During the last part of April I sent emails to the Sound Transit Board, Seattle Times, King County Council, Bellevue City Council, and the State Joint Transportation Committee asking them to consider the information in the 4/15/13 post “Salvaging Light Rail in Seattle” and the 4/26/13 post “ST/UW T/C Decision Beyond Incompetent”. The only response was an “out of the office” reply from Joni Earl’s office.
The weekly audience for the blog during the period was well over 200 so presumably many of the recipients chose to read the posts. Their apparent lack of concern suggests they’re what I call the "ultimate optimists", someone who jumps off the top of a ten-story building and as he plummets by the 5th floor shouts out "It doesn’t hurt yet”.
The reason “It doesn’t hurt yet” is, in 2013, the $308 million ST gets from the 55% of their sales tax revenue ($560 million) due to Prop 1’s 0.5% increase is slightly more than the $300 million Sound Transit budgeted for the extensions during the year. Sound Transits other revenues sources were Federal Grants ($136 million), fare box revenue ($52 million), motor vehicle tax ($67 million), and interest income and Miscellaneous ($16 million). The estimated total revenue for the year, $836 million, is still $275 million less than the $1.1 billion ST has budgeted to spend during the year.
It’s highly unlikely any of ST revenue sources will substantially increase over the next few years. Yet they will obviously have to increase the money spent annually on the Prop 1 extensions to nearly $2 billion in order to complete the $17.9 billion project in the next 10-12 years. The increased funding required by the extensions will far exceed the income from the .5% sales tax increase.
The reality is Sound Transit, in attempting to get public support for light rail, made commitments to voters in Prop 1 for extensions with costs that far exceed the expected revenue they can get from the resultant sales tax increase. Even worse, the added miles of track, in combination with light rail operating costs ($45.60 per mile for a 2-car train) will increase operating costs far beyond any fare box revenue that could be expected from additional riders.
The combination of the massive debt from construction and subsequent operating subsidies would surely meet anyone’s definition of a “world of hurt”.