Most observers believe that additional Sound Transit taxing authority is inevitably attached to the larger state transportation package. However, some intrepid legislators have sponsored a standalone bill that provide enough capacity, given voter approval, to fund a substantial amount of new light rail. Were this bill were to somehow avoid the shoals of the process, it would separate the region’s self-funded transit needs from the ongoing debate about statewide taxes and highway spending.

The Senate Bill is SB 5128, and its counterpart is HB 1180. The Republican-controlled Senate is generally perceived to be the main obstacle to passage, obviously. In the Senate there are currently 20 sponsors, leaving it five short of a majority, which are all among the 24 Democrats.

These sponsors include every Democratic senator that represents part of the Sound Transit District, save Mark Mullet (D-Issaquah/North Bend), who told me via email that “Nobody asked me to sign the legislation but I do support it.”

The three other Democrats are outside of the ST District: James Hargrove (D-Port Angeles), Brian Hatfield (D-Aberdeen), and Tim Sheldon (D-Shelton)*. I have not yet asked them about their position.

The Democratic votes are not only insufficient on the floor, but by exercising next to no leverage on Transportation Chair Curtis King (Yakima), they cannot bring such a bill to a vote. That is not true of the Republican members who represent part of the ST District. I emailed Sens. Andy Hill (R-Kirkland/Duvall/Sammamish), Steve Litzow (R-Mercer Island/Newcastle/Bellevue), Joe Fain (R-Covington/Auburn), Pam Roach (R-Sumner/Enumclaw), Mark Miloscia (R-Federal Way), Bruce Dammeier (R-Puyallup/Fife), and Steve O’Ban (R-University Place/Ft.Lewis) to ask their position. Not one bothered to reply over the span of a week.

These seven senators — a few of whom are likely to have Light Rail or other major transit projects actually in their district in ST3 — are the center of gravity for such a bill. If you are a resident of any of these districts (check here), a handful of constituent emails and/or phone calls could make a big difference. If you are not, a note of thanks to your Senator (and a reminder to your House members to support HB 1180) is a gesture of often underestimated importance.

Furthermore, for the Olympia-inclined the House Transportation Committee will take up 1180 on January 28th at 3:30pm.

* Sen. Sheldon caucuses with the Republicans.

61 Replies to “Sound Transit 3 Bill in the Legislature”

  1. Here’s a brief phone list for those republican senators who have not signed the bill. Remind them when you call they were elected to govern, and their party supports letting voters decide how they will be taxed.

    Andy Hill (360) 786-7672
    Steve Litzow (360) 786-7641
    Joe Fain (360) 786-7692
    Pam Roach (360) 786-7660
    Mark Miloscia (360) 786-7658
    Bruce Dammeier (360) 786-7648
    Steve O’Ban (360) 786-7654

    1. Email to Litzow sent. I’m fine with trading support for a roads package, provided voters get to vote on the road funding as well. The price tag for Sprawl inducing roads seem to be what have killed most mega-packages lately. Transit, when allowed to be voted on, seems to do well, except for Metro in the burbs, of course…

  2. ST authorization was never going to be written into the transportation revenue bill. The deal was/is/could be that Dems/the House will vote for the revenue package so long as the Senate passes the ST authorization bill. Bill trading at its finest: you get more sprawl inducing-roads (with a pittance for multimodal tossed in), and we get your permission to tax ourselves to expand transit. It’s a crappy deal, but a deal that we will end up taking because we can’t lose momentum with ST (nor can we miss the ability to be on the 11/2016 ballot).

    1. Does the bill language allow ST to try again in 2018 or 2020 if the 2016 measure fails? Or is the measure so specific that if 2016 fails, we are stuck lobbying the legislature all over again?

  3. Even if you could pick off four more supporters (possible, esp if Hargrove comes around, but difficult), is there a good reason to think the leadership will let it come up for a vote?

    1. The key to the Republican majority is districts in the Seattle suburbs and exurbs. If those reps think it’s important enough, leadership would have to be pretty stupid to not listen.

      1. Yeah because those seats are very, very vulnerable. I, for one, will do ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to help them if they don’t at the least do two things:

        1) Refrain from obstructing Sound Transit
        2) Vote FOR letting voters decide on ST3

        I would prefer too… a vote on the highways package.

