‘Greatest risk is in doing nothing’: Constantine campaigns for ST3 at 2 West Seattle events

By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

“Light rail is coming to West Seattle.”

That’s how King County Executive and Sound Transit board chair Dow Constantine opened his speech to the West Seattle Chamber of Commerce Thursday afternoon – his second pitch in the area in less than 24 hours for the transit megameasure known as ST3. He proclaimed it even more jubilantly in his first one, talking to the 34th District Democrats Wednesday night, as you can see and hear in our video:

Shortly after Constantine’s speech, the 34th DDs endorsed ST3 (as reported here earlier). His appearance before the Chamber – which did not involve an endorsement vote – was longer, and more educational; Constantine called it the “transit planner” or “nerd” version of the speech, rather than the “campaign” or “stemwinder” version.

The vote is still three-plus months away; ballots for the August primary hadn’t even arrived yet as he stood before the two local groups talking about ST3, which won’t be decided until November. But with an 11-digit price tag, this is no ordinary ballot measure. And supporters are pulling out the stops to avoid what happened with Sound Transit 2, a defeat, rewrite, and revote.

The county executive’s West Seattle Chamber appearance at The Kenney started with an explanation that the ST district includes parts of three counties, with 53 cities and more than 3 million people, plus “well, well over half the state’s economy.”

Constantine chairs the 18-member board, including 17 elected officials. Besides light rail, ST also runs a express bus service (including Route 560 to and from West Seattle) as well as the Sounder commuter-rail service.

Sound Transit is continuing to build out projects from pre-ST3 plans, including expanding as far north as Bellevue, east to Redmond, south to Des Moines, he noted.

And then – on to Sound Transit 3, which the board finalized three weeks ago, with a plan promising light rail for West Seattle by 2030.


“The region is growing,” he said, understatedly, most recently “a thousand people a week,” which means 1 million more people soon, people who need to get around. “Just last year we added 100 new cars to the road every single day – that is why we have these [traffic] problems.”

Why ST3? “Because this is the thing that works,” Constantine asserted, saying that it’s still the best way to reduce congestion – he mentioned Thursday morning’s crash on the West Seattle Bridge, which he said set him back at least half an hour. “The age of large-scale highway construction is over” – some components will be rebuilt, maybe expanded, but “we’re not going to add a new I-5,” for example. And even if that was done, the vehicles would pour into a maxed-out street grid. The congestion is threatening the area’s economy, he said. “Building a high-capacity, highly reliable system is an opportunity.” It will create jobs and grow the economy, he declared. “And it helps you individually stop wasting your time and wasting your money.”

Light rail, Constantine said, gives people a chance to get somewhere in a predictable amount of time, reliably. “It doesn’t matter if there’s a wreck on the bridge or it’s raining or slowing – if you need to be at work at 9 o’clock,” you’ll be able to do that. “How are we going to move people around this region? This is the way to do it.”

He offered numbers including one freeway lane carrying 2,000 people per hour while light rail would carry 16,000 people per hour. “How many lanes would we have to add to I-5 or I-90 to provide the kind of capacity we can with one light-rail line? This is not a replacement for our road system, it’s a new way of approaching the challenge of mobility that will complement our road system.”

He went through map pages showing where ST3 will extend light rail and bus rapid transit starting in 2024- if it’s passed.

In 2030, “West Seattle!” he declared, eliciting a few “yays” from around the room. He noted that it’s a “conservative” timeline. “With each thing that becomes more certain, we are potentially able to do things sooner.” The stations, he recapped, would be in Delridge, The Junction, and at 35th and Avalon.

“Here’s what we do for West Seattle in Sound Transit 3 – first, immediate improvements in Rapid Ride Line C – then, light rail to West Seattle, with buses coming to meet those trains in each of those corridors – third, bus rapid transit from Lynnwood to Burien – fourth, the study that will lay the groundwork for extending light rail to Burien, to White Center, and potentially (on to) Renton.”

