Historical Document Maintained by Public Interest Transit Forum

1996 Proposed Motion (Not Passed) by the King County Council

A MOTION expressing the Council’s lack of confidence in the Ten Year Regional Transit System Plan adopted by the Central Puget Sound Regional Transit Authority.

Introduced By: Jane Hague, Rob McKenna, and Chris Vance, Sept. 16, 1996
MOTION NO. 96781

WHEREAS, the Puget Sound Regional Council (PSRC) has identified more than $58 billion in unfunded transportation needs in the Puget Sound area over the next 25 years, making the investment of available and future transportation funding, in the most cost effective improvements, a paramount duty of local elected officials, and

WHEREAS, on May 31, 1996, the Board of the Central Puget Sound Regional Transit Authority (RTA) passed Resolution 73 which adopted the Ten-Year Regional Transit System Plan (the Plan or RTA Plan), and

WHEREAS, the Plan would not reduce regional traffic congestion because its rail components would fail to generate substantial new transit ridership, so that the costs of the Plan greatly exceed its benefits to regional mobility, and

WHEREAS, such new transit ridership as may be generated cost effectively under the Plan would result from the proposed new RTA regional express bus routes, and

WHEREAS, during 1996 the Counties of King, Snohomish and Pierce will spend approximately $650 million for transit service and provide about 3.5 million service hours, and can expect their revenues from the sales tax and motor vehicle excise tax to continue growing substantially in real dollars, and

WHEREAS, given the growing revenues of existing local transit agencies, the availability of other unused local taxing authority and the likelihood of significant additional service hours resulting from increased efficiencies within those agencies, the Plan’s proposed 400,000 hours of regional express bus service could be provided by existing transit agencies without the RTA Plan, and

WHEREAS, in adopting the Plan, the RTA failed to consider or evaluate the cost effectiveness of its proposed $2.47 billion in rail investments in comparison to much less expensive alternatives for increasing transit ridership such as reduced transit fares, transportation demand management, transportation system management and even more regional and local express bus service, and

WHEREAS, RCW 81.104.120 authorizes the operation of commuter rail only when a comparative test has demonstrated a lower passenger cost per mile than buses and other modes, and

WHEREAS, the costs of the three county commuter rail system envisioned in the RTA Plan have grown to $637 million compared to $361 million in costs for regional express bus, and ridership for commuter rail is estimated at 3.3 million boardings per year compared to 17.5 million boardings per year for regional express bus,so that the RTA Plan clearly does not satisfy the requirements of state law, and

WHEREAS, on May 31, 1996, the RTA Board amended the Plan to include the extension of light rail from the Boeing access road to Sea Tac airport during Phase I, paying for the extension in part by deleting (i) 35 percent of planned regional express bus service for South King County and (ii) two of the most highly rated high occupancy vehicle (HOV) direct access facilities on I-5, despite RTA staff’s admission at the time that they had not calculated the transit ridership impacts of those decisions, and

WHEREAS, the RTA has compromised its commitment to a seamless HOV expressway system which would support the operation of regional express buses, and

WHEREAS, the Plan fails to examine the needs of State Route 520, already one of the busiest transit corridors in the Puget Sound Region, and

WHEREAS, the RTA’s $727 million federal funding assumption is unrealistically large and would require a major increase in federal rail new start funding during a period in which federal budget pressures make such increases highly unlikely, and

WHEREAS, Congressman Bud Shuster, Chairman, Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, wrote in a July 2, 1995 letter that “Based on these (Full Funding Grant) commitments, even if $800 million is appropriated annually for New Starts after FY 1997, insufficient funds will be available to sign full funding grant agreements for additional projects until after the year 2001. If funding remains at the fiscal year 1996 level of $666 million, however, no full funding grant agreements would be available until an even later date,” and

WHEREAS, there is a high probability that King County’s department of transportation would have to compete with the RTA for scarce federal transit dollars and likely would see a reduction in federal support for its transit service, and

WHEREAS, the construction of a new tunnel from the University District to downtown Seattle to accommodate light rail is projected to cost at least $850 million, while expected ridership through the tunnel has been forecasted to be about the same as ridership on existing bus routes which serve that corridor, and

