The phrase,'Unsound Transit', was coined by the Wall Street Journal to describe Seattle where,"Light Rail Madness eats billions that could otherwise be devoted to truly efficient transportation technologies." The Puget Sound's traffic congestion is a growing cancer on the region's prosperity. This website, captures news and expert opinion about ways to address the crisis. This is not a blog, but a knowledge base, which collects the best articles and presents them in a searchable format. My goal is to arm residents with knowledge so they can champion fact-based, rather than emotional, solutions.


Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Prop 1 wont reduce traffic congestion despite its high cost

Costly plan won't do much to reduce traffic congestion

by Michael Ennis, Director, Center for Transportation Policy

May 30, 2007

Public officials are asking voters to approve a multibillion-dollar roads and transit package in November that would increase the current transportation tax burden by $286 per year, or 22 percent per family.

The unbalanced tax proposal combines two areas of spending. The roads piece, commonly known as the Regional Transportation Investment District, would fund about $14 billion in regional road improvements. And the public transportation portion, Sound Transit Phase 2, would spend about $23 billion more on light rail, bus and commuter rail service.

So if voters approve the ST2/RTID ballot measure, they will commit to spending $37 billion.

Sound Transit's share of spending represents a majority of the total package and does away with a balanced roads and transit spending plan.

What does a $37 billion tax increase mean to the average family?

There are five types of public entities that have the authority to impose and collect transportation taxes in the Puget Sound region. These are the federal government, state government, counties, cities and special districts created by the state, such as Sound Transit and the RTID.

Those agencies have a variety of taxing powers that are used to support transportation services. Most of those assessments, however, do not affect many people and therefore do not have a consistent impact on a household budget.

Other taxes hit family budgets more consistently and can be measured in a household transportation tax index. They include sales and fuel taxes, annual vehicle registration fees and the motor vehicle excise tax.

On average, a Puget Sound family pays about $1,257 in transportation taxes.

Both RTID and Sound Transit attempt to illustrate their "bottom line" costs, but without the perspective of how much we currently pay, it is not easy for taxpayers to judge the actual burden.

Further, the agencies' estimates are not always accurate. For example, the RTID's revised Blueprint for Progress estimates that if the combined package is approved, the average cost per household would be $218 a year.

But this assumes a vehicle ownership rate of only one car per household. In reality, the average vehicle ownership rate in Washington is 2.01. That means the true household tax burden for the ST2/RTID package is actually $286 per year.

So what does the public get for their additional $286 in transportation taxes?

The Puget Sound Regional Council estimates that Sound Transit's full light rail plan will carry only 1.2 percent of all commuters by 2040 and traffic congestion simultaneously will rise 300 percent.

To look at it another way, Sound Transit will capture only about 14 percent of the predicted 1.2 million people expected to move into the region over the next 20 years.

Sound Transit's plan to spend $23 billion to move one-seventh of the region's projected population growth by 2030 is not only expensive, it is not even enough to reduce today's congestion at today's current population.

Most assume the RTID will handle the remaining 1 million people who will spill onto our already congested roadways. But with only one-third of the funding, the RTID package is unbalanced and does not even provide enough money for the region's most pressing road needs, the Evergreen Point Bridge and the Alaskan Way Viaduct.

Sound Transit itself says its $23 billion package will increase the overall share of travelers using public transportation only from 3.5 percent to 4 percent.

In November, voters will have their chance to decide whether they want to spend $286 more per year on part of a plan that transportation experts already have concluded will not reduce traffic congestion.

The articles are posted solely for educational purposes to raise awareness of transportation issues. I claim no authorship, nor do I profit from this website. Where known, all original authors and/or source publisher have been noted in the post. As this is a knowledge base, rather than a blog, I have reproduced the articles in full to allow for complete reader understanding and allow for comprehensive text searching...see custom google search engine at the top of the page. If you have concerns about the inclusion of a specific article, please email for a speedy resolution.