But, he said, there’s more: “We’ll be potentialy able to reconfigure Metro, so that service can be redistributed to serve our community better – to have many, many more people within easy walking distance of the transit station.” That includes the “new RapidRide Line to replace the 120,” and he’s hopeful of more bus service “at Alki again. … except for the Water Taxi shuttle, it’s darn near impossible to get anywhere if you’re down there.”

He also said that other underserved areas such as Arbor Heights should get service back.

Now, the cost:

He says that it will cost an “average” resident “an additional $14 a month,” $169 a year, but did not get into the details until he was asked during the Q&A that followed:

“Why does it take so long?” asked one attendee. “I was watching NOVA last night and building a transcontinental railroad took six years.”

Constantine replied that “we’re building continuously” but that the money only comes in at a particular rate and you can’t build things without money. They did figure out how to reduce the timelines (as you might recall) before the final version was drafted to go to the ballot. Also, he said, they have to go through the environmental review process, the permit process. “All of those things can be shortened with partnership and with diligence,” he said. But overall, “the dates are all conservative,” he said.

Another attendee said he used the Seattle Times‘ “calculator” and learned that it would cost him “considerably more than” $14/month.

Constantine then recapped the three sources

.25 per $1,000 of property value
.8 percent of the state’s calculation of your vehicle’s value
Half-cent sales tax, “which rolled off when the stadium tax rolled away”

Constantine said that while he’s confident the Legislature will eventually reform the state’s tax system, “we cannot wait” to get going with this. “We will continue to push them to do that.”

Third question from someone who said she’s a supporter but wonders “what risks do you see?”

“This is a mature agency that has a track record of delivering projects on time and on budget … a very conservative agency … The greatest risk is in doing nothing. If we don’t do this now, when the package comes back four years from now, it will be smaller, it will go fewer places, who knows about West Seattle, and it will definitely be four years later.”

(Sound Transit’s Ric Ilgenfritz at left, and Chris Arkills, seated, Constantine’s transportation adviser)

Ric Ilgenfritz, executive director of planning for Sound Transit, picked up a question about the envisioned light-rail route through West Seattle. The ballot measure will not address exact routes, exact blocks, he said, saying that will be worked out with the community if it passes. “But the (measure) budgets for the stations I mentioned,” Constantine adds.

Another question was about the timeline, again, which led to details of the financing. “40 percent of the program will be bond-financed – we can only issue bonds at the rate we can pay back that debt,” Ilgenfritz said. But they figured out how to “be a little more aggressive with our bonding” and that shaved a few years off the timelines. But “all the decisions about station locations, design, property acquisition, all individual decisions that take up time over a period of years before you’re ever able to stick a shovel in the ground. … Then once we’re ready to build it takes 5 to 6 years.”

Next question, about station locations and the study of running light rail south of North Delridge. First, said Constantine, they’d have to know where that first Delridge station will be – then, maybe to White Center, perhaps to Morgan inbetween. But, he said, keep in mind that the 120 will become RapidRide, “so it will be a fairly frequent and reliable ride.”

When will the study happen? “Whenever the board tells us to,” quips Ilgenfritz, but realistically – probably a few years after they decide where the West Seattle stations in ST3 will be, he said.

Saying that had been “the nerd version” of the presentation rather than the “stemwinder version” (which we’d argue he gave Wednesday night), Constantine wrapped as the meeting’s end at 1 pm arrived while promising to be available for questions.


Chamber CEO Lynn Dennis said she’ll collect questions and forward them for answers. Meantime, you can browse documents, maps, and other information about the proposal at soundtransit3.org.

35 Replies to "'Greatest risk is in doing nothing': Constantine campaigns for ST3 at 2 West Seattle events"

  • John S Niles July 15, 2016 (3:41 am)

    Rejecting ST3 will not result in “doing nothing.”  As was noted in the text of the report above, ST2 is fully funded and will let Sound Transit continue building a 50-mile light rail network.  There are plenty of other uses for the $54 billion that would be saved and be available for programming to other transportation and non-transportation purposes if ST3 fails to be approved.  

