Friday, September 28, 2007

Staking the Middle Ground

Submitted by Paul Ellis

Most political strategists will say that the best place for a campaign to aim its efforts is into the broad middle ground of voters--and that one way to judge that positioning is when those on either extreme of an issue are taking shots. If so, the Roads & Transit campaign is clearly in that sweet spot.

From the right, the Washington Policy Center (which has never seen a transit project it liked) attacked the proposed package this week in its latest Policy Note. The Center claims that "by every measure, the roads and transit plan is unbalanced and favors public transportation 3 to 1."

From the left, the Sierra Club, Cascade Bicycle Club and Conservation Northwest (none of which ever have seen a road project they liked) continue to contend that building new road capacity cancels out the environmental and climate benefits of building new transit--an extreme position even for the enviros.

Meanwhile, King County Executive Rom Sims is taking potshots against the plan with comments like these:

  • Light rail would connect Seattle to Tacoma (already served by faster Sounder
    Trains) and run along Highway 99 (where last year's King County Metro "Transit
    Now" tax increase is ramping up bus-rapid-transit service).
  • Instead, expanded bus service could generate much higher ridership in this corridor while
    freeing up funds for light rail to Southcenter and Renton. In Pierce County, we can achieve more traffic relief by extending light rail within Tacoma to the University of Puget Sound and Pacific Lutheran University.
Sims commends the Sierra Club and its partner organizations for "showing great courage"--apparently for being the odd parties out from the environmental consensus behind the package. He is apparently unaware of the extensive local discussion--coordinated by RAMP--that helped define the stable of projects now in the ballot proposal.

Like some other King County leaders, he'd like to see south end projects scrapped in favor of more money for SR-520--a project that's still short of needed dollars despite massive injections of capital from the Washington State Legislature. As state transportation leader Ed Murray has told his constituents up north: "RTID has chosen to peanut-butter it and spread the money all over the place; when you're building roads in Pierce County to developments that don't even exist but you're not financing a bridge that's falling down, that's a very questionable approach."

Just to keep the facts in perspective, here is The News Tribune's editorial response today to Executive Sims.

Paul Ellis is lead staff for RAMP; an employee of the Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber, Ellis led the Pierce County Transportation Advisory Committee (PCTAC), the community’s largest transportation planning effort.

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