Voters in the Puget Sound region should say no to Sound Transit 3 and ask Sound Transit to provide a more reasonable plan with more accountability.
EVERYONE knows the Puget Sound region must invest in transit and provide more options for getting around its clogged roads. But Sound Transit 3 (ST3) is not the right approach.
Voters should say no to this measure — appearing as Proposition 1 on the Nov. 8 ballot — which would commit them to a lifetime of taxation for a $54 billion project with unclear benefits and little accountability.
A yes vote forces average King County households to pay about $20,000 over 25 years by extending and increasing Sound Transit taxes, including a new property tax for ST3.
Yet ST3 would provide little direct benefit for most residents. Many won’t be around to enjoy the system’s full benefits, which wouldn’t come until around 2040.
Because ST3 establishes permanent tax authority, voters would lose the opportunity to periodically say whether its funding should continue or its course corrected.
Voters should press pause on an ST3 plan that’s been rushed onto the presidential-year ballot and pushed by a campaign playing fast and loose with facts.
Pressing pause would direct regional leaders to produce a more reasonable plan with more accountability, including periodic public votes.”
This rush shortchanged public involvement and oversight. Orchestrated ST3 public-involvement sessions were largely done before a final finance plan was released. A cost-benefit analysis wasn’t available until September, long after Sound Transit’s board approved the measure and its expert-review panel held its final meeting, both in June.
Pressing pause would direct regional leaders to produce a more reasonable plan with more accountability, including periodic public votes, rather than allow a perpetual blank check that ST3 offers Sound Transit.
Pressing pause would not doom the region to traffic hell nor would it kill transit.
Sound Transit already has funding to build a bus-and-rail network that will handle most of the region’s transit demand through 2040.
The Sound Transit 2 project now under way extends light rail from Seattle to Lynnwood and almost to Federal Way, and between Seattle, Bellevue and Redmond. This ST2 work will be done by 2023 no matter what — we’re already paying for it. That won’t slow or stop if the region spends another year or two refining plans for its future expansion.
Remember, voters rejected ST2 in 2007 because the original proposal was too big and unwieldy. That didn’t kill transit. Voters pressed pause, leadership produced a more reasonable plan and ST2 was approved the following year.
Huge increases in transit use and capacity are now coming with or without ST3. Most of those increases will be handled by ST2. The $54 billion for ST3 would bring relatively minor, incremental increases in transit usage.
With ST2, annual transit trips will increase a minimum of 56 percent by 2040, according to Sound Transit.
ST3 extends the system to less dense areas and largely duplicates current bus routes within Seattle. That would bring an additional 10 percent increase in transit trips annually, at minimum, according to Sound Transit’s ST3 plan. It estimates each additional rider on ST3 would cost $66.
It’s as if the Puget Sound region already bought a minivan — ST2 — to carry its growing family. Now it’s being asked to max out credit cards and get a second mortgage to buy a coupe that can carry a few more.
Don’t forget that Puget Sound homeowners and renters are likely to see a big property-tax increase next year to help the state fully fund basic education. That will be followed by school-construction levies to reduce class sizes.
Voters need more information about the tax burden they’ll be facing in 2017 and beyond before making a huge, permanent commitment to Sound Transit.
Press pause on ST3 and demand a more reasonable plan.
Information in this editorial, originally published Oct. 19, 2016, was clarified Oct. 20, 2016. A previous version of this editorial stated light rail would be expanded to Federal Way. The light-rail line will extend close to Federal Way.