June 16, 2012
"A Billion Here, A Billion There, Pretty Soon You're Talking Real Money"
Have we reached that real money point here in the Seattle area?
Sound Transit expects to spend $2.1 billion for its mostly-tunneled light-rail line from
Husky Stadium to Northgate, based on figures its capital committee endorsed
Thursday. The full transit board is to vote June 28 on a budget for the 4.3-mile
project, to be finished in 2021.
That $2.1 billion can't be real money, at least to the board. Or to Seattle
Times transportation reporter Mike Lindblom, who treats this as an absolutely
Cross posted at
Jim Miller on Politics.
(Some background for those not familiar with the Seattle area's transportation problems.
Much of our terrain is hilly, so building light rail here often requires tunnels for
the trains. This link will replace, at a guess, four buses — which we already
have — and will not provide any improvement in times for transit trips for most
riders. The area it goes through is not, by the standards of large European or
northeastern cities, densely populated.
Most of you will have guessed that I borrowed that title from
Posted by Jim Miller at June 16, 2012
09:02 AM | Email This
Jim snarks, "That $2.1 billion can't be real money, at least to the board. Or to Seattle Times transportation reporter Mike Lindblom, who treats this as an absolutely routine story."
What would constitute treating it as not a routine story? Setting it in red type? Running more than the 532 stories they've already run that include both "light rail" and "northgate"?
Of course this is a huge project. One that voters approved in 2008. You can keep questioning a 4-year-old vote to your heart's content, but do you really expect the Seattle Times or anyone else to waste their time doing so? Do you have anything new to say?
Do you have anything new to say?
Yep, more wasted money for a useless system.
Maybe (but I doubt it) The people of this state like Calif is coming to the grips, that this type of transporation is a huge waste.
I think what most of us are objecting to is the fact that (un)Sound Transit is operating with a blank check and without any fiscal restraint or reason. And we're wondering why the press has abondoned its role as watchdog over such shenanigans.
For Instnace, if 10,000 people a day rode this segment, 365 days a year, for 10 years, and you wanted that ridership to just pay for the construction costs (not for interest or operating costs at all), what would each ticket cost?
$57 EACH. Yep, that is some good public policy right there...and *crickets* from the press whose role it is to point this stuff out.
Bruce@4: Umm... Where exactly is this "detailed list of project with price tags" in your referenced link? All it mentions is that $12.1 billion will be spent on link light rail and a map showing 34 miles of light-rail extensions. As this 4.3 mile section cost $2.1 billion ($488 million per mile), that leaves about $337 million per mile for all the rest.
Sound Transit's own estimate (only pre-vote one I could find on their website in a half hour of searching) for this segment are:
"The comparative capital costs for Segment A from Northgate to the University District range from a low of $420 to $440 million for A2.1c, the 8th Avenue NE East Portal alternative, to a high of $455 to $480 million for A1.1, the Preferred Alternative (12th Avenue NE tunnel) in 2002 dollars (2002$)." - March 2006
Quite a bit of cost ballooning there, don't ya think?
6. But, like tunnels and trains are, like so totally awesome.
Village@5, somewhere we could find the full text of Prop 1. (I can't, and that's bad.) But your comparisons between estimates (stated in 2002 dollars) and actual costs (for a project to be completed in 2021) does not suggest any "cost ballooning".
Anyway, of course budgets change somewhat during years of design, engineering, and construction. That's hardly the same as a "blank check".
8. What the hell, we spend that much on sports palaces, so why not on something useful? But it does seem spendy, so there's gotta be graft in there somewhere -- I wonder who's getting it?
9. Of course this is a huge project. One that voters approved in 2008.
It's not the one they 'approved' in 1996, with its oh-so-subtle clauses in a separate unheralded document saying that the Board could ignore cost estimates and commit any sum necessary to build their precious light rail.
