March 25, 2016: The Sound Transit Board revealed a $50 billion (!) Sound Transit 3 plan that requires $27 billion in new taxes, or an average of $400 a year for the average home within the ST service area. This includes Sammamish, where the average home prices are higher than throughout the ST area, meaning we’ll take an even bigger hit.
Unfortunately, the Eastside in general and Sammamish in particular not only gets little from the new plan. Furthermore, our City Council members note that direct bus service to Seattle from Issaquah will be discontinued in order to route the buses to downtown Bellevue to boost ridership on the light rail trains.
A proposal light rail line also goes from Issaquah to downtown Bellevue, rather than direct down I-90, to connect to the transit hub in Bellevue. Part of this spur parallels the light rail line approved under ST 2.
Finally, Issaquah doesn’t even get this spur until 2041, nor does Everett and the Boeing plant south of Everett’s City Center.
All-in-all, the plans appear on their face to have a lot of flaws.
The Seattle Times published this synopsis of the taxes Sound Transit seeks for ST 3:
The tax rates
If approved by voters, Sound Transit 3 would boost an average household’s taxes by $400 per year. The increases:
• Property tax, $25 per $100,000 of assessed value, each year.
• Sales tax, 50 cents per $100 purchase
• Motor-vehicle-excise tax, $80 per $10,000 of vehicle value, each year.
The agency now collects 90 cents sales tax per $100 purchase, a car-rental tax of 80 cents per $100 fee, and a $30 vehicle tax per $10,000 value. The $30 rate expires in 2028 because of Tim Eyman’s Initiative 776, so the total rate would drop in 2028 from $110 to $80 per $10,000.
Furthermore, there is no sunset on these proposed taxes, nor on the taxes approved for ST 2.
The sales and MVET taxes are particularly regressive for the lower middle income and lower income classes.
Sammamish historically has had to beg for ST and Metro bus service and routinely has been on the hit list for service cuts. Many residents go to the park and rides in Issaquah Highlands or west of Issaquah’s downtown to catch the buses, for direct rapid service into Seattle. Our City Council members report that under ST 3, this direct bus service reroutes to the Bellevue Transit hub to connect to light rail.
The proposed Issaquah light rail line also goes to the Bellevue hub. If you enlarge the map, you can see that a portion of the Issaquah spur will parallel the approved light rail line that will go down I-90. The Issaquah spur initially goes down I-90 then veers north. This obviously adds time and backtracks, let alone cost, to the ST 3 plan for Issaquah commuters. A sensible plan would be for the Issaquah spur to connect to the Bellevue line at a new stop on I-90, where riders could continue to Seattle directly or connect to the Bellevue spur north into the City Center.
The vote for the $27 billion in new taxes should be on the November election ballot.