The phrase,'Unsound Transit', was coined by the Wall Street Journal to describe Seattle where,"Light Rail Madness eats billions that could otherwise be devoted to truly efficient transportation technologies." The Puget Sound's traffic congestion is a growing cancer on the region's prosperity. This website, captures news and expert opinion about ways to address the crisis. This is not a blog, but a knowledge base, which collects the best articles and presents them in a searchable format. My goal is to arm residents with knowledge so they can champion fact-based, rather than emotional, solutions.


Monday, March 10, 2008

Does the Rice Stanton Group have the solution for Puget Sound

Beyond Proposition 1: A new consensus is emerging


A group headed by Norm Rice and John Stanton is gathering allies for a more rational and practical approach to the region's transit needs. Both supporters and opponents of the failed Proposition 1 are part of the effort.

By Ted Van Dyk, Transportation
Posted on December 18, 2007

"The voters are not fools." —political scientist V.O. Key

In the wake of Proposition 1's overwhelming rejection by King, Pierce, and Snohomish county voters, encouraging signs of rationality are beginning to appear in what has heretofore been the absurdist world of regional transportation planning.

Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels made effusive statements last week on the first run of the $52 million Allentown Trolley from Westlake Center to South Lake Union, regarding his vision of a trolley-system extension through all of downtown Seattle. Gov. Chris Gregoire, having committed $1 billion to a fixup of each end of the creaking Alaskan Way Viaduct, suddenly reversed herself on the issue of final repair or replacement and declared herself open to surface/transit options she previously had rejected. Sound Transit board members, now led by Nickels, were laying plans for resubmission, probably in 2010, of their soundly defeated proposal for an extended light rail system.

None of those outcomes (except possibly the adoption of a surface/transit solution on Alaskan Way) is likely to transpire.

Instead, momentum now has shifted toward more practical and affordable ways that the region's most pressing transportation needs can be met. For one thing, Gregoire has stated that repair or replacement of the Evergreen Point Bridge across Lake Washington will have high priority in the year ahead. Both the 520 bridge and the Alaskan Way Viaduct are state highways, and the governor, indeed, can address both definitively if determined to do so.

We also may see in 2008 a reform of the regional transportation planning and decisionmaking structures that have failed us often in the past.

The Gregoire-appointed Norm Rice-John Stanton commission a year ago proposed that Sound Transit and the Regional Transportation Investment District be superseded by a new, mainly elected, regional transportation body better able to make independent, cost-benefit-based proposals for balanced transportation systems. The proposal was well received in the Legislature but stalled in the face of full-court opposition by Sound Transit and those who are protecting turf or who benefit directly from Sound Transit contracts.

One reason that Sound Transit overreached so badly in seeking record amounts of tax dollars in Prop 1 was that it feared it might shortly be euthanized if the Rice-Stanton proposals were adopted, or that taxes reserved for Sound Transit would be raided for road building or non-Sound Transit bus systems. For Sound Transit, Prop 1 was Stalingrad. Without the fresh infusions of money, even its limited local light rail system lacks funds to get as far north as Husky Stadium.

Former Seattle Mayor Norm Rice and hi-tech executive/investor John Stanton have decided to press aggressively in 2008 for adoption of their proposal. They have been joined, initially, by a core group including of former U.S. Sen. Slade Gorton, Bruce Agnew of the Discovery Institute's Cascadia transportation center, Snohomish County transportation leader Reid Shockey, 2004 attorney general candidate Mike Vaska, and Steve Mullin, president of the Washington Roundtable and co-chair of the pro-Prop 1 campaign. This eclectic group includes previous Sound Transit and Prop 1 advocates. They are united in a belief that rationality and accountability must become cornerstones of future transportation policy.

The Rice-Stanton group already has met with the governor and key legislative leaders and reports no overt opposition to their proposal. They also have had informational meetings with Sound Transit and RTID leaders. According to Stanton, his group has no illusions regarding the support of these bodies, but they hope to at least blunt their opposition.