Without the 1996 fraud, that stupid 2008 ballot could never have happened. By that time, everyone knew that (a) cost estimates mean nothing to Sound Transit, and (b) the public will never get another voting opportunity to abolish the whole squandiferous toy train project.
Light Rail is an unmitigated gravy train for lawyers, builders and administrators, and a pair of concrete shoes for the 97% of citizens who don't use it.
From the Roads and Transit Voter Pamphlet (Your Overview of Proposition 1)(October 2007):
Phasing Sound Transit 2 projects -- Implementation of Sound Transit 2 will begin the day after voters approve funding for the expanded regional transit system. Individual projects will be brought into service after they proceed through planning, environmental review, preliminary engineering, property acquisition, final design, construction, and start-up/testing programs. Sound Transit plans to open the already-funded Link light rail section from downtown Seattle to the University of Washington in 2016. Two years later, the plan anticipates
opening the University of Washington to Northgate
segment, as well as a number of other Sound Transit 2 projects. Light rail to downtown Bellevue, Des Moines / Kent, and several other projects are planned for 2021. All remaining Link light rail segments are planned to be complete by 2027.
And here in 2012, they are just now talking about the budget for the project - the already -funded project that they plan to complete in 2021 - five years later than they "sold" the voters in 2007.
ST2 Link Light Rail was to cost $10.2 billion and build 50 miles of LLR. Perhaps the news story should be more of an acounting of where ST is today in the plan they sold in 2007? How are they matching up with projections? When will the sad news come out that they need a new vote to fully fund the remaining 30 miles or whatever?
Bruce@7: Prop 1
doesn't appear to have any details either.
Prop 1 incorporates Resolution R2008-11 which references "Sound Transit 2, A Mass Transit Guide, The Regional Transit System Plan for Central Puget Sound" dated July 24, 2008 (part of Resolution R2008-10). Finally in Appendix A of R2008-10 one finds some details.
Speaking of "blank checks", I never said anything about them. But reading through all this stuff, I didn't see any upper limits on costs. Just pledges to try to:
* "minimize cost increases";
* "that after the voter-approved plan is completed, subsequent phase capital programs that continue local taxes at rates above those necessary to build, operate and maintain the system and retire outstanding debt, will require approval by a vote of the citizens within the Sound Transit District";
(if the voter-approved plan is completed, why would it be "necessary to build" anything?)
* "upon completion of the capital projects in ST2 and Sound Move, the Board will initiate steps to roll back the rate of sales tax collected by Sound Transit";
(initiate is not the same as complete!)
* "The agency will seek legislative authority to replace or substantially reduce its reliance on the sales and use tax as the primary funding source for regional transit improvements, consistent with all contractual commitments. In order to replace the revenue that would be lost by reducing or eliminating the sales and use tax, the agency will seek legislative authority to raise an equal amount of revenue from other sources more directly related to regional transportation such as tolls, user-based fees, vehicle or other transportation related taxes."
(bait and switch!)
So I guess you could say they do have a blank check! If you don't agree Bruce, please feel free to provide quotes that show any spending limitations.
12. SouthernRoots@10, voters defeated the 2007 proposition which you quote, so of course they're not sticking to that schedule. We approved a different (cheaper, I think) plan in 2008.
13. Oh, and the stretch to the U-District, which you deride as having slipped from 2016 to 2021 -- it's actually still scheduled for 2016.
Bruce@13: Yet SouthernRoots quote from the Overview to Prop 1 says, "Two years later, the plan anticipates opening the University of Washington to Northgate segment, as well as a number of other Sound Transit 2 projects."
So it will only be 3 years behind schedule? Much better than 5 years.
Oh, and I noticed you didn't mention anything to disprove the "blank check" claim.
And the increase doesn't suggest any "cost ballooning"? The Bureau of Labor Statistics says $480 million in 2002 is worth $613.18 million in 2012. So $2.1 billion (2012 dollars assumed as the original Seattle Times article Jim linked doesn't say otherwise) is only a little more than 3 times the rate of inflation for the most expensive option in 2006 (which included "contingencies that address the varying levels of uncertainty and construction risk that have been identified for alternatives").
