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To learn about Sound Transit's current and planned projects explore the new System Expansion interactive map. This website is no longer being updated.

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Why don’t we already have a mass transit system like ____________?

9/9/2015

We hear this question a lot, especially from new arrivals familiar with sophisticated subway systems in large U.S. and European cities: “How come Seattle and the region don’t have a comprehensive high speed transit network already in place? Why are we so far behind?”

The simple answer is that regional voters didn’t allow us to get started until 1996, when Sound Transit was formed. As Leonard Garfield, Executive Director of the Museum of History and Industry points out in this Crosscut article: How Puget Sound’s Past Shapes its Transportation Future:

"King County voters rejected various mass transit plans in 1958, 1962, 1968 and 1970. Not until 1972 did voters approve Metro Transit, a regional all-bus system. And finally, a quarter century later in the mid-1990s, voters approved plans for light rail, which began to restore service that had thrived nearly a century before."

As part of their excellent series, Fighting Traffic, King-TV recently ran this comprehensive story that shows how Seattle voters’ choice to reject transit in 1972 sent $900 million in federal funding to Atlanta instead. That city has been reaping the benefits of our rejection ever since, with a 48-mile rail system that provides a quarter million congestion-free rides every day.

Says the director of MARTA, Atlanta’s transit system: “The people in Atlanta thank the people of Seattle for turning down the money that built MARTA.” And a regular MARTA user advises us, “If the opportunity presents itself again for Seattle, I would advise them to jump on board.”

Since voters approved Sound Transit in 1996 Sound Transit is on track to build 50 miles of Link light rail by 2023, opening new stations in this system next year at University of Washington, Capitol Hill and Angle Lake. Sounder Commuter rail carried 3.4 million passengers last year while ST Express busses carried another 17.7 million.

But there’s much more to do before our mass transit system serves everyone in the region with congestion-free transit alternatives. That’s where ST3 is focused.

Check out the interactive map on this website to see the locations and descriptions of ST3 Candidate Projects, and follow our progress in developing ST3 on this website.