You have your ballot, it’s time to vote! The Transit Riders Union recommends that you vote APPROVED on Sound Transit Proposition 1 (if you live in King County, it’s the last thing on your ballot) and YES on Initiative 1433 to raise the minimum wage and mandate paid sick days statewide.
We’ll soon know whether or not voters in King, Snohomish, and Pierce counties have approved a massive expansion of our region’s light rail system. While there has been some opposition from the usual anti-transit groups, the Seattle Times and even some more urbanist-minded folks in Seattle, the fact remains that in Seattle and around the region, transit, and particularly light rail, remains popular with voters. The massive ridership numbers at the new Capitol Hill and University District stations show that when given an alternative, people will choose transit over sitting in their car in gridlocked traffic.
As bad as traffic is currently it will only get worse in the coming years if we don’t act now to provide expanded light rail service. We’re expected to see 800,000 new people move to the region by 2040, when the projects included in Sound Transit 3 will be wrapping up. With the rising cost of living in Seattle forcing people out into the suburbs and surrounding cities, many of those people will be forced to locate in cities other than Seattle, cities that often do not currently have good, reliable, fast transit service. Sound Transit 3 will change that, by finally offering an alternative to driving. And, while some in Seattle may complain about the parking that will be included in some of the Sound Transit 3 stations (and they have a point), the reality is that most of the cities outside of Seattle simply do not currently have the density and land use policies in place to make anything else practical. That does not mean that parking garages are the endpoint; there is a lot of organizing and outreach to be done in cities outside of Seattle to make sure that all people can truly benefit from good transit oriented development. Sound Transit 3 certainly won’t lead to everyone in the region abandoning their cars, but it if can help thousands of people a day to either not drive at all, or shorten the time and miles they spend in their cars, then it’s good for all of us.
What about cities that aren’t getting light rail stations in Sound Transit 3? The package provides for new, more rapid bus transit between Burien and Lynwood, and Shoreline and Bothell. Sounder commuter train service will also expand between Seattle and Lakewood while adding two new stations.
While the Transit Riders Union would absolutely prefer more progressive, fairer funding mechanisms for Sound Transit 3, the fault is with our state legislators, not Sound Transit. Sound Transit was given what they were given by the State, by our legislators. It is incumbent on us as transit riders to organize and vote at a state level, so we can finally get the tax change we need.
Finally, from the Transit Riders Union’s perspective, what we need to truly effect change is transit advocates. Luckily, we have a lot of those in Seattle itself. What we don’t have often enough, unfortunately, is enough transit advocates outside of Seattle to truly change how we look and act on transportation planning in the region. Light rail, frankly, is more popular than buses, both in Seattle and without. Grade-separated trains mean that there is no need to take lanes from cars to convert them to bus-only lanes, something that would likely be incredibly unpopular. Building entirely grade-separated bus lanes would cost nearly as much as building light rail lines, while carrying fewer people. Because Sound Transit is providing what people want in transit service, particularly people who do not live in Seattle and do not currently ride transit, it is imperative that Sound Transit 3 pass to create new transit advocates outside of Seattle. We will not see positive changes that transit can provide region-wide if light rail remains primarily a Seattle benefit. Sound Transit 3 is not perfect, but if we are to ever get actual state support for transit, in whatever form that might take, we need masses of riders in Everett, Redmond, Issaquah, Des Moines, Federal Way, Fife, and Tacoma to first benefit from reliable, rapid transit. Vote “Approved” on Sound Transit 3.