Our region is growing. So should our light rail system

Sound Transit Beacon Hill station

A UW-bound train in the Beacon Hill station.

We’ve all experienced it. The impossibility of estimating travel times, even to crosstown neighborhoods, even on weekends. Drivers banging their hands against the steering wheel, going nowhere — stuck in the carpool lane no less.

The Puget Sound region is currently adding about 236 people a day, and we’ve seen our communities transform as these new residents find places to live and work. This is a growth rate not witnessed in this region since the days of the gold rush.

And we feel it every time we hit the road. The Puget Sound Regional Council reports that delays on our freeways have doubled between 2010 and 2015. And our HOV lanes are feeling the pain, too. Across the region, buses are moving slower as travel times grow.

We have to do something.

The good news, we have proven solutions and an opportunity to choose action when we vote on Regional Proposition 1 during this fall’s general election. Transit ridership has grown remarkably in recent years. In fact, Sound Transit ridership sets records year after year. A great example is the euphoria around U-Link opening. Light-rail ridership spiked by 83 percent from last year, and the Capitol Hill and Husky Stadium stations have improved the lives of tens of thousands of people.

We are becoming bus-rail-train-bike-walk commuters — beating traffic, saving money and doing our part to cool the planet.

To ensure we maintain our quality of life and grow our regional economy, we need to make smart transportation investments that keep people moving. That’s what the regional transit initiative on November’s ballot is all about.

The Sound Transit 3 proposition would expand light rail, creating a truly regional system and enabling people to connect to the big employment centers of Boeing, Amazon and Microsoft. Commuter rail will stop at new stations, and bus rapid transit will serve more people.

Sound Transit ridership would quintuple, from approximately 150,000 each weekday today to nearly 800,000 daily riders in 2040. And rail’s share of all transit would grow from 17 percent today to 69 percent in 2040. This means more than four times as much transit travel would occur on vehicles that don’t get stuck in traffic, ever.

In order to accommodate that level of ridership, Sound Transit will run up to four-car trains every three minutes, which can move 16,0000 people an hour in each direction. In order to accommodate the same capacity in cars on the freeway, you’d need more than eight new freeways lanes in each direction.

The plan includes:

  • Expanded light rail to Everett, Redmond and Federal Way as well as extensions to Ballard, West Seattle and Tacoma, South Kirkland, Bellevue and Issaquah.
  • Bus Rapid Transit service on I-405 and SR 518 from Lynnwood to Burien and on SR 522 from Bothell and Kenmore to the NE 145th Street light rail station, with faster buses running every 10 minutes during peak commute hours.
  • Expanded capacity of fast-growing Sounder commuter rail service linking Seattle, Tukwila, Kent, Auburn, Sumner, Puyallup, Tacoma and Lakewood, with extension of the line to reach Tillicum to serve Joint Base Lewis-McChord and DuPont.
  • Expanded Tacoma Link light rail from Hilltop to Tacoma Community College.

Opponents of Sound Transit 3 are using today’s version of the same short-sighted arguments that defeated the Forward Thrust rail proposal 46 years ago when they say: It’s too expensive; it’s too focused on light rail; there’s a transportation solution no one has thought of before, and it’s right around the corner.

Can you imagine how much further along our transit system would be if we hadn’t listened to the naysayers in 1970?

One thing is unassailable. Growth is coming. It’s already impacting our quality of life and our economy, and those trends won’t reverse themselves in the next 25 years. We must prepare for the future, make the right investments and keep our people moving. We have the plan. We have the experience and the track record.

All we need is your vote.


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