LETTER TO THE EDITOR: ‘Figures don’t lie, but liars figure!’

[EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is a Letter to the Editor, written by a Reader. It does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The SeaTac Blog nor its staff:]

Figures don’t lie, but liars figure!

Sound Transit has recently placed a referendum on the November ballot for their third tranche of funding called ST3, seeking a total of $54 billion on a plan that will last a quarter of a century. Frankly, this doesn’t seem like the best time to reach out to taxpayers for this kind of funding, when the state is desperately seeking funds for education due to a Supreme Court decision and the funding to address mental illness issues that are also starting to be addressed by the courts. It is obvious that Sound Transit itself is uncomfortable with the facts of this request and therefore has created an intentionally misleading tool, an “ST3 tax calculator”, to convince the public that the cost will be less than what it really is

I discovered this anomaly while comparing Sound Transit’s calculator against one released by the official campaign against ST3, People for Smarter Transit-NoST3. You can find Sound Transit calculator at http://soundtransit3.org/calculator, and Smarter Transit’s calculator at http://Nost3.com.


Click image to view larger version.

Sound Transit’s calculator requests 4 pieces of information: number of adults, pretax income, RTA and property value. The variable “# of adults” is actually not pertinent or required to calculate a household’s tax burden. The only reason why this variable is included is so that Sound Transit can divide the total results for the household to make it appear as if the tax is less than it actually is. The truth of the Sound Transit calculator is that for the taxpayer must understand the answer provided by the calculator must be multiplied by the number of adults input to arrive at the correct answer. This means that the calculator is presenting an artificially reduced calculation that the user must understand is calculated per adult and must perform another calculation on that answer to arrive at the correct answer. Wouldn’t have been more honest to simply provide a per household answer by asking for the entire household’s income, or all of the RTA’s paid in the household or the value of the assessed property owned by the household? Clearly the straightforward approach did not serve Sound Transit’s motives.

The calculator from Smarter Transit-NoSt3 provides significantly more information that will assist the taxpayer in truly understanding what they will pay for and what they are currently paying from prior levies. This calculator asks only for income, property value, and RTA and presents an accurate and straightforward picture of the total cost on the taxpayer.


Click image to view larger version.

The resulting calculation provides the taxpayer with the following information:

  1. The additional new yearly tax you will pay with ST3.
  2. The yearly total tax you’re already paying for ST2 and Sound Move (ST1).
  3. The grand total Sound Transit taxes you will pay: ST1+ST2+ST3.
  4. The grand total you’ll pay 25 over years with ST3.

The Smarter Transit calculator plainly identifies that (in this case) ST 3 by itself costs more than both ST2 and Sound Move combined, which you are already paying for. Also it shows the total amount of the new and old levy will be a 133% increase in annual payments. And finally, it spells out the total actual cost to the taxpayer over the “initial” term of the proposed levy.

It seems that Sound Transit itself is uncomfortable with the actual impact of ST3 on the taxpayer since they’re trying to hide what they are actually seeking to take from that taxpayer. This behavior is worrisome from a public authority that is requesting a record-breaking sum of money that will impact taxpayers and city governments in three counties virtually forever, since they can collect the tax as long as they are building, maintaining, replacing Board approved projects and paying off debt (bonds). Does the Sound Transit board not see the financial situations facing the state and the taxpayer or are they only interested in funding their legacy projects with ST3 so their attorneys, PR firms, construction companies, equipment manufacturers and other insider friends have a guaranteed pay check for the next 25 years (or longer)?

Growing up I was told that when spending money carefully examine the numbers, because figures don’t lie, but liars figure! By putting out misleading tools like the tax calculator, Sound Transit is intentionally trying to trick the public, while asking for an astronomical sum of money to embark on a quarter century of work after failing to deliver on previous promises. Until sound transit can function in a more transparent and trustworthy fashion, there is no way the public should support ST3.

Please calculate your own taxes using both Sound Transit’s and the People for Smarter Transit-NoST3 calculator and see for yourself.

Joel Wachtel

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15 Responses to “LETTER TO THE EDITOR: ‘Figures don’t lie, but liars figure!’”
  1. Chuck Darielli says:

    Anyone involved with this should never be allowed to travel by any other mode of transpertation

  2. Earl Gipson says:

    No way will I vote for this massive boondoggle.

