Read a Pacific Northwest, liberal perspective on world, national, and local politics. From majestic Redmond, Washington - the Northwest Progressive Institute Advocate.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Seattle Times debunks Seattle Times' own position against Proposition 1

Yesterday - as we knew they would - the Seattle Times editorial board came out against Sound Transit's Proposition 1, the regional ballot measure that would extend light rail in three directions, expand Express bus service, and boost Sounder commuter trains. The endorsement wasn't a surprise, partly because the Times endorsed no on last year's Roads & Transit proposal, citing light rail as the main reason it considered the package to be a nonstarter.

Predictably, the editorial is filled with misleading or false assertions.

David Goldstein has already posted a nice takedown of it, but as he himself sarcastically observes from time to time, he's just one savvy writer who publishes a blog. What does he know, anyway?

To help out David and the rest of the coalition working to pass Mass Transit Now! (as the campaign in favor of Proposition 1 is known) I'd like to introduce a friend from Fairview who is unquestionably an authority on all things Puget Sound, and believes in the mission and purpose of Sound Transit.

Readers, please welcome...the Seattle Times editorial board!

Confused? Well, don't be! In 1996, the Seattle Times had the wisdom and the courage to recommend a strong "yes" endorsement of Sound Move, the regional ballot measure that created Sound Transit and funded the construction of Central Link. Back then, the Times' reasoning wasn't as faulty as it is today.

Here's how this will work: I'll excerpt key parts of 2008 Seattle Times' scathing editorial blasting Sound Transit 2 from yesterday, and let my good friend 1996 Seattle Times have a first crack at responding. Ready? Let's get started!

Excerpt number one from the 2008 Seattle Times:
THE Sound Transit tax increase, Proposition 1, is a bad proposal. We opposed the same tax a year ago and do so again.


Proposition 1 is being marketed as the solution to an immediate need. Salesmen have made up phrases like "immediately increase buses," "immediate solutions to relieve gridlock" and their favorite, "Transit Now."
What do you think, 1996 Seattle Times?
What the Regional Transit Authority [Sound Transit] offers on the ballot Tuesday is the first step in dealing with a mobility problem all 2.4 million of us from Everett to Tacoma know will only get worse. All of the natural amenities and economic opportunities that will keep our children close to home and employed will attract others to move here.

We will all come together on the same finite stretches of roadway to stew in gridlock. This truth is self-evident to stalled commuters, truck drivers with deadlines and persons late for doctor appointments and soccer matches.
Well put! That's a fair and uplifting argument: We need to come together to provide transportation choices. People who want to solve this crisis aren't salesmen, they're concerned citizens who want a better quality of life.

2008 Seattle Times says that Proposition 1 "is not 'Transit Now'" because we won't realize all of benefits overnight. Should we delay taking action in favor of coming up with a less ambitious package of stopgap measures and quick fixes?
The new plan benefits from a more-focused RTA mission and the public's acceptance that a start must be made toward a solution.
Well, gee, when you put it that all makes uncommon sense. Coupling Roads & Transit together was a disaster last year, but now we've got a smart, well designed package from Sound Transit. No RTID.

Rome wasn't built in a day, and we shouldn't decide not to extend light rail just because it won't be online in a few weeks. What is 2008 Seattle Times thinking? Are we never supposed to be planning for anything but the day after tomorrow?

Let's move on. Back to 2008 Seattle Times:
The salesmen admit light rail is not about now. It's about the future. It's about getting people out of their cars.

This is an improbable view of the future. Most people don't want to get out of their cars. As the world changes, they may buy cars that burn fuel from tar sands, canola, algae or wood chips. They may have electric batteries charged by power from the sun, the wind, nuclear reaction or the heat of the Earth.

But most will have their own wheels because they have their own places to go.
Alright, 1996 Seattle Times, what do you have to say about that?
Opponents are running out of ideas and credibility. No one believes there is any more money, physical room or public acceptance for major new highways and freeways. Republican legislative candidates who don't like the RTA talk instead about pie-in-the-sky people-movers and other fanciful technology better suited to amusement parks than serving a bustling metropolitan area.
Nicely stated! The future isn't cars - that's a twentieth century view. How ironic that the Seattle Times was looking forwards in the twentieth century, while today's Seattle Times is looking backwards.

Let's move on. 2008 Seattle Times says that King County Metro deserves our attention and money. Apparently, we should let Sound Transit wither and die.
No doubt, more people will take transit. But they will demand service over a wide area — and a price they can afford. Wide and cheap. A spider web of service.

In King County, that's Metro: It costs 0.9 cents of tax on every dollar and has buses that go to more than 9,000 stops.
What's your response, 1996 Seattle Times?
Another diversionary tactic is to suggest that King County's Metro has the resources to take up the slack. Wrong.

Metro is adding bus routes but pilfering its budget at the expense of relief for crowded park-and-ride lots.
A concise and biting comeback.

As Sound Transit Boardmember Julia Patterson observed last July, when it comes to alleviating our transportation mess, Sound Transit 2 is the only game in town. No other agency has a plan on the table. Metro is struggling with rising fuel prices and lower revenue forecasts due to the cooling economy. Metro desperately needs the boost that Sound Transit's Express bus fleet expansion would provide.

One last excerpt from the 2008 Seattle Times:
Finally, it is said that Proposition 1 is not about us, but our grandchildren. So it is. It is a proposal to extend two costly rail lines and to oblige our grandchildren to pay for them. The sales tax is raised to 9.5 percent. It is a lot, and it goes on for a very long time.
Okay, 1996 Seattle Times, you have the final word:
Puget Sound's traffic problems have consequences beyond their daily personal toll of delay and aggravation. Marple's Business Newsletter reports that economic developers outside the area use our growing reputation for congestion against us and that companies who have moved here grumble about worsening conditions.

Concerns about the long-term ability to move freight and keep the region attractive to existing and new businesses accounts for generous corporate support for RTA passage and sweeping endorsements by chambers of commerce.

The RTA plan confronts a recognized problem that gets worse every day. Doing something about it begins with a yes vote next Tuesday.
That's an excellent point. If we don't do anything about our transportation mess now, we're only going increase the cost of solving the problem later. Passing the buck to our children and grandchildren would indeed be irresponsible. Making an investment on their behalf is the wise thing to do.

The beauty of Proposition 1 is that it delivers both short and long term relief. Sound Transit Express bus service would start expanding right away, with Sounder improvements following not long after. Light rail planning, meanwhile, would move ahead, and our congressional delegation could seek federal money to accelerate the construction of East, North, and South Link.

I'd like to extend my gratitude to 1996 Seattle Times for helping me explain why 2008 Seattle Times has it all wrong when it comes to Proposition 1. Inevitably, there's something in the editorial I missed, so I encourage you to read David Goldstein's response, which is also pretty thorough.

Don't forget to vote YES on Proposition 1 this November, or as soon as you get your ballot in the mail if you don't vote at the polls.

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