The ballots have been counted, and Puget Sound voters have chosen to embark on an ambitious 25-year, $54 billion plan to finance light-rail, commuter-train and bus-line extensions throughout the region. While Pierce County voters rejected the measure, Sound Transit 3 (called Proposition 1 on the ballot) passed by large enough margins in King and Snohomish Counties that it passed overall. So now that it’s here, what does it mean?
In exchange for increased property tax, sales tax and car license tabs that begin Jan. 1, the Puget Sound region will get 62 more miles of light rail, Sounder train service extended south to DuPont, an expanded park-and-ride system and more rapid-transit bus service.
While residents naturally see this in terms of taxes and daily commutes, it’s a much different story with the roughly six million people visiting Pierce County every year. For them, it makes Pierce County more convenient, affordable and overall, more attractive a place to visit in several ways:
- The expansion of light rail from Seattle-Tacoma International Airport to the Tacoma Dome Station (estimated completion in 2030) will ease the transportation burden for visitors heading south to Tacoma and Pierce County. The benefit will be multiplied by hundreds when you’re talking about a convention that’s considering Tacoma as a host city. This alone helps put Pierce County into contention for hosting meetings and conventions that shuffle millions of dollars into our local economy. As we with other regional cities and destinations, this will level the playing field with cities that have advanced infrastructure and will give us an advantage over those that don’t.
- Once visitors and meetings attendees arrive at Tacoma Dome Station from the airport, they’ll be able to get directly onto the Tacoma Link Light Rail, which currently runs through downtown Tacoma to the Theater District Station. The line will be extended to include Hilltop and the Tacoma Community College area.
- By extending Sounder train service south to DuPont, visitors are able to take advantage of the emerging golf scene in DuPont, and spread their travel spending dollars further around the South Puget Sound. It also helps both visitors and locals bypass the often-cursed traffic surrounding Joint Base Lewis-McChord.
Pierce County has seen an increasing profile as a tourism destination over the last decade. Last year alone, visitors spent more than a billion dollars a year in Pierce County and generated almost $113 million in tax revenue. Further improvements to the transportation infrastructure of the area encourages more of the tourism that helps offset the tax burden of local residents for emergency services, schools and infrastructure.