Proposition 1, commonly called Roads & Transit (R&T),1 is a measure on the November 6 ballot in the urban areas of King, Pierce and Snohomish counties that would authorize a massive, 50 year increase in the general sales tax and in motor vehicle registration fees2 to fund new transit and road projects. Its stated purposes include reducing traffic congestion and protecting the environment, both of which have been shown by polls to be among the top concerns of the citizens in the Puget Sound region.
Most of the expenditure would be for transit, mainly for 50 miles of new light rail lines. Most of the road expenditure would be for widening existing freeways and arterials.
Although Eastside Rail Now! was formed for the purpose of advocating rail transportation (as its name implies), it strongly recommends voting "No" on Proposition 1, despite the fact that most of the expenditure would be for rail construction. This is because:
2. It will increase air pollution and contribute to global warming. This is because of the increased traffic that would result from wider freeways and connecting arterials. It is also due to the massive amount of energy, mostly from petroleum-based sources, that would be needed for the construction of the road and rail projects, including the production and transporting of the raw materials (concrete, steel, etc.) for use in them.4 There is a very large amount of scientific evidence that air pollution is a major cause of heart disease, cancer, asthma and numerous other diseases as well as of premature death. Also, most scientists are now convinced that global warming is real, that it is an extremely serious and urgent problem, and that it is in large part due to automobile use and other human activities.5 Transportation planning should, and can, be designed to reduce air pollution and greenhouse gasses, not increase them.6
3. It will increase toxic runoff. Although often overlooked, toxic runoff is an increasingly serious problem. It is largely the result of oil from automobile engines and ultra-fine particles from brakes and tires, much of which gets washed into streams and lakes, where it pollutes the water and can harm marine life. It is also a result of chemicals used on lawns. The increased number of vehicle miles resulting from wider freeways and arterials, more parking lots, etc. would result in more toxic runoff.
4. It will promote sprawl. Massive highway construction projects almost inevitably lead to more sprawl. This, in turn, results in further increases in traffic congestion, greater dependence on imported oil, more air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, increased toxic runoff and the loss of open spaces7.
5. It will promote destruction of a major natural area. Funding is included in Proposition 1 for the first phase of the highly controversial Cross Base Highway in Southern Pierce County. Not only is this road extremely expensive at a projected $477 million, but also it would cut through the largest remaining section of South Puget Sound prairie habitat and put further pressure on that unique ecosystem and the species that depend on it.8
6. It will promote greater dependence on increasingly expensive and unstable foreign oil supplies. There is little doubt that oil prices will continue on their upward trend,9 and many experts expect that dramatic increases could occur in the next few years. The risks to the U.S. economy and our standard of living from this dependence on unstable and increasingly expensive overseas oil supplies are obvious.
7. Poor choices were made on selecting the rail routes. The worst is East Link (from Seattle to Bellevue), largely because it would produce little or no increase in capacity in the I-90 corridor despite its truly massive cost. This capacity problem results from the tracks replacing the two express lanes of the I-90 floating bridge and the fact that the frequency and length of the trains would be severely restricted due to the weight restrictions on the bridge. Also, such trains would not be much faster than the existing express bus service in that corridor, and the speeds of express bus service to other Eastside destinations would be reduced because of loss of the express lanes.10 As another example, the proposed long extension of the light rail line south from Sea-Tac International Airport would not be particularly useful for most commuters in that area because of the poor routing (i.e., circuitous and in streets) and thus relatively slow speed of the section from Sea-Tac north to downtown Seattle. Rail transit can be a wonderful thing, as a growing number of cities around the world are finding out, but only if the routes are well planned and costs are kept under control. Alternative routes are available which would be far superior to those selected by Sound Transit.11
8. Most of the proposed rail lines are not scheduled for completion until 2027. Two decades is a very long time to wait, and it is neither necessary nor desirable to wait that long for well-planned rail service. Other cities around the world have been able to construct new rail lines and start transit service on existing ones in just a few years. With better planning, the same could be done here.
9. No proper project evaluation methodology was used. Modern best practices call for the use of least cost planning (LCP) or cost-benefit analysis to evaluate major transportation infrastructure projects.12 LCP is also required by Washington state law. However, it has been applied to few, if any, of the R&T projects, nor has any other recognized (and rational) project evaluation methodology been used. Why? The real reason is that many, or most, of the projects would fail such tests.13 Rather than objectively examining the true costs and benefits of all alternatives as required by LCP, R&T is instead largely just a jumble of projects that has been cobbled together by committee based on political considerations and in the hope that it would have the best chance of passage by the electorate.
