Understanding the Sound Transit 3 Draft Plan

Posted on: July 28, 2016

As members and potential members of the Puget Sound community, it is our responsibility to make sure forward progress is always on our minds. While we all may differ in opinions for exactly how to achieve this progress, it’s important to remember that staying informed is crucial to making any positive change at all.

A major problem plaguing our community is the lack of efficient public transportation to mitigate our freeway congestion. With 800,000 new residents expected by the year 2040, the Sound Transit Authority has taken notice of our growing transportation problem, and started taking action in 2015. This initiative has now culminated in the Sound Transit 3 plan, and the impending public vote coming this November to approve its measures. As dedicated members of this community, we feel it’s our responsibility to educate as many people as possible on this issue and to offer you a summary of the how and why behind ST3. We’ll try and keep it as impartial, but also feel bound to shed our opinion of what implications the plan will have on future real estate in the area.

The expected increase to the Puget Sound area population is projected to cause further traffic issues and have potentially significant economic consequences. Traffic delays on Puget Sound freeways increased 95 percent between 2010 and 2015, and in 2014, cost residents and businesses $783 million. In addition to affecting residential commuters, we must also be aware of how the distributors of produce and other goods utilize our freeways to bring products into our lives. The economic consequences run far deeper than a few late workers. Our currently strong economy could be threatened as businesses and potential residents rethink the Puget area as economically viable. A lack of infrastructure to move goods and services can drive away potential income, and businesses may fear limited growth and becoming stagnant.

On June 23rd the Sound Transit Board voted to send voters a final ST3 ballot measure for consideration in November. Based on internal analysis combined with public input, ST3 plans to improve upon our existing light link rail system and add additional resources to regional busses. Sixty-two additional miles of light rail have been proposed, servicing 37 new areas. The current iteration of the plan also has things on a fast track, with light rail to Everett via Paine Field on track to open 5 years earlier than planned, and extensions to downtown Redmond and Federal Way to be completed four years sooner than expected. Bus rapid transit is to be expanded on I-405 from Lynnwood to Burien and on SR 522, with faster buses running every 10 minutes during peak commute hours. Busses will also be able to run on the shoulders of freeways when necessary. For further details on planned light rail or bus routes, visit ST3’s website.

As real estate professionals, we see this issue through several different lenses. First and foremost, as citizens who drive in the Puget Sound area, and drive it very often, we understand the need to alleviate traffic congestion. We’re not immune to heavy traffic and would be glad to see a reprieve. We are also in favor of eliminating vehicular emissions whenever possible. Second, because the real estate market and the local economy are so intertwined, we recognize the need to keep our community viable for new and existing businesses to thrive. Crippling the economy and driving businesses away would inevitably lead to an overall depreciation of property values, among other things.

On the opposite side of the spectrum, we understand the issue of taxes to homebuyers, as many look to areas with lower tax rates in order to save money in the long run. However, despite the plan costing an estimated $53.8 billion (which amounts to each resident paying an extra $200 annually or $17 extra per month), a survey conducted in April showed 65 percent of respondents strongly or somewhat strongly supported the tax increase.

With the upcoming vote in November, we urge you to take the information we’ve provided and expand upon it; look deeper into the issue and form your own opinion. According to the transit board forecasts, this project is expected to increase ridership to over 500,000 daily riders in 2040. It’s your job to decide if you trust in those numbers.

If you’re interested in knowing more about the ST3 project, visit their website or give us a call. We’ll be happy to explain in detail what effects we believe ST3 will have on the real estate market, and answer any other real estate related questions you have.

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