15. Village@14, I misread your original numbers. I'm still not sure you're comparing apples with oranges, and anyway voters approved the more recent cost estimates.... but I don't have time (or interest, frankly) to research further.
Bruce@15: "I don't have time (or interest, frankly) to research further."
Figures. Why did I expect otherwise when someone takes the time to question your talking points?
(As if you'd really done any research to begin with given your link that didn't provide the info you thought it did and your inability to find Prop 1.)
So still no comments on your ridiculous definition of "blank checks"?
17. Sound Transit has never been about cost effectiveness. It is about building things. They consider their job to be completing things, not whether it is timely or makes any sense financially. After all what is the penalty if they spend billions more than they said or finish years behind schedule? The dollars just keep rolling in no matter what.
And Leftists like Bruce believe windmills and solar panels are going to provide cheap abundant energy. Some people are just gullible and make decisions on emotion instead of reason. Hope and Change!
I know a lot of Leftists who rode the light rail once, on the day it opened, and have driven since.
Yeah what the heck Jeff. It's only OUR money that Bruce enjoys wasting.
I bet he see's something totally different in his home and his expenese. (-:
As I said, even some in Calif are waking up to the huge taxpayers give away!
Interesting dualism here. If Tim Eymann supports a highly flawed, usually unconstitutional ballot measure, we are told it must be supported because the people have spoken.
However, when the people vote for a well ballot measure that survives court scrutiny, we are told it must be done away with because a) the people are stupid and b) Socialism.
Maybe we can simply streamline things here a bit. We will take it as read that the supporters of this site find anything that is helpful to the common good of our community bad, while are in favor of anything that cuts public services. With that guiding principal in place, we should be able to drop the repetitive posting on this site by the amen chorus to almost nothing, unless some original thought suddenly surfaces.
Interesting that for the lefties, it's fair that Eyman initiatives must be renewed every 2 years, revoted time and again, challenged repeatedly in court forever.
Would it were that unSound Transit have to face the voters every 2 years...
22. Uhhh - the last time I checked, we don't toll every road, and gasoline taxes do not cover the full cost of road maintenance and construction. What is wrong with this picture? Why is light rail singled out from roads? Roads have been losing money since the 1920s - before that, they were mostly private and had TOLLS. If everyone paid their way, light rail would look pretty darn attractive. But, it's the federal government's job to distort the free market. FREE DRIVING FOR EVERYONE! If drivers paid the real costs, do you think they would choose to drive?
PRIVATIZE ALL TRANSPORTATION, THEN COME BACK TO ME. Airlines already receive a 90% subsidy, and they're still going bankrupt. Cars receive a 70% subsidy (roads are expensive) - and less people are driving today than they did in 2004.
PRIVATIZE & TOLL - then we can experience real markets.
Source for your claim about car subsidies? Last studies I've seen from the Federal DOT showed that cars are a net tax source to the Government. Trains, planes, and buses are consumers of tax dollars.
25. Cars receive a 70% subsidy (roads are expensive)
False. Prove it.
State highways are almost completely self sufficient through gas taxes, vehicle weight fees, licenses, and tolls. If there are subsidies, they are minimal. You can see the breakdown here.
Especially compared to rail, which recovers nearly nothing in comparison from the farebox compared to the actual cost of construction.
I've never understood why people in this part of the country seem to want to become more and more like Europe. Why is that?
27. RE: #26;
Let us not forget that gas taxes are also stolen to build bike paths and over/under passes. Without the help of cars, bikers would be paying some pretty heavy taxes for Burk Gilman and others like it. As of now they pay nothing.
28. #26: So we can fail miserably?
29. re 25: The Mescalero Apaches.
re 27: "Let us not forget that gas taxes are also stolen to build bike paths and over/under passes."
None of the cigarette taxes goes to fund lung cancer treatment either.
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