Thoughts on King County’s Failed Proposition 1

While most of the coverage for Proposition 1 read nice, there was not a lot of data shown to back it up the claims.

This is frustrating because once you starting digging into the data, you find things like the fact that since 2001 operating costs per vehicle hour have increased 17%1 (when adjusted for inflation).

The $19.70 difference accounts for an additional $68.95 million in operations costs per a year (assuming 3.5 million annual service hours2 ).

Why are per hour operations costs increasing by 17%?

And then there’s the fact that only up to 60%3 of the presumed $1.3 billion4 that would be raised over 10 years with Prop 1 would actually go to Metro. The remaining 40% (and potentially more!) would go to “transportation improvements and to the county for unincorporated area road purposes.”5

This wasn’t a squabble over anyone trying to save a few pennies, I think there is some serious lack of fiduciary understanding and education going on with regard to how Metro operates. After the early returns showed the measure losing, Dow Constantine put it pretty well, “The voters are not rejecting Metro; they are rejecting this particular means of funding Metro.”

Danny Westneat also makes a good observation regarding the campaign itself:

From seattletimes.com:

But I wasn’t surprised it failed. Nobody explained what positive changes you’d get for your money, only what you might lose. This was electioneering by threat: Vote yes or I’ll shoot this puppy.

Now the anti-transit crowd will spin this as proof voters have had their fill of transit. And that officials should focus on roads next time.

I don’t buy it. If anything, it was the $50 million in yearly roads repair money in Proposition 1 that had the feel of a slush fund. What would it be used for? Nobody said. It was just to be spread like political butter across 40 cities and towns. The website of the campaign didn’t list a single specific road or bridge that would get fixed using this money.

Oran Viriyincy, a frequent contributor on the Seattle Transit Blog, has provided an excellent breakdown of the actual vote by legislative district as well as a cartogram.

" Prop 1 Election Night Results  By legislative district" by  Oran Viriyincy (https://www.flickr.com/photos/viriyincy/13988403042/) CC-BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/)
” Prop 1 Election Night Results By legislative district” by Oran Viriyincy
CC-BY-SA
"Cartogram of KCTD Prop 1 Election Night Results" by  Oran Viriyincy (https://www.flickr.com/photos/viriyincy/14005019794/) CC-BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/)
“Cartogram of KCTD Prop 1 Election Night Results” by Oran Viriyincy
CC-BY-SA

Given the huge amount of support in the Seattle area, I would suspect the planned Seattle-only initiative would pass overwhelmingly.

From kuow.org:

The proposal would raise $155 million from Seattle property owners over six years. Friends of Transit said that money would be used to buy back endangered routes from King County Metro.

Buses that spend 80 percent or more of their time operating inside Seattle’s limits would be eligible for the reprieve.

If the initiative is approved by the city clerk, supporters will need to gather more than 20,000 signatures to put it on the November ballot.

As an interesting side note, if all the districts that had a majority in support of the Prop 1 had double their turnout the the measure would still have failed, but only by 36 votes (out of 512184 theoretical votes), a 0.0070% margin.

Here’s the data: Prop1Votes.xlsx


  1. http://metro.kingcounty.gov/am/reports/annual-measures/financial.html 

  2. http://metro.kingcounty.gov/planning/pdf/2011-21/2013/metro-2013-service-guidelines-report.pdf 

  3. http://your.kingcounty.gov/elections2/contests/measureinfo.aspx?cid=47942 

  4. http://kuow.org/post/new-bus-initiative-filed-seattle-only-prop-1-continues-fail 

  5. http://your.kingcounty.gov/elections2/contests/measureinfo.aspx?cid=47942 

List of States by number of Professional Engineers per Capita

Apparently no one has created this list yet, so I compiled the data for the number of Professional Engineers per capita by state. Wyoming, the state with the smallest population, has the most number of Professional Engineers per capita while New York has the least.

