I’m passing on information about Sound Transit’s $54 billion proposal – the last item listed on your ballot. While the topic could easily fill up a three-day workshop, the bottom line is that while we absolutely need more and better transit, continuing to build light rail actually puts us further behind our ability to serve more communities, reduce sprawl, reduce greenhouse gases and stop the growth of soul-killing traffic congestion.
State Sen. Reuven Carlyle, a Democrat, publicly stated: “As a state legislator I cannot in good conscience support an inequitable and unstable financing plan…that I believe will have substantial negative implications for public education in the years to come.” He also said, referring to the price tag and increased sales, motor vehicle excise tax and now property tax, “it consumes the oxygen in the room on taxes for virtually all other public services at all levels of government for years to come.”
Here are five facts and links to where you can get more information.
Here’s what Sound Transit want us to think instead of what we actually know:
- We’re getting a long, fast, sleek train like New York, Paris or San Francisco.
No, with “Light rail” we’re getting a glorified, astronomically priced streetcar. “Light” refers to how many people it can carry (capacity), not weight. Parts of the line share right of way with cars and trucks. Each train can only be four cars long; it averages about 25-30 mph, and will be slower than the express bus because it has to stop at every station.
- Light rail is the best technology to serve the region.
No, light rail technology was never intended for regional service. It is designed for a short distance in a dense urban environment. It doesn’t provide the right characteristics for both fast and reliable regional services.
- Light rail can carry 16,000 people an hour: a freeway lane can only carry 2,000 cars.
This is an intentional distortion of facts. While it may be possible to jam 12 people in a telephone booth (remember those?), that’s not how many were meant to be in there. They’re comparing “crush” capacity on their trains versus one person per car: no buses or carpools in that lane. Also, how many people a light rail car can hold is a very different number than how many actually ride it.
4. You’ll have an alternative to being stuck in traffic.
By 2040, the official regional transportation plan shows that we will be taking 19 million trips a day by all forms of transportation, but mostly still by car. How many actual new transit riders will be getting on a bus or train? According to Sound Transit, only about 64,000 trips will be taken by new transit riders. If we assume each new rider takes a minimum of two trips per day, that’s only 32,000 new riders out of the expected million new people. Express buses will and are being canceled or rerouted to “feed” the train. Most people will have to transfer from their car or a bus to be able to access the train station that will be miles away from where they are to where they are going. In 2040, 91 percent of Sound Transit’s ridership will be former bus riders. Traffic gets worse, especially on arterials.
- The Sound Transit Board is accountable.
No. They are appointed by the three county executives, not directly elected by and accountable to the people. Some cities, like Seattle, are represented by several board members while others by only one. Many cities have no representative. The board can and does change the plans the voters approve. They appoint their own Citizen Oversight Panel. A performance audit by the State Auditor found serious problems with this arrangement. Their Expert Review Panel did not receive the most basic information about the costs and benefits of the ST3 plan in time to review it. They spent almost $1 million on a party when they opened the Husky Stadium Station. And the Sound Transit Board appointed Tim Eyman to the Voters’ Pamphlet Statement committee against the wishes of the official NoST3 campaign. He is not and never has been a part of the campaign.
But we need to do something. Of course we do.
Lastly, when the region said no to “heavy” rail 40 years ago we said yes to a high- capacity bus system and to 310 miles of HOV lanes, the downtown bus tunnel and ramped-up bus service. Consequently, we have some of the highest transit ridership in the country. We are ranked 12th in the nation for transit ridership per capita. Atlanta was awarded the federal grants instead and built heavy rail. They are ranked 45th. But the rail proponents were back again in 1996 and we approved 21 miles of light rail (I supported it) and then another 30 miles in 2008. The first 21 miles are still not done and is coming in 86 percent over budget. Meanwhile, buses and carpools are left to languish in HOV lanes that move slower and slower each month.
We need a real plan.
When a group of elected officials asked the Puget Sound Regional Council (PSRC) what the plan was to deal with the growing traffic and under-performing HOV lanes, their answer was, “PSRC has engaged with WSDOT and flagged the topic for consideration as part of the scope of work for the upcoming transportation update.”
Sound Transit, PSRC and the State do not have a plan to deal with the expected growth of people and traffic over the next 25 years. Voters need to send a strong message to their elected officials that we need to set real transportation goals, real performance measures and adopt a real plan for growing transit, providing alternatives to driving alone, maintaining our transit and transportation system, incorporating new technology and reducing congestion.
Please join us in voting No and send a message to our elected officials that the region deserves better. The region deserves the truth. We need viable, sustainable and affordable options now.
Our many supporters include:
State Superintendent Randy Dorn
Mike Lonergan – Treasurer-Assessor of Pierce County
Phil Talmadge – Former legislator and Supreme Court Judge
Sen. Maralyn Chase, Democrat, 32nd District
Chuck Collins, Former manager of Metro
Toby Nixon, President of the Washington Coalition for Open Government
Here are some links for more info:
- Why I’m voting no on ST3 – transit supporter and self identified “bleeding heart liberal.”
- Outside City Hall – Vote No on ST3 – blog by Seattle Displacement Coalition about ST3
- Smarter Transit– education/advocacy – much more info including links to SoundTransit Revealed – treasure trove of data- Mark Ahlers has done the research so you don’t have to!
- People for Smarter Transit – NoST3 coalition running campaign – see tax calculator to find out how much this actually will cost you.
- Smarter Transit Facebook page– many articles from around region, country and world regarding these issues.
- SWIFT Bus – Community Transit in Snohomish County – example in our own back yard!
- Speech by head of Federal Transit Administration about how transit investments are moral decisions and how upgrading the bus system and giving buses dedicated lanes instead of building new rail lines can “move a lot of people for very little cost compared to rail.” He is now head of Sound Transit telling us we have no alternatives to building another 60 miles of light rail. It’s also on YouTube.
— By Maggie Fimia
Maggie Fimia is a former Metro Council and King County Councilmember. She served on several transit and transportation committees including the Puget Sound Regional Council Transportation Committee, Co-chaired their first Transportation Pricing Task Force and was a member of the State Commute Trip Reduction Task Force. She organized the first Livable Communities Fair at the Seattle Center. She’s the Co-Founder of Smarter Transit.org, an education and advocacy network. Maggie and her husband live in Edmonds. They share one car, enjoy their ORCA Transit Senior passes and walk for most trips.