    Sound Transit staff under the law are supposed to be neutral on tax ballots that bear on its future.  Sound Transit staff and materials should be emphasizing the results of an ST3 rejection just as energetically as the descriptions of ST3 expansion.  Sound Transit describes both, and voters decide.  The no-build option has standing in the RCW section that defines high-capacity transportation planning.

     ST2 is forecast by Sound Transit to have about nine billion dollars in funds left over when the work of that phase is done.  Some of what ST3 contemplates, especially the “early action activities” could be accomplished within ST2.

  • TheKing July 15, 2016 (4:18 am)

    I’m a gambler, take the risk and do nothing. ST3 is a 50 billion scandal waiting to happen. No local government should be trusted with that much dough. 

  • Qc July 15, 2016 (6:50 am)

    Looking forward to voting yes for this!

    • Meyer July 15, 2016 (3:04 pm)

      Same here! Seattle needs light rail badly. It’s no coicidence that every major city has some kind of rail, they have it because it is necessary for growth. If we keep delaying this we are only making matters worse and pushing the problem to the next generation. Yes it is a big price tag and long timeline, but we have no other solutions to traffic and this growing city.

      Also we will see a lot other transit improvements such as more busses and better BRT much sooner than the light rail timeline. The timeline that everyone keeps referring to is only for light rail and doesn’t include all the other useful improvements that come with this package.

  • JoB July 15, 2016 (7:07 am)

    i can’t believe i agree with DOW
    but doing nothing because we could be doing something better has created this mess..
    it sure isn’t going to solve it.

  • Gene July 15, 2016 (7:23 am)

    Looking forward to voting no for this!

  • DumplingGirl July 15, 2016 (7:50 am)

    We can’t keep doing nothing like the generations before us elected to do. It’s time to act and build this light rail – the sooner the better.

  • East Coast Cynic July 15, 2016 (8:18 am)

    Doing Nothing/Not voting for this will certainly worsen traffic conditions all over the Seattle metro area in the coming years, including our peninsula.  West Seattle won’t get light rail if we don’t vote for it.  Our population growth is inadequate for our present transportation infrastructure.  It may be expensive, but the region’s political actors and its natives didn’t do the right/smart thing by actively supporting right of way transit decades earlier when the region starting growing and when it would have been cheaper to start; Not only cheaper to start, but cheaper to add on to the system as the growth warranted.  Even though I’ll probably be staggering onto a line rail w/ a cane by the time it’s completed, I’ll vote for it.

  • Eloise July 15, 2016 (8:22 am)

    Great idea but the funding is all wrong.    Until developers are made to pay for the impact of all this new construction, I won’t be voting to raise my taxes.

  • Smarter Transit.org July 15, 2016 (8:25 am)

    ST3 has nothing to do with transit.  It is about redevelopment around stations.  Absolutely there are other alternatives – cities around the world are switching to special buses in special lanes that can carry thousands of people an hour – many more than light rail – It is called “light” because of capacity.  See: http://smartertransit.org for more information.  Also see  http://www.nost3.org. And the Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/www.smartertransit.org/?ref=settings for updated articles on this issue.

  • Ray July 15, 2016 (8:48 am)

    Yep. Another No here as well.

     West Seattle is underserved by this. 

     We pay a lot and get so little in return. 

  • chemist July 15, 2016 (8:56 am)

    So, they’ll be using the same MVET formula based on MSRP and car age.  Whatever the 0.3% we currently pay until 2028, they’ll add another 0.8% to that for sound transit 3 (so, multiply the MVET on your last tab by 3.7 and you’ll find out what the combined bill will be for a decade, multiply by 2.7 for the decades after 2028).

  • plf July 15, 2016 (9:07 am)

    Tired of the Mayor and county Exec always coming to home owners..many of us are being taxed out of our homes. Get your hand out of pocket and voting no and can’t wait to fire the mayor

  • JayDee July 15, 2016 (9:35 am)

    Ahhh…the Seattle process. Vote on anything (monorail, stadia, viaduct) until the right answer is found. Or just an homogenized mess.  I hate to say it but I agree with Dow…but also agree that the city and county need to focus on doing what they should be doing not what they feel good doing.  

