines is that they receive heavy subsidy in the form of government owned and operated terminals. I'd much rather see joint agreements between many airlines with some regulation (perhaps a small government agency just to help them coordinate) than the current system. But rails won't compete until the same government that gave the roads a huge advantage gets the rails up to spec as well. They'd be starting 50 years behind - more, really.
Mr. Cynical: I don't want to tell you or anyone else how to live, although I do want to remind people that we're on borrowed time - there won't always be energy out of the ground, and because of heavy government support of oil use, we're having trouble developing competing technology. I don't want to regulate building 'livable communities' - I just want to offer incentives to the people who do a good job, and let architects with different ideas more easily compete with each other for people's residence.
"Frankly, I think many of your goals are very noble and actually doable. The biggest problem is the UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES of trying to regulate your way to a more livable community. Many towns have read the same controlled, heavy regulation books."
Today we are living the UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES of Eisenhower's interstate highway system. Billions upon billions of federal money was spent on a massive highway system.
We now have woeful dependence on foreign oil. Many communities were destroyed by a interstate going through their middle. And cities like Detroit are ghost towns.
Speaking of being overbudget, let's look are the Big Dig in Boston. It was the most expensive transportation project in American history.
When Congress originally approved construction of the project, it was to cost $2.5 billion and be completed by 1998. The project’s total cost could reach a staggering $13.6 billion. And there already problems with the tunnel.
And speaking of railroads, there used to a private passenger rail system going into Seattle. It was driven out business because it could not compete with the massive subsidies road got and ever increasing regulations it had to live under.
73. M&M: Hear, hear. Let's actually plan ahead and think about these consequences.
"I disagree with several comments here that transportation systems haven't come in under budget or on time"
I should have been more specific: Washington transit projects haven't come in under the costs advertised when people go to the polls. Should we just assume that budgeted cost will be 2x or more of "advertised" costs?
Initial projected cost of Light Rail (from Sound Move's 1996 publication): $1.8 Billion
2005 revised projected cost (Initial Segment only) $2.7 Billion
Initial Predicted Cost of Commuter Rail (also from Sound Move): $669 Million
2005 Projected: $1.23 Billion
The road to hell is paved by good intentions.
1. I do not agree with your assessment of the oil situation and the amount of oil available for future use.
2. You suggest subsiding other less efficient energy sources. trading subsidies is not the answer; trading subsidies is the problem.
3. Obviously Manhattanizing Seattle and Bellevue may ultimately occur given the Growth Management Act.
4. Continuing to support costly systems that do little if anything to address congestion will only lead to continued deterioration. A lose-lose for the taxpayers. Same problem in the government school system. Continue to support the demands and the problems increase. All we are doing is pouring gasoline on a fire in an attempt to put it out. The opponents to 912 admit that the tax increase for transportation will not reduce congestion. Same is true for Sound Transit.
5. Refusing to support undisciplined spending (throwing money into a black hole or tunnel) appears to be the only way to engage the minds of the big spenders.
6. When debating against Sound Transit I asked questions of the audience. For example how many in this room took a bus to attend this meeting. Not one hand raised. And that says it all. Everyone wants someone else to use the bus or train. By the way, how many of the riders of light rail are former bus riders. My bet is that most of them are former bus riders.
7. Repeating a previous point, many proposals and studies were provided to DOT and other agencies by people who disagreed with current policies. They provided less expensive solutions to congestion. None were seriously considered. Now that is noble arrogance by public workers.
8. Why is a stop light not a go light? Modern technology is not used to allow for traffic conditions. Trite as this may sound, an amazing amount of fuel is wasted every time a traffic light stops a flow of traffic on an arterial when there is no traffic crossing the road. And speaking about stop lights, timing is not used though out the Puget Sound area on major arterials to pace traffic at speed limits. Older cities started timing or traffic waves 80 years ago.
