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Northwest Voices

Seattle Times letters to the editor

October 1, 2008 at 5:11 PM

Readers weigh in on Proposition 1, expansion of light rail

Ellen M. Banner / The Seattle Times

A Sound Transit light-rail train scoots along the Tukwila section of track during recent testing.

Light-rail plan is a bad idea

Editor, The Times:

As an environmental leader for 35 years (I am the former president of four well-known environmental organizations) and a mass-transit rider for 40 years, I am embarrassed that some environmental groups have been duped by the false claims and distortions of Proposition 1 [“Proposition 1: a critical first step,” Times, guest commentary, Sept. 30].

This proposal will not solve congestion. It will not solve global warming. It will not rejuvenate our economy. It will cost about $110 billion over 30 years.

First, light rail will have negligible impact on traffic congestion, as Metro’s Environmental Impact Statement concedes.

Metro Transit, with a spider web of bus routes all over King County and more than 8,000 bus stops, has less than 5 percent of total rider trips per day. Light rail would add less than 20 stops on routes that are already served by express bus and commuter rail. Metro’s own studies show that the effect on congestion would be negligible. King County Executive Ron Sims was originally a strong supporter of light rail but last fall concluded that it was a bad idea and recommended that a bond issue be defeated.

Second, Proposition 1 would have construction costs of $17.9 billion but would cost $110 billion by the time the bonds are paid off in about 30 years. Talk about giving your grandchildren something — to pay for.

When the United States is facing a $700 billion bailout of Wall Street, and Washington state is facing a deficit of more than $3 billion in the next budget, taxpayers do not need this heavy tax burden for the next 30 years. By then, there will be more fuel-efficient cars, other modes of transportation and many better ways to spend $110 billion.

— Norm Winn, Seattle

A 21st-century solution

It pains me to see the debate around Proposition 1 devolve into an argument about dollars instead of sense [“Reject Prop. 1’s tax for light-rail expansion,” editorial, Sept. 28]. The nation and our state are facing massive problems right now, from failing financial institutions to record energy prices. Many of these problems are a direct result of our 20th-century mindset, failing to find 21st-century solutions.

Sound Transit’s Proposition 1 is a comprehensive plan that will update our outdated and inefficient transportation infrastructure to address the struggles we face today, as well as the unseen hurdles over the horizon.

The opponents of this plan are defenders of the status quo; rehashing the same arguments that have blocked multiple attempts over the decades to invest in transportation options for our region. Unfortunately it is the status quo which has led us to the precarious situation we face today.

On Nov. 4, voters will have a choice between the failing policies of the 20th century and the bright future the 21st-century promises. I hope, for the sake of the region, voters see the wisdom in passing Proposition 1.

— David Kosmos, Seattle

Reject the proposal

Proposition 1 is nothing more than a greedy grab for public money to develop properties on main-city streets from Tacoma to Everett, and capitalize on higher square-footage rates.

Sound Transit sent out the bagmen to the local environs to engage in logrolling with the property-tax-hungry politicians, to enable developers to triple their money at the expense of the taxpayers.

The Puget Sound Regional Council is a logrolling exhibition that provided zero meaningful adversarial testing of the Sound Transit plan. Committee members ignored all adversarial testimony, and allowed paid-off environmental groups to continue to take part without addressing any possible conflicts of interest with Sound Transit payouts and their developer board members.

The proponents of Proposition 1 will not be honest with the public and tell them what the urban-village zealots are trying to accomplish; they want to build mass-transit corridors and move the public into them with carrot-and-stick social engineering.

Of course they have learned their lesson: Former Seattle City Council member Margaret Pageler and former King County Council member Cynthia Sullivan told the truth about the city’s plans regarding transit congestion. Neither was re-elected.

Politicians like Mayor Greg Nickels, King County Executive Ron Sims and Gov. Christine Gregoire are careful not to make the same mistake as Pageler and Sullivan. They will never say what they are really trying to accomplish. They hope to get public money for developers to acquire gentrification of main-city thoroughfares, then ordinance the public into the gentrified corridor with lane-mile restrictions — and other clever social-engineering tricks — without disclosing their true intentions to the public. Their hope is that enough uneducated voters will flock to vote for Sen. Barack Obama, then vote for Proposition 1, and not know that they will be voting for a plan not just to get them out of their cars, but frustrate them until they leave their neighborhoods.

Seattle is corrupt and just can’t seem to get enough public money to allow developers to triple their investments and acquire gentrification, which would enable the city, state and county to reap the financial benefits. Seattle is counting on fooling the public again.

Vote no on Proposition 1.

— John Worthington, Renton

Seattle needs this transit backbone

The Times editorial against the Mass Transit Now campaign made one good point, but drew the wrong conclusion. We sure do need much more bus service right now. However, most of this need is for local — not regional — service.

Sound Transit’s Proposition 1 is all about taking a big step beyond oil dependency, toward regional transportation based on renewable energy. A transit backbone of electrical light rail will be the key to getting around for a lot more people as climate catastrophes and gas prices accelerate over the next decade.

But the backbone of regional transit will be weak without the ribs of local transit. We need to double local bus service over the next decade. This means the state Legislature must authorize a new county tax.

And we’re fed up with the state telling Sound Transit and the counties that it’s either going to be sales tax or the highway. How about something creative like a vehicle carbon tax? Maybe even enough of one to roll back the sales tax.

— Dick Burkhart, Seattle

Light rail isn’t improbable

The Times editorial advocating against Proposition 1 left me mystified. According to The Times, the idea of Washingtonians commuting to work via light rail represents an “improbable view” of the future — never mind that it’s a reality for residents of cities like New York, Boston and Washington, D.C., whose rail systems took substantial time, effort and money to develop.

The idea that we can simply replace our petroleum-burning cars with environmentally friendly ones is a non sequitur, since light rail is principally advocated as a solution to the region’s traffic congestion, not pollution — although it will help. And the suggestion that buses will be “kicked out” by Proposition 1 is misleading, since the measure actually adds 100,000 hours of express bus service.

As our region’s population continues to bloat, we will regret not adopting a long-range, multipronged approach to our traffic problems.

— Francesco Forin, Bellevue

Look to the future

Reading The Times recycle so many tired, discredited arguments to oppose the proposed “Sound Transit 2,” I felt like I was being transported back in time — to a time when you could afford to ask, “What’s in it for me right now?”

The Times says Proposition 1 doesn’t focus enough on short-term needs (never mind that The Times never has such a concern when it comes to building highways). But isn’t this region’s current transportation mess the product of our having settled so long for instant-gratification fixes?

Instead of light rail, The Times wants a “spider web of service,” aka, more buses. Well, we’ve been going with that approach for 30 years, and guess what? It doesn’t work here, and it hasn’t worked anywhere in the industrialized world.

Of course, The Times doesn’t really want more buses. After all, “Most people don’t want to get out of their cars.” Actually, most people don’t want to make themselves — and others — dependent on their cars and on being stuck in traffic.

That’s the same traffic that won’t be addressed one iota by all those fuels of the future The Times is so confident will magically appear in the same affordable abundance as oil.

— Mitch Gitman, Seattle

Comments | More in Energy, Environment, Politics, Transportation

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