JASON RANTZ

Rantz: Sound Transit spent over $850K tax dollars on party no one asked for

May 13, 2016, 11:15 AM | Updated: 1:12 pm
Sound transit party...
Seattle Mayor Ed Murray celebrates the grand opening of Sound Transit's light rail extension Saturday. (City of Seattle)
(City of Seattle)

Sound Transit and the City of Seattle put forth considerable energy convincing voters to approve light rail through the region and fork over considerable tax dollars to pay for it. So when new stations opened up at Capitol Hill and the University of Washington this year it was greeted with an all out party. It may come as a shock, however, that Sound Transit spent more than $850,000 just for that party.

Mike Lindblom of The Seattle Times has discovered that Seattle taxpayers spent $28,000 to buy Sound Transit tote bags to pass out to riders (and, eventually, land in some closet somewhere forever unused). Taxpayers gave Sound Transit $5,000 for chrome-colored paper trains and $13,000 for fare-card holders and lanyards.

Related: Sound Transit to add longer trains to keep up with growing demand

But that’s not all. Taxpayers spent a staggering $260,200 on event management that took over the course of a year. I was at opening day on Capitol Hill. It’s laughable that this took over a year to plan. It looked like a less exciting and watered-down version of your typical Farmer’s Market, with booths and activists complaining about the cost of a light rail ride. (It’s Seattle; of course there were complainers).

In all, the grand-opening party cost us all $858,379. This is a huge contrast to WSDOT finding private funders to pay for the opening of 520 floating bridge party.

Now, of course, Sound Transit argues this was absolutely necessary and they already recouped our investment (that we didn’t ask for).

“The launch of a system is a key moment to establish its presence and benefits to a population, so we really wanted to come out of the chute with high ridership,” said spokesman Geoff Patrick to Lindblom.

This makes no sense. You didn’t need to spend nearly a million dollars on an opening day ceremony. The entire argument all along was that the neighborhood would have used this; that they knew the benefit already.

Photos: Seattle’s new light rail stations open

“Supposedly the riders are there,” Smarter Transit co-founder Maggie Fimia told the Times. “That’s why they built these stations, that’s why they build light rail. So you actually have to throw a big party to get them to show up? It doesn’t make sense.”

Let’s never accuse city transit leaders and agencies of making sense, though. Want to know why it’s so easy to spend money like this if you’re Sound Transit? It’s not their money. It’s ours. When you spend other people’s money with no consequences, it makes it really easy to buy lanyards no one wants and tote bags no one will use. I just wonder how much of the billions Sound Transit is asking for in ST3 that will go to parties no one needs.

Jason Rantz on AM 770 KTTH
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Rantz: Sound Transit spent over $850K tax dollars on party no one asked for