9. Until the socialists and liberal elite change their thinking we in Puget Sound will continue to suffer planned congestion. We either vote them out, difficult when they do the counting, or refuse to give them our hard earned money to support their nonsense.
10. Question for Ben or other liberals. What is your measurement of a successful public transportation system? How do you measure success and when do you realize failure? Basic questions, don;t you think?
I have NO objection to King, Pierce and Snohomish Counties and Seattle PAYING for their own mass transit systems. Go at it boys and girls. (By the way, I think it is terribly unfair to ask people living in Lake City to pay for a mass transit that they have NO HOPE of ever using. For a few years I paid thru the nose for unSound Transit only to be told that they had not intention of helping me get to work.)
What I do object to is KPS Counties and Seattle expecting the rest of the State to pick up the tab for fixing their highways. And that is EXACTLY what the 9.5 cent gas tax does. If King County wants a better 520, they should pay for it themselves, just as they did on the existing bridge. The taxpayers of the U.S. and Washington paid for I-90 and that is good enough in my book.
KPS Counties asked the Legislature for the authority to raise local taxes for transportation (including highway) improvements. KPS Counties have had that authority for several years now but have CHOSEN not to exercise it. After you, boys and girls.
You keep saying THIS gas tax does not support mass transit. I am saying that gas taxes DO support mass transit. Where do you think the Federal funds come from? The great money tree?
We would have no need for an additional gas tax if the federal funding was used to do necessary repairs and maintenance instead of being spent on mass transit schemes that have very little real value for most residents of the sound.
Cliff - it would be helpful if you could offer some support for this statement:
"We would have no need for an additional gas tax if the federal funding was used to do necessary repairs and maintenance instead of being spent on mass transit schemes that have very little real value for most residents of the sound."
I did a quick search and found this fact sheet at the federal DOT site: http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/reauthorization/apportionmentsbyprogram.htm
By my quick read of the information, columns 1-4, 6 and 11 are highway spending...and by far and away the lion's share of money sent to the states.
If you read my posts above I obviously disagree with your belief that mass transit programs provide “little real value.” If, however, you could actually provide some information that supports that federal transportation funds are inordinately going to mass transit programs it would give your point some credibility. Otherwise, it seems to fall into the arguments I noted earlier in the thread where mass transit programs are criticized just for being mass transit programs, especially because of a couple poster child projects critics like to use. In this region in particular, that argument has little merit for many reasons.
Let's put aside the fact that federal money (as determined Congress) designated for highways goes to highways, and that money designated for transit goes to transit - and thus, if we don't want to spend it that way, as in on transit, someone else gets it. If you could actually show some statistics that explain why we wouldn't need anymore state gas tax revenue if all federal transportation money was spent on roads I’d honestly like to see them.
If you really need see facts instead of using common sense here is a link to the Federal Transit Administration 2005 budget in brief:
Don't confuse this with the Federal Highway Administration funding, the above is just for transit, here you will find the FHA budget which is seperate:
The federal government is spending billions that should be spent on basic infrastructure of our existing roads on mass transit schemes all over the country.
Next time your out in "the country", take a peek at our transit systems, we have busses carrying no-one, going to no-where running all the time just because they have federal grants available. If these grants were not available we would either have lower taxes or the same amount could be spent improving existing infrastructure.
For every succesfull mass transit system you see there are two or more in this state that are dysfunctional hole's in ground to pour money into (taxpayer dollars).
Now granted this transportation may not be funded by State gas tax dollars but it is funded, it is expensive, it is wastefull and it is funded by me and you and our children.
We need basic, safe roads. Not new freeways, not new transit. We do not have to be like New York or Japan. If there is enough need and enough people willing to pay for their own transportation let it be so whether it be through tolls or ridership fees, do not saddle the backs of the taxpayers with this illusion of serving citizens of this state by "investing" in something most people do not want and will not ever use.
Regarding some of your comments.
