Here’s part of the famous “Paint is Cheap” speech by the head of the Federal Transit Agency in 2010:

“Riders often want rail – but you can entice diehard rail riders onto a “special” bus, sometimes by just painting the bus a different color than the rest of the fleet. Busways are cheap… And with signal preemption, you can move a lot of people at very little cost compared to rail.” – Peter Rogoff in 2010 and head of Sound Transit since 2015.

But busways don’t make anywhere near the money for construction companies, unions, bond counsels and developers. Please see: 1) Key Performance Measures and 2) Summary of ST Contracts.

For instance, in the analysis of ST Contracts we discovered that ST spent over forty million dollars on public relations, media and marketing – right before the 2015 vote for ST3.

While on the Metro Council (precursor to the King County Council for overseeing our transit system) we agonized over which bus routes to add to or take from knowing that thousands of people depended on transit as their only means for getting to work or the grocery store. A good ratio is Seventy five percent of transit dollars should go to service and 25 percent to capital. Instead, we’re building enormously expensive and environmentally irresponsible massive cement infrastructure while reaching a fraction of neighborhoods. If we really want to reduce the use of the single occupancy cars, transit has to get to as many neighborhoods as possible with fast, frequent, reliable, clean, safe service. And yes, you can attract denser development around bus rapid transit stations.

Our regional planning documents show that despite 72 miles of light rail line when finished, fewer than one percent of the projected 19 million daily trips in 2040 will be taken on light rail. These are their numbers not ours. You can find that study on the Smarter website: “Key Performance Measures.”

Who’s holding Sound Transit, our Regional Planning Agency: Puget Sound Regional Council (PSRC), the Washington State Legislature, The Federal Transit Agency (FTA) accountable? No one. Just like other special interest groups, millions of dollars are spent on donations to political campaigns by those reaping the most benefit from this enormous capital project. Meanwhile, bridges are falling down and roadways are not being repaired in a timely manner adding to the cost of maintenance and preservation. How many truly environmentally beneficial projects could be built with those billions, like more sidewalks?

I’m one of those folks who loves trains. I grew riding the subways in NY. I supported the first ballot measure for light rail in 1996. It never occurred to me that a “transit person” would not tell me the truth.

Enough is enough. Get informed. Ask your Local, State and Federal Legislators to start holding this enormously powerful agency accountable.

Maggie Fimia is a former King County Councilmember, Puget Sound Regional Council Transportation Policy Board member, and founder of SmarterTransit.