Citizens speak out on mass transit expansion options

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The Sound Transit Board today heard the public’s latest input on expanding the region’s mass transit system. The Board thanked the thousands of community members who responded to the call to help shape the expansion options through 6,077 responses to a Website and telephone questionnaire and 4,015 written responses.

The input reflects a strong sense of urgency for expanding light rail, commuter rail and regional express bus service around the region. Among citizens who took the non-scientific questionnaire:

  • 91 percent say it’s extremely or somewhat urgent to expand mass transit
  • 81 percent say it's extremely or somewhat urgent to add more light rail
  • 81 percent say it's extremely or somewhat urgent to add more commuter rail
  • 81 percent say it's extremely or somewhat urgent to add more express bus

“The public clearly wants mass transit expanded to provide relief from gas prices and global warming,” said Sound Transit Board Chair and Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels. “This input will help the Sound Transit Board determine the right priorities and timing for a ballot measure.”

In May the Sound Transit Board sought public review of transit expansion options for a ballot measure in 2008 in 2010. The public commented on two new options that Sound Transit could complete in 12 years, as well as the larger 20-year package that was part of last year’s unsuccessful Roads & Transit measure, Proposition 1. The new 12-year options would cost 62 percent to 67 percent less than Proposition 1’s total based on the fact the measure would be transit-only and fund a smaller set of transit projects. A 20-year transit-only package would cost about one-third less than the last year’s Roads & Transit measure.

All of the options would make major expansions to the regional transit system, ranging from 18 to 50 miles of new Link light rail expanding north, south and across Lake Washington, along with improvements to Sounder commuter rail and ST Express regional bus service and facilities. Detailed information is available at www.future.soundtransit.org/.

One of the two new 12-year options would be funded by a sales tax increase of four-tenths of one percent (0.4 percent), while the second would add one-tenth of one percent for a total of 0.5 percent. This increase of either four or five cents on a $10 purchase would cost a typical adult about $55 or $69 each year, respectively. Asked their preferences between the new 12-year options, 46 percent of respondents favored the 0.5 percent option, 24 percent favored the 0.4 percent option, and 24 percent did not like either.

The highest level of support was for the largest transit package option: a 20-year plan funded by a sales tax increase of 0.5 percent, or about $69 per year per adult. The 20-year option was favored by 43 percent of respondents, while 31 percent favored a 12-year plan, and 14 percent did not support either.

Respondents also expressed urgency around when to move forward with a new transit ballot measure: 76 percent favor a 2008 vote, 10 percent favor a 2010 vote, 3 percent favor voting after 2010 and 5 percent said never.

The latest public input comes on the heels of an earlier round in the first quarter of 2008 that helped shape the options circulated for review in May. In the first quarter, support for mass transit expansion was further reinforced by a scientific telephone survey of 800 randomly selected residents. Details of both the first and second quarter input are available at http://future.soundtransit.org/listening.aspx.

In July, the Sound Transit Board will decide whether to move forward with a ballot measure in 2008 or wait until 2010.

Sound Transit’s system of regional express buses, commuter rail and light rail currently carries about 50,000 riders each day, a number that will more than double following the 2009 opening of light rail service between downtown Seattle and Sea-Tac International Airport. Construction of that light rail line is moving forward on schedule and is now more than 90 percent complete.

Expansion of Link light rail between downtown and the University of Washington is slated to begin this year and be completed in 2016. University Link is projected to nearly triple the regional light rail system’s ridership to more than 114,000 a day by 2030. The Federal Transit Administration has awarded the University Link project its highest rating for proposed transit projects in the nation, and the Bush administration included $100 million for the project in its proposed FY 2009 budget.

 

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Sound Transit’s regional network of express buses, commuter rail, light rail and transit facilities connects communities in King, Pierce and Snohomish counties.