The Sammamish City Council’s vote Tuesday night to oppose Sound Transit 3 was the right choice for the City. The vote was 5-2.
ST3 takes bus service away from Sammamish but offers a park-and-ride for the north end, an obvious contradiction. Even the PNR is not a firm offer.
Taxpayers would fork out between $500m-$550m in taxes over 25 years for this.
Issaquah and Redmond get light rail extensions. But the Issaquah light rail goes to downtown Bellevue and south Kirkland, not Seattle. The rail station is projected to be at roughly I-90 and SR900, behind the QFC grocery store (presumably in the I-90 median.) It needs to go to Issaquah Highlands.
If Sammamish residents want to commute to Seattle by light rail, the choices would be to go to the QFC terminal, either by car or bus, then to Bellevue and connect to Seattle; or go to the potential north Park and Ride (if it happens), then to Redmond, through downtown Bellevue and on to Seattle.
More Metro Service–maybe
Council Member Kathy Huckabay, who voted against the resolution opposing ST3, said the Council didn’t have a discussion that Metro Transit, the King County bus service, might be persuaded to add bus service.
It’s a fair point, but it’s not really relevant, although she said there is a nexus between ST3 and more Metro service. She talked about bus barns and the like. But this seems a nebulous nexus at best.
But why hasn’t there been a conversation before now, in time for the Council to consider this? Huckabay didn’t say and nobody asked her.
More parking in Seattle
Council Member Bob Keller, who joined with Huckabay to oppose the resolution, said Sammamish residents will benefit incrementally because for every station that opens in the system, fewer cars will go into Seattle and more parking spaces will be available.
This logic is a bit hard to follow, for it runs counter to the point: the whole idea of ST3 is that commuters don’t have to drive into Seattle—not that there will be more parking for them. Even this is of dubious logic. Proponents of ST3 say the area faces up to one million more people in the 25 years over the ST3 plan. Obviously a large number of these people will compete for those parking spaces.
Keller also said Issaquah and Redmond are developing transit-oriented development (TODs) “at our doorstep.” These cities are also developing residential projects on SE 43rd Way at the south end of the City, residential/commercial in Issaquah Highlands and residential on East Lake Sammamish Parkway (ELSP) at the north end. Our residents have to drive through these areas, with additional traffic, to get to those TODs. ST3 does nothing to address these challenges and, in fact, the reduced bus service to Sammamish only hurts Sammamish drivers.
Direct benefit is lacking
If the Issaquah light rail ran to Issaquah Highlands, Sammamish residents would have convenient and direct benefit. If the Redmond light rail ran to SR202 and ELSP—or the prospective north Park and Ride—then there would be direct benefit. But it’s not there.
Indirect benefit is so tenuous as to be non-existent.
Mayor Don Gerend obtained data from Sound Transit, after months of effort, that shows the return on investment for ST3 is a mere 1.1 to one, compared with 2.7 to one for ST2—and even this won’t happen until 2072.
An aside: Gerend asked for financial data from Sound Transit so he could analyze information relevant to Sammamish. The agency took months to respond, and then it dumped 5,000 pages on Gerend shortly before Tuesday’s meeting. Needless to say, Gerend couldn’t wade through this paper blizzard in time for the meeting. It’s reminiscent of lawyers burying damning information to plaintiffs in boxes and boxes of records to comply with discovery while making sure the information won’t be found. This tactic was epitomized in the Gene Hackman movie, Class Action.
ST3 needs to be rethought. Deputy Mayor Ramiro Valderrama pointed out that Sound Transit didn’t even consider bus rapid transit service for Sammamish.
Sammamish is now larger than Redmond and it’s been larger than Issaquah for many years. Because there are no freeways serving Sammamish, and with the Town Center headed for completion long before ST3 will be, there arguments for better, not worse, service to Sammamish are stronger than ever.
Light rail, for all its costs and critics, is a good thing. It runs when even buses get caught in traffic congestion. It runs in snow storms.
But it has to run where the people are: to downtown Renton. To Boeing’s Renton plant. Issaquah direct to Seattle, not to south Kirkland. To Boeing’s Everett Paine Field plant.
Not against mass transit
The five Council Members who voted to oppose ST3 made it clear they are not against mass transit. They simply opposed this plan and cost that provides little or no benefit to Sammamish.