Sammamish Council opposes ST3

City_of_SammamishOct. 4, 2016: The Sammamish City Council voted tonight to to oppose Sound Transit 3 for the $27bn tax package, a $54bn multi-modal transportation package that reduces service to Sammamish in exchange for citizens paying an estimated $500m-$550m in taxes over 25 years.

The measure is on the Nov. 8 ballot in the Sound Transit area that includes portions of King, Pierce and Snohomish counties.

Going into the meeting, five Council members told Sammamish Comment they opposed ST3. These were Mayor Don Gerend, Deputy Mayor Ramiro Valderrama and members Tom Hornish, Tom Odell and Christie Malchow.

Members Bob Keller and Kathy Huckabay supported ST3.

The vote tonight was 5-2 against the huge tax package. Keller and Huckabay were the dissenting votes.

Presentations

Claudia Balducci, of Bellevue, and a King County Council Member, spoke in favor of ST3. Kevin Wallace, a member of the Bellevue City Council, spoke in opposition.

Balducci appeared on behalf of Mass Transit Now.

Quotes are paraphrased.

  • This is our moment, after decades of planning, almost 50 years of going back and forth, this is our generation’s moment. Mass Transit will help working families get to work and reduce auto pollution.
  • We saw 83,000 people move to Puget Sound in one year alone; 800,000, almost a million, will move here in the next 20 years, many on the Eastside.
  • We’re paying for traffic in our cities. We’ve run out of space to build new traffic lanes. Any road capacity fills up quickly.
  • It’s a matter of geometry how we can move the most people. Light rail can move more than cars or buses.
  • We know there is a tremendous demand for transportation on the Eastside and in your community. The Eastside will be connected by rail and buses more than ever before.
  • Sammamish residents will benefit from Redmond and Issaquah light rail transit and a Park and Ride in Sammamish. The Park and Ride is in 2019-2024.
  • This is an agency has delivered in the last 15 years all of its projects on time and on budget.
  • ST3 taxes are tied only to ST3 projects. The taxes, except for operations, will roll back.

Wallace’s quotes are paraphrased.

  • This is a massive tax obligation for the people of Sammamish and you get virtually nothing out of it.
  • There are other obligations coming up. ST3 goes too far and spends too much money for what you get.
  • ST3 plan would be largest light rail system in the country, larger than Los Angeles.
  • Sammamish gets only a Park and Ride.
  • Bus Rapid Transit could use I-90 and I-405 HOV lanes.
  • The average Sammamish family would pay $1,112 to Sound Transit if this passes.
  • Good projects are the ones that can be done before 2030. What’s driving the need for these taxes are the six light rail lines that come after 2030, including the Issaquah line that doesn’t open until 2041.
  • This won’t solve traffic problems on I-5 and I-405.
  • Does it make sense to suck up budget if, for the Kirkland to Bellevue to Issaquah and Sammamish for $885m, while a light rail would cost five times as much without going to Sammamish?
  • The Issaquah station would be behind the QFC grocery store on Gilman for $4.3bn.
  • How do we solve the problem? Focus on BRT lines on 405 and SR520 and extend light rail to Redmond by 2030.

Debate

Council members offered the following opinions (quotes paraphrased).

Keller:

  • This is a very, very difficult decision to make in light of the presentations we received tonight. I think what we heard tonight is light rail is a good thing; it’s the cost.
  • It’s an extraordinarily large amount of money. Light rail is an on-going expense, just like cars. We all are doing it right now [paying on-going expense].
  • ST3 is a generational expense. There are roads I drive on I never paid for. There are schools I never attended that I paid for.
  • The reasons for light rail: the first thing is employment. The people in Sammamish—they don’t work here. We have a commuter population in Sammamish. They commute mostly by car. I notice Microsoft and Amazon support this. Our population work at these locations.
  • If we continue to shut down the transportation we have, commerce will be shut down.
  • Emergency preparedness: we’d be locked in because emergency help couldn’t get to us.
  • I lived in California through the Northwood earthquake. The only way I could get to downtown Los Angeles was by light rail.
  • There will be incremental improvement in parking in Seattle because every station that’s opened will take cars off the road.
  • We need to lobby right away for the Park and Ride and with it bus service. Let’s work on trying to get it by 2019. We need this Park and Ride. We need this access.
  • The relationship with our neighbors, Redmond and Issaquah, there is a severe problem on the horizon we cannot ignore. Both cities have high density, transit-oriented development at our doorsteps. They are going to increase the density on our commute routes. We need to have light rail, not just for our residents, but to get Redmond and Issaquah residents out of our way.
  • We need to do it all. We need the Park and Ride. We need buses. We need light rail.
  • I recommend that we do approve this if we take a position, but I don’t we should.