Colorado is 17th and Washington is 18th, furthering my theory that the two states are somehow linked to each other.

figure_1

figure_2

State Population Total PE PE per 1000
Wyoming 576412 6091 10.57
Delaware 917092 7300 7.96
North Dakota 699628 5073 7.25
Alaska 731449 4632 6.33
Vermont 626011 3739 5.97
New Hampshire 1320718 6374 4.83
Maine 1329192 6200 4.66
Idaho 1595728 7300 4.57
Hawaii 1392313 6123 4.40
South Dakota 833354 3585 4.30
West Virginia 1855413 7828 4.22
Kansas 2885905 11835 4.10
Nebraska 1855525 7262 3.91
Rhode Island 1050292 3987 3.80
Oregon 3899353 14744 3.78
Nevada 2758931 10163 3.68
Colorado 5187582 18661 3.60
Washington 6897012 24678 3.58
Louisiana 4601893 16000 3.48
New Mexico 2085538 7140 3.42
Mississippi 2984926 9701 3.25
Virginia 8185867 26598 3.25
Utah 2855287 9118 3.19
South Carolina 4723723 15000 3.18
Maryland 5884563 18655 3.17
Alabama1 4822023 14567 3.02
Missouri 6021988 17501 2.91
Iowa 3074186 8500 2.76
Kentucky 4380415 12043 2.75
Arkansas 2949131 8072 2.74
Oklahoma 3814820 10000 2.62
Arizona 6553255 17136 2.61
North Carolina 9752073 23099 2.37
California 38041430 90000 2.37
Tennessee 6456243 15171 2.35
Massachusetts 6646144 15588 2.35
Connecticut 3590347 8200 2.28
Ohio 11544225 26071 2.26
Michigan 9883360 21564 2.18
Pennsylvania 12763536 27839 2.18
Texas 26059203 56000 2.15
New Jersey 8864590 19000 2.14
Minnesota 5379139 11440 2.13
Georgia 9919945 19997 2.02
Florida 19317568 38750 2.01
Montana 1005141 1900 1.89
Indiana 6537334 11362 1.74
Wisconsin 5726398 8905 1.56
Illinois 12875255 19708 1.53
New York 19570261 27218 1.39

Sources:

P.S. I successfully passed the Law & Ethics Exam part of the Washington State Professional Engineering licensing process. It’s interesting because it’s an open book exam with links to the applicable RCW and WAC, so really more of a class under the guise of an exam.


  1. includes retired and inactive status 

Most Problems Never Have To Be Solved

When a problem is presented to me, I typically make a quick determination if needs my personal attention or not. Despite what others may desire of me, I generally let a majority of problems sit for a bit. If the issue does not arise again then I have saved myself from wasting time.

I like the approach David takes with using sticky notes. My fear with sticky notes has been that I would lose one, but that could a non-issue if I assume that most problems never have to be solved and problems that do need to be solved will have multiple contacts points.

From www.raptitude.com:

Every few days I process these little notes, which means I look at what I’ve written and decide what to do about it. Sometimes I neglect this duty for a while, and end up with a week’s worth (or two) of sticky notes.

I end up throwing most of them right into the recycling bin, because when it comes time to look at it, the thing I wrote down is no longer relevant, or I’ve already done it, or I don’t feel like anything has to be done about it.

Your mind tells you there is a problem whenever it detects a somewhat possible unpleasant future experience, which it can do all day, and it happily will if you don’t call its bluff. Of course there’s an infinite supply of potential disasters. These are just thoughts, but they seem like realities, and any one of them can create an emotional pitfall now no matter what actually happens later.

Each of these apparent problems represents itself as something you will have to act on at some point. Ninety per cent of the time, this is a lie. Thoughts are like little politicians; experts at rhetoric, sensationalism self-preservation, unlimited in number, mostly just noisy and useless but occasionally make important things happen.

The genius, perhaps, of David’s article is he calls out the fact that most “problems” aren’t actually problems for anyone vice not being my problem.