Update, July 17: Council Member Tom Odell had been engaged in family matters when this post was written. He has now supplied his position on ST3. It is added below.
The Sammamish City Council is split whether to support or opposed ST3, the new mass transit plan headed for the November ballot for voter approval.
The Sound Transit Board approved ST3 for the November ballot. This $54bn, $27bn new taxes package plans for new rail and bus routes over 25 years. New park-and-rides are also included.
Sammamish City officials estimate our residents will pay an average $1,100 per year per household in new taxes. In return, a park-and-ride is slated for the north end but bus service is actually reduced.
In a heated debate, the City Council in May approved mass transit “principals,” but stopped short of taking a position on ST3 itself. Every Council Member except Bob Keller expressed disappointment or opposition to the draft ST3 plan; Keller did not express a view one way or another.
The Comment opposes ST3 because of the details of the plan regionally, the cost to Sammamish taxpayers and the reduction of service to our City. Additionally, the proposed light rail extension to Issaquah has a target date of 2041. Instead of going directly to Seattle, it goes to downtown Bellevue, where rail riders would have to connect to go to Seattle.
Sammamish Gets a Park-N-Ride
Sammamish gets a Park-N-Ride out of ST3. It also gets reduced bus service. Given the average taxes and fees the average household will pay over 25 years if the plan is approved in November, Sammamish citizens will pay more than a half billion dollars for this park-n-ride and reduced service.
Now that ST3 is headed for the ballot, Sammamish Comment surveyed the Council members for their definitive position on the issue. Their responses are below.
Don Gerend, Mayor: No, I will not be endorsing the measure at this time. I have too many unanswered questions. Perhaps if the schedule for light rail to Issaquah were 10 years sooner, there might have been reason to support the measure. The congestion on I-90 between Issaquah and I-405 is already often much worse that between I-405 and Seattle. When ST2 is completed and the light rail is operating between Microsoft and Seattle, we are told that express bus service between Issaquah/Sammamish and Seattle will be eliminated. Basically, bus routes will become feeder lines to the light rail service, so transfers will be required. Furthermore, rail does not have the flexibility of buses or some more creative transit choices like driverless buses in dedicated lanes.
So why isn’t it possible to have light rail to Issaquah sooner, so that the added congestion caused by rapid growth in the outer suburbs and urban islands like Snoqualmie and North Bend can be mitigated somewhat by the rail network? Perhaps it is because only [a fraction] of the bonding authority of Sound Transit is allocated to the East Subarea in the approved ST3 plan. To me this would infer that the bonding authority is being used by the other subareas to complete their projects sooner and we are being told to wait for 25 years.
Basically, the problem is that on a per capita basis…Sammamish citizens’ tax money is going into a system that does very little to help get our residents to work quicker. Yes, we are promised a north end Park and Ride on 202 that will allow transit riders to be in the same congestion that the SOVs find themselves now. There will be no HOV lanes or queue jumps on SR-202. Think what could be done with [our tax money] towards relieving the bottlenecks in both the north end and the south end of Sammamish.
Basically, it comes down to a failure to do a comparative cost/benefit analysis on the uses of $53 billion or so to relieve congestion. And do you believe that this is a 25-year program? Yes, the projects are programmed to be completed in 25 years, but ask when the bonds will finally be paid off.
Don’t misunderstand me; I like grade-separated rail transit. It is too bad that a comprehensive rail system didn’t get built in Central Puget Sound before the auto-centric sprawl became so extensive. We would probably now have large transit-oriented developments in place and a significant portion of the trips being serviced via rail. At this time, the investment might just be too great. Perhaps with the build-up of our Town Center, and other municipal mixed use centers, along with new technologies, there may not be the justification for the huge expense to build out the fixed rail system. With perhaps 80% of the cost of Metro operations being labor, in 25 years we might see driverless electric-powered vehicles servicing an extensive network of transit routes. These vehicles might be recharged through inductive linkages imbedded in the roadways. After seeing the advances in computers, smart phones and internet connectivity in the last 25 years, why put virtually all of our transit investment into an ancient technology?
Ramiro Valderrama, Deputy Mayor: I would oppose ST3. As I mentioned, ST3 as currently being presented is “Taxation without Transportation” – it will cost $54+ billion. Note the earlier sections were over budget and delivered much later. As you know, Sammamish today is underserved in terms of transit services for what we pay – and ST3 would further degrade our service while the average home ($700,000 value) will pay annual ST tax of $1,100 for the privilege of degraded services. As Issaquah will get a station in 2043 (remember they have not been built on time to date), many residents who will be paying in will NEVER see the benefit of the distant rail station in Issaquah to which they contributed.
