Currently viewing the tag: "Puget Sound"

This is a really cool transit system. Leave it to those hip northwesterners to come up with a functional way of building and operating a regional transit system. The Central Puget Sound Regional Transit Authority – or Sound Transit – serves over 3 million people in an area of 3,300 square miles in and around Seattle, Washington. (In comparison, Miami-Dade County has a population of 2.4 million, and an area of 1,900 square miles).

Sound Transit, much like our own MPO and MDX, is a state authorized board that is responsible for connecting King, Snohomish and Pierce Counties using express buses, light rail and commuter rail (among other methods). This regional system is in addition to the local transit options throughtout the three county area (including the Seattle/King County Metro Transit System).

Sound Move: The Plan

I guess they have a similar problem in Washington State as we do in South Florida: accountability. They asked themselves: how can we invest loads of money into public infrastructure projects and not be hampered by political infighting, cost overruns or ineffectual management. Sound Move was their answer.

“In May 1996, the Sound Transit Board adopted Sound Move . The plan includes a mix of transportation improvements: high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lane access improvements, ST Express bus routes, Sounder commuter rail and Link light rail. The plan includes new community “gateways” — connections in urban and suburban areas for communities to connect to the rest of the region. Sound Move is a comprehensive regional transit plan made up of almost 100 separate but interrelated capital and service projects. The plan also contains commitments to:

  • Equitable revenue distribution. Local tax revenues will be used to benefit the five subareas of the Sound Transit District (Snohomish County, North King County, South King County, East King County and Pierce County) based on the share of revenues each subarea generates.
  • Simultaneous work on projects in all subareas. Work will begin on projects in each of the subareas so benefits will be realized throughout the region as soon as possible. Projects likely to be implemented in the latter part of the first phase are those requiring extensive engineering and community planning.
  • Coordinated services and integrated fares. Regional and local transit services will be coordinated and an integrated fare structure developed.
  • System expansion or tax rollback. Any second phase capital program that continues using local taxes for financing will require voter approval.  In the absence of voter approval of any plan to expand the system, Sound Transit will roll back the tax rate to a level sufficient to pay off outstanding debt, and operate and maintain the investments made as part of Sound Move.
  • Annexations and extensions of service outside the Sound Transit District. Sound Transit may provide services outside taxing district by contracting with local agencies. Areas that would benefit from Sound Transit services may be annexed into the Sound Transit District if citizens within those areas vote for annexation.
  • Public accountability. Sound Transit will hire independent auditors and appoint a citizen committee to monitor Sound Transit’s performance in carrying out its public commitments. Citizens will be directly involved in the placement, design and implementation of facilities in their communities.”

Sound Move Phase 1 planned for 80 miles of Commuter rail, and 25 miles of electric light rail, along with necessary park and ride facilities. They allowed the plan to change over time, but always aggressively pushed the development of the transit system. They followed through on these commitments and came back to voters in 2005 to establish a second phase of projects, called Sound Move Phase 2. This plan was sent to voters in 2007 bundled with a road building measure and was defeated. It has since been put back on the ballot for voters this November, and promises to build 53 new miles of light rail within 15 years at a cost of $13 billion. All using Federal DOT money and local sales tax.

In three weeks our commissioners will meet once again to make decisions on the future of our transit system. They will be considering funding for the Orange Line, fare increases, and the viability of the People’s Transportation Plan. They need to study the way that other cities and regions around the country are dealing with the challenges posed by mass transit (funding, management, operations…etc.) Look at Sound Transit: it serves a population comparable to our own, but in twice the area!

Sounds like a lesson our commissioners need to hear.