Light rail and housing affordability

Image Source: Enterprise Community Partners

Last night, Sound Transit presented its draft Sound Transit 3 plan to a packed house at Everett Station. The “ST3” plan includes transit improvements that would be funded through a ballot measure this November, including a light rail connection from Lynnwood to Everett.

While the Lynnwood extension funded through ST2 is scheduled to open in 2023, the extension from Lynnwood to Everett will not open until 2041 under the draft plan, prioritized behind connections from Ballard and West Seattle to Downtown Seattle. At last night’s open house, many local residents and elected officials voiced the need to accelerate this timeline, and prioritize the regional “spine” from Everett to Tacoma. There are several proposals in the works to improve the timeline by as much as 10 years, depending on different options to reach Paine Field. An initiative called “Light Rail to Everett” has also come out of the Economic Alliance of Snohomish County to advance this effort.  You have until Friday, April 29th to comment on the draft plan before it is finalized in June!

Our growing region faces transit shortfalls nearly everywhere, and a great challenge in prioritizing future investments. In weighing these considerations, the relationship between transportation costs and housing affordability cannot be forgotten, particularly as it affects low income households.  While housing costs in Snohomish County tend to be lower than in King County, this is offset by higher commuting costs for many Snohomish residents. According to HUD’s Location Affordability Index, a family earning 50% of the area median in King County could expect to devote 26% of their income to transportation, while a family with the same income in Snohomish County could expect to spend 30% of their income on transportation. As traffic and transportation challenges continue to deepen over the years before light rail  and other transportation improvements are complete, we can expect these costs to rise.

More resources related to Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) are available in the planning guide.

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