Last week, The Seattle Times came out against Proposition 1 (a.k.a Move Seattle). Tom Fucoloro with the Seattle Bike Blog ripped The Seattle Times editorial board (STEB henceforth) to shreds for the unsoundness of their argument; you can read about the benefits of Move Seattle here, most of which the STEB overlooked. The editorial’s arguments are wrong on such an epic scale that it has to be digested in bits. Taken together as a whole, the absurdity is unbearably overwhelming, like looking straight into the sun. I’ve documented the inaccuracies, exaggerations, and red herrings in excruciating detail:

  1. The Seattle Times suggests Move Seattle is “an enormous request of taxpayers.” Actually, it asks the typical Seattle single-family household to pay an additional $12 more per month. And by the way, Seattle compares favorably with other major cities when it comes to property tax burden. Seattle is 41st out of 50 cities in overall tax burden, according to this CNN money breakdown.
  2. The STEB intuits that Move Seattle’s intentions are not clear. In reality, projects are laid out in meticulous detail in the 76 page plan. Planned projects include 50 miles of protected bike lanes, 150 blocks of new sidewalks, and $250 million toward the road maintenance backlog.

    Move Seattle Overview
    Overview of Move Seattle project. (Let’s Move Seattle)
  3. The STEB insinuated there are no provisions for accountability when in fact, a citizen oversight panel is baked right into the proposal. Additionally, the budget cannot be shifted around from what is outlined by more than 10% without a city council vote.
  4. The STEB complains the $250 million for maintenance “barely puts a dent in the city’s nearly $2 billion maintenance backlog.” Surely a quarter billion is better than nothing, which is the alternative if this proposition does not pass. But would the STEB support a $2 billion levy to tackle the maintenance backlog or would it be too enormous of an ask?
  5. The STEB gripes Move Seattle does not address the Magnolia Bridge. But in all honesty, should this cherry-picked item be a high priority? Does that fact that some Magnolia residents don’t feel safe on a perfectly operational bridge justify a $300 million bridge replacement?
  6. The STEB complains Move Seattle doesn’t specify any safety improvements on the Aurora Bridge and argues a protective barrier would have prevented the tragic Ride the Ducks accident last month that killed four. However, is there any evidence that a meager concrete barrier would have actually stopped a WWII-era armored amphibious vehicle swerving sharply into oncoming traffic?
  7. The STEB argues Move Seattle wouldn’t do enough to solve the city’s intractable gridlock and lavish motorists with attention (lest we forget the quarter billion already earmarked for road maintenance). It points out that 81% of trips in the region are taken by car. This is a subtle and insidious trick. Using regional statistics to justify an investment paid for by Seattlites only should piss you off. Within Seattle, 63% of trips were by car in 2009 and for downtown workers only 31% drive alone compared to 45% who take transit, as we detailed previously. The Seattle Times wants the city to make itself more motorist friendly not really for its own sake but for its suburbs. The objective of Move Seattle isn’t to make it easier to drive a single occupant vehicle in from the exurbs. The point is to improve transit, biking and walking options in every neighborhood to provide a realistic alternative to driving.

    combined-commute-modes
    Modal split for Downtown Seattle commute trips, courtesy of Commute Seattle.
  8. The STEB thinks $13 million isn’t enough for traffic-light signalization. Would these budget hawks be more comfortable with much more expensive technology to perform the same task?
  9. The Seattle Times doesn’t like trees in the Emerald City, hinting $20 million for urban forestry is waste.
  10. The STEB repeatedly bemoans “the urbanist agenda” and we at The Urbanist note your derision and have to say, that really hurts. We don’t think of ourselves as outliers. The projects we support will help everyone — from kids walking or biking to school to bus riders hoping for a faster commute to elderly citizens hoping to get around without a car — whether or not they identify as urbanists. We live in this city, and the reason we walk, bike, or bus isn’t just ethics or style but because it’s practical and actually more convenient than dealing with Seattle traffic and parking for many destinations. Moreover, not all of us want to take on a the astronomical cost of owning a car.
  11. Even The Seattle Times can’t argue against Safe Routes to School, so they took a pass on this one.
  12. Similarly, STEB had to begrudgingly admit seven new Rapid Ride lines would be popular and a good idea that would speed up bus service.
  13. The “credibility gap” lies not with Move Seattle but with The Seattle Times editorial board. SDOT has a good track record on safety projects. The STEB has a poor track record on endorsing big transportation projects. Notice how the STEB don’t mention Bertha once because that’d undercut their credibility in light of the their endorsement of that $4 billion boondoggle.

