Last night at Diamond Knot Brewing in Mountlake Terrace, the Community Transit Now campaign kicked off its own Prop 1 effort to fund significant new transit service for Community Transit. For an agency that cut its service by 37% between 2010-2012, losing all Sunday and holiday service in the process, the confident mood in the room was a stunning and hopeful reversal.
Earlier this year, the big transportation package (Senate Bill 5987) included specific authority for Community Transit to levy an additional .3% sales tax, making it the only agency in the state permitted to impose a 1.2% sales tax. When combined with Community Transit’s current .9% authority and the .9% collected by Sound Transit, a passed Prop 1 would give most of urban Snohomish County (excluding Everett, anything east of the Snohomish River, and other outlying areas) the highest transit taxes in the state, a combined 2.1% rate.
Every day, 120,000 Snohomish county residents commute to work in King County, the 17th largest inter county flow in the U.S., and the largest on the West Coast outside of Los Angeles. Its transit needs are thus more asymmetric and peak-oriented than peer counties that don’t have such an imbalance between residents and employment. Low-cost housing comes with costs that are externalized elsewhere, and perhaps nowhere is this more strongly felt than with roads and transit. Excessive peak pressure requires lots of peak service, the most expensive kind of transit.
The state Department of Revenue estimates that the new tax rate would cost the average resident $33 per year, or just $2.75 per month. What would voters get for the new taxes? Quite a bit!
- SWIFT II, from Bothell to Paine Field via Mill Creek, to open between 2018-2020 with 12-minute service 7 days per week
- A possible SWIFT III, connecting Edmonds and Mill Creek to Lynnwood Link Station in 2023.
- A new route serving the SR 9 corridor, connecting Marysville to Mccollum Park via Lake Stevens and Snohomish
- Systemwide upgrades to frequency and span of service, especially off-peak, nights, and weekends. These improvements would happen almost immediately, by March 2016.
- More peak service to Downtown Seattle starting in 2017 or 2018, depending on the speed of new bus acquisition
The new authority would also nicely set the agency up for several rounds of restructures in 2021 and 2023. CT spends a ton of money on peak commuter service to Downtown Seattle, and recently allocated an additional $2m just to pay for additional congestion costs on I-5. Redeploying many of these hours by truncating routes at Northgate in 2021 or (likelier) to Lynnwood in 2023 could mean that CT would reap a huge frequency dividend that would reverberate systemwide.
If you live or work in Snohomish County and would like to volunteer or donate to this campaign, see the campaign website for more details. We’ll have more coverage of this campaign in the coming weeks.