Sound Transit Accuses Washington Policy Center of Actually Believing ST3’s Own Numbers

Oct 20, 2016

This week on KUOW, the Sound Transit campaign offered their definition of a “conservative”: people who actually look at the numbers.

On Tuesday, Shefali Ranganathan, the Executive Director of the Sound Transit campaign to spend $54 billion on light rail and transit, known as ST3, was on KUOW to discuss the proposal. Host Bill Radke asked about claims by the ST3 campaign and environmental groups like Climate Solutions that it would reduce carbon emissions.

As we noted, using Sound Transit’s own data, the value of the carbon reduction is 11 cents for every $100 of taxpayer money spent on ST3. Former County Councilmember Maggie Fimia cited our research, noting that ST3 is a terrible way to reduce carbon emissions.

How did Ranganathan respond to the data? Here is her full quote:

“I mean, you are quoting the Washington Policy Center. They are a known conservative blog that I think may be climate change deniers.”

She said nothing about the data or why they were incorrect. There is a reason: we used their own numbers.

So, according to Ranganathan and Sound Transit, the difference between the Washington Policy Center and Sound Transit is that we actually look at the numbers and Sound Transit will deny their own numbers when they are inconvenient.

Now, quietly, Ranganathan admits we are correct, sending out an e-mail with the following footnote: “Note: In a previous email to you, we had an awkwardly worded sentence that may have implied that Proposition 1 will reduce emissions by 793,000 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions annually by itself. We want to make sure to set the record straight — Sound Transit 3 projects alone would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by more than 130,000 metric tons annually.”

The original e-mail was specifically about ST3, not all of Sound Transit. So, the campaign knew they were being misleading. The only thing awkward is that they were caught.

That isn’t the only misleading claim about ST3’s greenhouse gas reduction.

KUOW did a “fact check” where they claim “It’s true that mass transit – once it’s up and running – is much cleaner, per rider.” This claim bears no relationship to actual carbon reductions in the real world.

First, this assumes that “once up and running” in 2041, light rail will be essentially zero emissions and cars will be the same as they are today. This is an obviously false assumption. Every analysis shows that cars will be far more fuel efficient in 2041. This is a combination of more fuel-efficient vehicles, a significant increase in the number of zero-emissions vehicles (i.e. electric cars) and self-driving cars that improve the fuel efficiency of driving. KUOW’s claim assumes they know the mix of these vehicles 25 years from today.

Second, the only meaningful metric of carbon reduction is reduction per dollar. If Sound Transit gives me $1 billion, I will gladly stop driving my car completely. This will reduce my transportation emissions to zero. Using KUOW’s standard, this approach would be called “much cleaner” than my current behavior. Of course, such an idea is ludicrous. Saying light rail is “much cleaner” is only valid if you ignore the costs of ST3 and every alternative approach that would yield far more carbon reductions per dollar. When you consider the actual cost to reduce carbon emissions – how effective the policy is in the real world – ST3 fails miserably.

It has become a regular routine for the left to argue that climate change is critical and that we must take meaningful action and then to offer actions that are meaningless. When the left, including the ST3 campaign and Climate Solutions, get caught in that contradiction, they quickly accuse others of being “deniers.” The irony is that ST3 was denying its own data.

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