The 8/08/16 Seattle Times headline “Riders learn the light-rail squeeze” is another example of their decision not to follow-up their 4/03/16 editorial “Questions on Transit Need Clear Answers”. There they questioned Sound Transit Chairman Dow Constantine’s “veracity”, the “wisdom” of committing to spend $50 billion over the next 25 years on light rail extensions, and included former state Transportation Secretary Doug MacDonald's estimate ST3 would bring the overall transportation taxes and fees paid by the typical Seattle household to nearly $2,800 per year.
The editorial concluded:
The point is voters need their representatives to provide clear, objective explanations of ST3’s pros and cons, not cheerleading. Costs and benefits of rail versus buses is one of several topics that must be clarified.
Yet none of this has happened. Instead the Times headline heralded “about 65,000 riders a day are taking light rail because of the University of Washington and Capital Hill stations.” They ignored the fact that Sound Transit initially promised more than 100,000 daily riders by 2010. They parroted Sound Transit claims “People love it” and “want to ride it” despite the fact many of the riders were forced to do so because two-dozen bus routes were rerouted to feed the trains. They allow Sound Transit to cite the additional $1 million in fare box revenue over 6 weeks without asking about the additional operating costs with the extensions.
The Times quotes Sound Transit claims those voting for ST3 “will be voting for more high-capacity transit, and for meeting the need” for the “million residents expected to move to urban Puget Sound by the time ST3 would be built out”. They ignore the fact a 2004 PSRC study concluded the Seattle tunnel limited light rail to one 4-car train in each direction every 4 minutes with half those trains going across 1-90 and half to SeaTac.
No matter how many riders they stuff in the 74-seat cars it’s doubtful it can meet current transit demands let alone those of the added urban residents. Bellevue Council member Wallace’s claim “They’ve gone to a very expensive solution that takes a long time to build” misses the reality that the ST3 is no “solution” for urban Puget Sound commuters.
Those among the 65,000 that currently “love” light rail may be less enamored when they realize that the added taxes and fees they’ll pay if ST3 is approved will do absolutely nothing to improve their commute. In fact, the limited capacity when the ST3 funded extensions begin operating means, at least during peak commute, the trains will likely be full even before they get to the UW or Capital Hill stations. Of course the nearly 75% of Seattle residents who don’t use transit will only be forced to pay much more for those who do.
The Seattle Times surely owes residents throughout the area more “answers” to their “questions”.