Sound Transit Signals Little Interest in Changing Plans In Light of Car Tab Furor

‘A promise is a promise.’

Photo courtesy of Sound Transit

The Sound Transit Board of Directors Thursday showed little interest in changing course on how it raises money from car tabs to fund the massive Sound Transit 3 transit expansion. Instead, many board members argued that the primary focus of the agency should be delivering on the Sound Transit 3 project approved by voters last fall, not rewriting the tax plan that was also included in the voter-approved measure.

The board met at Union Station for the first time since car owners in the Sound Transit taxing district began receiving their 2017 car tabs, which features a hefty increase to help pay for the 25-year, $54 billion plan. While ST3 would have caused the tabs to increase in price no matter what, for newer cars the impact has been even greater due an outdated method Sound Transit uses to determine the value of a car. That’s left some driver miffed, and in some ways reopened the debate over the massive transit plan.

Republicans in Olympia and some taxpayer advocates want Sound Transit to scrap that method for a more up-to-date one that hews closer to the Kelley Blue Book value of a car. Yet doing so would cost the agency $6 billion, and few on the board seemed interested in exploring what such a slash to the budget would do to Sound Transit’s ability to deliver on the plan it sold to voters.

“A promise is a promise. It’s a contract,” said Fred Butler, the mayor of Issaquah. Auburn Mayor Nancy Backus, referring to the hard time suburban residents have getting to downtown Seattle, said, “If we don’t do these projects, it will take you five hours to get here in a few years.”

While crafting the ST3 plan, said King County Councilmember Claudia Balducci, “We got 40,000 comments. They said, ‘We want this system built and we want it sooner than later.’”

Several of the board members suggested that the furor over the car tabs isn’t as great as it has been made to seem. Butler said he’s “heard one person in my community expressing concerns.” Balducci added, “I’m not receiving much pressure at all.”

Not to say there weren’t some angry taxpayers at the board meeting. One man accused Sound Transit CEO Peter Rogoff of being as duplicitous as Donald Trump (ouch!). Tim Eyman, ablaze in a garish orange t-shirt that said “$30 Car Tabs,” threw words like “terrorizing,” “immoral,” and “avarice and greed” at the board. He warned the car tab furor would grow louder as more people’s annual renewals came up.

“The current car tab revolt is only going to grow. The current outrage is only going to intensify,” he said.

The board did pass a resolution directing Rogoff to negotiate with lawmakers in Olympia on car tabs, but the language made clear that Sound Transit remained committed to delivering light rail and other projects to Ballard, West Seattle, Everett and Tacoma on time. Kent Keel, mayor pro tem of University Place, noted that the resolution didn’t leave much room for actual negotiation, since it didn’t allow for any fudging on the cost, scope or schedule of the plan. Board chair Dave Sommers suggested, vaguely, that there may be other ways to work out the problem. But in the end, ensuring that Sound Transit doesn’t back off its ambitious plan seemed to be precisely the point.

More in News & Comment

The Centralia Power Plant is a coal-burning plant owned by TransAlta which supplies 380 megawatts to Puget Sound Energy. It is located in Lewis County and slated to shut down by 2025. Photo by Aaron Kunkler
Washington Coal Country’s Underpowered Future

As Puget Sound Energy phases out coal, struggling Lewis County is left searching for economic answers.

Maru Mora Villalpando stands outside of the Seattle Immigration Court after her first deportation hearing on March 15, 2018. Photo by Melissa Hellmann
Anti-ICE Organizer Stands Defiant at Her Own Deportation Hearing

Hundreds gathered in support of Maru Mora-Villalpando outside of Seattle Immigration Court.

Suburban and Rural Students Join the Call for Gun Control

What the National School Walkout looked like outside of Seattle.

Garfield High School students stand in silence to protest gun violence. Photo by Melissa Hellmann
Seattle Students Take Part in the National School Walkout

Garfield High School students pay tribute to the Parkland victims by rallying for gun control.

Issaquah will not be housing a supervised consumption site like the facilities found in Vancouver, B.C. Photo by Nicole Jennings
Reproductive rights marchers during the 2017 Seattle Pride Parade. Photo by Bobby Arispe Jr./Flickr
Seattle Abortion Providers Weigh in on Reproductive Parity Act

The newly passed state legislation will cover abortion services for private insurance holders.

A pro-immigrant sign at the 
                                2018 Women’s March in Seattle. 
Photo by David Lee/Flickr
Can Immigration Issues Be Fixed at the County Level?

King County establishes new commission to support immigrant and refugee communities.

Photo by Taylor McAvoy
No Longer Silent: Sexual Assault Survivors Push Legislative Change

Seeking systematic reforms, victims spoke up this legislative session.

Most Read