Citizens' Guide to Sound Transit 3: to increase sales, property and motor-vehicle excise taxes for expansion of regional light rail
Sound Transit 3 (ST3) is a $54 billion-dollar ballot proposal that would increase the taxes residents pay to the Sound Transit Agency by $300 to $400 per average household per year, or upwards of $20,000 or more over 25 years.
In addition to new taxes, the ST3 proposal includes the continuation of taxes enacted in 1996 (Sound Move/ST1) and 2008 (Sound Transit 2/ST2), totaling $8.621 billion. This is roughly the size of King County’s $9 billion budget, and represents 16 percent of ST3 funding sources.
According to the Puget Sound Regional Council, of the 19 million daily trips expected to be taken in the region by 2040, less than one percent would be taken on light rail. The bulk of ST3 funding (over 60 percent) would be spent to build additional light rail.
Allowing for Sound Transit’s most optimistic ridership projection of 695,000 daily boardings by new and existing riders on all of Sound Transit’s services with ST3 (light rail, commuter rail, bus rapid transit, and express bus), the agency would serve barely four percent of daily trips expected to be taken in the region by 2040.
A little over six percent of the projected one million people that planners expect to move to the region are forecast to become new regular transit riders if ST3 is passed. This is very low for the amount of tax revenue to be collected and spent. Other transit options would provide greater mobility benefits sooner and at lower costs.
Over the last 20 years, Sound Transit officials have failed to provide transparency and timely project completion within budget. Now the public agency is pushing for one of the nation’s most expensive, one-size-fits-all rail expansions, although their ridership data show that it would not reduce congestion for the majority of taxpayers in the Puget Sound region.
Introduction: What the ballot measure would do
This November, voters in the Sound Transit taxing district living in parts of King, Pierce and Snohomish counties will decide whether or not to pass Sound Transit’s new $54 billion-dollar tax proposal, called Sound Transit 3 (ST3).
Sound Transit officials say they would use the new taxes under the ST3 plan to pay for more commuter rail service, two bus rapid transit lines, new transit stations located in 37 areas, and seven extensions of existing light rail lines, to create a 116-mile light rail network throughout the region by 2040.
The majority of the project funding is for light rail, which would attract roughly 64,800 new riders to public transit, or a little over six percent of the projected one million people that planners expect to move to the region by 2040.