10. Truly urgent projects are left unfunded. One of these is demolishing the Seattle waterfront viaduct and providing traffic mitigation for it. Another is replacing the SR-520 floating bridge (only partially funded). In addition, there are numerous other, smaller bridges in the region that are also in substandard condition and whose repair would not be funded. Further procrastination on repairing this crumbling infrastructure could lead to a major loss of life and severe damage to the local economy.
11. It is enormously expensive. In fact, it is the largest tax increase in the history of this region, and it could actually be the largest local tax increase in U.S. history. Although the voters' guide states that the cost would be only about $18 billion, that figure is in 2006 dollars (i.e., not adjusted for inflation) and does not include all expenses. Sound Transit and the RTID admit that the total cost, inclusive of adjustments for inflation and interest on bonds, would amount to about $47 billion ($31 billion for Sound Transit and $16 billion for RTID). But this still does not include cost overruns, which have characterized Sound Transit projects in the past and which could likewise add greatly to the cost of the new projects. Moreover, the $47 billion figure is just the direct monetary cost, and it does not include the additional cost to the local economy and to the quality of life from the failure to reduce traffic congestion, the increased air pollution, etc.14 Worse yet, Proposition 1 grants a total taxing authorization of $157 billion over its total 50 year life span.15 This makes Boston's notorious, $14.6 billion Big Dig16 look like small change. Such a monstrous tax increase is particularly wasteful given the minimal benefits that would result -- and the fact that far greater benefits could be had at a vastly lower cost with a more intelligently planned package.
12. Much less costly and more effective solutions for reducing congestion and air pollution are being ignored. They include improving bus service,17 encouraging employers to provide their employees with innovative transit passes,18 encouraging telecommuting,19 implementing congestion pricing,20 promoting the development of higher density, pedestrian-friendly neighborhoods,21 and making it easier for people to live closer to their workplaces.
13. It would preclude the region from taking on more worthy projects for decades. The region would become legally locked into this massive and unprecedented tax increase and its poorly planned projects for a half century. All flexibility to reduce taxes or to replace the R&T projects with more worthy projects, including those that might become necessary due to changing circumstances, would be lost.
14. No effective mechanism is in place to assure accountability by Sound Transit. Sound Transit's first stage projects, ST1, which were authorized by the voters in 1996, have been characterized by poor planning, massive cost overruns and very long delays.22 Although progress was apparently subsequently made on some aspects of controlling costs and improving accountability23, there is still no way to ensure that the projects authorized by Proposition 1 would not likewise be plagued by irresponsible decisions and a lack of accountability. This danger is evidenced by the poor choice of the routes for the new rail lines, their unprecedented cost, and the failure to use best practices planning techniques (see above).
15. It does nothing to stop the planned scrapping of the Eastside railroad and to utilize it as the core of a low cost and environment-friendly commuter rail service. This railroad, which parallels the most congested freeway in the entire Northwest and passes through or near most major destinations on the rapidly growing Eastside, is one of the region's most valuable transportation resources. It could play a leading role in increasing mobility and combating the growth of toxic emissions on the Eastside, and at minimal cost. Yet, the region has been faced with the bizarre situation in which the political leadership has devoted substantial effort to attempting to scrap it and replace it with a bicycle trail at great cost to the taxpayers.24 Moreover, this is occurring in a region that already has 175 miles of bicycle trails, some of which already parallel the railroad.25 A pilot commuter service could be started in a matter of months, and the railroad could be upgraded to serve as the core of a high quality regional transit service26 within two years and at a cost of about what Sound Transit spends for a single mile of its light rail construction.27
16. Claims that it would benefit the economy are greatly exaggerated. The massive expenditures authorized by Proposition 1 to provide mediocre results would actually become a drag on the economy, as they would not be the most productive use of the region's limited financial and other resources.28 The economy would benefit far more from smaller and wiser expenditures that were more effective in improving mobility and reducing toxic emissions. It would also benefit from measures aimed at helping local businesses develop expertise in efficient solutions to congestion and pollution that they could then also apply elsewhere.29
17. The tax increases are highly regressive. Washington already has what may be the most regressive tax structure in the entire U.S. because of its heavy reliance on the sales tax, and the big boosts in that tax and in vehicle registration fees authorized by Proposition 1 would further add to the burden on the working poor and those on fixed incomes.