    What Bertha leaves behind. (WSDOT)
    What Bertha leaves behind. (WSDOT)
  14. At least the delayed First Hill streetcar will begin operations soon. With Bertha we don’t even know if the tunnel boring machine will bore again successfully, let alone if the project will make its already much delayed 2018 timeline.

So there you have it in agonizing detail.

Fucoloro emphasized that the lack of big projects that The Seattle Times laments is precisely what makes Move Seattle such a dynamic and beneficial investment. Seattle has been enamored with megaprojects for too long while overlooking the crucial, smaller scale projects that knit communities together.

It’s time for Seattle to dedicate itself to all modes of transportation, not just driving. It’s time for Seattle to put its money where its mouth is when it comes to ending traffic deaths as planned in Vision Zero. It’s time to not just talk like a leading progressive city but to actually start acting like one. Vote Yes on Prop 1 and forever read The Seattle Times‘s editorials with a boulder of salt.

Previous articlePine Street Bus-Only Lane Proposed
Next articleA Streetcar Named Connector: A New Line In The Making
Doug Trumm is the Publication Director at The Urbanist. He joined the exodus to Seattle in 2014, leaving behind his home state of Minnesota. Living on disputed land between Wallingford and Fremont, he is doing his best to improve both neighborhoods. He is a grad student at the Evans School of Public Policy and Governance and a marketing intern at King County Metro. His views are his own and do not represent his employer.

6 COMMENTS

  1. Good editorial. I would quibble on a couple points:

    1) The problem with the SR 99 tunnel is not the problem they are having digging it, but that it won’t provide much mobility when finished. This makes it very different than the Big Dig, for example. One key element missing from the tunnel is ramps to Western. This is an issue the Seattle Times completely ignored in their editorial supporting it. In fact, they implied it was there, saying a trip from Magnolia to West Seattle would benefit from the 99 tunnel. Without a ramp to Western, that trip (like many in the area) probably won’t involve the tunnel — it will involve I-5. In short, the SR 99 tunnel is bad for drivers and a terrible waste of money. The Seattle Times have a history of being wrong and downright misleading when it comes to transportation issues.

    2) The streetcar is a similar waste of money. But at least it isn’t a huge amount of money. Fortunately, the Move Seattle levy doesn’t allocate a dime for streetcars.

    • I agree on the SR 99 tunnel. Someone could write a whole article on the many problems with it, which your right are much deeper than simply being behind schedule and a big waste of money. It is misleading that The Seattle Times would imply the tunnel would improve trips from West Seattle to Magnolia.

      I wouldn’t put streetcars in the same category as the Bertha tunnel. They aren’t the most thrifty use of funds for sure, but at least serve as some sort of upgrade.

      • Thanks. Yeah, I agree, except that I don’t think our streetcars are even an upgrade. There are buses that do everything that our streetcars can do (including carry as many people and run on electricity) and more (avoid obstacles, go up steep hills, etc.). I just think that overall, it isn’t an upgrade.

        I’m not saying the streetcars are as big a mistake as the 99 tunnel, but they are still a mistake.

    • So you think that we should cut our transportation budget? Well, that is an interesting perspective. You do realize that will happen if this fails, right? The city will cut transportation and fire a bunch of people. If, in a year, they pass another measure, they will hire many of them back. But that is really expensive. So, in the long term, we will either spend a bunch of money firing and hiring people, or we will simply have a lot less money spent on transportation. Just to be clear, because of Eyman style limits (something the English major didn’t mention) the city can’t simply spend the money the way that most cities in the U. S. do. In other words, in most cities, the city would just pay for this stuff, because that is what they are elected to do.

      By the way, every single member of the city council supports this. This is not a “get along” council, either. Several of the members have endorsed a challenger in one of the races (a very unusual thing to do). So, basically, several of the members are trying to get rid of one of the members. Yet they unanimously support the proposal. I don’t just mean that they voted for it, but they are actually on record as endorsing it (http://letsmoveseattle.com/endorsements/). So, basically you are arguing that the entire council is wrong, and we shouldn’t support a proposal that would be law in most cities. Interesting.

    • Sorry Melissa for my educational choices and for existing. But since I do exist (with my English major) I’ll have to correct your grammar. You meant either, “God save us from English majors” or alternatively “God save us from this English major.” Sorry we don’t have your vote. I think it’s a good investment. I don’t think more sidewalks, safe routes to school, road maintenance, bike facilities and rapid ride bus routes is a slush fund.

Comments are closed.