Press Editorial

October 14, 2008

By Staff

Proposition 1 on your November ballot will get you a half-cent-per-dollar increase in sales tax. That’s for sure, and immediate. Along the way, a new bus route or another bus for an existing route might come your way and hopefully will be going the way you want it to. And, someday far, far away — maybe in 20 years — you might live long enough to take a bus from here to Bellevue, where you can catch a ride on a light rail train to Seattle.  

Sound Transit has sweetened the pot in just about every city in three counties to get voters to say yes. Issaquah would get additional bus runs on Sound Transit express buses from the Issaquah Transit Center and the Highlands Park & Ride to downtown Seattle. Voters must decide if that’s enough to justify a sales tax increase to raise $17.9 billion for the bus/light rail package. 

We vote no. Prop. 1 will only put 20 percent of its tax collections toward more buses. 

It just may be that the notion of light rail in the Puget Sound region is too late. The only traffic solution we envision is one that gives drivers the option to use their very own driveway as a personal park & ride. We need collector buses that go into neighborhoods then connect to buses to take people where they need to go when they need to get there. 

Voters thought they’d gotten the message to Sound Transit when they rejected a similar proposal only a year ago. The cost is too great — King County would have one of the highest sales tax rates in the nation — and then wait too long for light rail to kick in. 

Another traffic related ballot issue is Initiative 985. It seeks to open carpool and bus lanes to all traffic except during peak hours — from 6-9 a.m. and from 3-6 p.m. weekdays. While it’s a tempting notion, the change comes with a price tag. Funds would be diverted from state taxes already in place. But, most of all, there is no clear evidence that it would make much difference in drive times. Vote no.

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5 Responses to “Press Editorial”

  1. Ben Schiendelman on October 14th, 2008 8:51 pm

    Sound Transit has built HOV lanes that speed your commute into Seattle already – and as part of the project to build light rail on I-90 (part of Proposition 1), those HOV lanes will be built all the way across the bridge. No more sitting in traffic if you need to go into the city!

    Issaquah commuters won’t have to wait for light rail for a better commute. Those HOV lanes would be constructed much sooner – as would more express bus service to Bellevue and Northgate, not just Seattle.

    Why not look to your city council? They’ve endorsed Proposition 1, because they know that before light rail can come to Issaquah, it has to make it across the bridge. Bellevue is much larger, but Issaquah will be next to get rail transit.

  2. Jason on October 15th, 2008 4:23 am

    A regional bus system which serves each driveway, eh? That’s called a taxi cab. And such a model would cost an absurd amount of money, and make the suburban traffic problem worse – not better.

    Maybe the Issaquah Press has been listening to the ridiculous musings of a certain ex-politician from Mercer Island?

    Whatever the case, here’s the ultimate irony: the only way such a shuttle bus system could work (small buses, short neighborhood routes) would be with light rail. Suburban residents aren’t going to transfer from a connector to another slow, unreliable bus (see the other article posted today about the dedicated bus rider who spends an inordinate amount of time waiting for her bus). But people will transfer to a reliable, frequent and fast train.

    And Ben is right: no ST2 means no rail – ever – for Issaquah.

    So, congrats to the Press editors who managed to shoot themselves in the foot. Twice over.

    Before posting such infeasible transit theories again in the future, please educate yourselves on the possibility of turning an already hemmoraging bus system into a massive fleet of 40 ft taxi cabs.

    Pick up the phone. Call somebody who knows what they are talking about. Anybody, except disgraced ex- State Senators.

  3. Jason on October 15th, 2008 4:31 am

    One thing to add to Ben’s post: ST isn’t just building HOV lanes for buses and carpools on I-90 – they are building two-way HOV across the bridge. Think that will only benefit westside commuters coming to the eastside for work? Think again. When your morning bus drops you off in Seattle or some other destination, it still has to head back to the eastside to pick more people up and make the run again. No HOV lanes means that bus gets caught in a mess of eastbound morning traffic (westbound in the pm) swimming upstream while reversible lanes traffic flows freely. No ST2 means no completed two-way transit access.

    If Jim Horn or the rest of the Kemper Freeman folks really supported BRT, they would get behind this plan.

  4. P on October 15th, 2008 7:14 pm

    I couldn’t agree more with everything said previously. It’s this kind of backwards thinking that put us in this situation in the first place!

    Oh, and then there is BRT…I’m not against the idea, but have any of the anti-ST, anti-light rail people taken the time to think through this? A BRT system will not work without fully dedicated lanes. A BRT system running in the current HOV lane configuration is no more reliable than a regular bus. Either we would have to raise the HOV threshold to 4+ persons or build more lanes. The former will increase congestion by reducing capacity on our already crowded highways, and the later will be a slow and expensive process just like light rail.

    Please, show me a BRT plan that is financially feasible or get stop getting in the way!

  5. Jim MacIsaac on October 29th, 2008 5:08 am

    I strongly support your editorial opinion. However you made an error in reporting:
    “Prop. 1 will only put 20 percent of its tax collections toward more buses.”
    89% of the ST2 capital program will go to light rail extensions, 8% to Sounder enhancements and only 3% to Regional Express bus enhancements. The 100,000 hours of added bus service being touted by Sound Transit represents only a 2% increase in the 5,000,000 hours of bus service already serving the tri-county region during 2008 — less than one year of typical transit ridership growth.

    And in response to Ben and Jason’s comments, Sound Transit is only contributing advance funding for the HOV lanes and HOV lane access ramps that it is claiming to build. But nearly all of those improvements are being considered highway improvements rather than transit improvements. The hidden agenda is that the Sound Transit funding is merely building an advance “funding bank” with the WSDOT that will eventually be used in trade for a free takeover of the I-90 center roadway.

    The East King subarea will fund a $4.7 billion ST2 capital program as follows:
    Light Rail – Seattle to Overlake (no tunnels) — $4.5 billion (96%)
    Bus Base — $93 million (2.0%) (Was to come with Sound Move)
    I-90 R8A Contribution — $66 million (1.4%) (Merely a loan to WSDOT)
    Bus fleet Expansion — $28 million (0.6%) (A pretty paltry bus investment)

    To fund the ST2 capital program and ongoing operations and debt service, the Sound Transit ST2 financial plan shows that it must collect the Phase 1 Sound Move surplus tax revenues (in lieu of a tax roll back) plus the added ST2 tax revenues at least through 2038 — the earliest year for a possible tax rollback or ST2 tax sunset. From 2009 through 2038 it will have collected $9.1 billion of our East King subarea Sound Move surplus plus ST2 tax revenues.

    And by dedicating nearly all of this tax money to a light rail line that will not be completed until 2023, we will forego any other regional transit improvements for the East King subarea until 2038 or beyond (unless we approve another tax increase). We will have provided no NEW transit service for the vast unserved or poorly served transit needs OF THE EASTSIDE.

    Sound Transit is promising an ST3 program to extend rail to downtown Redmond, Issaquah and Kirkland’s Totem Lake. But this can only start before 2038 with approval of another tax increase. And it still does nothing for the unserved transit access needs for most of the 500,000 Eastside jobs by 2030.

    Isn’t it time for a major reassessment of the use, timing and cost effectiveness of our Sound Transit investment dollars on the Eastside?

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