Everett Herald reporter Noah Haglund says Everett and Snohomish County officials are adamant that light rail must serve Paine Field, Downtown Everett, and Everett Community College north of downtown:
A letter [Everett Mayor] Stephanson sent to Sound Transit’s board Friday listed three destinations he believes light rail must reach in Everett: the Boeing Co. and other manufacturers clustered around Paine Field; the downtown transit hub at Everett Station; and the expanding higher- education district around Everett Community College at the city’s north end.
There’s overwrought language about “promises” and “priorities,” but ST studies suggest the vision Stephanson articulates would cost as much as $3.72 billion. My (optimistic) assessment is that Snohomish County will generate at most about $2.5 billion for new capital projects in Sound Transit 3. It’s fine to have a vision that exceeds your immediate financial resources, but their reaction is not to complete it in ST4:
Stephanson and other Snohomish County leaders are nervous, in part, because transit authorities have been talking more lately about light-rail segments to places such as West Seattle and Ballard. They’re worried that those destinations could come at the expense of Everett and other cities where people have been paying taxes since the 1990s based on the promise of the original plans.
This is a pretty creative reading of history. It’s fine to prioritize the light rail “spine” to Everett, Tacoma, and Redmond, but back when the spine construction was only in North and South King County, Snohomish and Pierce County officials had no interest in contributing to those regional priorities. Instead, they spent their counties’ tax dollars on ST Express service, Tacoma Link, and Sounder. That may have been a vote-maximizing decision that also improved transit outcomes, but it isn’t a single-minded emphasis on “the promise of the original plans.”
It’s mighty convenient, now that the Seattle sections of the spine are fully funded and the East King sections are very close to that, to now say that the region must subordinate all other projects to the spine. The case for more rail in Seattle’s inner neighborhoods is both obvious and strong, in both the electoral and technical senses.
There are non-ridiculous arguments for the core to subsidize the periphery. Seattle isn’t allowing nearly enough new housing to absorb growth, which is going to force a lot of people out into the I-5 corridor. It’s unbecoming for allegedly liberal richer areas to heartily object to a transfer of wealth to the poorer ones. It’s also true that North King residents have gained more than zero benefit* from ST Express while paying nothing for it. But the argument that Seattle spending its own money on its own needs is a violation of existing agreements and norms ignores everything that has happened before.
*though mainly the East King routes.