I promise this will be the last post on this subject – for a while at least. Uh-huh from the comments says it better than I have, and I have tried:

Currently, KCM collects 9/10s sale tax, the maximum its authority allows. That revenue supports operations and some capital to carry 400K trips/day. This tax stream is entirely consumed for these purposes. For the sake of discussion, let’s assume that this operating model is sustainable, that KCM’s revenues will grow at a rate that covers cost growth, such that it is able to operate on its current scale for the next three decades. A big and questionable assumption, I know.

ST is currently at 4/10s, proposing to go up to 9/10s in order to finance ST2. (Let’s set aside the mvet for the moment, which disappears in 2028). ST’s financial plan assumes that all projects will be built within 15 years. If that happens, it further assumes that bond pay-off will be accelerated, and the sales tax will be rolled back to cover just operations and maintenance by 2036. The project rollback amount is the entire proposed ST2 tax, 5/10s.

That means, in 2036, ST can sustain (ie assuming capital replacement) operations of 53 miles of LRT, 750K platform hours of express bus, and 17 Sounder round-trips — generating comparable ridership to KCM’s 400K — for less than half the tax load, or 4/10s a percent of sales tax. And, ST’s rolled back 5/10s authority remains available for future voter-approved investments.

That, in a nutshell I think, is what people mean when they say rail is cheaper. Unless KCM has a way to operate the same level of service for less money in the future, the longer term financial profiles indicate rail is the more efficient choice

I loved the bus, and I ride it every day, but we shouldn’t be trying to use buses for what rail is better at. Buses are perfect as a feeder for rail, perfect for neighborhoods and are great for places where ridership is low. But Buses are not the best choice for trunk lines; rail is.

5 Replies to “From the Comments”

  1. This leaves out one major point: the taxing districts in question are of different size; four-tenths sales tax from Sound Transit generates much more than four-tenths sales tax from King County does. Tacoma, Puyallup, Lynnwood, Everett, Lakewood, etc are not included in Metro’s taxing area. So the comparison is not apples to apples.

    1. … or it would be without sub-area equity.

      Think of each subarea as their own micro-district with each area paying for its share of service.

    2. It’s true King County is only 75% of the ST district, but even if you sum the ridership of the three counties’ transit agencies – each charging 9/10 % – you get barely more than ST will get with 4/10 %.

  2. True, but it’s not like these regions don’t tax for bus service. We’re talking about percentages here – they should scale fairly well by area. Increase the area and you increase the tax base, but you also increase the ridership base by a similar amount.

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