Rice, Stanton, et. al., shortly will form a committee — let us call it, for now, the Committee for Rational Transportation Decisions — to generate public support for their proposals and to bring pressure on the governor and legislative leaders during the coming short session of the Legislature. The effort, at least for now, will be directed toward legislation rather than a ballot measure, although the latter could remain an option. No legislative lobbyist has yet been hired.

The latest version of the Rice-Stanton proposal calls for the regional transportation authority's members to be directly elected (rather than appointed, as with the Sound Transit and RTID boards) and thus directly accountable to their constituents. It would be supplemented by six appointed members, with four to be appointed by the counties and two by the governor. Though the latter configuration could change, directly elected officials would form a strong majority on the body.

The Rice-Stanton group could also find itself working with Prop. 1 opponents such as Belltown financier Mark Baerwaldt and former state Supreme Court Justice Phil Talmadge. Baerwaldt and Talmadge have also publicly endorsed the notion of the new regional transportation agency to supersede Sound Transit and RTID. These forces, together, have the money, political juice, and potential public support to create the desired institutional change.

In all of this, a new consensus is emerging about a post-Prop 1 agenda. It centers on moving aside turf-oriented, self-serving agencies such as Sound Transit and transferring power to a more objective, more responsive regional body. It would stress immediate priorities such as addressing the urgent Alaskan Way Viaduct and Evergreen Point Bridge, which are aging and structurally vulnerable. It would not stop light rail construction in place, but it would limit construction to a line running from Seattle-Tacoma International Airport to either Convention Place, Husky Stadium, or Northgate. Future funding would be focused more greatly on express bus, bus rapid transit, and normal bus service; dedicated transit lanes; HOV lanes; tolling; and selective repair and expansion of long neglected local roads and lifeline highways. Citywide trolleys definitely would not be part of the scheme.

Things move slowly hereabouts. But finally they appear to be moving in the right direction on regional transportation policy. The coming year could actually be a good one for us in that regard.

The following comments were posted on crosscut in response

Crosscut Must Have a Death Wish
Posted by: ratcityreprobate on Dec 18, 2007 7:09 AM
For the umpteenth time Van Dyk subjects us to his Sound Transit rant. Now we learn that Cascadia transportation center will bring the Intelligent Designer to help the Rice Stanton clown car. What an absurd joke. Those two couldn't organize a one car funeral procession. A really nice guy but do-nothing mayor who went on to nearly bankrupt a Federal banking institution and a right-wing crank are going to lead us out of the wilderness. Please!

Hopefully Van Dyk has adult children living elsewhere who will come for him and place him in an appropriate living situation.

Tacoma News Tribune Weighs In

Posted by: dltooley on Dec 20, 2007 6:59 AM
Today's Tribune weighs in on this subject, with some more detail about what's planned regarding the issue of 'sub-area' equity.

Just because a sex predator changes from a red suit to a blue one doesn't mean they won't still be up to the same tricks. To be fair, the corporate welfare folks calling themselves upstanding democrats or upstanding republicans aren't necessarily caught up in the cycle of sexual abuse.

They do certainly use those poor souls, as well as the racially damaged, to their financial benefit. Some might tell you that is legal, I would disagree.

One crucial aspect is also the question of abuse of authority of any kind. FWIW it is my opinion that the folks who stand to continue to benefit from Sound Transit and the like have a multi-generational history of abuse within the development of their authority.

The best solution to that problem is certainly a matter of debate - the fact of the existence of this major problem is not.

Personally, I think the best standards to use are those standards of law misused by these very same folks. More on this later.

Lincoln, Tacoma
Glad I read it, but
Posted by: dltooley on Dec 18, 2007 8:43 AM
Norm Rice is still incompetent. Just because he can steal somebody else's good idea and throw them in jail instead of recognizing their contribution, let alone pay for it, doesn't mean that he'll be able to actually make that idea work.

Rather, quite the contrary.