1) The problem is not that oil will run out, we all know it will, but rather politicians interested in winning re-election now rather than worrying about the long term future of the country and it's economy. It's not a crisis like so many like to say but it is a problem and if it was addressed in a proper and logical manner it could be smoothly dealt with, instead they are going to make it into a crisis.
To solve the problem of oil only requires some actually logical decisions be made case in point: Funding applicable research for Fusion rather than funding professors to lecture students and then claiming you are funding energy research. This has been a problem with both the Clinton and Bush administrations. This is the same reason why Bush's much lauded hydrogen economy funding is a sham. Instead we put our political pressure on the Saudis to the point that they damage thier oil fields just to keep prices stable.
4) Everyone knows the current gas tax will not reduce congestion, this was accepted even when it was in the legislature. It's like a house it's a down payment to get the ball rolling, nothing more.
Why not keep the taxes low until we actually need them? We the tax payers are the bank, if the project sucks it wont get all it's money and they have to fix it so that the voters agree it meets thier needs. Imagine if ST had had a built in requirement to get a second approval on thier light rail line after designing it. We could have said "Uh No!" and saved ourselves money. Instead they sold the bonds and we are now legally obligated. This is a helluva lot cheaper than designing it, building it and then fixing it because it doesn't work. I for one DO NOT want to pay for an entire "project" up front before it's even really been designed. Usually we vote for projects based on some pretty drawings rather than hard facts about the cost because proper money isn't given to plan them in the first place, monorail is a case in point. This is partly the reason why the gas tax is phased, not all the money is needed right now so there is no reason to restrict economic growth through a unneeded tax. And of course the major reason it's phased is so we don't notice it as much. :-)
8) Arterial timing is a city issue, generally not a DOT issue except for those few arterials that are technically highways, Montlake avenue and NE 85th in Kirkland come to mind. When was the last time you drove in the city of Seattle? Nearly all lights on major arterials in Seattle are timed, for large distances stopping only at major intersections. If they are not timed there is either a reason or it is either planned or on hold due to equipment limitations, and I will be the first to admit it's not perfect yet and that the largest obstacle is the wierd structure of the Seattle road network caused by the hills. But I can also drive the length of the CDB on 4th at 30mph and not hit a single light, even done it at rush hour.
81. Matt B: What part of "LOST THEIR JOBS" didn't you understand?
82. Once I-912 passes I belive Matt You could see what could be done to improve this problem with
traffic.These idots want to force how many of us out our cars!! We need to find solutions to reduce traffic congestion wich this tax doesn't do. When congestion is dealt with there could be a verry different response Matt!Lets put on our thinking caps shall we!!
Just a couple of comments:
1. Moving to the Right - I do not care what the law reads, if I am going the speed limit and someone is overtaking me and there is a lane to the left, why should I move to the right? The person who is gaining on me is the one breaking the law.
2. Highway capacity - I think one area of funding that we could address is State Patrol to enforce the laws. I am tired of all the poor driving on the highways that, in my opinion, contribute to more accidents and more congestion. If everone would just slow down a little, we could get more people through on the busiest times. Maybe we should have variable speed limits that lower when the traffic gets congested. This accordian traffic is killer and only gets worse with expanding lanes (more people cutting across multiple lanes).
3. Need more Urban Planning - The biggest failure in congestion is a lack of regionalized urban planning. This has to be a regional approach that isn't left up to individual communities. Urban planing involves where to locate businesses so that they have the appropriate infrastructure to support regionalized transit systems. We should build the transit systems and locate businesses and retail in their corridors. Transit should be a combination of bus service/van pools/car pools (less populated areas) tied to park-n-rides to more high volume transit (ferries and rail).
Just my two cents.
MORE Urban Planning????? MORE???
The problem is the Urban Planners we have, have very little respect for Individual Property Rights. They are all cranked out of colleges with the same mindset....it is up to them (PLANNERS) to save the world. So they create and ORCHESTRATE all these so-called community based planning operations THAT NEVER END. GMA has been around for over a decade. With the BILLIONS that have been spent on the endless planning and process, I would submit that those dollars could have gone into SOLUTIONS that were recognized Long, Long Ago!
