Sound Transit light rail for West Seattle? Next steps for ‘ST3’ – including one you can take right now

Will West Seattle get light rail if Sound Transit‘s next ballot measure passes? That’s not certain yet but the ballot measure itself is closer to reality because of the transportation package that finally made its way through the Legislature. In an announcement today, ST leaders including board chair King County Executive Dow Constantine said they’re proceeding with the measure known as ST3 for short, because legislators gave them the full potential funding authority they were seeking. That’s described in the announcement as:

*Property tax of up to 25 cents for each $1,000 of assessed valuation ($75 annually for a $300,000 house). …

*Sales tax of up to an additional 0.5 percent ($.50 on a $100 purchase).

*Motor vehicle excise tax (MVET) of up to 0.8 percent of vehicle value ($80 annually on a $10,000 vehicle).

Again, that’s just the taxing authority that Sound Transit will be given. The Legislature’s decision itself does not guarantee you’ll be taxed that way – it’s up to ST to ask voters and get their approval. The ST announcement says “ST3” will take shape over the next year. If you want to speak up for West Seattle light rail or anything else in particular and have not yet taken the ST survey – go here to do it now – it’s only live for another week. Same survey we mentioned a month ago, so if you took it then, you’re covered.

(Back in Olympia, the transportation package itself still has a few more hurdles to clear, according to the Associated Press’s report from Olympia, and its own inherent costs – unrelated to the Sound Transit component – are calling for a gas-tax increase.)

45 Replies to "Sound Transit light rail for West Seattle? Next steps for 'ST3' - including one you can take right now"

  • Mike July 1, 2015 (10:11 pm)

    Who has a tally of all the new property and vehicle taxes being pushed on us this upcoming year? If their are more renters expected than property owners (see single family homes), wouldn’t it make sense to find a new method to collect money to support those most likely to utilize the new transportation methods they’re proposing this money will fund? Honestly, fair is fair. There are plenty of six figure single people living in our fine city now that should help foot the bill too. Maybe tax beverages poured at the local hipster bar in South Lake Union, that alone should fund half this.

  • Ron Swanson July 1, 2015 (10:13 pm)

    I urge everyone to do this: the consensus of transit nerds is that West Seattle is of extremely low importance for light rail. There will be a limited pot of money for ’North King’ (i.e. Seattle) projects, and a lot of comments will be pushing for Ballard Downtown AND Ballard UW before anything to West Seattle. Can’t have all three in ST3 (i.e. anytime within a decade or two).

    The emerging narrative is that better bus service serves a wider swath of the peninsula and that WS is too NIMBY to deserve rail. Push back if you disagree!

  • Bradley July 2, 2015 (12:32 am)

    @Mike: renters pay property tax increases, too, in the form of higher rents. I hope you don’t think landlords just eat property tax increases without having their tenants eat it with them? Everybody pays property tax increases in some way, shape, or form.

  • tonenotvolume July 2, 2015 (1:20 am)

    Mike – congestion in Seattle isn’t going away for free. I agree with Ron. And hipsters pay property taxes too. Why tax them twice?

  • Rick July 2, 2015 (4:01 am)

    Distribute the misery evenly along with the rewards.

  • Mike July 2, 2015 (6:09 am)

    Bradley, the percentage that renters pay would be minimal when you take into account the number of units that the tax would be divided by and also the tax benefits handed to the landlords vs. single family home owners that already pay over $3,500 / year for a home valued at $340,000 (good luck finding one of those in West Seattle too, most are $450,000+ for 3 bed 1 bath).
    I’d also say it’s time to reevaluate how taxes are collected for projects.

  • candrewb July 2, 2015 (6:11 am)

    Bradley, not quite. Rents are set by the market. If I have an extra unit with a $1500 mortgage, and going rates for said unit of comparable metrics is $1200 than that would be a $300 loss if I were to rent it out. Add on the property tax increase and it is now a $375 loss.

  • flimflam July 2, 2015 (6:22 am)

    enough already with all the new proposals dependent on property taxes – the city needs to spend more wisely and also look for other sources of income. higher developer fees? congestion tolling?

  • ZippyThePinhead July 2, 2015 (6:37 am)

    @Mike, I totally agree with you, we need a running scorecard as to the new and proposed taxes. $60 / year car tab, .1% sales tax increase, Early Child hood education levy, Seattle Parks levy, $00.11 per gallon gas tax increase, proposed new Seattle transportation levy, 3% rate increases for Seattle City light and Seattle Utilities.