    It is not property-tax payers and renters who should fund affordable housing or families and education levies. Police, Fire, SDOT, SPU, Metro and sewage treatment yes. Parks are already hived off the general budget thanks to another ill-conceived vote.  But the feel good crap has to stop.

  • S July 15, 2016 (9:36 am)

    Yes yes yes

  • The Truth July 15, 2016 (10:01 am)

    This vote will be a firm No.  I feel that 54 billion could buy a lot of busses.  You don’t like our busses?  Cool, lets order some cooler ones with leather chairs and flat screens because 54 billion could buy those too!  This is a massive price tag but that is not my major issue.  We could add the same/more capacity by adding busses on the road next year, not 2028.  Don’t give me the separate grade argument because I agree with it.  We could add a buss only lower bridge or another buss tunnel DT and build it to be expanded for future light rail but until then use surface.  This is too much for to little in the near future.  Do it for the children?  I’l save the money and put it into their college fund.  Better use of my money. 

  • quiz July 15, 2016 (10:10 am)

    A “no” vote is simply irresposible. 

    We need to vote yes. It’s the only good option before us. If you think this seems expensive now, try agin in 10-15 years. Costs will go up dramatically.

    • The Truth July 15, 2016 (10:27 am)

      The government saying it is this or nothing is irresposible.  It’s a $54 billion dollar package and we are just going to sign off on the first or second pass?  No way.  Every government project starts out as a Cadillac and then they get told no and they make it a lexus.  Then hopefully they get told no again and make it a nice, reasonable commuter car like a hybrid or a Toyota. We need efficient, smart and reasonable here.  Not a poorly planed, 54 billion dollar Escalade.  

      Also, spending $858,379 on the Capital Hill Station grand opening party did inspire me to write a bigger check to them. That party had to be worth at least a bus or two.      

  • Chuck and Sally's Van Man July 15, 2016 (10:11 am)

    No no no. 

  • Commentator July 15, 2016 (10:45 am)

    The big question is where will people actually be able to afford to live. One bedroom apartments selling for many multiples of an average family income are simply not going to be where families can afford to live. We then need to have a transportation plan that fits with the reality of where jobs will be located compared to where people will live.

  • Rusty July 15, 2016 (11:12 am)

    I just love it when elected officials (and unelected ST members) threaten us – ‘pay up, or you get nothing’. To everyone eager to pony up for this, at what point do you demand any accountability whatsoever? Do you really think that giving this group more money will result in a different outcome? If you want to see how they manage our money, take a look at http://www.soundtransitrevealed.com/.

    Sometimes you need accountability – otherwise you get rampant waste and corruption, which doesn’t serve anyone.

  • chemist July 15, 2016 (1:09 pm)

    FYI, Dow, that 0.5% sales tax for the stadiums was something levied only at restaurants, taverns, and bars for food and beverages.  Not a general sales tax like ST3 proposes.

    2007 Prop1 “ST2” was voted down the first time and they came back with a revised proposal that became what we know as ST2.

  • Chadwick July 15, 2016 (2:05 pm)

    The problem is that ST3 goes too far from Seattle. Seattle metro needs help first and then in 20 years we can build out to the suburbs.  Also, the fact that this line doesn’t serve White Center, Burien or Renton where thousands of people who really need affordable transportation live is a slap in the face. This is “public transportation” for the rich.  Vote NO and tell ST to come back with something smaller that serves the Seattle metro area first. Lastly, want to see what your elevated station in the AK Junction will look like? Check out Angle Lake station for a preview. Not so quaint. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Angle_Lake_station#/media/File:Angle_Lake_Station_under_construction,_December_2015_(23656840530).jpg 

    • Jon Wright July 15, 2016 (2:39 pm)

