No one can accuse Sound Transit of not dreaming big, as in $54 billion big.
The regional agency’s latest blockbuster, Sound Transit 3, billed as the capstone to the sleekest, most expensive rail system money can buy, is coming to this November’s ballot.
If it passes, ST3 would make our three-county transit system rival other regional systems like the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) or the Washington D.C., Metro system. Completion would be slated for 2041.
But back here in present day, we’re waiting on some promises left over from the last ambitious transportation package, Sound Transit 2.
In 2008, some 58 percent of Pierce, King and Snohomish voters approved ST2, a clear signal Puget Sounders want a mass transit system to take them into the 21st century. They were also willing to back it up with coin.
Alas, the course of mass transportation implementation never does run smooth. The promises of ST2 have required such a long wait, they could jeopardize the prospects of ST3.
As a temporary solution, Sound Transit recently offered up a $5 monthly parking permit system, giving carpoolers priority during the morning rush hour. For commuters traveling alone, the law of the jungle still applies: The early bird gets the parking space.
Sound Transit operates 27 additional Park and Ride facilities, all reported at a consistent 97-percent capacity.
The housing boom in East Pierce County has had Sumner Sounder station looking for ways to ease parking problems since it opened in 2000. Sound Transit even leased a parking lot near the station. Walking two city blocks in the January rain doesn’t fall under anyone’s definition of “easy commute.”
As the only regional commuter station for residents of Sumner, Bonney Lake and Orting, the Sumner station averages about 1,000 daily commuters and ridership is projected to increase 70 percent by 2035.
This month, the Sumner City Council and the capital committee of the Sound Transit board approved plans for a 624-stall parking garage.
And last spring, the Puyallup station got approval for a $60 million solution to parking problems. By 2023, commuters there can expect an additional 669 parking spaces.
Parking projects in Kent and Auburn were put on hold during the recession and only recently returned to the analysis phase.
The promises of ST2 are being delivered, but the pace seems leaden, especially if you’re one of those folks searching for a parking spot in the dawn’s early light.
Five months before voters approved ST2, Sound Transit’s then-CEO Joni Earl told the Sumner City Council that it could take anywhere from four to eight years to build a parking facility there. Well, guess what? It’s been eight years, and counting.
On Nov. 8, voters will be asked to pass an ST3 measure that would hike taxes on three fronts: a regional sales tax, a first-time property tax and an annual increase in vehicle registration fees. Estimates come in at an annual cost of $326 per median household.
Sound Transit wants voters to envision a future in which mid-century commuters receive fast, reliable transportation to schools, jobs, sports and entertainment with six minutes or less waiting time.
But it’s hard for commuters of the future to buy this vision when they can’t find a place to park in the present.
Sound Transit, ST2, ST3, Puyallup station, transportation package, CEO Joni Earl, Sumner City Council, Sumner, Bonney Lake, Orting, Tukwilla station, parking