18. Its creators and promoters have been dishonest with the public. This includes exaggeration of the benefits, greatly understating the potential tax burden, not providing plausible explanations for their failure to use best practices planning techniques, and stonewalling about obvious solutions such as starting a commuter rail service on the Eastside railroad. It is clearly not wise to make a decision to lock our region into the most massive local tax increase in history until its promoters are fully truthful about all of the costs, benefits and risks.
19. The official description on the ballot is highly deceptive. This is likely create a bias among the voters in favor of Proposition 1. The official description on the ballot begins:
To reduce transportation congestion, increase road and transit capacity, promote safety, facilitate mobility, provide for an integrated regional transportation system, and improve the health, welfare, and safety of the citizens of Washington, ...This is clearly deceptive, as there is no assurance that widening freeways reduces congestion, promotes safety or improves the health and welfare of people. In fact, all of the evidence points to the exact opposite, as discussed above. Also, safety is mentioned twice in the start of the official description, but this measure will actually result in less safety as well as worse health.30 It is important in a democracy that the official description of a measure be neutral rather than advocate a particular point of view. Moreover, this deceptive wording is clearly in violation of Washington State law, which states that the ballot description must
be a true and impartial description of the measure's essential contents, clearly identify the proposition to be voted on, and not, to the extent reasonably possible, create prejudice either for or against the measure.31The election materials are also deceptive in another sense. It is that Sound Transit, which is the leading proponent of Proposition 1, not only wrote the "pro" arguments in the voters' pamphlet, but also got to appoint the committee to write the "con" arguments. Cleverly, they picked a committee that only wrote about the problems with the transit portion of the measure (i.e., financial) and completely failed to mention the problems with the roads portion (i.e., damage to the environment). Such deception should not be rewarded by the voters.
20. Combining two very different items into a single ballot measure creates a lack of choice for the voters. It also adds to the complexity of the situation, thereby making it difficult for the voters to make a rational decision. Moreover, this could be in conflict with state law (or at least the spirit thereof), which requires that ballot measures and their wording be kept simple.
21. Even some of its creators do not like it. Although most political leaders in the three-county region have publicly stated that they support Proposition 1, their support often seems lukewarm. Privately, some of them have admitted that they do not really like it but that they feel locked in. They see it as an ugly compromise based on political expediency rather than what is really best for the region. Most of them find it wiser to not speak out against it because so much effort has gone into it and because of the "don't rock the boat" mentality that is so characteristic of this region. Apparently, some political leaders, including some creators of the R&T package, secretly hope that the measure will fail so that the region will be forced to come up with a more sensible plan. So far, only one of its creators, who is, interestingly, the most powerful public official in the region, King County Executive Ron Sims, has had the courage to speak up and tell the truth about Proposition 1.32
22. The Seattle area should strive to set an innovative example, one that the rest of the world could emulate. R&T represents the tired old tax-and-spend model rather than a more modern, results-oriented approach. Not only are many of the individual projects poorly conceived, but the package as a whole is lacking in coherence, imagination and effectiveness. The Seattle area, with its great wealth of talent and concern about the environment, can do much better than this. And it should do so, not only for itself but also to set an example of excellence for the rest of the world. If we cannot get it right here, how can we expect other regions, most of which have much smaller concentrations of talent and resources, but whose actions also affect us, to do so?33
23. There would be no harm, and only a huge benefit, from waiting a year or two for a more sensible plan. This is despite the claims by the advocates of Proposition 1 that a "No" vote would be a major setback because it would delay urgent projects by years and add greatly to costs. Nothing could be further from the truth. Sufficient funds from past tax increases and other sources are already available to complete many projects, including the light rail line from Seattle to Sea-Tac and its extension north to the Husky Stadium. Funds are also available to start a transit service on the Eastside railroad, to improve bus service, to promote the development of more walkable neighborhoods, etc. A "No" vote would send a clear message to the politicians to come up with a much less costly and far more effective plan. We can only gain by waiting.
In the interest of fairness, possible reasons34 for voting "Yes" on Proposition 1 are also presented as follows:
1. A desire to increase total transportation capacity to accommodate a larger population. The projects included in Proposition 1 will increase total capacity in the region. However, it should be kept in mind that the increase will be relatively small in comparison to the huge increase in demand that is forecast. There are much more effective and far less costly ways to increase capacity.
