Offering frequent news and analysis from the majestic Evergreen State and beyond, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

The chance of a transit only vote in 2008

Mayor Nickels wants a vote on transit in 2008:
Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels says Sound Transit should rebound from Tuesday's drubbing at the polls and come back with a new light rail plan for voters on the 2008 ballot.

"This is a critical problem, we need to do the work, but we shouldn't take two years or three years or four years to make this decision," Nickels told the agency's board of directors on Thursday.
A recent RT strategies poll commissioned by the Sierra Club indicates that this is a good idea. 52% would vote yes on the transit portion according to the poll. However, if we look at that by subarea, we see that 64% of Seattle voters would say yes, but only 48% in the rest of King County would. In Pierce and Snohomish Counties that number is 47%.

Of course, it's only one poll, and previous Sound Transit opinion research has shown strong support for Link extensions in other areas of King County. What the agency needs to figure out is why people who say they like light rail voted against Proposition 1. There's a disparity between the high levels of support for light rail and the No on Roads & Transit vote...unless all of the agency's recent polls are off, which is unlikely, because multiple consistent polls form a trend.

While Sound Transit could possibly go back to the ballot next year without support from the leadership in Olympia, it could be difficult. The biggest threat is the possibility of legislation imposing a new governance scheme that folds Sound Transit (and other transportation agencies) into a regional agency controlled by a band of transportation czars with excessive powers.

The big question is, do voters have the foresight to understand that we can only begin putting a stop to congestion by creating a real transit network with a rail backbone? Pairing roads & transit together didn't appeal to voters.

In fact, the pairing created a proposal that was perhaps too huge in size for voters to feel comfortable supporting.

If recent transportation votes are any indication, people aren't hungering for roads-only solutions. Remember the defeat of the highway-heavy Referendum 51 package in 2002, which had business support but unified opposition from the environmental community? And remember last year's successful Transit Now! vote?

Proposals that are more concrete are getting the support of voters. Look at Medic One, which is passing overwhelmingly, or the parks levies in the primary. Voters aren't afraid to increase revenue if they can understand all the details. Roads & Transit had too many details (many of which were distorted by the opposition) and never enjoyed the support of an inspiring, edgy Yes campaign.

If those of us who believe in rail want a vote on a new incarnation of Sound Transit 2, we must put pressure on our elected officials, especially Democrats in Olympia and King County Executive Ron Sims, not to get in the way of Sound Transit as it works to study why people voted against Proposition 1 and plans for the future.


Post a Comment

<< Home