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Why TCC supports ST Prop. 1

Posted by Shefali Ranganathan at Nov 01, 2016 06:10 PM |
It’s a no-brainer for us to support and endorse this measure.

They say that those you love can hurt you the most. As bus-loving, rail-hungry transit supporters, we’ve learned to deal with the haters. We’ve prepped our arguments against the so-called “war on cars,” “automated vehicles are the answer,” “blank check for government” and “never-ending taxes”.

(For the record: The "war on cars" is not a thing, we all wish "automated vehicles are the answer" but don't bet on it, the "blank check for government" is flatly not true, and "never-ending taxes" is a misleading lie).

But more difficult and more unexpected -- has been opposition from allies that are usually on the same page.

A few outspoken progressives have decided that Sound Transit Prop. 1 does not do enough to curb climate change, takes money away from education, is too suburban, and too costly for “the poor.” And they are “taking a stand” by voting no.

It’s a no-brainer for TCC to support and endorse this measure -- bringing high-capacity transit to the region is the name of our game. But we don’t endorse transit measures blindly. We worked for more than a year with a broad group of organizations to shape the plan and policies that make up Prop. 1. Our reasons for supporting Prop. 1 are nuanced, and -- given the recent blows from the left -- bear further explanation.

It’s an important step toward fighting climate change.

  • Transportation is the single largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions in WA state, which is why all of the major environmental groups - Sierra Club to WEC - are supporting Prop 1 as the single most important thing you can do for climate in this election.

  • A comprehensive analysis shows that when the entire system is built out, Sound Transit will reduce 793,000 metric tons a year of GHG. That’s the equivalent of saving 89 million gallons of gas annually. PSRC estimates that Prop 1’s extension of light rail to Everett, Tacoma and Redmond alone as well as bicycle and pedestrian access investments, together could result in a 9 percent decrease in regional greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. (D-5)

  • Putting affordable housing near transit improves climate outcomes even further: Research from Transform finds that “lower Income households drive 50% fewer miles when living within 1/4 mile of transit than those living in non-TOD. Higher Income households drive more than twice as many miles as very low-income households living within 1/4 mile of transit.

  • There is nearly $350M in bike and pedestrian investments in the Prop 1 plan to ensure that people can access the transit stations without driving their cars.

Light rail vs education is a false choice.

  • The argument that Prop. 1 would divert funds from education has been demonstrated over and over again to be false. The Department of Revenue has already clarified that Sound Transit 3 does not interfere with the state’s ability to fully fund education. To suggest we have to choose between education and transportation is an absolutely false choice. Prop. 1 instead will help connect residents to 135 K-12 facilities and 31 higher education institutions.

Serving the suburbs is more than just a political necessity -- it’s a social justice issue.

  • The notion that people who live in the suburbs don't deserve fast, frequent, and reliable transit represents a fundamental misunderstanding about how Seattle's affordability issues are impacting people (i.e.: forcing low-income and disadvantaged individuals to move further and further away). Light rail will stretch to Federal Way, Everett, and Tacoma connecting low-income communities and communities of color. For example, the Link extension to the Federal Way Transit Center will serve a population that is 57% minority* and 22% low-income, according to Sound Transit, while the Lynnwood to Everett segment will serve a population that is 42% minority* and 17% low-income.

  • Light rail also catalyzes land use changes that encourage compact and mixed used development. We have already seen this happen in the Spring District in Bellevue and Downtown Redmond. Kent, Shoreline and Lynnwood have also upzoned in anticipation of rail.

People of color are saying they want light rail. Listen up.

  • The assertion that this package does not benefit low-income communities is just plain wrong. TCC has worked for a year with several social justice organizations including OneAmerica, Housing Development Consortium, and Puget Sound Sage to develop the system plan, affordable housing components and station access policies and investments. It is frustrating to hear people of privilege claim that they have the answers - without even consulting or speaking with the organizations that represent low-income communities and communities of color.

  • Equity work around transit (analysis and advocacy) isn’t new to this region. Between 2011 and 2014, PSRC hosted the Growing Transit Communities Partnership, a cross-sector, consensus-driven, corridor-based planning process that was informed by the robust analysis and stakeholder engagement. This group partnered with the Kirwan Institute on a ground-breaking analysis that examined how high capacity transit will benefit communities across the Puget Sound, in particular low-income and minority* communities. The Prop. 1 proposal reflects those needed connections for moving communities from low opportunity to high opportunity.

  • A recent Harvard study shows that access to reliable transportation is the single largest barrier to economic mobility in low income families.

  • The affordable housing provisions in the plan are some of the most expansive requirements in the country and will catalyze the creation of thousands of units of housing region-wide.

It’s not cheap, but doing nothing costs more.

  • Prop. 1 is not "astronomically expensive."  It is about a billion in new taxes every year for 25 years, and those taxes roll back after the plan is completed.

  • Compare the median annual cost of Prop. 1, $169 per adult, with the cost of congestion, $1500 per commuter per year, according to the Texas A&M Institute.

  • The agency is using the tax sources granted to it by the legislature. They, and only they, can change our tax structure at any time to be more equitable. But that is not an excuse to wait on helping our region's residents get out crippling gridlock. Plus, taxes are paid both by individuals and businesses. The anticipated split of “who pays” is as follows:

Revenue source



Retail Sales tax



Property tax



Motor Vehicle Excise Tax

Hard to determine split

Progressives tend to agree broadly on a set of issues, if not the exact solutions: we believe in funding social services, environmental preservation, safety nets for those in need, protection of equal rights, healthcare for all. Like many of these issues, transportation is about more than transportation. It’s about the environment, lifting up those in poverty, increasing economic opportunities for all, improving health outcomes. Hence the broad and varied support for Prop. 1. It’s this intersectionality that makes our work so interesting, and our partnerships so important. It’s why we are at our best when we talk with each other, listen to each other, and lift each other up.

It’s why TCC is supporting Prop. 1.

* Sound Transit uses the term minority in its analysis. At TCC, we use the term People of Color or POC instead. 
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