Of all the manifold (too manifold) initiatives, propositions, and referendums cluttering the November 6 ballot, there is none more complicated nor critical than Proposition 1, the tri-county roads and transit initiative (RTID being the common shorthand). Cobbled together as a kumbaya compromise between pavement hounds and rail enthusiasts, insitutional support for the measure has fizzled in recent weeks, with dissenting arguments ranging from the predictable (greenies who hate roads, Kemper Freeman acolytes who loathe public transit) to the truly bizarre (Ron Sims, Seattle Times editorial board). What was once a package that seemed likely to pass has now been thrown into the toss-up category, with momentum going the wrong way at just the wrong time.
First off, a prediction: In spite of Sims, the Times, the greenies and the Freemans, Prop. 1, which seeks to expand or maintain critical arteries like Interstates 405 and 520 while increasing Sound Transit's reach, will pass by a sliver. Which is a good thing, because if it doesn't, everyone's fucked. Tackling the components of this package piecemeal will take even longer to implement than the already long projections put forth in Prop. 1, and Lord knows how much we love our legislative gridlock 'round these parts (which, in turn, leads to actual physical gridlock).
In short, we'd all be well-advised to hold our noses and vote for the damn thing, and then quickly change our thinking to include parts of Sims' Ronny-come-lately utopia (congestion pricing, bus-mania) and an about-face in how we view agencies such as Sound Transit. Agency watchdogs love to point to Sound Transit's cost overruns and past mismanagement as reasons why the public should choke its cash flow. They, and the Times, for that matter, seem to view what Sound Transit's responsible for as disposable. And that's where they're wrong.
In this day and age, commuter rail agencies should be viewed in the same light as sewer, police, roads and power authorities. We need them, and we should give them the money they need to get things done. Sound Transit, for all its faults, should be permitted to carry out its mission to the fullest. If they screw up, hold them accountable via personnel and structural changes, but don't cut them off at the knees.