His hiring of Mike Vaska (A Foster Pepper Sheffelman Attorney - the firm just removed from 'power' at WAMU) is like Christine Gregoire hiring Mark Sidran or Jenny Durkan.

Well okay, he only hired one public shyster, instead of two like Ghetto Queen Christine, so give him that.

Current funding
Posted by: summerwind on Dec 18, 2007 10:16 AM
Voters approved the nickel gas tax followed by the 9.5 cent gas tax if highway improvements including the 520 bridge and viaduct
There is a weight fee on our car tabs for transportation projects
There is a .3% sales tax fee on the sales tax for new cars for Transportation improvements
There is a .1% sales tax fee for improved Metro bus service
The RTA tax is still alive and well on our car tabs in King county
King County went into the Ferry business without a vote from the people in King County

It would be nice to review what we got for the current funding before new proposals with new taxes are brought forward.
About time!
Report a violationPosted by: Piper Scott on Dec 18, 2007 11:02 AM
Crosscut WriterI'm definitely not a Norm Rice fan, but even so any movement towards a de-Balkanization of transportation planning in the region is a good move, Norm or not. And taming the rabid beast of Sound Transit and getting it to both know and keep its place as being PART of regional transportation and NOT the whole ball of wax is also a good thing.

If you'll pardon the pun, it's time for ST to know that its place is at the back of the bus, not driving the damn thing!

I hope that whatever regional authority comes out of this new effort encompasses not just the immediate turf, but also where people will be in 10, 15, 20 +++ years from now. In other words, Skagit County through Thurston need to be fully included.

Maybe the Puget Sound region will grow up after all!

The Piper
The idea is good, but...
Report a violationPosted by: dltooley on Dec 20, 2007 7:07 AM
It won't necessarily solve the problem.

I've been talking about an elected solution for some time, perhaps as long as a decade, and certainly before even the start of the Rice/Stanton effort, most likely one 'brokered' by the incompetent Stanford Frat boy lawyer Mike Vaska.

What they are after is the end of sub-area equity in order to SUCK off the rest of the region to continue to support the heavy needs of the scam that professional Seattle has become.

What is needed is not just for Seattle to pay their own share of their ego - but for them to start giving back to the rest of the State. Top of the list of 'givers' should be the clients of Foster Pepper Sheffelman and Preston Gates Ellis, as well as those lawyers themselves. The list of their associations is long, perhaps best documented in a list of 'partner' law firms maintained by Sound Transit, and all of these folks need to pay.

FWIW, my interpretation of the law is that they have already volunteered to do exactly that.

Funny thing about the law, isn't it, how it applies the same to everyone. Perhaps the funniest are those lawyers who don't realize that Constitutional protections aren't something to try to figure out how to violate to your benefit - their provisions, in letter and spirit, are designed to avoid problems for those in power (by being fair, go figure). These STUPID FOLK actually think they've pulled one off....

-Douglas Tooley
Lincoln, Tacoma
No more new commissions
Report a violationPosted by: animalal on Dec 18, 2007 4:26 PM
Summerwind has it mostly correct by outlining most of the taxes that need to be 'performance audited' before anything else gets taxed or tax increased. And Piper Scott has it wrong; Sound Transit and its 377 overpaid, bloated, benefit and retirement seeking leeches and the ST board should be THROWN UNDER THE BUS! ST is evil, pure and simple.
Hear your pain animalal
Report a violationPosted by: on Dec 18, 2007 4:53 PM
also, nice to hear people thinking FINALLY about some construction
for the transportation mode that OVER 90 % of us use everyday : the Auto .

light rail is not scaleable, re-configurable or even cost effective WITHOUT
Report a violationPosted by: Tarl on Dec 18, 2007 8:15 PM
Thanks to Ted's support for this mysterious proposal we can all take comfort in understanding that it is an effort to sabotage Sound Transit and light rail. That's what it sounds like to me anyway. The messenger in this case is just as important as the message.

It also sounds like a set-up to support the Dino Rossi campaign. It looks like a bunch of republicans with money have bought off a few dumb democrats and called it bi-partisan.