Fire all the planners and take the money and put it into solutions that our ELECTED OFFICIALS decide are appropriate. Planners and bureaucrats are the PROBLEM, not the solution. We have enough F*CKING PLANS!!!!!
Cliff - thanks for the info, but I don't see how those websites back up your point. They do show the federal government spending a lot more on roads than on mass transit though. Granted, you don't like the mass transit spending, but most of it appears to be going to urban areas where it logically should since those systems do generally produce effective ridership numbers.
I also have to disagree with this statement: "We need basic, safe roads. Not new freeways, not new transit. We do not have to be like New York or Japan. If there is enough need and enough people willing to pay for their own transportation let it be so whether it be through tolls or ridership fees, do not saddle the backs of the taxpayers with this illusion of serving citizens of this state by 'investing' in something most people do not want and will not ever use."
I'm not sure if you mean we don't need actual new freeways, or we don't need new road capacity. Either way, I think an honest look at the transporation problems in the greater Puget Sound area right now, coupled with projected population growth rates, mean we need new road capacity and more mass transit. Moreover, while use fees for some projects such as the bridges, HOT lanes, etc. can work, they are impractical as a system wide approach. If you can show me an instance of a major metropolitan area where transit and road progams are paid for only with user fees please let me know, I'd love to see it. Otherwise, the notion seems too idealistic.
Furthermore, I don't think you've addressed the crux of my argument against your core point anyway. My point, as expressed earlier in this thread, is regardless of your beliefs against transit, it's here to stay. I suppose we could all take the position that we won't pay any new taxes for new road capacity until mass transit isn't funded anymore, but then we'll be waiting a very long time for those road needs to be met.
86. "...if I am going the speed limit and someone is overtaking me and there is a lane to the left, why should I move to the right?"
Oh, I don't know.....how about common sense?! Do you intentionally like to pi$$ of people? Especially people who might have more "horsepower" than you? Do you spit into the wind as well?
How hard is it to yield to overtaking traffic? I mean, besides the simple-minded ego thing?
Move over & let them past. You'd rather have them in front of you (where you can keep an eye on them) than behind you (pushing you to act like an idiot), wouldn't you?
I am sorry that you do not see the correlation between tax dollars and spending on mass transit. I do not know where you think the money comes from for these projects if it does not come from the tax base and gasoline tax dollars.
The federal, state and local tax dollars being spent amounts to huge expenditures on transportation that is used by very few. These dollars should be spent to pay for our existing infrastructure until our infrastructure is up to par.
You claim most of the funding is for urban areas which is simply not true, here isthe short list of mass transit systems in our state alone:
Community Transit (Lynnwood, Marysville, Edmonds, Monroe, Mukilteo)
Everett Transit (Everett)
Kitsap Transit (Bremerton, Silverdale, Poulsbo)
King County Metro Transit (Seattle, Bellevue, Shoreline, Kent)
Pierce Transit (Tacoma, Lakewood)
Sound Transit (Seattle, Tacoma, Everett, Bellevue)
Ben Franklin Transit (Benton City, Kennewick, Pasco, Prosser, Richland)
Link (Wenatchee, Chelan)
Pullman Transit (Pullman)
Spokane Transit (Spokane)
Yakima Transit (Yakima)
Valley Transit (Walla Walla)
Grant Transit Authority (Moses Lake, Ephrata)
Island Transit (Whidbey Island)
Skagit Transit (SKAT) (Mt. Vernon, Burlington)
Whatcom Transportation Authority (Bellingham, Blaine)
Clallam Transit System (Port Angeles)
Grays Harbor Transit (Aberdeen)
Jefferson Transit (Port Townsend)
Community Urban Bus Service (CUBS) (Kelso, Longview)
Intercity Transit (Lacey, Olympia)
Mason County Transportation Authority (Shelton)
Pacific Transit (Raymond)
Twin Transit (Centralia, Chehalis)
Tri-Met (Portland, Vancouver)
All of these systems are funded by taxpayers and taxpayer dollars and while some of them do have ridership that meets their "goals" it does not mean by any stretch of the imagination that they are "making money" meaning no burden to the taxpayer.