2. A desire for temporary and localized easing of traffic congestion regardless of the cost. The creation of additional capacity on some sections of freeway may provide some temporary easing of traffic congestion on those sections. For businesses as well as wealthy and/or high income people who use those sections and are not concerned about cost either to themselves or to the community as a whole, this could be a good thing. However, this temporary easing of congestion will be offset to some extent by increased congestion as a result of the construction process (i.e., due to lane closings, transporting construction materials, etc.).
3. A desire for profits from construction contracts and real estate. A small number of people will make immense profits from the R&T measure should it pass. They are most notably construction contractors and those who own or acquire land near the light rail stations. However, it should be kept in mind that such profits would be at the expense of the region as a whole.
4. A belief that all rail lines are good regardless of where they go or how much they cost. Some people are very fond of trains, either as a hobby or because of a belief that they are almost always superior to other alternatives. Such people are happy that most of the funds authorized by Proposition 1 would go for constructing 50 miles of new light rail. However, many of them are likely not aware of the fact that it will also facilitate scrapping most of an existing 47 mile railroad.
5. A belief that protecting the environment is not important. There are still many people who believe that the adverse effects of air pollution on health are exaggerated and that global warming is not occurring, is not due to human activity, or is not harmful. There are also people who do not care about the environment either because they are not informed about it, have more pressing concerns, or believe that any such problems should be dealt with in the future instead of now.
2Proposition 1 would boost the general sales tax by 0.5 cents per dollar for Sound Transit and by 0.1 cents per dollar for the RTID. It would also increase the vehicle tax by $8 per $1,000 of valuation for RTID. Moreover, the existing 0.4 cents sales tax for Sound Transit would be extended. The total 0.9 percent for Sound Transit could be kept in effect until the year 2057, even if construction ended on schedule in 2027, in order to pay off Sound Transit's 30 year bonds!
3The proponents of the massive road construction projects claim that they will reduce congestion by "eliminating bottlenecks." However, this is highly misleading. While such projects would increase capacity at existing bottlenecks, the increased traffic through those areas would then result in new bottlenecks in other areas. And elimination of those bottlenecks would, in turn, result in still newer bottlenecks, etc. in a never-ending, and increasingly costly, cycle.
4For example, freeway widening projects require large amounts of concrete, mainly for the pavement and bridges. And concrete production is very energy-intensive and a major source of carbon dioxide. For more about the role of concrete in global warming, see Cement Industry Is at Center of Climate Change Debate, New York Times, October 26, 2007.
5A large part of this roads expenditure will go to the further widening of the I-405 freeway, which is widely considered to be a major boondoggle and has been ranked by the website Road to Ruin as the 4th most wasteful road project in America. For more information, see The Great I-405 Boondoggle, Eastside Rail Now!, January 2007.
6Actually, a dramatic reduction in the total worldwide emission of greenhouse gasses would be necessary to effectively combat global warming. For example, see Scientists Call For 80 Percent Drop In U.S. Emissions By 2050 To Avoid Dangerous Warming, Science Daily, September 30, 3007.
7The loss of open space is bad because it results in the loss of (a) nearby scenic beauty and recreational opportunities, which have long been a major attraction of our region, (b) nearby and extremely fertile farmland and (c) habitat for wildlife.
8For more about this, see The Cross-Base Highway puts rare oak-woodland prairie at risk in Washington, Conservation Northwest.
9U.S. oil production peaked around 1970 at close to 10 million barrels per day, as had earlier been predicted, and it has been generally declining ever since, reaching about five million barrels daily in 2005. Output in Mexico, the third largest source of oil imports for the U.S., has also peaked and, in fact, Mexico may lose all of its ability to export oil in just a few years due to the rapid decline of its Cantarell oil field, the second largest ever discovered, from aggressive drilling and consequent damage to its geologic structure. Moreover, there are reports that Saudi Arabia's Ghawar, the world's largest oil field, has passed its peak production. There have been few new discoveries of significance in recent years despite intensive exploration, and at the same time worldwide demand has continued to rise, most notably from China and India. The article The oil supply tsunami alert by Kjell Aleklett, professor in physics at Uppsala University, summarizes it well: "Fifty years ago the world was consuming 4 billion barrels of oil per year and the average discovery was around 30 billion. Today we consume 30 billion barrels per year and the discovery rate is now approaching 4 billion barrels of crude oil per year."