      2. But they can easily say “I support this, but I can’t force leadership to consider it” and probably pretty well insulate themselves from a good portion of the potential backlash. (It may even have the virtue of being true.) If this were merely a matter of getting a yes vote out of them, I’d be somewhat more optimistic about democratic pressure.

      3. “I support this, but I can’t force leadership to consider it”

        That’s what scares me………….

        The State Senate Rs are a null void to me. My State Senator is as rural as rural gets, doesn’t even use e-mail to directly communicate.

      4. The suburban Republicans, particularly those on the Eastside are key to passing this in the Senate. Litzow and Hill in particular will have problems at the next election if they are seen as blocking transit.

  4. Idea from Olympia, which used to use ORCA and then decided it was a losing proposition:

    Might help whatever help is necessary to give Clallam Transit System, Gray’s Harbor Transit, Jefferson Transit, Mason County Transportation Authority, Jefferson Transit, and also Intercity Transit into ORCA. Just to get these places and their reps a whiff of the bakery…..

    Also to work out communications between these systems to make connections easy. Intercity Transit misses by a few seconds an Airport transfer at SR512 Park and Ride on the 574. Inter-dispatch communications there could be a snap- and and least get some legislators’ attention.

    Know it’s neither fuel-wise of time-wise profitable, but maybe one hybrid an hour non-stop between the Capitol itself and the DSTT might also show we’re not gonna ask any favors in return for nothing. I-5 entrance two minutes from the Dome. With intercity service in Turkey and Ukraine (or Greater Russia) in mind, some window curtains, coffee, and stewardesses might make ST3 culturally attractive where seriously needed.


    1. Support this. We need a bus service from Seattle to Olympia to visit legislators. Why hasn’t such a service been done yet by Sound Transit when every few years we have to go cap in hand to legislators to save transit?

      1. a) Not just Sound Transit; but Metro, Island Transit & Community Transit have all needed to sortie to Olympia in recent years. If you can’t drive, it’s a PITA.
        b) Already Intercity Transit & Sound Transit provide a commuter service to Seattle. Just NOT in the directions Seattites & folks N of Seattle need to talk to legislators!!

      2. If people really want to extend Sounder to Olympia after Dupont, it would make sense to start with a regional bus route from Olympia to Lakewood (and then Dupont, if/when Sounder gets that far) to see whether there would be any ridership. Since it’s outside the ST district, it seems like something one of the county systems would need to champion.

        Anecdotally, I know multiple state employees driving from Seattle to Olympia every morning, and they are the ideal passengers for commuter rail: predictable schedule, etc. Although even if legislators supported the idea, it would be pretty easy for their opponents to paint it as a self-serving “politician train,” so it would be hard to convince them to spend any money to support it.

        As Sounder continues to grow, the reverse commute trips could start to become more and more valuable for commuters to Olympia.

      3. There are no morning Sounder runs from Seattle to Lakewood, and won’t be at least until the second track to Lakewood is built. Likewise, there are no evening Sounder runs from Lakewood to Seattle, for the same reason.

        Intercity Transit’s mobility grant wastes money taking passengers all the way from Olympia to Seattle (the 592) during Sounder hours, but it at least gives passengers the option of transferring to Sounder, if they are willing to pay an extra $1.75 each way. Holy perverse incentives, Batman!

        Intercity Transit used to display the (horribly untimed) connections between its Olympia Express routes and ST and PT routes, but no longer. Now, it just refers to its own TripPlanner.

        It is late in the game, but if ST wants lots of people going down to Olympia to lobby for Transit, it needs to provide two-way all-day service to and from Olympia during session.

      4. Well put Brent.

        ST needs to get a bus link to Olympia. Greyhound is unreliable. Amtrak Cascades is barely acceptable.

        This is about some fairness here……………

      5. I’m not sure what “fairness” means here. It is in ST’s self-interest to allow its advocates (a large chunk of whom don’t own cars) to get to Olympia without booking hotel rooms (which are generally already filled up during session).

        Just like CT pays for its commuters to go to Seattle, ST can pay for the riders in its service area to get to Olympia. Indeed, ST already provides out-of-district service to Gig Harbor, so this would not be without precedent.

        A heckuva lot of deadhead is wasted with the 592 not being 2-way, so why not turn that into revenue service?