    Not to mention the fact that house values are raising, so percentage wise the tax burden for the same property is going to increase.

    @Bradley: I agree that land lords will pass on the tax increases as higher rents, as they should. My issue is that renters do not get an itemized list of property tax liabilities as part of their bills. Perhaps if renters were presented with the consequences of voting yes for a levy, they would think twice before voting one way or the other?

  • Gene July 2, 2015 (6:58 am)

    It would be interesting though to see it all broken down- all the taxes that will be assessed on the average homeowner – vs all the taxes assessed on the average renter.

  • AC July 2, 2015 (7:01 am)

    Actually Bradley, renters in buildings with MFTE exemptions do not pay taxes to the same extent as homeowners, so all the renters in the thousands of new rental units in West Seattle don’t really have a basis for understanding just how much of a tax burden these efforts place on homeowners. You should really read about MFTE and the subsidies homeowners indirectly provide to developers when developers weasel their way out of paying taxes on dwellings for 12 years. Unfortunately, ST3 probably won’t pass because so many King County residents are anti-tax folks who believe they never benefitted from any government services, even though getting more single occupant drivers off the roads and into reliable, grade-separated light rail would relieve congestion to a greater extent than any other transportation option.

  • neighbor July 2, 2015 (8:34 am)

    I’ll be voting YES on this and will happily increase my taxes to fund Sound Transit’s light rail expansion. Why? Because Sound Transit has consistently shown solid results in the form of actual solutions, on time and within budget.

    I’ll be voting NO on Move Seattle, which is a (more expensive) replacement for the Bridging the Gap levy. I voted yes for BTG because it was supposed to address the maintenance backlog on city streets. It didn’t. That backlog has tripled, and when the BTG levy passed the City Council REDUCED the % of general city funding allocated to transportation. They clearly don’t think that maintaining streets is a core function of the city, and city staff admit it’s because they can always put out a levy and “in Seattle, tax levies always pass.”

    I’ve voted yes for every tax levy in this city for the past 20 years. Not anymore. Now I’m looking for what’s going to provide actual solutions and deliver results.

    Sound Transit YES
    Move Seattle NO

    (rant over)

  • Paul July 2, 2015 (9:03 am)

    How many MFTE apartments are there in Seattle? And what percentage are they of the total?

  • ChefJoe July 2, 2015 (9:17 am)

    a levy collects a set dollar amount from all the city based on the total assessed value of the city.
    If everyone’s property and assessment rises 10% at the same time, the levy will collect the same dollar amount so an individual’s tax bill would remain the same as before the rise.
    If Bill Gates built a solid gold/platinum/ink jet printer ink home in Seattle and it alone was half the value of all the properties in Seattle, his tax bill would fund half the levy collections and everyone else would see their levy bill drop 50%.

  • Peter July 2, 2015 (9:48 am)

    I second Ron Swanson’s comment. We need to push hard for rail service if we’re going to get it.

    Currently, West Seattle does not have the population density to make rail service viable, even with all the new construction it’s marginal. We’d have a stronger case if it created connectivity with Burien, Tukwila station, Southcenter, and Renton, but that’s not in the cards because the South King subarea money is going towards the spine to Federal Way (maybe ST4?). That doesn’t necessarily mean we won’t get it, but it will take a widespread push by the community. The best strategy is to focus on meeting future demand, creating future connectivity possibilities, and focus on the lack of other transportation options into and out of WS. Also, some proposals only have rail to the Alaska Junction, and we need to push for extending it at least to Westwood, and preferably on to White Center.

    Most importantly, we need to be visible and make our voices heard when Sound Transit reaches out with surveys and community meetings. Seattle is a city where only the loudest voices are heard, and we need to step it up.

  • Charles B July 2, 2015 (10:01 am)

    If they do build Light Rail to West Seattle, the new bridge better be able to take buses as well as trains. No one train line can serve all of West Seattle.

    I can’t imagine everyone wants to be forced to ride a bus to the junction first before going downtown.

  • Fourth July 2, 2015 (10:19 am)

    @Paul- here’s a link to the MFTE list. It’s pretty much all the new high rise complexes in West Seattle, not to mention downtown, SLU, etc. The purpose of the program is ostensibly to provide “affordable” housing, but I really question whether it really meets that need. How much revenue does the city lose out on, given that a lot of these apartments are in pretty affluent areas?
    @neighbor Well said! Couldn’t agree more.