Many of the transit systems have no ridership fees at all meaning that the transportation is free to whoever whishes to use it and they still have empty or mostly empty busses running their daily routes.
You may feel that mass transit is here to stay but sooner or later we will all pay the price for that mistake. I cannot believe that with the threat of a 9.0 earthquake in our future we are squandering money like we are to serve so few of the people while our roads and bridges are in such a state of disrepair.
"Matt B: What part of "LOST THEIR JOBS" didn't you understand?"
I understand. My criticism is that this ineptitude (our outright fraud, if the projections are cooked) is par for the course for transit projects. To criticise an agency other than ST, you can simply look to the SMP.
My first recommendation for transportation would be to stop this fractured approach. The puget sound region plans transportation like a kid with ADD. We need a short and long term, regional plan that addresses nad prioritizes needs instead of starting shiny new projects every year. This plan must come with a sensible budgeting process where a) we know what we collect in taxes and b) we know what something is going to cost before we bill citizens for it.
Cliff - the correlation between tax dollars and spending on mass transit is clear. What isn't clear, and what you still haven't proved, is that money spent on transit would solve the road construction needs without any revenue increase (whether that be taxes, tolls, etc.).
For example you ticked off a laundry list of transit systems, most of which aren’t very big and thus don’t spend a lot of money, but continue to offer a surface level argument that if we didn't spend money on them we'd have all the money we need for roads. Let's say for a minute that we abolish all the systems that don't provide serious urban and/or commuter ridership, so abolish everything but King County Metro, Sound Transit, Community Transit, Pierce County Transit, Spokane Transit, and Tri-Met. Take the remaining systems and add up the federal and state money they receive (I don't think you should include local taxes because those aren't going to be spent on state roads anyway). Is that money added together seriously enough to start making a dent in the backlog of road construction we have in this state? I don't think so, but again, if you could demonstrate otherwise with some actual funding statistics I'd welcome it.
It seems to me this disagreement we're having is too similar to the overall claim by some now in the pro-912 camp of: "if we just spent the money we have better we wouldn't need anymore taxes." There was an article in the Times today talking about how Rep. Joyce Mulliken, a staunch anti-tax conservative, from Eastern Washington voted for the gas tax increase. That in a nutshell is a compelling sign that just maybe, we don't have enough money in current taxes to solve the problem before us.
If you can provide some actual statistics, rather than more theoretical arguments to support your point I’d be happy to look at them. Otherwise, while I thank you for the healthy debate, I believe this discussion has run its course.
Now that you do see that there is a correlation between tax dollars and spending on mass transit you are one step closer to understanding.
I never claimed that doing away with mass transit funding would solve the problems with our decrepit road system and negate additional taxes. It would be a start but the larger issue is that any additional spending (taxation) would be to improve upon or repair the infrastructure that the majority of the people of this state use instead of spending billions of state local and federal dollars on a system that serves so few.
That is really the point isn't it? To convince the people that the money the government spends is done in a rational manner? When you see billions being spent to serve so few the voters have no choice but to revolt....
[i]I do not care what the law reads, if I am going the speed limit and someone is overtaking me and there is a lane to the left, why should I move to the right? The person who is gaining on me is the one breaking the law.[/i]
So are you an anarchist or just a felon? Do two wrongs make a right? If you are not overtaking another car you are breaking a law on the books that cames the same penalty as speeding. Is your breaking the law more noble or less than an offense than a speeder.
There's absolutely nothing in the law that exempts people traveling the speed limit from not moving right.
I can't figure if you're ignorant or just a vigilante.