It also sounds like a huge diversion from the real issues: getting something done on high priorities like 520 and the Viaduct. These guys all want to consume all the time and resources on their new big government so that Rossi can say the government didn't deliver on the big things.

Its an obvious diversion from the things real people care about. In other words, more of the same from pointy headed elites.
RE: No Joke
Report a violationPosted by: dltooley on Dec 19, 2007 9:55 AM
This is a good example of why lawyers calling for 'bipartisanship' is a joke.

Mike Vaska was Foster Pepper Sheffelman's attorney on the Sound Transit effort. As I recall his most significant contribution was the naming the agency, but perhaps it was just the Sounder train.

Vaska did run as a Republican - but his firm is definitely a democratic one, though definitely the highest of the 'limousine liberal' class. They got their start in public bond issues under Rice on a housing issue.

They may well put forth an image of 'diversity' but best believe there is none. I don't know about Stanton, but Rice and Vaska are definitely stinkers. You can see the incompetent arrogance everytime they look in your eyes.

Specific impressions/recollections of each:

There is a historical racial conflict on the UW Campus between the Frats and the various minority organizations. I've no doubt that he suffered some racist insults and no doubt either that some of those folks were from my own department. But continuing that battle with a young white male from that same department whose 'racial' credentials are unassailable is more than just stupid, no matter how much the legal establishment will try to use racial laws to manage hate.

I talked once about this same general subject - his response? 'It's a free Country'. Freedom to screw over everyone else at the benefit of your clients, after yourselves? Methinks not, me thinks rather that FPS and their current clients, no longer including WAMU, are certainly able to volunteer to have their 'standards' applied to themselves.

Rice was probably qualifed as a Councilmember. As a banker he was a good hire for Fannie Mae - but his lack of skill at running that public organization - well before the current mortgage mess - is adequate evidence for his failure as a mayor. I suppose he blames it all on the white male Econ graduates in the banking industry.

Saying yes when you should say no is every bit as racist (and harmful, no matter the context) as it is to say no when you should say yes. The limousine liberals of Seattle fell all over themselves over a black man with potential that the only result was messing him up. This mess up is perhaps the most significant single factor in Seattle's current situation.

FWIW I hear Larry Gossett had a few white male aquaintances at the UW, even as head of the Black Panthers (I think it was the Panthers). I'd guess Sims had a few at Central, a true 'Buffalo Soldier', if he doesn't mind the term.

-Douglas Tooley
Report a violationPosted by: hoohah on Dec 18, 2007 9:49 PM
First, Mr. VanDyk is wrong to say that absent fresh infusions of money from Prop 1, Sound Transit does not have enough money to get to Husky Stadium. Assuming they get the federal grant they've applied for (and for which they've received a very high rating), they'll have the money to get to Husky Stadium. Construction is scheduled to start toward the end of next year.

Second, Mr. VanDyk's "analysis" seems to consist of heaping approving characterizations (rational, practical, affordable, independent, balanced, accountable, objective, responsive) for the imagined new organization he favors and disapproving adjectives on his bete-noir Sound Transit (turf-oriented, self-serving). There is not much insight, thinking or enlightenment going on in this article.

Third, this new effort he promotes is made up primarily of people who want to expand roads and limit expenditures on transit. They want buses for transit -- the cheapest kind of transit there is and also, not coincidentally, the most inadequate and unsatisfactory, destined to get stuck in traffic just as they already are today.

The Discovery Institute has no credibility on transportation or anything else. This is the organization that led the fight against Darwinism nationally. Their transportation group continually advocates for outlandish plans such as building a new 405 further east to be called I-605 and pie-in-the-sky massive tunnel-building programs that could never be considered "rational" or "practical."

