The Sound Transit Board has
approved placing a 15-year mass transit construction plan and associated 1/2
cent sales tax increase on the November 4, 2008 general election ballot. While
the package was forwarded to the ballot by a unanimous vote, the underlying
plan as it was amended passed on a 16-2 vote. King County Executive Ron Sims
and King County Councilman Pete Von Reichbauer were the two dissenting votes.
argument was made in this Forum and by several
newspaper editorial boards that Sound Transit should wait until the Seattle
light rail already under construction is put into operation, the ST Board
thought it better to go ahead now.
Sound Transit Board Chair Greg
Nickels characterizes the new plan as "faster, better and cheaper" than the 20
years-of-construction light rail transit portion of the first Prop 1 defeated
at the polls in November 2007. However, the tax increase in both cases
is the same (1/2 cent tax on a dollar of sales) and in both cases there is no
firm sunset date established for the ending of the tax.
Sims and State Transportation Secretary Paula Hammond attempted to amend the
plan to add substantially more near-term bus service. Their attempt was
rejected by a majority of the Board.
The new Proposition 1 devotes
67% of its $17.8 billion in new spending over 15 years to extending light rail
tracks about 34 miles beyond the Central Link line under construction between
Husky Stadium and SeaTac Airport. Relatively small amounts of the package are
devoted to expanding the Sounder Commuter Rail program (6%) and Regional
Express Bus program (2%). The remaining 25% of this new spending is
programmed for debt service, operations, maintenance, and reserves, as
Most of the
funding comes from the new 1/2 cent sales tax. The second biggest source
is borrowing via sale of 30-year bonds, the interest on which beyond 15 years
will add another $5 billion to the cost over the claimed $17.8 billion basic
cost. As mentioned already, the new taxes that are part of the plan have no firm sunset date.
Furthermore, the Board's plan continues the Sound Move taxes -- now collected
at the rate of one million dollars per day -- indefinitely, without limit as
Graphics above are from Sound
Transit's presentation to the Expert Review Panel on July 21, 2008..
Here is what the measure is
going to look like on the November ballot:
SOUND TRANSIT (A
REGIONAL TRANSIT AUTHORITY)
MASS TRANSIT EXPANSION
and coordinate light-rail, commuter-rail, and express bus service
(beginning 2009), and improve access to transit facilities in King,
Pierce and Snohomish Counties, shall Sound Transit impose an additional
five-tenths of one percent sales and use tax, and use existing taxes to
fund the local share of the $17.9 billion estimated cost (includes
construction, operations, maintenance, interest and inflation), with
independent audits, as described in the Mass Transit Guide and
computer modeling released in 2006 by the Puget Sound Regional Council
shows that traffic congestion will increase dramatically by 2040 with even
more light rail construction than this plan provides.
Furthermore, the benefit-cost analysis carried out by the
agency is obviously deficient, as documented here.