THIS Election Day, voters in King, Pierce and Snohomish counties have the opportunity to approve a mass-transit measure that will benefit...

Share story

THIS Election Day, voters in King, Pierce and Snohomish counties have the opportunity to approve a mass-transit measure that will benefit the region’s business climate, job market and quality of life.

It couldn’t come at a more opportune time. Proposition 1 would immediately add 100,000 hours of express bus service, expand the popular Sounder commuter trains and build 36 miles of new light rail from Federal Way to Lynnwood and across Lake Washington to Redmond.

The measure has the backing of business, labor and environmental groups because we understand the nature of competition for market-share, jobs and natural resources.

By tackling our region’s greatest challenge — gridlock — Proposition 1 gives us the advantages needed to compete in a global marketplace where infrastructure investment is paramount and creating sustainable communities our highest calling. Only by addressing our long-standing transportation problems will we be able to attract and retain the innovative companies that employ some of our region’s most talented people.

It is significant the region’s business, labor and environmental groups have come together to support Proposition 1. It is our job to advocate for long-term investments in our transportation system for ourselves and the next generation, just as previous generations did for us. All of our road solutions to Highway 520 and the Alaskan Way Viaduct assume Proposition 1 passes and provides mass-transit solutions. We know there is much more work to be done to fix our key transportation and roadway choke points, but this is a necessary and critical first step toward a balanced and regional system.

And the public is demanding action. High gas prices have prompted increased use of buses and trains. Sounder commuter rail is up by 28 percent in the first quarter of 2008 compared with the same period last year. Express-bus ridership is up 13 percent.

People want relief from the pump and, with gas prices likely to continue to eat a bigger portion out of our household budgets, the surge of interest in mass transit will only grow.

And our roads are certain to get more crowded.

According to the Puget Sound Regional Council’s Vision 2040, we need to accommodate a projected 1.7 million more people in the Puget Sound region in the next 30 years. Regional policy leaders agree that this growth is best channeled into dense urban environments with small carbon footprints.

Northgate and downtown Bellevue are great examples of residential developments linked to a wide range of transportation choices: foot, bike and bus. If voters approve Proposition 1, light rail will connect Northgate and Bellevue, along with Seattle and Sea-Tac International Airport and Federal Way. All told, the light-rail system will be able to move 1 million passengers every day.

And it will be truly regional. In 2030, 70 percent of the residents and 85 percent of the jobs in the Sound Transit district will be within easy walking distance or a single bus ride to commuter or light rail. That’s good news for business owners, who want to attract the best employees; workers, who want alternatives to sitting in traffic; and environmentalists, who understand that mass transit is a critical tool in the fight against climate pollution.

Although some say now isn’t the perfect time and this isn’t the perfect plan, we believe Proposition 1 is the best mix of bus, commuter and light rail. We’ve all seen Sound Transit’s buses, with the big blue wave, on our roads and freeways and, with this measure, you’ll see more of them. But light rail is the most cost-effective option in the long run, and it provides commuters with the most reliable way to get from home to work and back.

Now is the time to create family-wage jobs building a future that will save businesses and families both time and money.

Proposition 1 represents the best way for the region and the nation to return to prosperity. This investment in transportation solutions will create 69,000 construction-related jobs through 2020. Once the system is up and running, 47,000 jobs will be created, directly and indirectly, from maintenance and operations.

The price of Proposition 1 is $17.9 billion in inflation-adjusted dollars. For families with a median household income of $64,000, that breaks down to about $69 per year for each adult. We believe this represents good value. Our region has waited too long and we no longer have the luxury of more time and process. It is time to move forward and build solutions.

Tayloe Washburn is chairman of the Greater Seattle Chamber of Commerce, Mike O’Brien chairs the Cascade Chapter of the Sierra Club and David Freiboth is executive secretary of the King County Labor Council.