Please, Crosscut, find somebody with some knowledge, credibility and insight to write on transportation.
RE: Husky Stadium light rail line
Report a violationPosted by: jniles on Dec 19, 2007 12:23 AM
On the contrary, Mr. VanDyk is arguably correct in writing that the November 6th rejection of Prop 1 leaves Sound Transit with insufficient cash to build the Seattle subway light rail tunnel to Husky Stadium. Sound Transit claims everything is OK, but I've seen independently prepared spreadsheets derived from Sound Transit's financial model showing new, higher operating and maintenance cost assumptions from the Citizen Oversight Panel. These spreadsheets indicate ST's cash position in the coming decade of subway construction is too shaky to responsibly begin digging.

ST will work and rework the numbers in the year ahead as part of gaining approval for the $750 million federal grant, money that is not yet in the bag. The celebrated "highest rating" for the grant as previously received by ST is continuously updated in light of new information. Sound Transit has not submitted the final grant application paperwork to USDOT yet. Only when the big grant is approved next year, IF it is approved, will we have independent verification that ST is good to go on digging the tunnel from Pine Street to Broadway & John to Husky Stadium.

Sound Transit would have plenty of money for building light rail to Husky Stadium if the tax receipts from the Eastside were diverted to University Link. However, under the subarea equity policy, these funds are dedicated to projects that benefit the Eastside.
RE: Husky Stadium light rail line
Report a violationPosted by: Tarl on Dec 19, 2007 8:39 AM
Good point jniles. The way Ted describes this slick old idea, there'd be no more subarea equity - in other words no real way to assure anybody outside of King County that their taxes wouldn't be eaten up by the overwhelming needs of Seattle and King County.

It sounds like a stunt to let the state off the hook when it comes to making transportation a priority.
RE: Husky Stadium light rail line
Report a violationPosted by: dltooley on Dec 19, 2007 10:00 AM
All this is is an attempt by one of the two big Sound Transit law firms to hedge their bets. It does appear to be a bit of a competitive move against PGE through some shared motivation between Foster Pepper Sheffelman the Discovery Institute.

Both parties should be ashamed to have their names used in such a scam.

One thing for dang sure, when it comes to milking the public treasury FPS and PGE are nothing more tweedle dee and tweedle dum.

Cascadia Center and I-605
Report a violationPosted by: jniles on Dec 19, 2007 12:19 PM
Cascadia Center of Discovery Institute has never advocated building the I-605 outer beltway. The Center participated in a WSDOT funded study some years ago of a railroad, pipeline, and trail corridor to the east of I-405 and the urbanized area to which others, not Cascadia Center, later attached a highway. None of this moved forward.

Cascadia Center's post Prop 1 ideas are posted at There is no mention of anything like I-605.

Cascadia Center's ideas on tunneling for highway right-of-way are also posted on the web. An important element of tunneling as described by this organization is non-governmental investment funding, with a payback on the investment from tolls. If one of the tunneling ideas pencils out as rational and practical for investors, it could happen. If not, no tunneling.
RE: Cascadia Center and I-605
Report a violationPosted by: hoohah on Dec 22, 2007 2:12 AM
jniles writes:
"Cascadia Center of Discovery Institute has never advocated building the I-605 outer beltway."

This simply is untrue. Here is an excerpt from a long history of the I-605 proposal, whose name was changed to the jazzier sounding "Commerce Corridor":

"The Commerce Corridor, as a privately developed toll expressway and utility
system through and adjacent to the foothills of western Washington, would
be thoroughly dependent on freight in order to cover the enormous costs of
building and maintaining it....

The Cascadia Project, a division of Seattle's Discovery Institute, has been
a prime mover, politically and rhetorically, of the previously rejected and
now somewhat newfangled corridor concept. Rather than keeping it focused on
Pierce, King, and Snohomish Counties, as before, the latest grandiose
vision extends it north to Canada and south to Lewis County.
Cascadia's own report last year on Washington's transportation woes,
entitled "How Do We Get There From Here?: A Transportation Future for the
Puget Sound Region," advocated for new north-south truck highways on both
sides of the Cascades Range. Cascadia's true believer, Bruce Agnew, has
been working the stakeholders in Whatcom and Skagit Counties on this
project for years."