  • AceMotel July 2, 2015 (10:22 am)

    @neighbor thank you. What you wrote = my feelings exactly, 100% This will be my first time ever voting NO on a levy.
    Sound Transit YES
    (can’t) Move Seattle NO

  • Sam July 2, 2015 (10:58 am)

    Enough! No new taxes for Sound Transit or any other government entity until They can show fiscal responsibility.
    Stop wasting the money you have and asking for more.

  • dcn July 2, 2015 (10:58 am)

    I agree with Yes for Sound Transit and No for “Move Seattle.” I don’t see that we get much bang for our buck with the Move Seattle money. Multi-modal corridors will not help most of the city’s residents move. In many cases, commute times for cars may go up as speed limits and lanes are reduced. We do need a new transportation levy for Seattle, but not this mega-levy with questionable use of funds.
    Whether or not West Seattle gets light rail, we need to invest more in rail for all of Seattle. Increasing rail service throughout the city will hopefully relieve congestion on I-5 and 99, depending on the lines built. These choke points are the main reason the West Seattle Bridge bogs down every morning. The bridge almost never backs up westbound during the evening commute, since there are no comparable choke points in the westbound direction.
    The only true way to get people to stop using cars is to give them a viable method for getting around the city without them. Our current bus system is only practical for going downtown, and biking is not an option for too many people. We need to catch up to other cities that invested in an interconnected rail system long ago.
    I have one question: if what people on this strand are saying is true, i.e. that West Seattle’s current population is too low to justify rail, then why were we originally going to get a monorail? Our population was much lower 15 years ago.

  • Patrickjay68 July 2, 2015 (10:59 am)

    Please take the time and fill out this survey. You’ll be paying the ST taxes (if the package passes) whether or not West Seattle gets Light Rail. We are paying ST taxes now and the 560 barely comes into Seattle anymore. Is the 560 worth our tax dollars when it does nothing to mitigate traffic where the ingress/egress is worst for West Seattle. It is very important that ST knows we need grade separated Light Rail and the more voices speaking up in favor, the better. You know Ballard residents will be. If a new bridge needs to be built, the rail has to be on its own, buses will slow down the trains just as they do now in the Transit Tunnel and then we aren’t any better off. Unless they build a bridge that has rail lines and bus lanes that do not cross, then that could work. It’s all about the cost.

  • KM July 2, 2015 (11:29 am)

    Mike, I’m not sure how taxing the people you don’t like is fair, though I’m up for new sources of funds. I would also love to see a breakdown of new property taxes in Seattle for this year, complete with those going away (including the Bridging the Gap, not sure if there are more expiring.)
    What is the regional boundary for the taxes? Local counties who will receive services or statewide?
    I’m also leaning toward ST Yes. Definitely a no on Move Seattle.

  • me July 2, 2015 (11:49 am)

    mass transit is desperately needed and inevitable, build now the sooner the better.

  • Rusty July 2, 2015 (11:58 am)

    @neighbor – regarding Sound Transit, you were kidding about on time and on budget, right?
    We need serious solutions, but what we seem to get are half-baked plans (tunnelling with Bertha vs. cut-and-cover, focus on bike lanes instead of moving traffic), continual cost-overruns and very little delivered for the billions spent. When you can continually re-adjust the goal-line, you can make any pig look good with a little lipstick!
    I think most people are okay with paying for useful projects that will help our gridlock, but when we see so many increases in our COL from property taxes, car tab taxes, etc. and no real solutions, it gets old quick.
    I feel really bad for those on fixed incomes, who are going to be completely priced out of living in this beautiful city.

  • Brian July 2, 2015 (12:15 pm)

    @Rusty: FYI, you will have a very difficult time getting anyone on board with your argument if your opening statement conflates the downtown tunnel project with anything Sound Transit is doing. Also, linking to an opinion column in the Kent Reporter does nothing to bolster your argument.
    Get your facts straight then try again.

  • Rusty July 2, 2015 (12:37 pm)

    @Brian –
    I’m not linking them. The first was a comment of incredulity that anyone looking objectively at sound transit could remotely claim that they are consistently keeping their promises on time and under budget. If you have a disagreement with any points raised in the ‘opinion piece’ feel free to address those.
    I went on to talk about our region’s transportation issues and the lack of foresight/fiscal responsibility of ANY agency to address them, listing a few. Maybe I could have separated them better for you, but your assumption that I am conflating them is erroneous sir :).

