Ready the Ballot Box: Seattle Wants Northgate-Style Light Rail Expansion Citywide
On Oct 2nd, thousands of Seattlites will flood three new light rail stations as the Northgate Link extension opens. While Seattleites will be excited about the new stations, almost everyone in the city seems to agree that neither Northgate Link nor the West Seattle and Ballard Link extensions funded by Sound Transit 3 (ST3) are enough Link expansion for the City.
A recent Change Research poll of likely Seattle voters found overwhelming support for an expanded Link: 76% would support a new transit funding measure to expand Link light rail, including 48% who ‘Strongly Support’ the measure.The most confident supporters of Link expansion could almost carry the ballot box on their own.
The poll reveals that 18-34 year olds support expansion at a whopping 90% (with 66% indicating strong support). Their monumental 90% support speaks to a clear fact: despite Seattle’s increasingly pro-transit voting history, we’ll be even more pro-transit in the future. And it’s not just younger people who support Link expansion; voters ages 65 and over came in at 71% support. In fact, of the 20 demographic groups evaluated by Change Research, only Seattle’s very small population of Republican voters registered net opposition to a new funding measure for Link expansion.
The evidence confirms what many of us have known for years: Seattle needs a citywide plan for high quality rail expansion and, though ST3 is a start, the system we’ll have once ST3 is done is a long way from “done” for Seattle. Seattleites are on board for good reason: Post ST3 nearly 60% of the densest neighborhoods will remain outside the reach of light rail and neither the City nor Sound Transit currently have a plan to resolve that.
- Seattle needs to produce a citywide Link expansion plan by early 2023. The current city plan is obsolete and Sound Transit’s plan is incomplete. Neither offers the post-ST3 roadmap that voters are demanding. If Sound Transit finalizes ST3 designs blind to future expansion, the choices made in the name of expediency will also be a premature death sentence to many voter-desired expansion lines (see article and map).
- The WA state legislature needs to give Seattle the funding authority we need before 2024 so Seattle can vote to fund expansion of additional in-city light rail lines that would be operated by Sound Transit. It’s true that other potential funding approaches exist: Sound Transit could advance a full regional ST4 measure (also requires additional legislative funding authority), or King County could propose a TBD (Transportation Benefit District) to expand rail. However, both appear unlikely. This leaves the Seattle-only approach as the most viable. Failure to act with urgency will leave many deserving neighborhoods forever locked out of future light rail expansion.
While there is a clear path to meet the public’s appetite for Link expansion, now comes the hard part: getting the people who represent you to listen.
When something is this popular with voters, why doesn’t it happen? The state refuses to fund transit and leans heavily on local voters in Seattle to fund all transit needs directly. Meanwhile, Seattle-area legislators have not united to demand an expansive approach to better transit as part of any future transportation package—recent proposals are laden with carbon-intensive highway expansion and ignore transit yet again. If the Seattle delegation of legislators unified to fix this, it would happen. Seattle votes are needed to pass anything at the state level. Either your legislators are unaware of how much Seattle voters want rail expansion, or they don’t care. We can fix the first part of that problem.
We need your help. Use this quick/easy form to contact your City Council and State Representatives to let them know that you want them to act now.