For the complete history, see

The Discovery Institute report referenced above ("How do we get there from here?") was one tunnel proposal after another, including two tunnels for a new 520. Cost didn't seem to enter the equation anywhere. Their idea seems to be that if you privatize things, cost is never a problem.

You can see where the Discovery Institute is at by reading their own report:

I repeat: The Discovery Institute has no credibility.

For Whom the Bridge Tolls

Posted by: Stuka on Dec 19, 2007 12:56 PM
Unless we have competent engineers running the transportation system instead of committees of politicians, we're never going to get anywhere. Electing members to committees is better marginally, but doesn't address the problem of competence.

As much as I believe that ST is more or less a large transportation cancer, designed to be a cancer, and effective at being a cancer, in some respects its well run, and if its growth could be brought into concert with other transport spending, it's cancerous properties could go into remission and ST could become, someday, (dare I say it) cost effective.

But the race is not to the ST swift-boaters, nor to the ST Titantic deck chair rearrangers. One should ask instead, For whom the bridge tolls? Ultimately, accountable tolling, combined with a mixture of market-driven pricing (hot lanes up to $9.00 a trip, $3 for your average bridge trip on your average bridge) and social-benefit pricing (discounts for frequent users, the poor, service drivers, etc., not to mention global warming and transit subsidies) will transform the way we pay for things.

The reason this will happen is that pricing is reasonable and rational (which in politics is usually the kiss of death), but also politically doable. It may take 50 years to get to an automatically tolled transportation system, but we can easily start right now, and the technology is pretty much available in rudimentary form right now. Getting your infrastructure bill in the mail every month is the obvious way for things to go. It's where all utilities go when taxpayers revolt. The utilities ultimately become utilities ala sewers and power companies, and pay for everything out of one budget, instead of this nutty patchwork of sales, gas, RTID, and MVET taxes split across a bunch of jurisdictions.

Appointing the next guy in charge of regional transport problems is like appointing the next exchequer of Iraq. Maybe your guy won, and your enemy lost, but that battle is not the problem.

For your holiday (maybe even your Christmas) enjoyment, here's gift text from the Transportation 2020(?) study describing current tolling technology:

"1. DSRC RFID Schemes ... — Dedicated Short Range
Communication (DSRC) is the most common form of primary electronic road pricing technology in general use and is the standard on most free-flow toll facilities. The technology is based on the use of on-board vehicle units OBUs), sometimes referred to as transponders, which communicate with gantry-mounted equipment at defined charge or check points. These units can also incorporate a smart card facility for payment. The roadside equipment identifies and verifies each vehicle’s OBU and ... either processes a charge from its designated account or confirms its rights of access. In most systems, the DSRC system also locates the vehicle within its detection zone ...

2. Vehicle Positioning Systems (VPS) — Vehicle positioning systems (e.g., GPS, Galileo) use a satellite location system (generally a [GPS] system) to determine the vehicle’s position and measure location and distance travelled for the purposes of charging and access control. A limitation of vehicle-based systems is that in addition to the position system itself, they require an external communications system ... to periodically report [a] vehicle’s required charges. Germany’s truck toll system (the only adopted PS-based system currently in operation) uses cellular telephone technology, and its associated charges, to perform this task."

By the way, the study cites $25B in revenue that such a system could bring in over (if I recall correctly) 20 years. The obvious no-brainer for all, on all sides of this issue, is that taxation is a problem for transportation, and that tolling can be done corridor-by-corridor, can be made very accountable, and makes the future possible.

Paying it forward with the Tech

Posted by: dltooley on Dec 20, 2007 7:19 AM
Well said, Mr. Stuka.

One thing to keep in mind with both technologies is that they could be used not just for tolling, but also for additional purposes - all under the umbrella of what some call 'Intelligent Vehicle Systems'.

Most important of those are systems which provide a freeway based 'cruise' control which could greatly increase capacity via something called 'platooning' whereby following distances are reduce.