  3. D Tapio says:

    Sound Transit is firing up their propaganda machine, spending millions on public relations firms putting out deceptive information to sway the vote.

    Most people in the taxing district will rarely if ever ride the light rail train but will be burdened by thousands of dollars in payments for something they will not use. By their own admission it will not relieve traffic congestion while there would be little money left in transportation to fix the roads.

    Rapid Ride busses are more effective, cost less, and offer route flexibility. The trains are great for the few that use them, but they rely on others to subsidize their commutes.

    • Mysty Beal says:

      “The few that use them”? My daughter and I pulled into the angle lake parking structure today at 1:00 and were barely able to find a spot! This form of “transpertation” was standing-room only when we left the airport station. Maybe you guys should ride it once before you dispense your ill-informed opinions. You bet I’ll be voting yes, because I like getting to Westlake in half the time and cost it would take if I drove and parked downtown.

  4. Glen Morgan says:

    ST3 is a Classic scam by a great team of con artists who expect to profit from the pain and suffering they inflict on the rest of the population.

    • Joel Wachtel says:


      Lets look at it this way, the parking garage on 200th street is a 1200 stall unit. It provides free parking, which means it will not even support its own maintenance, ever! Now if it filled up and brought 2 people to the light rail in each car that would be a mere 2400 people per day not nearly enough to ever cover the cost of the $55,000,000 cost of building the rail, not including the costs of trains, employees, maintenance, and security. Current ridership is nowhere near Sound Transits pie-in-the-sky projections! See: http://www.bettertransport.info/pitf/Linkpassengercount.htm

      “In this article there is a pie chart that clearly shows the issue. Metro buses easily carry the majority of mass transit riders. the article states:

      The pie chart shown next provides a comparison of Link Light Rail ridership for a strong recent month, July 2012 with the ridership for other modes in the same month. King County Metro clearly dominates the transit patronage picture. The comparison is somewhat unfair, because light rail and other rail services run on a single line, while the Metro Bus network covers all of urbanized King County. Central Link can be considered a single line in the King County Metro service territory.

      On the other hand, the $2.5 billion Sound Transit capital expenditure over a decade to construct and buy vehicles and equipment for the light rail line has vastly exceeded the approximately $100 million per year capital expenditure for Metro Bus equipment and facilities over a comparable time period”.

      So yes, for you and people on the line it is convenient, but as a mass transit option it is the most wasteful and inefficient use of taxpayer dollars. Enjoy your rides and parking from the new station, but remember, taxpayers in 3 counties who can’t ride your line are paying for it, not you!

      • Coffeecrusader says:

        Why are you conflating the idea that the ridership from this garage would pay for the expansion? It’s very confusing.

  5. Chuck Darielli says:

    Mysty for the amount the rest of us pay for your fun ride we could hire a limo and police escort to run you down to westlake. can’t wait to pay for your trip to federal way in 20yrs

    • Mysty Beal says:

      Well said, both of you – but I will always vote to invest in schools and infrastructure even if I don’t directly benefit.

  6. Chuck Darielli says:

    The light rail is no more than a luxury item for the few like those ever popular bicycle lanes that are so well used just someplace to throw that bottomless pit of taxpayers money

  7. Joel Wachtel says:

    I agree with you on education, but right now education isn’t being properly funded. The truth is ST3 is in competition with education and they planned it by running this initiative in an election year while the State is under a contempt order for not funding education. Why do you think Gov. Inslee refuses to release his “plan” to fund education until AFTER the election? Because if he announces a tax raise before the ballot, ST3 will have no chance of passing. The politicians are scamming us!

    So have fund with 2 tax increases and enjoy having seniors and our grandchild committed to pay for a system that will mostl likely be obsolete before it’s finished and remember, you were warned.

  8. Chuck Darielli says:

    It’s just typical of people who vote straight party

    • Mysty Beal says:

      Lame assumption since I voted for Kim Wyman over the Democratic candidate in last election. Since light rail now goes to Capital Hill (Seattle U ad Seattle College) in addition to UW, I am absolutely delighted as my kids may attend one if those schools. Guess we’re at different places in our lives with different needs, although I must count myself among the seniors you fear will pay for this.

  9. Coffeecrusader says:

    Not a very diverse groups of thinkers so here’s what I can add. Pls agree to disagree