Valderrama:

  • We should take a position. We have on school levies, bond issues, so we should on this.
  • It’s not about being opposed to transit. It’s having the best transit.
  • We have the biggest population, we’re the ones who have the biggest commute. Sound Transit decided not to give us BRT.
  • I want to know what Sammamish is going to get for $1bn over 25 years.
  • When you talk about our duty, we have a fiduciary responsibility to advise our cities. Tell our citizens to vote against this. Then have Sound Transit come back to us for a better plan.
  • This is taxation without transportation.

Hornish:

  • I think we should take a position. When I think about it, I think a lot of citizens are probably not thinking about. So we should take a position.
  • We need change on a regional basis. But as a council member for Sammamish, I just can’t get comfortable with the costs.
  • The inordinate weight of the costs on the citizens of Sammamish, I just can’t get comfortable with that.
  • I think we have a bigger issue dealing with education. It’s important for citizens to understand there are other costs that will be coming down.
  • I think this is the wrong solution for the region and especially for citizens for Sammamish.

Malchow:

  • I think we should take a position.
  • A Park and Ride is not enough for Sammamish.
  • I appreciate the regional needs.
  • I oppose ST. For $54bn, it should be a silver bullet.

Odell:

  • The cost to me will be in excess of $1,000.
  • Having been someone who spent most of his life traveling, I’ve seen systems around the world. They do move tremendous numbers of people.
  • I am probably the only person sitting on the dais helping people get from Point A to B. I worked 18 years for airlines. I worked 18 years for Boeing.
  • We have bare-bones bus service, and that goes away. We lose our direct service to downtown Seattle. We will have to go to Redmond or Bellevue to go downtown.
  • The cost of this is pretty much on the back of people who live here now or will live here.
  • The cost formula is all on our backs. It’s not on Google or Boeing or Amazon with a head tax.
  • This whole thing is very expensive. The whole thing is drawn out. I have to wonder why Everett and Tacoma get higher priority when they already have the Sounder Train.
  • I am ambivalent whether we vote to take a no position, or vote against, but I am not voting for it. We should take a position.

Huckabay:

  • I don’t think we should take a position as a council.
  • Sammamish according to this will get maybe a park and ride. But this is a system issue. I don’t drive Duthie Hill Road, so don’t make me pay taxes to improve it. (She’s making an example here, not making a statement of a position.)
  • All too often traffic stops on I-90 and I-405. We have to look at this from a broader system.
  • We receive from Metro and Sound Transit. Gerend was able to convince Sound Transit to add two buses. Metro’s long-range plan is to add service in 2025 and again later. We have been in conversation with the County to move this service up sooner to have additional and direct service to Seattle. We haven’t had an opportunity to talk about this.
  • We have three cities around us that are supporting ST3, Redmond, Bellevue and Issaquah. It’s very important to get their cooperation to get more Metro service. There is a close connection with ST3.
  • We should be fighting for more bus service locally (with Metro). We should also seek internal bus service.
  • I don’t believe we’re ready to vote on this issue because we haven’t had a discussion on [Metro] service possibilities. I’m very much opposed to taking a vote.

Gerend:

  • I would start by agreeing with Kathy. I am opposed to the council taking a position. I think the citizens can make up their own minds. Having said that, I tried to get facts from Sound Transit and I had difficulty getting the facts from Sound Transit.
  • I was looking for one answer for the projections for the East subarea through 2060. I couldn’t get the answer and they gave me 5,000 pages to look through. I can’t find it.
  • Only 1.6% of the bonding authority is going to be used in ST3. So it’s surprising that Issaquah will be last. We’re aren’t using the bonds but paying in. We’ll be building up reserves.
  • The benefit-cost ratio for ST3 turns out to be about 1.1. ST2 was 2.7. So it’s not as good as ST2 and it takes until 2072 for the benefit to exceed the cost.
  • HOV connections for I-90 and I-405 and on SR520 will benefit our commuters more.
  • There were no alternative programs considered for ST3.
  • Car pooling and taking a bus are mixed in with single occupancy vehicles.
  • For the billion dollars our citizens will pay into ST3 we probably could do the HOV lanes.
  • I don’t think any of $4.3bn in federal grants will be used in the East sub-area.
  • We’re asking our citizens to spend more for ST3 than they have for 17 years for incorporation ($700m for all the city budgets).

Odell:

  • I’ll change mine to no position by the Council. There are reasons not to.

Hornish to Gerend:

  • I find it interesting that you want to get information to the citizens but you can’t get answers.

Valderrama moved to take a position, seconded by Hornish. A five minute bathroom break was taken, followed by the vote in which Gerend changed his position from taking no position to opposing ST3. Odell flipped back from no position to an opposition vote.

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