WHEREAS, the Seattle/North King County subarea has committed its entire bonding capacity to capital construction in the Plan’s Phase I and federal funding is unlikely to reach the levels assumed by the Plan, and that subarea will not have the funding necessary to complete the starter rail portion of the Plan, and

WHEREAS, this funding shortfall may force the RTA to ask taxpayers of other subareas to contribute to the construction of projects in the North King County subarea, violating the RTA’s “guiding principle” of subarea equity, and

WHEREAS, the commuter rail and electric light rail components of the Plan will have a negative impact on Metro Transit’s most successful routes, and the RTA’s enabling legislation, RCW 81.112.030, requires the RTA to “review local transit agencies’ plans to ensure . . . avoidance of parallel competitive services,” and

WHEREAS, the Plan’s lack of commitment to completion of the HOV lanes could render regional bus service slower and less reliable, resulting in fewer redeployable hours of King County transit service, and

WHEREAS, the regional express bus and commuter rail service proposed in the RTA Plan would result in significantly increased demand on ten existing King County Park & Ride lots which are already severely constrained, and

WHEREAS, while the RTA Plan provides funding for the improvement of four existing King County Park and Ride Lots, but provides no funding for additional capacity at six King County Park and Ride lots which are already above 90% occupancy and will be heavily used by RTA services, and

WHEREAS, unless the RTA funds additional capacity at overburdened Park and Ride lots, the increased demand on those facilities from RTA service will have a serious, negative effect on the convenience of and accessibility to King County transit services at those lots, and

WHEREAS, the extension of the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel’s operating hours has been a high priority of many of jurisdictions in King County, and King County’s Six-Year Transit Development Plan already proposes to increase the number of trips utilizing the Tunnel during peak commuter hours, and

WHEREAS, there is inadequate Tunnel capacity to accommodate the increased bus service anticipated in the Six-Year Plan in addition to the electric light rail service and regional express bus service called for in the RTA Plan, and

WHEREAS, the RTA forecasts that light rail headways in the Tunnel will start out at six minutes when light rail begins operating, and also projects that joint operations between light rail and buses in the Tunnel will become impossible once headways of five minutes or less have been achieved, resulting in displacement of buses from the Tunnel to Seattle streets, and

WHEREAS, there is no agreement among the RTA, the City of Seattle, King County and other local transit providers for coping with additional RTA regional express buses and buses displaced to downtown Seattle streets from the Tunnel, and the RTA Plan contains no funding for additional surface capacity improvements, and

WHEREAS, the RTA Board rejected amendments to the Plan which would have required that such a Plan be in place before construction or operation of light rail through the Tunnel could commence; and the RTA’s enabling legislation, RCW 81.112.080, provides that public transportation facilities which are owned by a county, such as the tunnel, “may be acquired or used by [the RTA] only with the consent of the agency owning such facilities," and

WHEREAS, failure of the voters to approve the Plan in November 1996 would not under state law, RCW 81.112.030, result in expiration of the RTA’s authority, and

WHEREAS, it is unlikely that the RTA Board would summarily dissolve the authority, given the importance that Board members attach to addressing regional transportation needs, and

WHEREAS, the transit agencies of King, Snohomish and Pierce Counties will continue to significantly increase their investments in new transit service over the next ten years and beyond, and

WHEREAS, regardless of the Plan’s passage, significant steps are likely to be taken by the state legislature and the governments comprising the PSRC to address the serious transportation needs of our region, so neither the RTA nor its plan represents our only or best alternative for meeting those needs.

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT MOVED by the Council of King County:
The King County council expresses its lack of confidence that the adopted Ten-Year Regional Transit System Plan being sent to the voters in November, passed by the Central Puget Sound Regional Transit Authority, will significantly reduce congestion on our region’s roads and improve the mobility of the citizens of King County, despite the planned $3.9 billion that the RTA is asking taxpayers to pay during the Plan’s first ten years.
PASSED by a vote of ___ to ___ this ______ day of ______________________, 19___.
Clerk of the Council

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Last modified: February 07, 2011