Keep Seattle Moving: Support Sound Transit Proposition 1

The following is an op-ed authored by DSA President and CEO Jon Scholes and Kenmore mayor David Baker regarding the need to support Sound Transit Proposition 1. This piece was published in the Puget Sound Business Journal on Friday, Oct. 28. Click here for more on Sound Transit Prop. 1.

This November, we have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to dramatically improve transportation access in dozens of communities across our region.

Sound Transit Proposition 1, the ambitious package on your ballot this fall, combines light rail, bus rapid transit and Sounder train service in a smart, practical plan. Your vote will expand reliable transportation alternatives, relieve congestion and protect our environment.

The transit solutions in Proposition 1 are carefully considered, with an eye on both our past and future. In the late 1960s and again in the early 1970s, voters turned down robust regional rail measures. The result: clogged streets, frustration and ever-diminishing access to our communities.

That’s why it is imperative that we pass this measure now. We cannot repeat the mistakes of the 1960s and shift this challenge to the next generation to solve. Every year we fail to invest in our regional transportation system, costs rise as transit becomes more important to our growing population. Counties in the Proposition 1 footprint alone are expected to add three quarters of a million new residents in the next 25 years.

We can welcome new people by building upwards, but physics caps the number of vehicles we can fit on a road, particularly in constrained downtown environments. Under ideal conditions a freeway lane can carry 2,000 vehicles an hour. Rail glides by with up to 16,000 passengers per hour.

The problem isn’t confined to our downtown cores, either. Metropolitan traffic jams inevitably ripple out into nearby towns and neighborhoods. The 25-minute trip to downtown Seattle from Kenmore has more than doubled in the last few years.

Rail and rapid transit modes are easy to use, dependable and convenient. They also open up our cities and invite people from around the region — including disabled residents without car access — to explore new neighborhoods.

Your mayoral coauthor of this op-ed opposed light rail until riding the U-Link to Capitol Hill and discovering his new favorite restaurant (Queen Sheba Ethiopian Restaurant, for the record).

If Proposition 1 passes, new Bus Rapid Transit in Kenmore will run on I-405 and SR-522 in tandem with connections to Sounder commuter rail. And in Seattle, the fast-growing communities of West Seattle and Ballard will see remarkably improved mobility options through new light rail connections to downtown.

Despite its legendary transportation problems our region is a good news story. The economy is strong and companies are adding jobs every day. Proposition 1 construction alone is expected to create an estimated 200,000 direct and indirect jobs. Those workers need access to employment centers and affordable housing.

These are shared problems and shared opportunities. Yes, $54 billion is a lot of money. It is also the cheapest it will ever be.

Our next chance to redraw the map may not come for another generation. Let’s not force ourselves and our kids to sit on the freeway for the next two decades wondering why we didn’t take action. Please vote YES on Sound Transit Proposition 1.

David Baker is the mayor of Kenmore, Washington and Jon Scholes is the president and CEO of the Downtown Seattle Association.