      6. From the Amtrak station, it is only a 50-minute ride to the Capitol on the Intercity Transit 64.

        Greyhound has one trip from Seattle to Olympia in the morning, with return options at noon, 2:00, and 7:30. The price is reasonable. I’m not sure how well their buses handle wheelchairs, though.

      7. Brent, my problem w/ Greyhound is they have a tendency to publish one schedule… and operate on another.

      8. Twice I’ve had a Greyhound leave me hanging with 3-4 hours waiting…. I’m done w/ them.

      9. Brent, as to, “A heckuva lot of deadhead is wasted with the 592 not being 2-way, so why not turn that into revenue service?” I AGREE!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      10. The Gig Harbor trips, like the current one-way Olympia trips, are completely funded by an inter-agency grant from the appropriate local transit agencies.

      11. The grant only pays for the extension between Olympia and Lakewood. The 592 was already running and is paid by ST. The reason ST agreed to the extension was it had space on those 592 trips. As to why the 592 is running at all, or the 590 or 595, you’d have to ask ST. My guess is it’s limited capacity on Sounder, plus opposition by people who don’t want to pay Sounder’s fare.

    2. Those trips are not completely funded by Pierce Transit or Intercity Transit. The portion of the trips to Tacoma Community College and Du Pont is what is funded by those agencies, or in the case of the 592, the state, because IT asked. The 595 is clearly a sweatheart deal for which its uniqueness proves it is a sweetheart deal. Look up the 595’s performance numbers sometime. ST district taxpayers are heavily subsidizing Gig Harbor-to-Seattle commuters. But I digress.

      I don’t expect IT to help fund the other direction of travel on the 592 because it isn’t residents of the IT district who would benefit. I am asking ST to consider making the 592 two-way, especially during session, because ST would clearly benefit from that investment.

  5. What is the argument that legislators from outside Puget Sound have against ST3 funding authority?
    Could someone provide a link?

    1. I can’t provide a link, but I’ll offer a hunch. The interested parties are trying to
      “save” us from ourselves. Having a choice to tax oneself is almost as bad as
      other ‘choices’ that have become so highly politicized. (Then too, there is that
      ‘special interest’ of highway construction firms.)

      1. They’ve taken a blood oath against new taxes, and many of them view this as being the same as a tax vote. Facts and nnuance be damned!

      2. Ideology, highway lobby money, probably all true. But I think major motivation is exactly the same reason why Vladimir Putin is causing conspicuous international problems along Russia’s western border.

        Just about every state representative from outside the Puget Sound region, and especially from east of the Cascades, has for several decades had to constantly to answer for the fact that their districts have been in a permanent economic depression.

        Since these districts are still within the borders of a strong, united (worldwide, all our divisions put together aren’t even a scratch) country with three hundred years’ experience with democracy, we don’t have Putin’s misfortune-and also his excuse.

        Several thousand years of Russian experience would have left everybody here- indigenous or European- with the bone-deep sense of fear and despondency that makes tyranny more comfortable with than without.

        Horrible climate too. But the resulting Russian government always also has the problem of more energetic countries- like Germany- not only ready to invade them, but also a constant reminder to the czar’s subjects of how bad off they are by comparison.

        Like Putin, Stalin, and the other czars, our local transit-haters are desperate to use economic weather-changes beyond their control for their own miserable response to these changes. So for them, Seattle serves the same purpose as Germany- and its potential allies do for Putin.

        My own guess is that in very private, the West is currently trying to work out some kind of confidential Marshall Plan for Russia- since military danger aside, the conflict is already playing Hell with economies of all sides.

        To me, our best political move is the same: use our wealth and advancement to visibly help the average out-state constituency get its head above water. Like assisting firms to provide the onsite jobs and prosperity that our enemies visibly can’t. Bet my suggested little transit moves would cause deafening howls across the capitol inlet.

        But thing I like best about this program is the way its mention year before last made my own Democratic reps blanch sheet-white at the idea of messing around on other reps’ turf. Real showdown for all America’s politics now- including transit: not right versus left, but comfortable versus Nothing to Lose. Anybody reading this comfortable?


    2. One argument for it is similar to the argument against allowing unlimited school levies. If you allow that, then wealthy districts will have great schools, and poor districts will have nothing. So by limiting the amount that a particular jurisdiction can have, you force everyone to get the same thing (or close to it).