The cost of rapid bus would be far lower and could take advantage of new technologies (driverless buses, vans, cars, etc) and be more flexible to changing demographics as they would not be tied to existing or placed rail lines.
Furthermore, most citizens do not realize that Sound Transit as part of this ballot will ask to be guaranteed half of the “Gap” authorized for local levy districts. The effect is that it would severely limit any future levies for desired parks, trails, buses, affordable housing, emergency medical services, libraries, flood and fire districts etc.
Tom Hornish: While I reserve making any final decision only after a full and open discussion with my fellow council members, I still have serious reservations regarding ST3 as proposed.
Bob Keller: Light-rail will be a significant component in a regional transportation network, contributing to the sustainability of our world class economy and protection of our environment. It will directly benefit Sammamish residents in a multitude of ways. I offer four:
1) Employment – The Puget Sound is the home of many world class companies. To support them and to attract additional employers they need to move materials and products, provide services and have access to a robust workforce. In the development of the Sammamish Comprehensive Plan, it was stated that Sammamish is a “bedroom community” that needs a living room as well. I would add we need access to a thriving workplace to sustain our living standards and to promote a positive outlook for the future. ST3 will support mobility and access.
2) Environment – Getting cars off the road provides obvious benefits of reducing air pollution and dependence on petroleum. The Growth Management Act (GMA) is intended to maximize urban areas and to protect rural and pristine natural areas. An urban city, like Seattle and surrounding cities with substandard transportation, results in sprawl. (I’m from California.) Sammamish is a bedroom community on the boarder of the urban growth line and I would like to see it stay that way.
3) Mobility During an Emergency – On January 17, 1994, at 4:30 AM, my wife and I were awakened by a 6.7 earthquake. Our home sustained substantial damage. This became known as the Northridge Quake in Southern California. The freeway overpasses and major interchanges were destroyed. We lived in a community much like Sammamish. My employees and clients relied on me to manage us through this disaster. For one year, my only reliable daily commute to Downtown Los Angeles was the rail system (Metro Link). Why the light rail was not disabled was beyond me. This example supports the argument for multiple modes of transportation and not simply reliance on a single means of transportation. The Puget Sound Area needs multiple modes of transportation for: daily commute, access to family and friends, access to the marketplace and mobility in the face of a widespread emergency.
4) New Transportation Technologies – These will assuredly benefit a light rail system, specifically Sammamish, one of the greatest access challenges is the first and last mile of our commute. Revised bus schedules/services, in addition to alternative services to buses (Metro vans, driverless cars, driverless buses, Uber) will improve and support light rail connectivity.
I acknowledge ST3 has some potential shortcomings:
Sammamish’s success as a community and taxation based on assessed value, creates a dichotomy of fairness that is inherent to the method. Another dichotomy exists in the time it will take to complete ST3. If approved, it will take over 20 years to complete. There is disappointment with this, yet delaying ST3 will only push completion out further. Last, there is concern that some of our bus routes will be eliminated to feed the light rail, resulting in diminished service. While I agree this is a concern, it is a bus route scheduling issue that can be fixed not necessarily an unfunded capital investment. Route scheduling and limited Metro and Sound Transit service is an issue that I, along with other councilmembers, have been fighting for some time. We will continue to fight for improved service now and I suspect will be in negotiations with or without ST3.
With the approval of ST3, over the next 20 years, as stations are completed existing roadways will begin to have less congestion. Progressively, Sammamish will benefit by reduced traffic on existing roads, increased urban parking and experiance the world class corporations, economy, commerce and beautiful environment we enjoy.
I will support ST3.
Christie Malchow: I oppose ST3. I certainly support mass transit & removing vehicles from congested roadways, but for our Sammamish residents; they’ll be paying a substantial amount more into a system, by enlarge, compared to other jurisdictions based on property valuations foremost, but they will get a fraction in services in return for the investment.
No response. But previously expressed opposition.
Don’s answer to you was pretty good and I essentially agree with him. Too little and too long to wait and too much cost for Sammamish. It is just not the right package and I hope
that it fails. My own cost (using the Seattle Times calculator) is an additional $800 and coming on top of a whole lot of other expensive stuff is not something that I want to deal with in my budget. I think a whole lot of other people on the East Side feel the same way. I know a lot of people in office do from my ETP contacts.