      Chadwick, Sound Transit is a regional, not a Seattle-centric agency. Pierce County, Snohomish County, East King County (http://www.soundtransit.org/sites/default/files/documents/pdf/about/stdistrictmap07_10.pdf) are part of Sound Transit and have been being paying towards the system. “Sub-area equity” means that funds collected from folks in the different parts of the counties go toward ST improvements in those same areas. So that is why ST is building north, south, and east of Seattle, too. Funding is the biggest limitation to building the system faster. Since Seattle money goes towards the Seattle portion of the system, lines in Seattle are getting built as fast as the money is there, irrespective of the rest of the system.

      The outreach and development of the ST3 plan has been in the works for years. I’m not sure what expectations people who say they’re voting no because they want a better/cheaper system and they want it sooner. Voting no is only going to delay things further and drive up the cost.

      The taxing mechanism is what the State government has imposed on Sound Transit. I am a homeowner and am not eager to pay more taxes. But I also recognize that the infrastructure we need costs money. I look forward to knowing that I will be able to hop on a train and get places reliably.

  • prayforrain July 15, 2016 (3:17 pm)

    Can’t believe people think that buses, which run on the same congested streets and are slow and inefficient, are really the solution.  They may be part of the solution but they’re not the entire solution.

    We could have already had a rail network for 20 years if backward thinking hadn’t won out and rejected federal assistance for mass transit in the late 60’s.   

    I’m definitely voting yes even though I might be retired by the time we finally get light rail.  We have to start somewhere.  

  • 935 July 15, 2016 (3:37 pm)

    If you’re a yes vote for this (again), YOU are part of the problem. You probably bought the “too big to fail” crap too.

    Why don’t you give ME your money….I’ll give you all the transparency and receipts that ST will give you – along with all the production.

    Sigh….the Seattle Voter – doesn’t ever know what’s best for themselves, let alone the “community” they profess to love/adore.

    • Jon Wright July 15, 2016 (4:35 pm)

      I am delighted to live in a place where people seem to be willing to pay for infrastructure and services we need vs. someplace like Kansas where that is not the case.

    • prayforrain July 15, 2016 (6:15 pm)

      Let me guess, you were against the initial light rail running from the airport to downtown, right?  

  • Bob July 15, 2016 (4:05 pm)

    No to any home tax increase.  So unfair to tax a certain group.  If should b illegal 

    • WSB July 15, 2016 (4:14 pm)

      As mentioned twice above, this is part property tax, part sales tax, part vehicle tax. That hits pretty much everyone.

  • Space Dust July 15, 2016 (7:42 pm)

    It’s only Money, you can make more by working longer days.  Seattle has made a mess with high density housing and now what’s the home owners and car owners to pay for this… it’s $8.00 per thousand on your car and $3.00 per thousand on your house. So If this passes.. Guess I’ll have to week one Saturday a month just to pay for something I’ll NEVER use.

  • WD fundie July 15, 2016 (7:59 pm)

    Transit doesn’t reduce traffic. Ever. Google it.

    While I selfishly like the idea of rail to west Seattle, I also realize the reality. C line buses are embarassingly emtpy in reverse peak directions. No one commutes TO Seattle, which urban rail needs to make sense. Thanks to Dow, but this isn’t money well spent.

  • Norma July 15, 2016 (9:52 pm)

    Sorry, I can’t vote for any transportation proposal until something is done to bring Metro back to the neighborhoods so people can actually get to the rapid transit to use it.  

  • Marty July 16, 2016 (10:27 am)

    I gave up and moved. So far it looks like I made a good decision.

  • Question Mark July 20, 2016 (5:52 pm)

    SMARTER TRANSIT .ORG: “cities around the world are switching to special buses in special lanes that can carry thousands of people an hour – many more than light rail – It is called ‘light’ because of capacity”

    Sorry, this statement is a demonstrably false mish-mash of half truths and falsehoods that are transparently intended to confuse voters rather than inform.

Sorry, comment time is over.