  • KM July 2, 2015 (12:59 pm)

    I wouldn’t consider Sound Transit to be flawless in the least with their execution. They’ve made a ton of mistakes. I think they’re probably the least incompetent of the rest of the government organizations involved in expanding our transit, City of Seattle, WADOT and KC Metro included. I’m sure there are a million reasons to dislike each group agency.
    I need to dive in and look more at the accountability aspect before knowing how to vote, as well the reach of the tax, geographically. Leaning toward yes.

  • Paul July 2, 2015 (1:03 pm)

    For the love of all that is good, please take the survey. Takes 5 minutes and may be the difference in getting a WS light rail.

  • Ron Swanson July 2, 2015 (1:52 pm)


    That opinion piece is correct in that the 1996 version of the agency greatly oversold what could be accomplished in the ST1 budget. What it leaves out is that Bob White, the agency director, and a number of other executives resigned in disgrace over those failures.

    Since Joni Earl came to power, the agency has been consistently conservative in cost projections and regularly ahead of schedule and under budget. To the extent any similar reductions in projects occurred in ST2, it was due to the worst recession since the great depression, not budget overruns.

    The existing light rail line is showing consistent amazing double digit yearly growth in ridership, see the regular STB reports for evidence of this. When Cap Hill and the UW open, it will go next level. Let’s get West Seattle in line for that rather than focusing on twenty year old failures.

  • KM July 2, 2015 (2:20 pm)

    neighbor, not sure if that was directed to everyone here, I’m looking for and action plan regarding the details on this project than a broad overview of their stance on accountability. I’m sure several government agencies have pages on their website about accountability. I expect they have this lined out in their other literature.

  • neighbor July 2, 2015 (2:32 pm)

    KM, you may find this more helpful, then:

  • neighbor July 2, 2015 (2:34 pm)

    Or if you’re looking for specifics around ST3:

  • Rusty July 2, 2015 (3:10 pm)

    Ron –
    I appreciate the optimism, but I have to disagree with the results. Joni Earl has been in charge for over 10 years, going to retire next year, correct? She may have done a lot of good in cleaning up the utter mess that was ST when she took over, but they are still over-promising and under-delivering as far as I can see.
    Originally, in 2010 planning for ST2, didn’t they first promise 137 miles of light and commuter rail with the ability for 310,000 passenger trips per day? Didn’t they revise that 2 years in to 164,000 trips per day, or a little more than 1/2 of what was originally promised?
    In 2013, didn’t they report that their ridership was down 70% from what they had promised, all the while the costs keep going up.
    I understand we can’t reasonably hold them responsible for promises made 20 years ago, but there are missed / very wrong projections and escalating costs dating from much more recently as well.
    ST may be better-run today than it was before Mrs. Earl took over, but that bar wasn’t very high. I would love to see light rail in West Seattle / greater Seattle area, and believe it could greatly alleviate a lot of our gridlock issues – I simply still want to be able to afford to live here by the time it is!

  • Ron Swanson July 2, 2015 (4:05 pm)


    I wouldn’t take everything the Washington Policy Center says as gospel. They’re comparing apples (ST ridership projections) and oranges (PSRC growth projections) to get these “look at how ST is a failure!” scenarios.

    Link is gaining ridership 10+% a year, and is on track to meet its initial, too-optimistic because they didn’t foresee an insane financial crisis projections.

    Frankly, if you want a government agency to complain about, it’s the PSRC, which has a very strong bias towards forecasting immense suburban growth and urban stagnation, which is the exact opposite of what the wisdom of the market has been delivering. I wouldn’t believe it if they told me it was hot out.

  • West Seattle Hipster July 2, 2015 (5:23 pm)

    I completely understand the reticence to not give any more tax dollars to local government, but light rail is desperately needed.


    Let’s not screw future generations of Seattleites. Voters in Seattle dropped the ball in 1968, we should learn from their mistake.

  • Thomas M. July 2, 2015 (11:24 pm)

    “PARK” and “RIDE”. Nowhere to put cars in West Seattle so any “improvement” in capacity is going nowhere fast.

