On August 27, the Sound Transit Board—an unelected, unaccountable body of officials who run the troubled transit agency—released its “Candidate Project List” for Sound Transit 3 (ST3), the latest expansion measure that seeks to spend a whopping $15 billion of taxpayers’ dollars. The new list was—supposedly—put together to reflect the results of a survey Sound Transit pushed in an attempt to appear civically engaged.
The “candidate” list boasts 74 projects—52 of which pertain to light rail and commuter rail expansion or improvements—that the agency says it will “evaluate” on criteria such as cost to build and maintain, projected ridership, and other potential benefits and risks. The original list released by the agency in June boasted a paltry (by comparison) 50 projects. And—surprise, surprise—all of the projects on Sound Transit’s original wish list made it on the “candidate” list.
By every appearance, the Sound Transit Board decided to merely expand its original list to include projects favored by survey respondents. No steps appear to have been taken to weed out projects on the agency’s original wish list.
Additionally, ten out of the 24 added projects have to do with Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) and/or Express Bus transit—that’s nearly half of the added projects for consideration. By contrast, Sound Transit’s original wish list merely included four projects pertaining to BRT—the grand total is now 14 of the 74 projects under consideration – or less than 20% of the projects under consideration for buses which actually are more cost-efficient and flexible for meeting rider needs.
As Shift previously point out, BRT projects are among the more effective transit solutions of those presented by Sound Transit via ST3. BRT—a system that is already in place—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.” Unfortunately, it’s not light rail—a factor sure to play against it in Sound Transit’s “deliberations.”
According to reports, the Sound Transit Board will begin the process of whittling down the “candidate” list by December. However, determining the final list could take as long to identify as next summer. Of course, if Sound Transit spared us the act that it cares anything about costs to taxpayers, ridership projections or public opinion, the final ST3 could just be released by next week. After all, something tells us the final list is going to look a lot like the transit agency’s original wish list.
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