Prominent Bellevue Developer Kemper Freeman is speaking out against a new light rail plan in Seattle.
“Don’t get sucked in; it doesn’t work,” Freeman said. “It’s not the wave of the future. It’s the wave of the past.”
This fall voters from King, Snohomish and Pierce Counties will decide if they want to expand light rail all over the region. It's a complex plan that includes a sales tax, motor vehicle excise tax and property tax.
The project, known as ST3, would add 62 miles of light rail and serve new areas in the north, south, east and west. The price tag is just below $54 billion, with some of the work taking more than a decade to complete.
Seattle City Council endorsed ST3 Monday. Seattle City councilmembers and the mayor have all been vocal supporters of ST3.
“It has something for everyone,” Councilmember Rob Johnson said.
More from KING 5’s exclusive interview with Kemper Freeman on ST3:
KING 5: What are your thoughts on ST3?
Kemper Freeman: "I think it’s a major calamity. It’s nothing more than a 100 year old technology that’s been trying to reestablish itself. We already have, in the greater Seattle area, the 7th best transit system in America. Our system, without light rail, does better than any of the other 25 cities that have light rail do with it. Light rail is many times more expensive, and has a lot disadvantages over the system we already have. I’m not against transit, but I’m against spending money on technology that’s already done with. That used to be dominate in the country and it’s not anymore. It’s a political play…It’s moving forward simply because of rampant political donations they’re making to politicians who see it as a nice way to raise money for their campaigns. Meanwhile we’ll be paying for it forever."
KING 5: What are the problems with it?
KF: "The short speech on it – It takes too long, does too little and costs too much. It takes too long. This is a 25-40 year plan. In fact, the bonds that we’ll be paying for it go out 62-65 years.
"Then the second point, it does too little. The Puget Sound Regional Council shows that if everything they’re planning gets built, 25 years from now it will be one half of one percent of the transportation plan of greater Seattle which means one in 200 of us will ride it on a normal day. One in 200 is a half of one percent. Leave out completely that trips will grow one in a half to two percent per year over the next 25 years. So trips in the Puget Sound area are going to grow 50 percent and total trips per day on sound transit are going to grow a half of one percent in 25 years so it doesn’t even, if it were all built out, it doesn’t even service the trips that will grow in one year so that’s how bad it is.
"It takes too long. You add 25 years to anybody’s life and it’s closer to adding 62 years, 64 years which is how long we’ll be paying for it. It is just a way to spend a lot of money and do nothing for transportation. The benefits for it are so small that it’s impossible for the customer to even know that it happened. If you could have a half a percent take place by tomorrow morning it would be a miracle if anybody would even know the difference whether it got built or not."
KING 5: What do you think is a better solution?
KF: "There’s many other things we can do. The thing they left out completely, and PSRC left out completely, is the whole idea of autonomous vehicles and that means. Autonomous, the word means automatic, partially autonomous cars and other vehicles of all types will add 50 percent more trip capacity in 20 years to the existing road system. And that means for transit and for all other uses, vanpools, carpools, everything, to our existing road system. We have a choice between spending $54 billion plus on Sound Transit 3 and do nothing, and autonomous cars and other vehicles will do 50 times more, and will cost the government nothing. That will just happen. It’s a technology change that’s taking place underneath them and I think the reason they’re shooting the moon right because it’s their last chance to make a sale because everyone will soon know what I just said. They’ll know it’s true because it’s happening already."