  • Ex-Westwood Resident July 3, 2015 (11:19 am)

    LLR is a great way to move people around, unfortunately the way ST did it is worse than idiotic.
    1. There is only one place to park, Tukwila, and you better hope that you get there before 8 AM to find a spot. Yes, I am aware of the 700 spot parking garage now being constructed on 200th and 26th Ave So. on the 1.5 mile spur south of the airport.
    2. The route was chosen based on political pandering and not common sense. Why have LLR go through an area (RB) that already had ample bus service to downtown?
    3. Remove the cost of tunneling under Beacon Hill and the airport section could have been included in the first stage.
    What would have been a better design?
    A two track “Loop and Spur” system as follows;
    Start at the airport; follow the current path, but instead of heading to RB, follow E. Marginal through Georgetown and pick up the line where it exits the Beacon Hill tunnel; Downtown to the U District; across 520 to Bellevue; south to Renton following 405; across to Tukwila; south along Southcenter Blvd; back to the airport.
    Trains would run both north and south along the loop.
    Build four major stations; Airport, U District, Bellevue and Renton with ample parking for commuters at each hub.
    Stations are good where they are at on the current line, but because RB would be omitted, add stops at the Museum of Flight, former Boeing HQ, and Georgetown. On the East side, Bell Square, Factoria, Renton Commons, Southcenter Mall, Parkway Plaza.
    Now the “Spurs.”
    You can get by with four spurs right now and add later as required.
    1. From the Airport station head W/NW to the Burien Transit Center, along Ambaum Way to 35th or the Junction, to the SODO station.
    2. From Downtown or U District to Ballard.
    3. From Bell Square to Redmond and Kirkland.
    4. From Renton Commons south to Kent, even Auburn.
    All spurs will have two tracks with trains running opposite directions. Pick a station along the spurs to build a parking garage. Use those stations as bus depots with routes to neighborhoods.
    Right now the fare is VERY heavily subsidized. A one way trip from Tukwilla to Westlake Center costs $2.50. The ACTUAL cost is upwards of $25.00, if not more.
    DC has a GREAT metro system using multiple lines with two major hubs and AMPLE parking at the end of each line.
    Yes the cost would have been more, but IMO you would have had A LOT more riders using it. Even making the fare higher wouldn’t deter many if they can get where they need to go conveniently.
    If this was the LLR system, I would drive to Burien Transit Station (or take a bus) and go wherever I needed or wanted; Downtown, Renton, Southcenter, Bell Sq…etc.

  • KFonAlki July 3, 2015 (1:16 pm)

    I get tired of increased property taxes. Gas and car registration taxes along with increased fares makes the most sense to me, is something has to go up. My beef with this and every other “good cause” is that voters seem to assume throwing more money at something improves whatever needs improving. Kind of like wondering why your deadbeat relative seems to be less productive and needs more handouts the more you try to “help” them get back on their feet. Accountability, my friends, is not a 4 letter word.

  • Ex-Westwood Resident July 3, 2015 (7:09 pm)

    It would be much easier to support raised taxes on property, gas, cars if they would just say what they were for individually, i.e. this tax amount is for road repair, this one is for bike lanes, this is for ST/LLR…etc.
    Sure it would mean more things to vote on, but it would give people a chance to determine where the revenue is going instead of “we want $$$$$$$$ for all these things, we’ll just divide the money up when we get it” issues we have now.

  • patricia davis July 5, 2015 (4:52 pm)

    another thought to consider: NOISE ! so ‘stand by’ light rail and ask yourself if you want to be hearing that ….on and on and on ? Also think about the construction (delays, noise, and air pollution….and noise pollution) It doesn’t just occur via money….it takes one big mess of construction – perhaps for years – and then a very very noisy activity called “light rail”. Think heavy equipment – for years – creating dust and delay. And think of the actual noise of rail itself. For me: no way.

  • KM July 6, 2015 (7:19 pm)

    I absolutely do want to hear that noise–it’s indicative of a vibrant, accessible, bustling city, and reminds me of the amazing public transit I had in cities I used to live in. Looking forward to it!

  • AC July 6, 2015 (7:36 pm)

    @patricia – have you ever, in your life, stood anywhere near a light rail line? If you had, then you’d realize it’s quieter and cleaner (at least locally) than any noisy bus, car (other than electric), or truck.

  • g July 7, 2015 (3:35 pm)

    Light rail is so quiet that they had a huge problems with pedestrian accidents when they opened light rail in Los Angeles.

  • Jim Cavanaugh July 7, 2015 (5:34 pm)

    BUS rapid transit for West Seattle. The “C” Rapid Ride is doing great.

Sorry, comment time is over.