Editor’s Note: Earlier tonight, the Redmond City Council voted 5–2 to take a position supporting a yes vote on Regional Proposition 1, also known as Sound Transit 3, which NPI strongly supports. The following letter of appreciation was penned by NPI founder Andrew Villeneuve to the five councilmembers who voted in favor of the resolution to take a yes position.
Dear Councilmembers Allen, Birney, Margeson, Schutz, and Stilin:
On behalf of the team at the Northwest Progressive Institute, I want to thank you for your enthusiastic yes vote tonight for Council Resolution No. 1457, which expresses the City of Redmond’s support of Regional Proposition 1, more commonly known as Sound Transit 3 (ST3). Together with the many other organizations that belong to the Mass Transit Now coalition, NPI is working hard to pass ST3 and we are very grateful to have a majority on our hometown City Council voice support for our efforts to bring high capacity transit to neighborhoods like downtown Redmond.
As you may know from hearing me testify at past Council meetings, I am a lifelong resident of Redmond who got started in politics many years ago as a high school freshman working to defend Sound Transit’s proposed Link light rail system from I‑776, a destructive Tim Eyman initiative intended to prevent the project from ever getting off the ground. Before Tim Eyman proposed I‑776, I was a spectator, watching the news and observing the goings-on.
The threat posed by I‑776 to Link light rail prompted me to become an activist, advocating for the high capacity transit our region needs at every level, and subsequently thereafter to found the Northwest Progressive Institute, a strategy center dedicated to raising our country and region’s quality of life through insightful research and imaginative advocacy.
At the time I became an activist, Sound Transit didn’t have many friends. It was under attack from all directions, and many pundits believed it was only a matter of time before the agency was dissolved by the Legislature.
But I felt that such an outcome would be disastrous for our region’s future. Along with other pro-transit activists, I campaigned and lobbied for Sound Transit to get the support it needed to begin constructing Central Link.
Thankfully, that support was obtained, and today we can say Central Link is a reality… along with Airport Link, University Link, and Angle Lake Link, which opens to the public this Saturday morning. Soon, East Link will be a reality too, and light rail will reach Redmond’s Overlake neighborhood. Construction has already begun, and is slated to be finished in a few years. I was very pleased to join with several of you for the groundbreaking ceremonies just a few months ago.
Sound Transit may have had a rocky beginning, but since Joni Earl became CEO and transformed the agency, it has proved it can successfully deliver big projects successfully, often on time and under budget… or even ahead of schedule. The culture of excellence Joni instilled continues today under new CEO Peter Rogoff.
Angle Lake Link is a case in point. The Angle Lake extension and its accompanying station was originally slated to be completed four years from now, but it is opening early thanks to smart planning and the availability of federal funds.
Thanks to ST2, Sound Transit has the funding to build East Link out to Overlake. If we approve ST3, Sound Transit will be able to move forward with construction of East Link’s final planned segment, bringing light rail to downtown Redmond, where the Northwest Progressive Institute is headquartered.
With Sound Transit 3, we have an opportunity to extend Link in all directions and ensure that our region has a rail spine linking together Everett, Tacoma, Bellevue and Redmond with downtown Seattle and neighborhoods in between, as well as expand ST Express bus service, Sounder commuter rail, and provide new or higher capacity park and rides. As the resolution you approved noted, ST3 would also bring bus rapid transit to the busy I‑405 corridor.
There are a lot of wins in ST3. It is a bold investment, to be sure. But as Councilmember Margeson noted in his eloquent remarks, we are without question benefiting today from the bold investments made by the taxpayers who came before us, including the Eisenhower Interstate System. It’s our turn to pay it forward and invest in the essential infrastructure our region needs.
What’s particularly exciting about ST3 is that it will help liberate us from auto dependence. In the aftermath of World War II, we unwisely abandoned proven, effective town planning practices, choosing to experiment with auto-centric development instead. That costly experiment produced a built environment (consisting of far-flung subdivisions, office parks, shopping malls, civic institutions, all linked by roadways) that requires a car to navigate. In other words, sprawl.
We are still living with the auto-centric land use, transportation, and public planning decisions made decades ago. For example, we had an opportunity in the 1960s to invest in a proper mass transit system for our region (with Forward Thrust), and we didn’t take it. We chose then and we have repeatedly chosen since to subsidize auto travel and auto ownership to an enormous extent, while neglecting to invest in alternative means of getting around. As a consequence, we have a transportation system in which the automobile is the dominant mode.
Our traffic mess is of our own making.
Many of us drive to get where we need to go not because we want to or because we enjoy driving, but because we currently have no other choice. Those of us who own cars can’t ditch them for transit that doesn’t exist.
Because we’ve constructed this built environment designed around the automobile instead of the needs of human beings, we’ve become hostages to gridlock and ever-worsening traffic congestion. Through nonstop commercial advertising and discriminatory official policy, we’re all encouraged to own cars and to drive them everywhere. Those who cannot or choose not to own a car (including the very young, seniors, and people with disabilities) are treated as second-class citizens.
It doesn’t have to be this way. Many of us who own cars would love not to be forced to drive to get to where we want to go.
Research has shown that transit must be reliable, frequent, and convenient to appeal to auto owners and compete for trips. By building a rail spine through our highly congested corridors, integrated with express bus, commuter rail, and bus rapid transit, we’ll be able to provide high capacity transit service that meets this criteria. We will be able to better serve everybody.
The benefits of this investment will not all be realized overnight. There are short term wins in Sound Transit 3, but this is foremost an investment in the long term.
Critics, who seem obsessed with instant gratification, say it’s not worth it because it will take too long and cost too much. But if we turn down ST3, we’ll just end up paying more and waiting even longer to get the rail spine that we need.
The endlessly-cynical critics may not be impressed by Sound Transit’s recent track record of delivering projects, but the rest of us should be. Most of the Sound Move projects have now been completed, and construction is already underway or done on a number of the ST2 projects approved and funded eight years ago.
Sound Transit staff have demonstrated an eagerness to look out for the people of this region. After ST2 passed, they didn’t sit on their laurels. They worked hard to begin implementing what the people voted for, even ahead of schedule. That’s why Angle Lake Link is opening this Saturday instead of four years from now.
If ST3 is approved, we can count on the team at Sound Transit to look for ways to speed up delivery of the ST3 projects too, advising Sound Transit’s board of opportunities to work with cities and our congressional delegation to speed up design and construction of those projects. Sound Transit has a proven track record of securing federal dollars for projects. If we give ST3 the green light, that gives Sound Transit the freedom to approach Senator Patty Murray with funding requests — requests Murray and Washington’s other representatives will be happy to act on.
By enthusiastically voting to support Sound Transit 3 this evening, you’ve shown the region that the City of Redmond — the Bicycle Capital of the Northwest! — is ready to do its part to make possible a future where people can live sustainably and have the freedom to get where they need to go without being forced to drive.
I thank you not only on behalf of myself and the team at NPI, but on behalf of fellow young people I know who are anxious for Link light rail to reach our community and others like it. We and the youth coming after us are ready to ride, and we’re grateful for your willingness to take a stand for this bold, needed investment in regional mobility. Let’s get Sound Transit 3 passed!
Founder and Executive Director
Northwest Progressive Institute