As most know, I'm a strong proponent of anything that will improve the public transportation infrastructure in the greater Seattle area, most notably light rail. While I did support last year's Roads & Transit measure, based solely on the light rail portion of it, I'm pleased to see that Sound Transit is coming back with a transit-only package that hopefully will appeal to a wider audience who believes as I do that the solution is not adding more lanes onto freeways, but rather adding more mass transit options.
The new 15-year plan includes a good compromise on time-to-build vs. reaching the most people. The features include:
- Increased ST regional express bus service.
- Increased Sounder commuter rail service.
- Light rail north to Northgate by 2020 and to Lynnwood by 2023.
- Light rail south to north Federal Way (272nd) by 2023.
- Light rail east to Bellevue by 2020 and to Overlake by 2021.
- More potential expansion planning and design and right-of-way purchase.
This adds on to the existing approved (and under construction) light rail service from downtown to the airport in 2009, and to the UW by 2016.
The cost? Not exactly cheap, but it's all relative. A half-percent increase in the sales tax in the Sound Transit RTA (most of King, Snohomish, and Pierce counties). This will bring the sales tax from the current 9.0% to 9.5%, a difference to the average consumer of about $69/year (depending on who you consider the average consumer, but remember folks, state sales tax is also now a deduction on your IRS income taxes).
I'm all for this, but I must admit the timeline is always a bit daunting. The first of any of this additional light rail won't be functional for 12 years, but if things are this bad now, can you imagine what traffic will be like 12 years from now? Yeah, exactly.
I know there are plenty of people who don't think light rail is the answer, for any number of reasons. Certainly there are plenty more who don't like the idea of more sales taxes. My perspective continues to be that if we don't start now, we'll never get anywhere. The time isn't going to get shorter, and the costs not cheaper. See what happens.
More details about the new plan are at future.soundtransit.org.