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.

Tuesday, September 20th, 2016

NPI thanks Redmond City Council for voting to endorse Sound Transit 3

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!

Sin­cere­ly,

Andrew Vil­leneuve
Founder and Exec­u­tive Direc­tor
North­west Pro­gres­sive Insti­tute

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2 Comments

  1. Waste of mon­ey, no over­sight, or to much, and one hand does­n’t know what the oth­er is doing.
    I have worked on the South 200 link project and have seen first­hand the lack of orga­ni­za­tion and fol­low thru. These projects by Sound Tran­sit are only anoth­er Big Broth­er ie Gov­ern­ment check­book of chaos.
    Let the pri­vate com­pa­nies build it. They will have a ball in the game to pro­vide the state with an on time on bud­get project or will go bank­rupt and not do any oth­er projects.

    # by Brett :: September 28th, 2016 at 8:10 PM
    • Earth to Brett: The pri­vate sec­tor *is* build­ing this tran­sit infra­struc­ture. And if ST3 pass­es, they’ll get more busi­ness.

      When Sound Tran­sit wants to build a light rail sta­tion, or lay tracks, or con­struct a park and ride, the agency puts the project out to bid, and hires a pri­vate firm to do the work. They don’t do con­struc­tion in-house.

      The Angle Lake Link exten­sion was actu­al­ly a design/build project, award­ed to PCL. It was com­plet­ed on time and under bud­get. You claim you worked on the project — should­n’t you know that? Should­n’t you know how Sound Tran­sit deliv­ers projects to the peo­ple? Yet here you are say­ing “Let the pri­vate com­pa­nies build it”, when that’s exact­ly what is already hap­pen­ing.

      # by Andrew :: September 28th, 2016 at 8:39 PM

One Ping

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