Sound Transit has already launched its campaign for ST3, the transit agency’s latest spending package proposal. ST3 would spend a whopping $15 billion in hard-earned taxpayer dollars. Sound Transit needs the state Legislature to approve a higher taxing authority in order to present ST3 to voters via a ballot measure.
A compromise between the state House and Senate is still in the works as lawmakers work toward a deal on a much needed transportation package. But, Sound Transit officials aren’t waiting for the final word. Assuming legislative approval is inevitable, transit officials have begun efforts to promote ST3 through various, less than honest tactics meant to garner public support.
In a recent mailing piece, Sound Transit points to traffic congestion relief as a benefit of ST3—particularly, of expanding light rail. The mailing piece cites population growth in the Puget Sound then claims,
“Mass transit offers major relief for our most congested corridors, helping riders and drivers alike. A light rail line can move up to 12,000 people per hour in each direction, compared to 700 cars per hour in a congested freeway lane.”
The keyword in this particular deceptive line of reasoning is “can.” That fact of the matter is that light rail doesn’t “move up to 12,00 people per hour.” And, it doesn’t—and will not—reduce traffic congestion.
“Federal estimates show people in the average household make 9.5 trips per day. Within Sound Transit’s district, that equals 3.9 billion total trips every year. Sound Transit’s total light rail ridership last year was approximately 11 million, or 0.28 percent of all trips people made in the taxing district. The Puget Sound Regional Council estimates that, even after light rail is vastly expanded, light rail would carry less than 1 percent of daily trips by 2040.”
The same Sound Transit mailing piece alerts recipients that “now is [their] chance to help decide which mass transit projects will be considered for a public vote as soon as November 2016.” It goes on, “The Sound Transit Board wants your input on which projects to study as final candidates for an ST3 ballot measure.”
The mailer lists “open houses” scheduled in Seattle, Everett, Redmond, Tacoma and Federal Way through the month of June where people could give their input. Of course, Sound Transit’s idea of citizen participation is quite limited. Sound Transit officials just want to appear like they are concerned with taxpayer input on how their money is spent. Officials have already released a draft of “priority projects” that will be considered.
Certainly, Sound Transit officials are not open to ideas that would actually help reduce traffic congestion. A recent Crosscut op-ed points to better, more effective solutions than those presented in ST3. One example is the bus rapid transit (BRT) system already in place. BRT offers riders “rapid boarding, limited stops and less congested special lanes.” And, BRT “can be in place in a matter of years, not decades, and can reach many more people… We’ve invested billions of dollars in 310 miles of HOV lanes. Let’s use them to move carpools and buses better.”
Before Sound Transit officials can sell ST3 to voters, they will have to answer one important question: “Why, given all the broken promises, should taxpayers trust Sound Transit to keep its promises and spend their hard-earned dollars responsibility, on time and on budget?”
You can get the facts you need to know in order to answer the question above here. And, you can check out Sound Transit’s mailer below.