      The problem with that argument in this case is that no one is pushing for a state wide transit proposal. If they were, folks here would support it enthusiastically. Let Spokane, Yakima, Vancouver (WA) and other small cities have lots of good bus service, while Seattle gets some light rail. That would be great. But instead they offer nothing, but prevent us from raising money on our own.

      There really is no reasonable argument against allowing this type of funding. I suppose the “let’s save them from themselves” argument is about it, but that is ridiculous. That’s simply undemocratic, at a time when the state republic is offering nothing.

      There is no reasonable argument against this, it is only being used as a bargaining chip to get things that they want. Pretty disgusting, really.

    3. There were actually quite a few Dems who didn’t co-sponsor HB 1180, including a few in Seattle. The higher percentage of Dems supporting SB 5128 is probably a reflection of Liias’ effort, which would have been focused, first and foremost, within caucus meetings.

    4. Cosponsoring is not the same as voting FOR it. This is an optics issue for Republicans… some of whom named here are considering runs for Governor.

    5. I think it’s a mistake to think of people as narrowly focused on their districts. The Seattle suburbs (especially the Eastside) form an important part of the Republican Party’s intellectual and donor base.

      If you’re an Eastside Republican who doesn’t want any more light rail, but are represented by Cyrus Habib, you’re going to find a way to make your voice heard.

      1. Chris;

        The new WPC Transportation Director is less… rabid.

        Good man through and through.

        Skeptical about taxes, warming up to transit but opposed to light rail.

      2. Joe, is this new director “warm” enough yet towards transit to support widespread provision of bus lanes where it counts! not where it’s easy?

        Because if not then he’s no better than John Charles with his multi-decade “BRT” bait-and-switch.

      3. Anandakos, I’m about to take a multi-appointment trip to Seattle on transit business. Will check in w/ Bob for ya. You’re right, buddy – we need bus lanes.

        If WPC and others are going to champion buses in lieu of light rail, and grade separation is important to transit – then champion bus & HOV lanes. After all, one of the former WPC guys loved vanpools but I don’t recall him cheering on more HOV lanes for the vanpools.

    6. I think then Sen. Rodney Tom (R-Medina) can answer your question: “If you don’t link them, what happens is, once the transit crowd gets what they consider they want, the road package gets torpedoed, and vice versa,”

      It’s principally being opposed as a bargaining chip for Republican’s to get what they actually want, not because there is a substantive policy objection.

  6. Sadly folks your Republican friend have ZERO contacts in the State Senate.

    So it is vital STB readers reach out to: Sens. Andy Hill (R-Kirkland/Duvall/Sammamish), Steve Litzow (R-Mercer Island/Newcastle/Bellevue), Joe Fain (R-Covington/Auburn), Pam Roach (R-Sumner/Enumclaw), Mark Miloscia (R-Federal Way), Bruce Dammeier (R-Puyallup/Fife), and Steve O’Ban (R-University Place/Ft.Lewis) to ask their position

    I’ve heard rumors two of the first three are considering a run for Governor. In Republican primaries it’s usually a run to the Right not the centre and stuff like cosponsoring bills for Sound Transit doesn’t help their cause. That said, we need ’em to stay the hell outta our way and vote YES for final passage – if nothing else.

    So sweeten it up folks. You got me? Let’s get ‘er done!

  7. Does anyone know if Mayor “I have friends in Olympia” Murray has any type of relationship with the Republicans listed above?

  8. Probably should deny being serious about the Capitol/Convention Place Express. But while few legislators would likely either ride or tolerate it-any more than any young woman’s parents would tolerate her walking down a narrow aisle between legislators-a year of service would definitely have uses beyond PR:

    Olympia residents would immediately see proof that ST colors don’t need two hours to get to Seattle. And popular demand for another year’s service would be a valuable indicator to both public and legislators as to real chances for making transit “a uniter rather than a divider.”

    From direct current experience, I’m completely serious about a determined increase in fully-integrated service between northern Thurston County and the rest of the region. Plugging every system there into the ORCA system, and into each others’ communications and scheduling, isn’t large capital cost.

    And with van service at $40 a ride, the very low capital cost of creating a reliable Airport connection at SR 512 between IT Route 603 and ST Route 574, make this effort less of a brainer than torturing people is for Dick Chaney. Waterboarding? A half hour pre-dawn wet-weather wait at SR 512 P&R could prevent a thousand other 9-11’s.