10Plans to compensate for the loss of the two center lanes by narrowing the remaining lanes to create two new lanes would require reduced speeds on all lanes and would result in increased accidents. A much more effective and vastly less expensive solution would be improving express bus service over this route. Among the ways in which this could be accomplished are to make the two express lanes bidirectional throughout the day instead of the current one way (i.e., inbound to Seattle in the morning and outbound in the afternoon and evening) and to give busses that use that route priority at traffic signals in Bellevue. There are additional potential problems with the proposal to run light rail over the bridge, including the possibility that it might be dangerous during winter storms due to the increased weight from the steel rails and the trains. Also, it is not yet certain that the federal government, which has jurisdiction over the bridge because it is part of the Interstate Highway System, would grant approval to narrow the remaining lanes.
11The outstanding example is launching a transit service on the Eastside railroad, which is discussed elsewhere in this article. Another example is constructing a branch line of that railroad from Bellevue through the Overlake corridor and by Microsoft's headquarters complex to downtown Redmond. This would likely be a heavily used line, and it could be constructed at a much lower cost and far more quickly that Sound Transit's proposed light rail line for the corridor. Sound Transit's planned extension from some as yet unannounced location in the Overlake corridor to downtown Redmond is so far in the future that budgeting for it is not even included in Proposition 1, and thus construction likely would not begin until after completion of the first phase of East Link in 2027. For more information about this and other low cost extensions, see Possible Future Extensions for the Eastside Railroad, Eastside Rail Now!, September 2007.
12LCP is based on cost-benefit analysis, but differs in that it evaluates the entire range of alternatives both on the supply side (i.e., increasing road and transit capacity) and the demand side (i.e., measures to reduce demand) and treats them all on an equal footing. For more information see A Brief Introduction to Least Cost Planning, Eastside Rail Now!, September 2007.
13Cost-benefit analysis is really just a common sense rule that basically says that (a) only those projects should be considered for which the total benefits exceed the total costs and (b) and among such projects only those having the highest ratios of benefits to costs should be selected. An unpublished cost-benefit study of East Link by Eastside Rail Now! found that the project is so severely flawed that the costs actually exceed the benefits, and by a large margin!
When Eastside Rail Now! asked Sound Transit officials why they had not conducted a cost-benefit analysis for East Link, the reply was: "We don't have enough money yet." They added that it would be conducted after more money was obtained after the election. This is ludicrous, as Sound Transit has many millions of dollars at its disposal and has been able to conduct a very costly public relations campaign, at taxpayer expense. A cost-benefit analysis need not be that expensive, as illustrated by the fact that Eastside Rail Now!, with vastly smaller resources, was able to conduct a basic cost-benefit study at its own expense. Best practices calls for conducting a cost-benefit or least cost planning study before submitting it to the voters, not after. Interestingly, there was also some confusion among some Sound Transit staff members about the difference between a cost-benefit study and an environmental impact study.
14The costs of Proposition 1, in addition to the direct monetary costs that are usually cited, would accrue in a variety of forms, including (a) increased traffic congestion resulting from the failure to implement better planned projects, with consequent higher costs for businesses from increased delays to employees and shipments, (b) more disease and premature death from the increased air pollution, (c) greater output of greenhouse gasses and (d) more injury, death and property damage from the increased traffic accidents that would result from the greater volume of traffic and from the narrowing of lanes on the I-90 bridge.
15Sound Transit and the RTID have stated that the construction costs (i.e., exclusive of inflation, financing charges, operation costs and cost overruns) for their projects are $18 billion. They also have said that the figure rises to $47 billion when inflation and some additional costs, such as interest costs on the loans, are included. However, the actual amount that Proposition 1 will authorize them to collect in taxes will be roughly $157 billion, if those taxes remain in effect through the year 2057, as permitted by the proposition, according to Jim MacIsaac, P.E. (Prop 1: $157 Billion vs. All Those Other Numbers). This figure is inclusive of both the new taxes that would be authorized and an extension of the taxes that were already authorized for ST1 in the 1996 election. Although it is technically possible for these taxes to be eliminated prior to 2057, it is unlikely given the strong possibility of major cost overruns, higher than expected rail operating and/or maintenance costs, the strong desire by Sound Transit to launch still additional high-cost projects, etc.
