The Seattle Times editorials prior to and after the Prop 1 vote are just the latest indication they haven’t a clue (or don’t care) as to what constitutes effective mass transit. Their pre-vote editorial, which undoubtedly played a role in Prop 1 rejection, used the following rationale to justify their opposition:
County officials should have released the revised list of service cuts a month earlier — that’s when they learned that revenue projections had improved to offset part of the 600,000 hours in service cuts they said would be necessary if voters didn’t pony up new taxes. Instead, county officials and proponents of the ballot measure knowingly circulated a list of cuts that was outdated.
Only under pressure did officials do the work to revise the list, representing 550,000 hours in service cuts, and to release it.
In essence, the Times opposed Metro funding they had earlier urged the legislature to enact because Metro was “tardy” in updating the service cuts if Prop 1 was rejected. Yet this same Times editorial board has had no problem supporting Sound Transit’s light rail program whose Environmental Impact Statements (EIS) have been sheer “fantasy”.For example the Times surely knows (or should know) the Seattle tunnel limits and simple mathematics belies EIS claims East Link light rail can accommodate “up to 24,000 riders per hour (RPH) the equivalent of up to 10 lanes of freeway to cross-lake capacity” (4/01/14 post). As a result it’s clear East Link will never have the promised capacity for the 20,000 eastside bus riders ST intends to "force" onto light rail for their weekday commute into and out of Seattle. It’s also clear a 2004 FHWA document ST helped write (9/14/13 post) refutes claims the 4th lanes they plan to add to the I-90 Bridge outer roadways (R-8A configuration) will add sufficient capacity for cross-lake vehicles when they close center roadway for light rail.
The potential gridlock from ST confiscation of the I-90 Bridge center roadway in 2016 will change cross-lake commuting forever, dwarfing the impact of the Prop1 rejection. Yet the Times has no problem with ST refusal to even demonstrate the modified outer roadway has needed capacity.
The Times editorials also criticized Metro for “years of lax management of operations and labor contracts” and “high bus operating costs”. (A significant part of Metro’s high operating costs is due to their ill-conceived "Rapid Ride" program the Times supported, see 3/21/14 post.) Yet they have no problem with an ST Everett Sounder Train operation whose combination of high operating costs and limited ridership has required an annual subsidy of $20,000 per rider for years (6/12/12 post). Even that management “oversight” pales in comparison to the fact ST intends to spend nearly $20 billion (2007$) on Prop 1 (2008 version) light rail extensions that will do absolutely nothing to reduce the area’s congestion.
The Times apparently doesn’t recognize Metro’s “high bus operating costs” are still less than the operating costs for light rail cars. (~$10 per mile for buses vs. ~$25 per mile per train car) In addition, any capacity advantage light rail cars have is far outweighed by the ability to easily adjust bus service to meet local demand. For example, express bus routes from Lynnwood into Seattle are an infinitely better match with their mass transit needs than the ST plans for light rail service with twice as many trains as the entire east side. Federal Way ridership cannot possibly justify sending all the Central Link trains there. The fact that express buses can skip intermediate stops and shorten commute times makes light rail ridership even more problematic.
The limited ridership and high operating costs means the billions ST spends on the Lynnwood and Federal Way extensions will result in light rail train operating costs that dwarf fare-box revenue. It’s incomprehensible the Times should be so concerned about Metro’s upcoming labor contracts but ignores the financial “black hole” that awaits the area’s transportation funds if ST is allowed to proceed with their Prop 1 extensions.
It's "unfortunate" the Times chose to write editorials and articles about Metro’s $75 million shortfall while ignoring ST "investing" ~$2-3 billion ST over the last 5 years on fatally flawed light rail extensions. During those years they've ignored countless emails, many referring them to posts on this blog detailing ST Prop 1 problems. However, they still have an opportunity to avoid the debacle from ST 2016 closure of the I-90 Bridge center roadway and “ballooning” “investments in Central Link extensions
Doing so will require a significant “reassessment” by those responsible for the papers editorial policy on mass transit. If they do nothing, those most responsible, Dow Constantine, the Sound Transit Board, and others (to be named later) can continue believing no one will know this debacle could have been avoided. Thus, it's only fitting the Times editorial board members are the newest inductees into the Seattle Light Rail Hall of Shame in hopes of "shaming" their "awakening".
Frank A. Blethen,
Sharon Pian Chan,