Such a system must have lots of redundancy in both the vehicle and the freeway. Having BOTH short term radio capability and vehicle based GPS is a good thing, and hopefully there are smart enough people out there working this so as to use the competing techs as prototypes of what hopefully will become a smart unified system.

Although I'm a Ford guy, this is an argument for GM, because of their long experience with ONSTAR. Ford has recently started to partner with Microsoft on entertainment, and I believe, navigation, computer systems. Although some aspect of Microsoft is likely to survive in the entertainment media field NO WAY IN HECK would I ever put my safety in the hands of a car relying on a Vista OS.

That's not even talking about the danger the relationship between the handlers of Microsoft and the government would have. Er, excuse me, that is the topic isn't it. Funny how it all ties together, must be god revealing himself, or perhaps just the fact that they've messed up so bad that you can't avoid no matter how you look at it.

The hand of God, indeed!

-Douglas Tooley
Lincoln, Tacoma
RE: For Whom the Bridge Tolls
Posted by: Tarl on Dec 20, 2007 8:03 AM
It's your dream, so you are free to keep dreaming it. Meanwhile serious people need to get a few things done.
Window Dressing
osted by: Digg Newsvine on Dec 19, 2007 2:12 PM
"It centers on moving aside turf-oriented, self-serving agencies such as Sound Transit and transferring power to a more objective, more responsive regional body."

All I can say is WOW! Mullin, Vaska and Gorton are all ultra-pro Sound Transit. Reid Shockey was nothing but a go-along to get-along type on the ST Citizen's Oversight Committee. Now they want to take power from ST? Doubtful.

ST'll be just fine, whatever that posse proposes. Window-dressing city.
rearranging the org chart boxes is not enough
Posted by: jniles on Dec 21, 2007 8:58 PM
Digg Newsvine write: "Mullin, Vaska and Gorton are all ultra-pro Sound Transit. Reid Shockey was nothing but a go-along to get-along type on the ST Citizen's Oversight Committee. Now they want to take power from ST? Doubtful. ST'll be just fine, whatever that posse proposes. Window-dressing city."

Bingo. There is a way to do "governance reform" that totally protects Sound Transit and its mission to build the largest light rail network in North America. You can bet that there will be focused crew going down that road.

Blowing up the current process is only one part of the reforms necessary to build cost-effective public transit around here. The other part is getting a focus on the mission of building cost-effective public transit. Building a six-mile long subway tunnel at $500 million per mile is not the way to get to cost-effective public transit. Sound Transit is hell-bent on digging that tunnel.

Why is this about Sound Transit?

Posted by: debo on Dec 21, 2007 10:31 PM
Mr. Van Dyk, please refrain from helping the restructuring effort. Your post may be a good illustration of your own Plan B, but has little to do with structural reform that Rep. Jarrett and I have been talking about and working on for several years now.

Our work centers on re-negotiating the existing contract that creates and empowers the Puget Sound Regional Council. If we intend to strengthen the land use-transportation linkage, to motivate sufficient density to abate the high cost of housing and to ensure environmentally-friendly mobility in this region, (instead of just talking about it, which we seem to enjoy) … well, then, that won’t happen by doing the same things that we’ve been doing for the last 20 years. While we’ve been wringing our hands, talking about how we don’t want to become L.A. … well, that traffic out there looks amazingly like L.A., don’t you think?

This whole discussion is about a lot more than Sound Transit, and eventually, we’ll collectively figure that out. But in the meantime, it makes for a good on-line conflict, huh?

Deb Eddy
RE: Why is this about Sound Transit?
Posted by: jniles on Dec 23, 2007 6:14 PM
Dear Rep. Eddy,

Thank you for your comment and for your service in Olympia.

Governance reform is about more than Sound Transit, but what to do about this agency is central to reform efforts, because of this agency's prodigious appetite for regional resources in today's system of governance.

For example, the recently failed Prop 1 could be viewed as the leadership-endorsed end product of a half decade or more of effort by all the various actors in the present system of regional transportation governance.

