The Secret Worldwide Transit Cabal

Informed but opinionated commentary and analysis on urban transportation topics from the Secret Worldwide Transit Cabal. Names have been omitted to protect the guilty.

Our Mission: Monkeywrench the Anti-Transit Forces

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Friday, November 08, 2002


"It is the unfortunate destiny of the ridiculous to be subject to ridicule."
James Howard Kunstler

From the Cabalmaster:


The Secret Worldwide Transit Cabal is pleased to announce that Maggi Fimia, former Seattle-Land(tm) politico, (see has been awarded a lifetime membership in the Society for the Abolition of Effective Public Transport. Fimia was elected to the Metropolitan King County (WA) Council in 1993, later chaired its Transportation Committee, but retired from office at the end of 2001. She becomes the first female Sap(tm) laureate.

Fimia was one of the organizers of the anti-light-rail organization, "Sane Transit" (which has little to do with sanity, or with transit: Sane Transit has filed suit against the Seattle regional transit agency, Sound Transit (Sane Transit v. Sound Transit . . . get it? get it?). Sane Transit's own website,, is not operative and may have been hacked; the web address leads one to "online casinos".

Fimia was also an organizer of the Coalition for Effective Transit Alternatives Its mission statement:

"CETA is a coalition of Puget Sound citizens and groups calling on Sound Transit to immediately cancel its ineffective and prohibitively expensive 14-mile surface light rail project and begin shifting the $1.4 Billion of local and $500 million of federal taxes to help fund a range of high quality services which could include: frequent, all day, comfortable, express bus service; monorail; vanpools; and other innovative, cost effective, safe, community friendly transportation options."


The regional transportation plan, "Sound Move," including the light-rail component, was approved in November 1996. Even if the Sound Transit board wanted to cancel the rail element, it could not do so as a practical matter without going back to voters The alternative program above might -- just might -- have won voter approval late in 2000 or early in 2001, when Sound Transit was under fire for cost overruns and poor management. But not today, hence all that shouting of the Sap(tm) slogan.

As we've noted before: It's relatively easy to qualify an initiative for the Seattle ballot -- remarkably so if there's strong community interest. It's even easier in smaller suburban communities given the small number of signatures that one has to collect. It's not likely that the Sound Transit plan could be modified through the initiative process, but that's beside the point. If anything would trigger a light rail meltdown faster than a "no confidence" vote -- a non-binding request by voters that Sound Transit scrap light rail -- we Opinionated Ones can't imagine what it would be. Such a vote would be significant even if confined to Seattle. Companion measures in other cities would deliver the coup de grace -- creating intense political pressure that the Sound Transit Board could probably not resist.

Without question, Sane Transit, CETA and so forth have everything it takes to do this -- and more: organization, resources, media skills.

So, why haven't they? To paraphrase the late Argentine boxer Oscar Bonavena:

"Because they're chicken! Cheep! Cheep! Cheep!"

(Few boxers attempted to return Muhammad Ali's weigh-in taunts in kind. Bonavena did; his televised performance was masterful.)

Seattle rail foes know that a "no-confidence" vote or an actual "re-vote" would be theirs to lose, and that a loss would evaporate whatever credibility they have.

The opposition, not daring to take this risk, is attempting to slay the light-rail dragon using the "death by a thousand cuts" strategy. "Cuts" include: lawsuits, /, op-eds, articles by sympathetic columnists, "dezinformatsiya" campaigns, and so forth.

Other "cuts" include attempts to "spin" a "Yes" vote for Seattle's monorail plan, or for Initiative 776 (initiative guru Tim Eyman's latest effort) as a "No" vote on Sound Transit light rail. (We're not certain, but: passage of I-776, which appears unlikely, MIGHT invalidate the monorail-financing measure, passage of which also appears unlikely.)


(with apologies to Rod Stewart / Martin Quittenton, The Knickerbockers, Dennis DeYoung and Styx)

Believe it or not, we respect Seattle's rail-transit foes; they're a motivated, savvy bunch; they may be the "best" (so to speak) in the country -- and they seem to rely relatively little on . . . shall we say, "outside assistance." But the current "thousand cuts" strategy may be hazardous to their credibility.

Fimia has been at the forefront of the anti-rail p.r. effort

While still on the King County Council, Fimia commissioned a study by DMJM+Harris that purports to demonstrate that buses could handle the same traffic volume as four-car light-rail trains Fimia commissioned the study for $1 less than the threshold that requires a full council vote

At mid-2002, the opposition tried its best to block an agreement between King County and Sound Transit for joint use of the downtown transit tunnel Fimia's various unfounded claims included perhaps the most creative version "STOP BUILDING RAIL SYSTEMS, DAMMIT" that we've heard. She explained her opposition to light rail tunnels as follows:

"I'm a woman, and I have concerns about going underground."

Hearing this, a "Cabal Associated Person" (one or more of the following: TransitCabalist, FOC, spouse, family member, friend) remarked:

"I'm a woman, and I don't know what she's talking about."

(Fimia, who claims to be a regular bus rider, lives in a north suburban community linked to downtown Seattle's by tunnel bus. The bus tunnel, which was very underground the last time we checked, opened in 1990.)

Seemingly unconcerned that such statements and actions tend to make one look like . . . well, like a Sap(tm) . . . Fimia continues as media pointperson, attempting to convince the Federal Transit Administration to heed the Seattle region's collective shout:


Thus far, the Feds have been unimpressed. This may have something to do with, um, that 57 percent "yes" vote in 1996.

Fimia's latest propaganda effort has stirred considerable ire among Seattle rail supporters. This is not difficult to understand, but something much more important is at hand. Fimia and her co-author, community activist Ruth Korkowski, have demonstrated that Sappy(tm) thinking tends to lead to creeping, insidious marginalization. The poor Sap(tm) either fails to notice that no one is listening -- or does notice, and cranks out ever-increasing volumes of fudge.

For once, your Favorite Transit Pundits find ourselves at a loss. We cannot provide you with a link; in fact, we can't even find a reference to "the" op-ed. We do not know the date of publication; we don't even know the title!

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