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Monday, September 17, 2007

More nonsense from Van Dyk

In a recent column, Ted Van Dyk has some choice words for the upcoming Proposition One, also know as the Roads and Transit Ballot Measure.

The local establishment reflexively scorns Eyman. It, too, reflexively endorses proposals opposed by Eyman. Keep Washington Rolling, the front organization backing the Proposition One ballot measure, has drawn big dollars from the contractors, subcontractors and others who eat at Sound Transit's trough. But it also has gotten $200,000 from Microsoft, $75,000 from the Seattle Mariners, and $50,000 each from PEMCO Insurance Co. and the Washington Association of Realtors, among other donors.
I’m not entirely sure what Van Dyk's point is aside from the fact that people and entitites give money to support things they like and will benefit from.

What Van Dyk fails to note is that the contributions of those corporations directly involved with Sound Transit’s clearly nefarious projects are minuscule compared to the contributions by businesses, individuals, and organizations that have the foresight to see how important this plan is, even if they won’t help build it.

Van Dyk goes on:
Urban analyst Joel Kotkin, in a recent Wall Street Journal essay, related the experience of other metro areas with light rail systems that have "minuscule ridership but consume a disproportionate share of transit funds that might go to more cost-efficient systems, including bus-based rapid transit." That is precisely the outlook for the proposed regional system here. It would eat the major share of the $38 billion, over 20 years, to be allocated to the Sound Transit-RTID package, which neglects vital bus transit, bridge and highway needs. Yet corporate sponsors are heedlessly backing the scheme, which would further snarl transportation and harm the economy. They make Eyman seem sensible.
Van Dyk seems to be under the impression that the Roads & Transit package must solve every transportation problem in our region, from rebuilding SR 520 to filling the potholes in front of his house. No plan can do everything, but this regional package has been specifically designed to augment existing and future investments at the local, regional, and state level.

(Van Dyk also says nothing about the mountains of public input that went into drafting this plan: all the countless workshops, briefings, and feedback sessions held by Sound Transit and the Regional Transportation Investment District).

Bus rapid transit and other solutions are an important part of an effective system, but they can’t do it alone. Fixed rail is a critical component of the transportation systems of almost every major city in the world.

Where light rail has been built, communities generally decide to expand their systems after construction - because rail works. I'd like to see Van Dyk come up with examples of municipalities that have ripped up their light rail tracks because the system was a waste or failure.

It also seems that Van Dyk has forgotten that voters in King County recently approved Transit Now, which funds bus rapid transit and other bus improvements around King County. Roads and Transit supports this. The addition of 30 miles of HOV lanes funded by the plan is essential to a functioning bus system.

Opponents of this package (like Kemper Freeman Jr.) like to say that light rail will only carry a “miniscule” portion of "daily trips" - such as taking the kids to soccer, going to a movie, shopping at Costco, and so on.

If you adopt that misleading view, most of our important highways don't carry much of our traffic either. For example, the Alaskan Way Viaduct currently carries 110,000 daily trips out of 12.6 million - that's less then 1%.

Most of the congestion in our region occurs in key highway corridors, not the neighborhood streets that run in front of our houses. Roads & Transit is a powerful set of projects targeted largely at these corridors. You could say the package is an investment in a reliable commute.

Comparatively, fully built out, with trains running every few minutes, light rail can carry 12,000 passengers per hour. That's the equivalent of six highway lanes operating at peak efficiency, which in our hilly and curvy region, rarely happens. And without the congestion and pollution that roads bring.

David Goldstein has more on Van Dyk's perplexing admiration of Tim Eyman.

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