So how were resources allocated within Prop 1? Whether you measure the spending or the tax authorization, the money would have gone overwhelmingly to Sound Transit, our regional transit agency that in its 11th year of life is delivering 14 million trips annually in a place that experiences 12.5 milllion trips per day. Some voters thought the roads part of Prop 1 was the bad, but most of the requested money was for Sound Transit's light rail.

The role of Sound Transit is central to the mission assigned to the new governance system that you and Rep. Jarrett are working on. Is governance reform about keeping Sound Transit on course doing what it tried to do with Prop 1? Is 70 miles of light rail -- the largest light rail network in America -- the key to sustainable mobility, the key to reducing greenhouse gas emissions? Or, as some of us advocate, does Sound Transit's work need to be refocused? A close look at PSRC's numbers convinces some of us that the region is on the wrong path.

Sound Transit's current mission is to build a massive, separate alternative to the road network, but the market share achieved is low. The road and highway network carries the vast bulk of all people and goods movement in the region. As PSRC has documented, that road network now and in the future carries the vast majority of transit movement, even if Sound Transit's rail network were ever to be realized.

As shown in best practice examples of bus-rapid-transit techniques from around the world, there are many ways to make the streets, roads, and highways work much better for transit, but that's not the main place where Sound Transit is trying to go. (King County Metro, City of Seattle, Community Transit, and others are working on better bus mobility, but it's only a very small part of Sound Transit's work.)

Managing Sound Transit's appetite for resources to a proportion consistent with the share of their contribution to mobility has got to be key element of reform in the view of some of us. Refocusing Sound Transit's work toward buses that move faster on an expressway system and arterials that move faster for all traffic would be a useful change of mission for Sound Transit, a change that provides an alternative for achieving "integrated roads & transit" beyond the stinky mess of Prop 1 shot down by voters.

At the moment, PSRC rationalizes and endorses the insignificant transit performance delivered by Sound Transit. Regrettably, PSRC certified that the type of results seen from Prop 1 were adequate for the billions collected and spent by Sound Transit. So, Rep. Eddy, you and Rep. Jarrett are quite perceptive in rethinking the role of PSRC.

But don't stop there. It's Sound Transit that's wagging the PSRC dog's tail, not the other way around.

A simple and good first step from the legislature -- make the Sound Transit board directly elected by district.

John Niles
RE: Why is this about Sound Transit?
Posted by: Tarl on Dec 24, 2007 6:16 AM
So it turns out Ted is right. This Stanton Rice push is really all about taking over Sound Transit. It sounds like the Eddy/Jarrett idea is all about taking over the PSRC.

You can't have two government reforms of the government if your goal is to consolidate the same governments.

John Niles just added a third. Anybody have another idea? You bet. That's why this subject is the focus of so much wheel-spinning waste.

Do we really need another government like the Port of Seattle?
Further discussion on the same-old-same-old ...
Posted by: debo on Dec 29, 2007 7:13 AM
Tarl, I appreciate your passion, but you're shooting at trees in a very snarled-up forest. And that, of course, is part of the problem ...

PSRC is the agency by which all of us - cities, counties, states, agencies, modes, advocates, gadflies and etc. - set transportation policy for the URBAN region, i.e., the area the defies easy boundaries because it all pretty much runs together, figuratively and functionally. John's observation about PSRC's certification of ST plans is illustrative of how this all works, at present: one federated board approves the work of another federated board, and it's all rather obscure and politically invisible to the average person.

There is no "new" government being proposed, nor the willy-nilly consolidation of any governments, at least by Fred and me. We may well suggest that one or another of these boards be chosen differently, to improve political accountability and also to improve decisiveness (right now, lots of entities have essential veto authority, which is why is takes so long to come to agreement). And we will absolutely be looking at new performance expectations as part of PSRC's charge ... and that, frankly, is the really hard part, as there are cost/benefit analyses and external/internal trade-offs in every transportation decision.

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