There is also concern that the true financial burden on individual households would be much higher than has been stated by Sound Transit and the RTID at $230 annually. This is in part because those portions of the tax increases that they assume would be borne by businesses could largely be shifted to consumers in the forms of higher prices and lower wages.
16The Big Dig was designed to replace an elevated freeway through Boston with an underground one in large part in order to restore the urban environment and reconnect the city with its waterfront. The goal of removing the much disliked eyesore was an admirable one, and the project itself is was an engineering marvel; however, it turned into one of the most costly and controversial transportation projects in human history. Initially budgeted at $4 billion (in today's dollars), the Big Dig wound up costing more than twice as much as the Panama Canal (also in today's dollars), according to the article $14.6 billion later, Boston's Big Dig wraps up, Christian Science Monitor, December 19, 2003. It is ironic that the project to further widen I-405, which is already at least 12 lanes wide in some locations, is creating the type of monstrosity that the Big Dig was designed to eliminate.
17There are numerous ways that bus service could be improved at a relatively modest cost. Particularly important is giving busses some extent of priority at traffic signals, which can result in faster and more reliable service (as well as lower operating costs). Another measure is stricter enforcement of passenger conduct rules, as annoying and offensive behavior by a small minority is a major complaint of many bus riders. An additional approach is the highly successful regional bus service for employees that was developed by Google in the San Francisco Bay area and was recently implemented on a smaller scale by Microsoft here. For more about this see Google's Buses Help Its Workers Beat the Rush, New York Times, March 10, 2007, and Microsoft giving workers free ride -- with its own bus service, Seattle P-I, September 7, 2007.
18Well planned transit passes can be very effective in promoting alternatives to driving, as has been illustrated by the University of Washington's highly successful U-PASS program. It provides all students, faculty and other employees with a sticker that is placed on the back of their university-issued identification cards. This sticker not only grants unlimited free rides on three transit systems, but also provides a variety of other single-occupant automobile trip reduction services including vanpool subsidies, free vanpool and carpool parking in preferred areas, discounts on bicycle helmets and lights, use of various bicycle facilities, provision of rides home for faculty and employees for emergencies, and discounts from a number of local merchants. U-PASS became a success immediately after launching in 1991, and by the end of its first ten years it had resulted in 75 percent of the campus population of more than 56,000 commuting by bus, vanpool, carpool, bicycle, walking or other alternative transportation modes rather than driving alone. For more about this, see U-PASS program celebrates 10 years of reducing campus and regional congestion on the King County website.
19Recent years have seen tremendous progress in telecommuting technology, and this trend will continue far into the future as a result of steady advances in computer and communications technologies. This is making it possible for a growing number of job types to be conducted entirely, or at least partially, from homes or other remote locations.
20Congestion pricing can improve traffic flow by discouraging driving on the most congested roads at the most congested times. It also has other benefits, including reducing air pollution, speeding up surface transit, reducing accidents, and facilitating movement by ambulances, fire trucks and other emergency vehicles. In addition, the considerable surplus funds generated from congestion pricing (i.e., after paying for the costs of implementing it) can be used to upgrade transit, thereby providing an improved alternative for drivers. Imposing fees on the floating bridges could be a relatively politically palatable and technically easy-to-implement first step towards the a more widespread application of congestion pricing.
Recent advances in technology have greatly reduced the costs and inconvenience of implementing congestion pricing. They include advanced cameras and other electronic devices for detecting and recording the entry of individual vehicles into specific areas at specific times as well as automated billing and payment systems. Congestion pricing is now being employed in central London and Singapore as well as on some suburban toll roads in the U.S. There has been growing interest in extending its use to other major cities as well, both in Europe and in the U.S. (including in New York City and San Francisco).
21The development of neighborhoods that encourage walking, bicycle riding and transit use can be facilitated in large part by zoning and building regulation changes that allow higher densities, compatible mixed uses and narrower streets and that require improved sound proofing for residences and reduce or eliminate the current requirements for massive underground parking garages for each new structure. Such neighborhoods have long functioned well throughout Europe and in some North American cities including New York City, Toronto and San Francisco.
