$2.1 Million for a Round Trip
We need to tighten standards for public office. I, for instance, would propose that we make it a disqualification for public service if it can be proven that a candidate or a nominee for any position of authority has paid more than a buck or a cup of coffee. I often believe that indulging in such conspicuous extravagance as a $3.50 cup of coffee betrays a yearning to impress, not only with one’s high-falooting and subtle tastes that can only be satisfied with the very best, but also by exhibiting a carelessness with money that is supposed to advertise prosperity.
But, even $3.50 for a cup of Joe is cheap compare with more than $2.1 million for a season ticket on a commuter train. At a time when the state is about to add 9.5 cents/gallon to our gasoline bills, primarily to pay for Puget Sound transportation projects, it’s worth reviewing how wisely the west side of the state has spent the money it already had.
Between Everett and Seattle runs a commuter train. It’s a very expensive commuter train too. Initiating the service cost $316,000,000. Those little numbers don’t convey the enormity of the expense. Expressing it in words might help. That’s three hundred and sixteen million dollars. For all that cash, the “Sounder” carries 150 round trip passengers per day. Divide $316,000,000 by `150 and you get a very expensive failed public transit experiment.
So, how does Sound Transit propose to rectify this? Well, by running another train.
"Ridership has not been as high as we expected," according to Mark Olson, who serves as both the vice chairman of Sound Transit and as an Everett City Council member. "It will be very interesting to see what happens when we add a second train in September."
Interesting! Good grief! Does this man have the slightest idea what that sounds like to those of us who squirm at the thought of 50 cent cup of coffee? He’s running one nearly empty train and his solution is to add another? This is roughly equivalent to the Seattle Mariners drawing 500 fans per night into Safeco Field and thinking that the solution is to add more seating.
Currently the Sounder runs 12 round trips per day and the transit board has convinced itself that offering a broader choice of departure times would improve ridership. That probably true, but would it be enough to justify the expense when there are more pressing transportation needs that required new taxes? It would seem to make infinitely more sense to tell those 150 riders to hitchhike to work, then dismantle the Sounder and sell it for parts, or even scrap.
Washington does have urgent transportation needs. The highways, bridges and surface roads in western Washington are hopelessly inadequate. And, eastern Washingtonians should not reflexively begrudge the disproportionate share of the new taxes that will go to the Puget Sound. Jammed roads and glacially slow commutes exert a drag on the entire state’s economic growth and was one of the factors that was considered when Boeing pondered moving its manufacturing to Kansas. Good roads facilitate growth by moving not just people, but goods into and out of the state.
It is precisely because the state needs improved transportation that Washingtonians need some reassurance that value will be returned for the large bill that they have just been handed. If Washingtonians’ justifiable skepticism of their masters’ fiscal responsibility cannot be overcome with good deeds, then the only winner will be Tim Eyman, as he will embark on another of his initiative-for-profit campaigns and the tax increase will be rolled back.
Voters who use history as their guide will gloomily presume that this mountain of cash will evaporate through mismanagement and overspending. Even left leaning westsiders, with a $316,000,000 commuter railroad burning holes in their pockets, will side with the part-time wristwatch peddler. Already, Washingtonians who read their papers and see the extravagant schemes of those greedy for bushels of cash know that 9.5 cents will not satisfy. Visions of dollar bills dancing in their heads has already inspired some rather exotic ideas about how to modify Seattle’s Alaska viaduct that go far beyond the “repairs” that were advertised.
Unless the Olympia overlords show more sense than they have so far, Tim Eyman won’t need a real job anytime soon.