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Charles Mudede

And so, in one stroke, $7 billion has vanished from Sound Transit's future. It was there yesterday; it's gone today. Many will blame Tim Eyman, not only for Sound Transit's new fiscal shock, but also for throwing Washington's transportation system into a state of confusion. The roads in rural Washington will rot evermore. Car ownership will continue to be rewarded. Public transportation will, yet again, struggle to find adequate funding.

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As regards to the regional light rail system, I think we should blame the bad news on Sound Transit. This organization was under the impression it had plenty of time build out the network. Ten or so years from now, it saw a train finally arriving in West Seattle. Fifteen or so years, in Ballard. Years after many of us are dead, there would be the sound of the first train arriving in Tacoma and Everett. Voters approved ST3 in 2016. But Sound Transit imagined it had all of this time on its hands. Everything must be done in careful stages. We need so many meetings, lots of input, and so on. The planning stage began in 2017 and was to end in 2022. Five years of planning. We can expect the future to see this long and luxurious period of planning as nothing more than a time of dreaming. As for 2035, it does not exist for us in 2019. It's just a nonsense year. A bunch of numbers in a mouth or on a web page. What's real is never more than five years into the future. Indeed, the only thing more ridiculous than Tim Eyman is the belief that you can spend years and years planning a public transportation project voters authorized.

If voters gave you ST3 in 2016, you needed to become a Baron Haussmann and build as much as you can while you can. Ram the tracks and tunnels through the city with no apology. Do it today, because when it comes down to it, there really is no tomorrow.

The heroes of all public transportation professionals should be Baron Haussmann (Paris in the 19th century), Robert Moses (mid-century New York City), and Enrique Peñalosa (Bogota at the end of the 20th century). Look to no other figures for inspiration than these urban planners and movers.


But there is time for more meetings. Here's Sound Transit chair John Marchione on the passage of I-976:
At the next meeting of the full Sound Transit Board on Nov. 21 we will begin the process of responding to I-976. The Board will hear presentations from the agency’s finance staff as well as our general counsel. The Board will consider Sound Transit’s obligations to taxpayers who want their motor vehicle excise taxes reduced, as well as how to realize voters’ earlier direction to dramatically expand high capacity transit throughout the Puget Sound region.”

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All we know for certain is that ST2, which was approved by voters in 2007 (during a time of very high gas prices), will be completed. Redmond, Bellevue, Lynnwood City Center, SeaTac, Federal Way. That's about it. The future (say, the citizens of 2035) will likely see the window for the extension of Link after ST1 as just under two decades. West Seattle and Ballard must no longer wait for more Sound Transit meetings. These locations have no future at the moment. Their time has come and gone. The transportation solution for Ballard and West Seattle will not be found in Sound Transit but in Metro.

Enrique Peñalosa, the former mayor of Bogota, and the only leftist of the big three urban movers (one admires the spirit of Haussmann and Moses, not their politics), was able to start and open a bus rapid transit (BRT) in just two years. Are you feeling me? People around him were talking about subways and light rail. This direction would have taken forever. All Peñalosa saw was the power he had, the money he could claim, and a very limited space of time within which he could act. A bus system with dedicated lanes, like the one the celebrated urban planner Jaime Lerner set up in Curitiba, Brazil, was his answer. And it worked. The daily ridership of BRT is now 2.4 million. This option (expanded rapid rides) could also work for Ballard and West Seattle. It's cheaper, and it requires two multimodal centers in downtown Seattle, one of which would, of course, be between Union Station and King Street Station.

The future of Link does not go beyond 2025. Anything after that point may as well end up in the pages of Game of Thrones.