Sound Transit is the Western Washington “light rail” project, for which people in a large area of the Puget Sound (much of it out of reach of the choo-choo train for decades) pay a property tax, a sales tax, and a car-registration tax every year. The first leg of the train ran from downtown Seattle to Sea-Tac Airport, and that has been running now for a couple of years, with stations every couple of miles or so, I think (I pay zero attention, as I refuse to acknowledge that it exists). Additional track has been laid to the north end of Seattle, with stops in the University District and what used to be the Northgate shopping center before it closed. Construction is moving rapidly across Lake Washington to Microsoft and Google (i.e. Bellevue and Redmond).
There have been news stories in the past year describing equipment breakdowns (escalators not working, communication lines breaking and stopping trains); people getting hit by trains on surface streets, and the usual delays in construction. The government response to the Covid pandemic greatly reduced the numbers of people riding all forms of public transportation (by design, to keep them from encountering strangers), and ridership is still about 40% of pre-pandemic numbers. That has predictably led to budget shortfalls, and the agency has noted that with less money coming in, they can’t build as fast. Now, since Sound Transit has declared fare-collection efforts to be racist, they have been easing up on fare-enforcement, further reducing their available cash.
So today, on MyNorthwest.com, there are two stories by local radio hosts, about what is going on in the light rail cars. First, KIRO host Dori Monson points to the Sound Transit Rolling Drug Den, emphasizing the drug use by several apparently-homeless individuals. In his piece, he notes that the lack of fare-enforcement activity has led to the devolution of public transit into a mobile slum.
Next, KTTH host Jason Rantz has a piece on the Sound Transit Homeless Shelter, which overlaps with the drug denizens. I looked at this article, and the video which was sent to Jason has a “not available” message on it, so maybe YouTube doesn’t want to public to see it. Sound Transit, in their ballot measures which were both approved by slim margins, stressed the cleanliness, speed, and convenience of light rail, so people would abandon their cars and reduce traffic on city streets and freeways (which have always been horrible in Seattle due to its geographical situation between two big bodies of water). With these two stories, it appears that light rail is not living up to its billing, and actually seems to be living farther and farther down. But according to our two local radio personalities, Sound Transit apparently is ignoring the filth on its trains, and doing little to solve either problem.
And we, the citizens, are paying through the nose for infrastructure that didn’t work as advertised, doesn’t go where we need to go, and is being ruined for everyone else by the portion of the population whom the local government entities appear to prefer over the law-abiding, tax-paying public. Unfortunately, the people of Seattle rarely complain very loudly, since their complaints are usually ignored anyway. It will be very interesting to see what happens to the trains that go across Lake Washington to the tech hubs in Bellevue-will the Microsofties object to the homeless addicts on their trains? I’ll let you know what happens when those trains start running next year. In the meantime, I intend to stay as far away from Sound Transit as possible.
And the answer to the question posed in the title? Both.
[originally posted on the Member Feed at Ricochet.com]