NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Thursday, June 23rd, 2016

Sound Transit Board sends ST3 to ballot; Mass Transit Now campaign launches to pass it

Sound Transit’s eighteen member Board of Directors voted unanimously to adopt the revised draft ST3 (Phase III) plan and refer it to the voters of urban King, Pierce, and Snohomish counties this afternoon, successfully concluding several years of extensive planning and public outreach.

Board Chair Dow Constantine thanked Sound Transit staff for their hard work in putting the package together, and declared that the campaign to pass the measure (Regional Proposition #1) would begin immediately.

“Sound Transit 3 will dramatically expand our light rail system, which is critical to our region’s mobility and our economic future,” said Constantine.

“A single light rail line can move 16,000 people per hour — [that’s] an entire new [expressway] of regular car lanes. After decades of lagging behind on transit, we finally have a chance to catch up. This carefully crafted, major mobility expansion – sixty-two new miles of light rail, plus high capacity bus and rail improvements – is exactly what the people of this region have been demanding. I urge everyone to join the Mass Transit Now coalition – let’s make history this November.”

Pierce County Executive Pat McCarthy and Snohomish County Executive Dave Somers added their enthusiastic support at a news conference shortly after the adjournment of Sound Transit’s final June board meeting.

“The extension of reliable, predictable light rail service from Federal Way to Tacoma, additional Sounder commuter rail service, and the extension to Tacoma Community College means that Tacoma and Pierce County will now be reliably connected to SeaTac, Seattle, and our entire central Puget Sound region. That is going to be a huge plus for the South Sound economy and for the quality of life of Pierce County residents,” said McCarthy.

“Passing the Sound Transit 3 measure at the ballot is key part of ensuring that the future of Snohomish County will be bright,” agreed Somers, who became Snohomish County Executive last year. “Connecting Everett with the rest of the region through quick, reliable light rail mass transit will reduce congestion, boost our local economy and improve our quality of life for decades to come.”

Eighty-five elected officials have already endorsed a YES vote on Proposition #1, and that list will be growing in the coming weeks.

Here is an overview of the final Sound Transit 3 plan:

  • Adds sixty-two more miles of Link light rail with stations serving thirty-seven neighborhoods. The first ST3 stations would open in 2024. If ST3 is approved, light rail would be expanded to the following places:
    • Ballard
    • West Seattle
    • Downtown Redmond
    • Everett via Paine Field
    • Tacoma via Federal Way
    • Issaquah
    • South Kirkland
  • Improves ST Express bus service by modifying I-5, I-405, SR 518, SR 167, I-90 to allow buses to run on highway shoulders during peak commute times, and add hundreds of thousands of additional service hours
  • Creates two new Bus Rapid Transit lines: one to serve the I-405 corridor (Lynnwood-Burien) and one to serve the SR 522 corridor (UW Bothell and Woodinville to NE 145th Light Rail Station); both would open in 2024
  • Creates new transit access parking in Renton (with a new transit center), Sammamish (with a new park & ride), as well as Mukilteo, Edmonds, South Kirkland, Kenmore, Lake Forest Park, and Bothell
  • Expand Sounder commuter rail service south from Lakewood to serve new stations in DuPont and Joint Base Lewis McChord (JBLM)
  • Extend the Tacoma Link Streetcar to Tacoma Community College

A complete list of projects and interactive map is available at SoundTransit3.org.

The total package would cost $53.8 billion and would be financed through a mix of sales taxes, property taxes, vehicle fees, and bonds. The typical adult in Sound Transit’s jurisdiction would pay about $17 more a month for the projects.

“If implemented, the ST3 Plan is projected to up to quintuple Sound Transit ridership from what it is today, increasing it from approximately 145,000 each weekday to between 561,000 and 695,000 daily riders in 2040,” the agency said in a news release, in which it noted that express bus travel times are deteriorating due to heavy congestion on highways like I-5 and I-405.

“With ST3, the share of all transit travel in the region on Sound Transit rail lines will grow from 17 percent today to 69 percent in 2040. This means more than four times as much transit travel will occur on vehicles that don’t get stuck in traffic.”

Research conducted by Sound Transit shows that the region is hungry for more light rail and that the concern of most residents is how fast it can be delivered:

In a phone survey that Sound Transit conducted in April, 65 percent of respondents stated they strongly (30 percent) or somewhat (36 percent) supported the ST3 draft package in a question that described the associated tax increases. Following a question describing the plan’s previously proposed project timelines, 59 percent of respondents strongly (24 percent) or somewhat (35 percent) supported the draft package. The soundtransit3.org website includes a presentation summarizing the public input and phone survey.

Opponents of ST3 include many of the same cast of characters who previously opposed ST2 eight years ago. Those against the package have signaled their campaign will be based on the premise that light rail is a bad investment — the same argument voters overwhelmingly rejected eight years ago.

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