“Connecting neighborhoods with rail,” says the email message from Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn. The mayor talks up Sound Transit’s idea of rail from downtown to Ballard, not coincidentally during his campaign for reelection.
Seattle progressives love rail. They don’t have much of it, though, because it is so expensive. Sound Transit’s Link Light Rail, which is 13 stations plus about 20 more under construction, uses up most of the agency’s 0.9 cent addition to the sales tax. Coincidentally, King County Metro, which serves thousands of bus stops all over, also costs 0.9 cents on the sales tax. The difference is that Central Link Light rail is running at about 9 million boardings a year, and Metro runs about 115 million.
McGinn’s message says Sound Transit is asking the community where “regional high-capacity transit” should go next. The high capacity per dollar service is buses, but that’s not what he means. In government-speak, “high capacity” means rail. In that regard, his message says, “A transit package… could go to voters as early as 2016.”
A “package” means taxes. Already the sales tax in Seattle is 9.5 percent, one of the highest in the nation. It is a regressive tax. Do our progressive politicians really want to raise it? (And to say, ‘We hate to do it but it’s the only tax we have,’ means, ‘Yes, we want to raise it.’)