The Bellevue Reporter’s Editorial Board interviewed key proponents and opponents of Sound Transit’s $54 billion ballot measure, Sound Transit 3.
We also looked into additional information about ST3 and weighed the uncertain tax implications of several other pending state and local issues. After careful consideration, the Reporter recommends a No vote on Sound Transit 3.
We do so for many reasons. First, while we strongly believe reliable mass transit that addresses the huge expected growth in traffic is imperative for our region and for our individual communities, there are other issues hanging in the balance that will also affect Bellevue residents.
Before voters establish a permanent taxing authority via ST3, they first should have a more complete picture of our state and local obligations and how those will be met and paid for before deciding how best to move forward regarding transportation.
We believe the cornerstone to our future vitality as a region and as a state is education. Washingtonians need to have our Legislature resolve the McCleary decision and fully fund education. That could mean potential property tax increases or future levies.
In addition to that, Bellevue has two local propositions on November’s ballot, including Proposition 1, a levy that would fund improvements to fire facilities, and Proposition 2, a levy that would fund transportation neighborhood safety, connectivity and congestion improvements. We see these as major local priorities.
ST3 will expand the regional mass transit system by connecting the major cities in King, Pierce and Snohomish counties with light rail, Bus Rapid Transit, express bus and commuter rail. Sound Transit proposes to add 62 new miles of light rail, completing a 116-mile regional system stretching from Everett to DuPont that ST1 started in 1996. This would add to Sound Transit’s East Link project that voters approved in 2008 as part of ST2, which will bring light rail to Bellevue in 2023.
However, ST3’s assumptions, scale and extremely high cost still leave too many unanswered questions for voters.
It’s all about return on investment. With approximately 800,000 more people expected to move to this region by 2040, Sound Transit hopes ST3 will respond to the region’s long and congested commutes. But if ST3’s much-touted light rail component is expected to create only 32,000 new riders and less than 1 percent of the new trips in 2040, how is ST3 the $54-billion answer to our congestion problem?
We ask: Has Sound Transit really weighed whether more flexible bus rapid transit — a service that could be more cheaply implemented much sooner — could achieve similar goals as fixed light rail?
And how much citizen oversight, if any, will taxpayers have over Sound Transit’s 30-year blank check?
A No vote will not cause the sky to fall. And large corporations hopefully won’t leave the region en masse.
But a No vote would cause Sound Transit to sharpen their pencil and go back to the drawing board (in a non-presidential election year, no less) to come up with a more reasonable and concrete plan that answers the unanswered questions and meets the diverse transportation needs of the public of all three counties.