    Transit politics? Short term, I think every minute trying for compromise is best spent working locally developing plans and funding. But I also think it’s absolutely wrong to consider- as our enemies would like- current State politics permanent. Look up “House Speaker Tom Foley.” Eastern Washington hasn’t been right wing for as many years as it was liberal Democrat.


  9. It’s important to remember that each of the Eastside Republicans represent just one legislative district, not the entire Sound Transit district. Even if we assume the naive assumption that politicians are looking out for the best interests of their constituents, it is perfectly rationale for a representative of a piece of the ST area opposed to ST 3 to seek to kill it in the legislature, rather than take a chance on a public vote, where his district might get outvoted by other districts.

    It should also be noted that, thanks to sub-area-equity, East King would be almost guaranteed to get the worst value for their money, among all the sub-areas, so, as much as I personally want ST 3 to happen, I can’t really blame Eastside Republicans from opposing it.

  10. It still baffles me that republicans refuse to understand that urban areas that improve infrastructure are the ones that generally more successful, higher-rated for livability, and continue to grow with high-paying jobs. If Olympia would allow Puget Sound/Sound Transit to build the light rail, that in itself will provide many good paying jobs for years and also provide the infrastructure to improve the entire region in those same terms. And then, with more people living and visiting here, there will be a huge increase in the amount of sales taxes that go back to Olympia and the rest of the state. It really is so simple but yet republicans just don’t get it.

    1. Of course they “get it”. It’s just that the “it” they “get” is the rich cream of King County’s tax receipts, which allows them to Bilbo their constituents with a “low taxes” message while holding Puget Sound taxpayers hostage.

      They are very aware — and very proud — of the con.

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  12. I’ve put in another e-mail to Senator King and his policy staff.

    If I don’t hear back by Thursday, getting on the phone to them.

    If that doesn’t happen, I will name & shame both the Senator and the staffers. Give you guys their contact info so you too can get on their butts.


  13. So would it be fair to assume solely due to political realities (and most certainly not due to need) that ST3 would be Link to Tacoma, Everett and Redmond, with UW-Ballard and West Seattle-SoDo/Intl District? Leaving a second downtown subway and Downtown-Ballard for later? I’d rather wait on Downtown-Ballard for ST4 if it means a better route (Belltown-LQA-QAH-Fremont-Freellard-Ballard) and grade separation than watering it down especially as UW-Ballard can handle a great deal of the load (although we do need both Ballard routes). ST4 could then maybe also be UW-Kirkland, West Seattle-Renton, Tacoma-Tacoma Mall and oh I don’t know, a branch to Paine Field (or alternate route via Paine Field)?

  14. Can or will someone thoughtfully respond to the Washington Policy Center analysis, by Bob Pishue, that Sound Transit has not delivered on the transit services already promised to be delivered at their current funding levels? I would appreciate any factual, rationale responses, not emotional or political rhetoric. Please provide links to any data you have to support your position. Thank you.

    1. Hi. Its Bob. Just trying to be fair. What is it that you think I’m being untrue about? I testified on the house bill? Await your comments.

  15. I hope that we’ll see an explanation as to why it was initially reported in the Seattle newspaper that ST 3 would cost $500, and at last week’s board meeting, it was $78. I think that Sound Transit’s feet need to be held to the fire on Sounder-North’s extravagant expenses beyond just having it as a repeating line item to look at in their Citizens Oversight (supposedly) Panel minutes. They should “fish or cut bait,” but so long as it’s somebody else’s money, this largesse continues.

    As for the other agencies, let’s require some accountability from them before throwing more tax dollars at them. Shouldn’t these agencies have: regular, independent comprehensive performance audits; audio and/or video of their board meetings online; staff reports online in advance of the meetings; agendas online in advance of the meetings; minutes online in a reasonable time after the meetings; and salary information online? Maybe if they did, more service would be on the road (Metro has saved millions with their audits and avoided ~ worth of service cuts), service wouldn’t be cut (financial oversight would have prevented severe cuts at Island), and salaries would be in line (see, for the size of Pierce Transit, the salaries are much higher at It’s costing us a lot to have a “I don’t want to be bothered” attitude.

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