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CEO Corner

Joni Earl

Our job is building a mass transit system that connects you with the Puget Sound region. As Sound Transit's CEO, I can assure you that everyone here - including our Board of Directors, staff and consultants - is committed to bringing you safe and reliable service.

Joni Earl, Sound Transit Chief Executive Officer

CEO Report for November 21, 2014


Second TBM launched  

The second Northgate Link tunnel boring machine is on its way south. The machine, nicknamed Pamela, launched this week from the Maple Leaf Portal near the Northgate Transit Center. It's heading towards the University of Washington Station near Husky Stadium where it will connect with the University Link line into downtown Seattle.

This is the second tunnel boring machine that is working on the Northgate Link Extension. The first machine began in July and has already traveled about 3,200 feet. The two machines are each digging 3.6 miles of new tunnels needed for light rail to run. Each machine weighs over a million pounds and is about the length of a football field.

The Northgate extension includes underground stations in the U District and Roosevelt neighborhoods and an elevated station at Northgate. Service is expected to begin in 2021.

Third quarter ridership

We saw significant ridership gains on our trains and buses in the third quarter of this year. Overall boardings were up nearly 10 percent, with Link up 15 percent, compared to the same quarter a year earlier. So far through September, we've had nearly 25 million total boardings on our trains and buses, meaning we're on pace to exceed the 31 million we had projected for the year.

Low-income fares  

The Sound Transit Board on Thursday approved a new reduced fare for low-income riders on Link light rail trains. The new fare will start in March 2015.

To offset the revenue loss from the new $1.50 fare, other light rail fares will increase by 25 cents next March. The new fare aligns with King County Metro's new low-income fare that also starts in March 2015.

The reduced fare will be available to adult riders with incomes at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty level. Sound Transit will provide the fare discount to riders who pay with special low-income ORCA cards issued by King County Metro or Kitsap Transit.

Othello Station apartments

The sale of a piece of Sound Transit property near the Othello light rail station will eventually provide 108 new apartments for low-income families. The Sound Transit Board on Thursday approved the sale to Mercy Housing Northwest for $1.9 million.

The site is on Martin Luther King Jr. Way South near Myrtle Street on land Sound Transit once used for construction staging. Mercy Housing's development will also include commercial space on the ground floor.

The Mercy Housing purchase is through a partnership with the City of Seattle's Office of Housing and the Rainier Valley Community Development Fund. Mercy has been based in Seattle for over 20 years and its projects include a 52-unit apartment for small families near the Columbia City light rail station and a new 62-unit family apartment development in Rainier Beach.

The agreement Thursday imposes long-term covenants on the buyer to develop and operate the property as transit-oriented development (TOD), which encourages housing, businesses and other amenities to locate near transit stations. Such smart development supports local communities and businesses and makes it easy for people to take transit.

2015 Legislative agenda

As part of its busy meeting on Thursday, the Sound Transit Board approved the agency's 2015 legislative agenda, which includes asking the Washington Legislature for the additional revenue authority needed to finance a potential expansion of the regional transit system. Any such expansion would require the approval of voters, possibly as early as 2016.

Sound Transit will ask the Legislature for broad authority that provides the agency the flexibility needed to develop a plan with the projects and services the public wants. The Board directed staff to seek legislation authorizing a mix of funding tools including an additional sales tax up to 0.5 percent ($.50 on a $100 purchase), up to 0.8 percent motor vehicle excise tax ($80 annually on a $10,000 vehicle) and property tax up to 25 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation ($75 annually for a $300,000 house). If that authority is granted, the exact amount requested from voters will be determined at a later date.

During the meeting, Boardmembers noted the public's strong desire for more high-capacity transit in the region to help keep the economy strong and to move people, particularly with another million people expected to be living here by 2040.

Mike Harbour, Sound Transit Acting CEO

The Sound Transit Board on Thursday:

  • Established a trust (the "Trust") under Section 115 of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986, as amended (the "Code") to be used solely for the payment of health and welfare benefit costs incurred by Sound Transit as authorized by Board-adopted budgets, and (2) authorizing the chief executive officer to appoint a third party trustee/custodian to hold Trust assets and a third party plan administrator to administer the Trust, and (3) authorizing the chief executive officer to deposit into the Trust an amount equal to the savings achieved by the agency's health reimbursement account (the "HRA") and use the Trust funds to pay future benefit costs, and (4) authorizing the chief executive officer to deposit into the Trust all or a portion of any budgeted HRA funds that have not been expended in fiscal years.
  • Extended the existing interagency service agreement with King County Metro through June 30, 2015.
  • Extended the existing interagency service agreement with Pierce Transit through June 30, 2015.
  • Approved a construction contract with Walsh Construction Company II, LLC to provide advanced utility relocation work in the vicinity of the Northgate Station within the Northgate Link Extension in the amount of $9,370,000, with a 10 percent contingency of $937,000 for a total authorized contract amount not to exceed $10,307,000.
  • Added contingency to the contract with Northlink Transit Partners, Joint Venture to provide additional design services during construction for the University Link Extension in the amount of $1,548,989, for a new total authorized contract amount not to exceed $64,616,668.
  • Adopted the Sound Transit 2015 State Legislative Program and directing staff to evaluate and engage in issues that impact the agency as it continues to successfully implement the regional high capacity transit system.
  • Approved the issuance of up to $1,330,000,000 (plus capitalized interest thereon) Sales Tax Bond, Series 2014T 1, to evidence the payment obligations of Sound Transit pursuant to a TIFIA Loan Agreement between Sound Transit and the United States Department of Transportation; approving the Loan, fixing the terms of the Bond, and providing for the delivery of the Bond to the United States Department of Transportation.
  • Approved a Fare Policy to establish "Low Income Adult" as a new Reduced Fare category
  • Selected an option to set fare rates for the low income adult fare category, and (2) superseding the fare rates established in Resolution No. R2007-06, Resolution No. R2010-11, and Resolution No. R2013-24 with the rates established by this action as shown in Attachment A.
  • Approved a purchase and sale agreement with MHNW 9 Othello East LP for the parcel at 6930 Martin Luther King Jr. Way South, Seattle, WA for a proposed mixed-use affordable housing transit-oriented development project for $1,900,000.
  • Approved an agreement of cooperation with the City of Seattle, MHNW 9 Othello East LP and Mercy Housing Northwest, to share information about the Myrtle Street Apartments, a TOD project at Othello Station, and creates a process for corrective action if the developer defaults under its loan obligations to the City or if the project falls behind schedule.