By JEFF JOHNSON
One in a series of columns
on ballot measures
(Oct. 10, 2016) — Nobody likes congestion — whether due to a cold or due to your daily commute.
While passing Sound Transit Proposition No. 1 (ST3) is not a cure for the common cold, it is a major solution to reducing your daily commute time, freeing up time to enjoy your family and your life, while creating a huge economic stimulus in the Puget Sound region and tackling carbon pollution.
About 3.7 million people live in King, Pierce, and Snohomish counties — 52% of Washington’s population. But 67% of our state’s population growth occurred in these three counties over the past year. And it is expected that the region will increase in population by about 1 million people over the next two decades. If they all drive to and from work in their cars, no one will ever get home for dinner.
But seriously, we have the sixth worst traffic congestion in the country. The average driver in King, Pierce and Snohomish counties spends 66 hours a year idling in traffic. The cost of this congestion was estimated by Texas A&M Transportation Institute to be $3.2 billion a year or about $1,500 per commuter. It doesn’t take a math wizard to figure out that as our population grows so will congestion and the cost of congestion will skyrocket.
Proposition 1 goes a long ways towards helping more people avoid congestion and relieving us of the carbon and storm water run-off pollution it creates.
Proposition 1 adds 62 more miles of light rail to our existing system and increases bus rapid transit along 405 and SR 522. Proposition 1 will move people more efficiently from home to work and home to appointments. An additional highway lane can move 2,000 cars per hour during non-rush hour times and 700 cars an hour during rush hour periods. A light rail line with four cars can carry 16,000 passengers an hour in each direction regardless of rush hour. Building out our mass transit system will help all commuters get to and from where they need to be more quickly, while avoiding congestion, and freeing up time for other activities.
Proposition 1 also significantly lowers our region’s carbon emissions. It is estimated that when the Sound Transit system is built out 793,000 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions will be reduced annually. That is equal to the annual greenhouse gas emission from burning more than 89 million gallons of gasoline. This will make a significant impact on our efforts to combat climate change and provide cleaner air and water to the region.
Proposition 1 will also create generational jobs. With the average age of construction workers at over 50 years of age, three generations of construction workers will have the opportunity to work on this Sound Transit package. With about 44 million worker hours to complete the build-out over the next 25 years somewhere in the neighborhood of 200,000-plus jobs created during construction. This represents close to 1 out of every 10 construction jobs in the region. And more importantly, these jobs will go on during prosperous times as well as during recessionary times. In fact during recessions, employment and spending because of Proposition 1 will serve as an economic engine for the region.
Economists estimate that for every $1 of transportation dollars spent $4 of economic activity is created. Proposition 1 will be an economic boon to the region.
There is also equity built into the proposal in the form of Community Workforce Agreements which provides for local hire and training opportunities for community members and veterans, an affordable housing loan program, and funding for education programs in the region.
Voting for Sound Transit Proposition 1 (ST3) is an investment in our future. It is an investment in jobs. It is an investment in congestion relief and a higher quality of life. It is an investment in lowering carbon pollution and a cleaner environment. It is an investment that will benefit our children and grandchildren for decades to come.
Please vote to APPROVE Sound Transit Proposition No. 1.
Jeff Johnson is President of the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO, the largest labor organization in the Evergreen State, representing the interests of more than 600 local unions and approximately 450,000 rank-and-file union members. This is one of a series of columns by Johnson about state and local ballot measures for 2016.