22For example, prior to the 1996 vote that authorized its first construction phase (ST1), Sound Transit proclaimed that it could construct a light rail line from the north end of the University District to south of Sea-Tac International Airport as well as develop a commuter rail and regional bus service by 2006 for $3.9 billion, adjusted for inflation. The projected cost for the light rail alone was roughly $2 billion. The most recent projections are for the 15.6 mile segment from downtown Seattle south to the airport (and minus its originally promised additional station south of the airport) to be completed by 2009 at a cost of $2.7 billion, and for the 3.15 mile segment from downtown north to Husky Stadium (and minus the originally promised additional stations at First Hill and in the heart of the University District) to be completed by 2016 for an additional $1.8 billion. The stations south of the airport and in the University district (which would be much more useful than the Husky Stadium station) have been delayed until a future phase. The total projected cost for the originally promised first phase system (exclusive of the abandoned First Hill station) currently stands at $6.2 billion, already far in excess of the original promise. Moreover, the completion target has been extended by 14 years to 2020.
23See the Accountability page on Sound Transit's website for a full list of ways in which it claims to have improved its admittedly sloppy and opaque operations. Unfortunately, this is still not sufficient, as is illustrated by the fact there is as yet no monitoring of the agency to compel it to comply with best practices and with legally mandated project evaluation techniques.
24King County has estimated the direct monetary cost of removing the tracks and replacing them with a bicycle trail at $66 million. This figure apparently does not include trail maintenance costs. But even more importantly, it does not consider the far greater costs to the region (e.g., monetary costs and poorer air quality) of losing this valuable alternative to the continued widening of the parallel I-405 freeway.
25This is the total number of miles of trails in King County according to the County's website. For more about this, see The Strange Case of the Already Existing Trails, Eastside Rail Now!, July 22, 2007.
26Although Sound Transit and other proponents of R&T have repeatedly insisted that the Eastside railroad is not suitable for transit, the fact is that government agencies have not conducted any reliable study of it. The frequently quoted BNSF Corridor Study, which was released by the Puget Sound Regional Council (PSRC) earlier this year, is severely flawed for a number of reasons, including its use of faulty assumptions and weak logic. Moreover it does not utilize any recognized transportation infrastructure decision making methodology. For a brief look at some of the problems with that report, see Eastside Rail Now's Testimony at the September 13 PSRC Board Meeting.
27Sound Transit is spending roughly $173 million per mile (exclusive of the cost of the downtown transit tunnel) for its Central Link light rail that is currently under construction between Seattle and Sea-Tac International Airport, and its current projections call for an expenditure of at least $325 million per mile for the East Link line between Seattle and Bellevue. Based on the expenditures in other regions of upgrading railroads for commuter use, $200 million (i.e., five million per mile) would allow a very substantial improvement of the Eastside railroad to permit higher speeds, a smoother ride and an increased capacity.
28 This is similar to the policy that was sometimes advocated during the Great Depression in the 1930s of having the government hire unemployed people to dig holes and then bury them in order to stimulate the economy. Such a policy has long since been discredited by most economists.
29An outstanding example of this is the development of improved software and hardware that would further facilitate the use of telecommuting as an alternative to physical commuting. The Seattle area is particularly well positioned to do this because of its immense concentration of computer- and communications-related talent. In fact, the development and production of telecommuting technologies and services could become one of the next big growth areas for the region's economy.
30Safety will be reduced for several reasons. One is that the increased number of vehicle miles induced by the greater road capacity will result in more accidents. Even if the accident rate were to fall in the sections with increased capacity, this would still be offset by increased accidents on other sections of the road system (which constitute the great bulk of the system) due to the increased traffic on them induced by the sections with newly increased capacity. Another reason is that narrowing the lanes on the I-90 floating bridge to increase the number of lanes would increase accidents on that bridge. Also, public health would be made worse, not better, because of both the increased number of accidents and the increased air pollution resulting from the greater volume of traffic.
31See RCW (Revised Code of Washington) 29A.72.050.
32Sims announced his opposition on September 27 in an eloquent and moving guest article in the Seattle times, The roads-and-transit plan: so much cost to do so little.
33If we cannot stop the growth or greenhouse gasses and stop the destruction of the land by sprawl here, how can we expect countries in the tropics to protect their rain forests, and how can we expect maritime nations to stop polluting the oceans and depleting the world's fisheries.
34A good faith effort was made to be fair to the "Yes" side. However, even proponents of Proposition 1 can find very few reasons to favor it (none of which are valid, as discussed above). See, for example, see WHY VOTE YES on the Roads & Transit Vote Yes on November website.
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This page created October 10, 2007. Updated Octover 29, 2007.
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