Sound Transit 3 does little for Eastside, degrades bus service

ST3 Map

Click on image to enlarge, then click on it a second time for further enlarge. Source: Seattle Times.

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.

4 thoughts on “Sound Transit 3 does little for Eastside, degrades bus service

  1. Thank you for this news. I will not be supporting this since we receive so little in return. Thank you again for keeping us informed.

    • Oh please. These are local taxes aimed at improving transit locally – and yet our transit situation is utterly pathetic.

      Sammamish has forever gotten the short end of the stick. We get a grand total of TWO 554 Sound transit busses in the morning (which arrive at the S Sammamish Park and Ride 4:44am and 5:18am), and FIVE in the evening (arriving at 7:40p, 8:34p, 9:01p, 11:29p, and 12:29a)

      The 269 is partiailly subsidized by the city, Microsoft, and the cities of Issaquah and Redmond. This route has continually been on KCM’s chopping block… and yet every time I take it, the vehicles are fairly full.

      The 216 and 219 are good commuter routes to downtown Seattle, and yet despite that, they were threatened to be cut in an attempt to drum up support from Sammamish citizens for the car tab increase a few years ago. Despite not passing, money was “found” to continue these routes.

      Citizens of Sammamish have to remit the various RTA taxes to Sound Transit, and yet we see no service from that organization, other than seven vehicles at ridiculously early/late hours during weekdays. We get ZERO weekend service at all. We get ZERO direct service to downtown Bellevue. Heck, we have ZERO service during the middle of the day, as well.

      I will not fault the City Council in any of this. I know that several of them have lobbied to maintain/increase service to the city, to no avail. That being said, they should properly represent the interests of their citizens and refuse to endorse ST3. Environmentalists and transit advocates alike complain all the time about how ‘car dependent’ the plateau is.

      Well, passing ST3 will do nothing to change that, and in fact, makes it worse given that the Seattle routes are being redirected to downtown Bellevue. It should be criminal that we have to pay RTA tax and yet get zilch in return.

      If we must be hit with a tax increase, I’d rather see it from the city’s end, and have them purchase service from KCM and/or ST, and work with other cities like Redmond to reconfigure chronic choke point intersections, like E Lk Sammamish Pkwy and Redmond Way. ST’s attitude towards the city demonstrates they can hardly be trusted to be good stewards of Sammamish’s tax dollars.

      Bottom line: whether you are a transit advocate or not, ST3 is not a good deal for Sammamish. Reject it.

  2. Pingback: Sound Transit to approve ST3 plan Thursday | Sammamish Comment

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