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.


Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Governor wants to eliminate Subarea equity

Gregoire is taking the lead in recasting transportation plans

By David Brewster

Nothing like a close election to focus the mind of political leaders. The best current example is Gov. Chris Gregoire, stung by defeat of Proposition 1 and the still-unresolved Viaduct and 520 decisions. She's suddenly acting courageous and creative about forging some new plans for central Puget Sound transportation.

Some interesting minds are also trying to create a package for Dino Rossi, running against the governor. So the new forum for the debate about roads and transit will now shift to the campaigns. That could be progress.

On Tuesday, Gov. Gregoire paid a visit to the Tacoma News Tribune's editorial board, saying very interesting things, according to editor David Seago's blog. She said she was prepared to look seriously at bills creating an overall regional transportation governance body, putting roads and transit authority in one largely elected body for King, Snohomish, and Pierce counties. Then this bombshell:

And the notion of "sub-area equity," Gregoire said emphatically, has got to go. That gave us a little shudder, because the principle that the money raised in each county should be spent each county is pretty much Holy Writ in Pierce and Snohomish counties.
The problem with sub-area equity, Gregoire contended, is that local goodies get piled atop the most serious regional priorities, for reasons of local politics, that the total cost of any package balloons and it topples of its own weight.
A pretty good description, I admit, of what happened with Proposition 1 on both the transit and road sides. But, as I told the governor, "we little people in the sticks" have a legitimate fear of getting little more than table scraps while the Seattle-centric mega-projects get taken care first.

Combine these remarks with Gregoire's recent change of mind on the Viaduct, where she now is open to a surface-plus-transit solution, and you have the makings of a broader, more modern approach to transportation planning in the Greater Seattle area. Opponents of Prop. 1 are cheered and will probably be welcome at the new planning table.

The first political showdown will be Sound Transit's decision next February whether to go back to the ballot in 2008, this time with no roads component. House Speaker Frank Chopp opposes the 2008 submission, fearing that some of his Democratic candidates in the suburbs will be forced to take a stand on a tax increase. Olympia has threatened Sound Transit that if they go ahead with the 2008 vote, they can expect to be punished by enactment of a regional governance entity that will weaken Sound Transit's autonomy and its dedicated taxes. Waiting to 2010 for the Sound Transit II vote may also give enough time for the regional governance entity to be enacted.

The other political question is whether Rossi will actually craft a comprehensive roads/transit/congestion plan, thus forcing Gregoire to have a better one. Rossi advisors are split over letting Dino run against Gregoire's record with no explicit plans of his own, or showing leadership by pulling together a detailed plan. He'll probably only get specific if polling shows he's behind.

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