I’ve really enjoyed the long-term threesome we’ve been having since we all agreed in 1995 to tax ourselves and build a regional mass transit system. But I can read the handwriting on the wall: You’re ready to call our relationship quits.
Pierce and Snohomish, you both voted nearly two-to-one in favor of Initiative 976, the statewide ballot initiative sponsored by human stain Tim Eyman to reduce all of our car tabs to $30 and gut our transportation funding in the process. According to Pierce’s local paper, you were “cynical about transportation funding” and “sending a message to Sound Transit.” You’d been dropping hints for a couple years now about how you just weren’t that into our sexy funding scheme that partly relies on taxing car ownership to pay for transit, which gets me all hot and bothered.
I’m sure cynically sending a message felt really good, but I’m here to burst your bubble. See, I already got off—big time—and now you’re missing your chance to feel the same transit-induced orgasm that I did.
Let me explain.
Between the first two voter-approved measures, Sound Move (1995) and Sound Transit 2 (1998), we’re well on our way to building 55 miles of light rail. We have 17 daily round-trip Sounder trains and 28 ST Express bus routes. While I wish we had more of everything, especially light rail, what we have is pretty great. As East Coast subway systems creak and crumble under deferred maintenance, our shiny new trains and spiffy stations are the envy of many.
I understand why you’re frustrated. I’ve been a selfish partner mostly interested in my own pleasure and not enough in making sure you feel good too. You’ve been paying and paying and you don’t have as much to show for it as you’d like. Sounder commuter rail from Lakewood and Tacoma runs 13 times per day with stops in Sumner and Puyallup, while four round-trip trains per day go to Mukilteo, Edmonds, and Everett. There are a few ST express buses up and down the I-5 Corridor. A rinky-dink 1.6-mile streetcar runs through Tacoma’s spruced-up downtown, though tracks have already been installed to climb up to the Hilltop District.
I have no idea why Sound Transit has given you such short shrift over the years. I wish we could wave a magic wand and fully build out Sound Transit 3 tomorrow—all 62 miles of it, more than doubling our existing system—but that would require using Chinese-style slave labor. Hell, I wish we could wave a magic wand and have built this damn thing 50 years ago like we should have when the federal government was footing most of the bill.
Back here in reality, what we have is a 25-year plan that will make it way easier and more pleasant to get around this lovely, albeit heavily populated, metropolitan area of ours pinched between mountains and sound. By 2033, you were slated to get Link service at Tacoma Dome, which would mean a one-seat ride to SeaTac in 30 minutes and downtown Seattle in an hour and change. Link will make it to Lynnwood as part of ST2 funding, and Everett by 2036.
But you voted no. And now you might not get anything.
Here’s the catch: I already got most of what I wanted. Link can whisk me to Pioneer Square so I can squeeze one out at Rain City Jacks. Out of town booty call? Link to SeaTac is a guaranteed ride to the terminal, no screwing around with the arrivals/departure clusterfuck. Got a date north of the Ship Canal at rush hour? I can grab some goodies at Babeland, then ride Capitol Hill to UW so fast it might as well be teleportation—a five-minute rocket ship—with Northgate extension well under construction. Hanky panky across the lake? I’m cruising on the 520 and I-90 bridge HOV lanes on an ST Express bus, watching East Link get closer and closer to reality.
Granted, Ballard and West Seattle, the two perennially dicked-over neighborhoods banking on ST3 to make their commuting lives less of a living hell, are busy burning the Tacoma Dome and Angel of the Winds Arena in effigy at Golden Gardens or Alki to curse you for your Election Day stupidity.
But meanwhile, you’re still stuck in traffic staring at ads for washed-up classic rock bands playing at the Emerald Queen Casino or snarled somewhere on I-5 around Marysville.
Ultimately, it’s your loss. I was more than willing to keep paying an inflated car tab to build your end of the system. I have no idea what the Kelley Blue Book value of my beat-up old Subaru is and I don’t really care. Every time I ride Link and beat the traffic, I sit back knowing my $358.75 per year is money very well spent and I would keep doing the same for you for the next quarter of a century.
Here’s what it comes down to, Pierce and Snohomish Counties: I already came and was willing to keep giving you a reach around, but you said no thanks and yanked away the lube. Fine, have it your way.
When our hot-shot attorneys win in court and get this whole I-976 bullshit reversed, you can come to my place for some makeup sex. But only if you take the Sounder.