Dear King and Snohomish counties,
Phew. We really owe you one.
Last week, overshadowed by the biggest presidential election surprise of a lifetime (“surprise” is one word for it), the passage of Sound Transit 3 was one of a host of progressive victories in the Evergreen State.
Because of it, commuters in Pierce County — or their children — will someday be able to ride light rail from downtown all the way to Seattle and, eventually, Everett. It will take a very long time to lay the tracks, as you might have heard, and it will be very expensive, as may have been pointed out to you, but the other option — delaying the region’s mass transit destiny, yet again — was no option at all.
So, I’m writing today to thank you. You saved our transportation bacon.
Though we know you don’t pay much attention to us down here in Pierce County, you may have noticed that, well, we didn’t exactly hold up our end of the bargain. That’s our bad.
This is the third time since 2011 that Tacoma has voted for transit options and the county has opposed them.
Local transit advocate and Chairman of Pierce Transit’s advisory board Chris Karnes
While you guys up north showed the foresight to give the green light to ST3, voters in Pierce rejected the measure. At last glance, nearly 56 percent of Pierce County voters cast ballots against it.
Luckily, all ST3 needed was a majority throughout the region.
So, again, thanks for that. My kids are baking you some cookies.
Admittedly, ST3’s failure in Pierce County was not wholly unexpected. As in previous transportation packages, voters in Tacoma voted in favor of it, but suburban and rural parts of the county largely came out in opposition.
So it goes.
In due time, however, I trust we’ll see the wisdom of your decision. Or, at the very least, we’ll see the benefit of ST3’s regionwide success.
In truth, ST3 was always going to be a tough sell in Pierce County, though many admirable transit advocates and local leaders championed it. I mean, the ST3 tax package, which includes a potpourri of revenue sources, was massive. The sticker shock was understandable. I’m legitimately surprised it fared as well as it did.
The result speaks to the desperation commuters obviously feel.
Thanks to the voters who consistently support transit and know that more transportation options make our fast-growing region more equitable. It is crucial that we make a very effort to ensure that the family-wage jobs created are accessible to communities of color.
Tacoma Mayor Marilyn Strickland
Chris Karnes, a Tacoma transit advocate who ran the numbers on last week’s vote, found local support for ST3 was the greatest in downtown, Hilltop, Stadium, the North Slope and Sixth Avenue. But there were pockets of support in the county where workers depend on Sounder trains.
ST3’s success in Tacoma, and failure throughout the county as a whole, marked the third time since 2011 that city voters have come out in favor of transit measures, only to be outdone by more suburban and rural voters, Karnes pointed out. The results are in line with the established pattern on transit votes in the South Sound — where Pierce Transit votes in 2011 and 2012 also were thwarted by suburban and rural voters. Going further back, Sound Transit 2 in 2008 — which was successful regionwide — also struggled in Pierce County.
All of this is not to say the work with ST3 is finished. We’ve simply taken the first important step, and are in for the long haul. Now it’s up to Sound Transit to make sure the projects are delivered, and delivered on time. And it’s up to local officials to work with the agency, in good faith, to make sure things run as smoothly, and quickly, as possible.
But first things first: We should celebrate the coattails on which we ride.
Tacoma Mayor Marilyn Strickland flipped the script a bit when I asked her about ST3. While Tacoma sees the package as a means for making it easier for us to travel north, the benefits — like the light rail tracks — will extend both ways. ST3 means those of you in King and Snohomish counties also will be better connected to us.
So head on down to T-Town, transit-supporting northerners. That first sandwich from MSM Deli is on me.