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Coalition for Effective Transportation Alternatives

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Edmonds, WA
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Samples of Letters We've Sent

Sound Transit does too little for the money spent

January 24, 2003

As published in the Seattle PI at:

In her Jan. 16 article, Jane Hadley writes, "The criticisms of Sound Transit generally are about old rather than new issues -- the cost overruns announced in 2001, the selection of light rail instead of some other technology and the route chosen. And Sound Transit is the only agency with a plan and authorized taxes to build a regional transit system."

First, the biggest criticism of ST is that it does too little for the money spent. That is neither an old nor a new problem; it's timeless, because resources are limited and always will be. I'm at a loss to understand what the importance of an issue being old or new is, other than the old may not be as sexy for getting attention for news stories.

Second, there are a number of other agencies with a plan and authorized taxes to build regional transit systems. King County Metro, Snohomish County Community Transit and Pierce County Transit all run effective regional systems and have voter-authorized taxes. Metro alone currently provides regional transit service to a ridership far exceeding Sound Transit's wildest dreams. All three agencies do the real work of ST's express bus system as contractors; ST is merely a middleman, raking off overhead from its taxes to support its exorbitant bureaucracy, including $10 million per year for marketing itself.

Central Puget Sound has a third again as many commute trips (by percentage) taken by transit as does the Portland area with its vaunted light rail system. This points out that big capital expenditures don't always mean spending smarter, just more. The flexibility of the bus system at route ends, combined with free-moving HOV lanes, can deliver faster, broader and cheaper service. Efficiency is the important thing, old though it may be.

Guy S. Spencer
City Council member
Normandy Park

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