Public tells Sound Transit Board: Expand the system

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Sound Transit Board hears more than 5,200 public comments on top priorities for improving transit service

Sound Transit Board members today heard reports on more than 5,200 public comments that Sound Transit has received since June. The comments fill a phonebook-sized log and convey a forceful message from the region’s residents: Expand the regional transit system by building light rail extensions and other key transit investments. The public also supports a balanced investment in both transit and roads.

“We offered citizens a way to voice their opinion and they took us up on it, in a big way.  People attended our meetings, explored our interactive website, completed our online questionnaire and filled up our mail and e-mail inboxes,” said Sound Transit Board Chair and Pierce County Executive John Ladenburg. “The response we received has been remarkable.”

“Understanding the public’s top priorities will be very helpful as we close in on a Roads & Transit package to present to voters in November 2007,” Ladenburg continued. “Thanks to these comments, and all the other contact we’ve had with the public, we have the information we need to offer voters a package that makes a major difference in people’s lives.”

A telephone survey of the region’s residents underscored the public comments’ call for transit system expansions.

Transportation remains the public’s top priority, with 52 percent of respondents identifying roads, transportation and traffic as the region’s most important problems. 75 percent responded that they would support a major package of roads and transit projects. 77 percent of respondents favored Sound Transit’s Maximized Rail Extension option, which garnering the highest support out of the three transit package options under review. 58 percent of respondents favored or leaned toward light rail as the most effective transit mode, while 33 percent favored or leaned toward adding express buses.

The survey of 800 registered voters was conducted by Evans McDonough Company, Inc. from Oct. 14 through Oct. 17.  The survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.

Sound Transit and the Regional Transportation Investment District (RTID) have worked closely over the past six months to solicit public involvement in identifying public priorities for the November 2007 Roads & Transit ballot measure. Approximately 590 people took part in a series of five open houses throughout the region. The more than 5,200 public comments came via mail and e-mail and at public meetings. Also included are responses to a online questionnaire offered through Sound Transit’s interactive Sound Transit 2 website.

Visit www.soundtransit.org/st2 for details on the each of the more than 60 potential Sound Transit 2 projects and the three transit package options that the board has identified for public review.

The public comments reflect strong support for additional transit investments and an extension of the light rail system as far as possible throughout the region.  People shared a strong sense that the region has waited long enough and are eager to make these investments as quickly as possible.  A minority opposed additional transit investment, for reasons ranging from concern that the options are too expensive to overall opposition to public transit and/or light rail investments. Among the themes expressed by transit supporters:

 

  • Puget Sound residents are tired of traffic. People clearly understand that an effective regional system will make a significant difference in their daily lives.
  • There is excitement and momentum behind light rail.  Most comments reflected preference for rail rather than bus service.
  • The top reasons identified for support of transit are to provide more ways to get around and to take cars off the road.
  • Comparisons to other cities’ rail and transit systems are frequent, along with opinions that the Puget Sound region is being left behind economically. 

Early next year there will be additional public outreach after the Sound Transit Board works in November and December to identify a draft transit package The three package options that have been the focus of recent public input since July 14 include:

  • Bus/Rail Extension: Extend light rail north from the Univeristy District to Northgate, east to Bellevue/Overlake Hospital and south from Sea-Tac Airport to Kent-Des Moines Road. Extend Tacoma Link light rail to Tacoma Community College. Expand ST Express bus service and build new transit centers and park-and-ride capacity at various locations around the Sound Transit District. Estimated 2030 daily light rail ridership (systemwide): 224,000. Estimated 2030 systemwide ridership after expansions: 302,000 daily and 92 million annually. This option is financed by a sales tax increase of 3 cents on a $10 purchase (Estimated $75 per year new cost per household).
  • Medium Rail Extension: Extend light rail north from the University District to Mountlake Terrace, south from Sea-Tac Airport to the Federal Way Transit Center and east to Bellevue/Overlake Hospital or potentially as far as the Redmond/Overlake Transit Center, near the Microsoft Campus. Extend Tacoma Link light rail to Tacoma General Hospital. Provide some expansion of ST Express bus service and transit center capacity at specific locations. Estimated 2030 daily light rail ridership (systemwide): up to 277,000.Estimated 2030 systemwide ridership after expansions: up to 344,000 daily and 104 million annually. This option is financed by a sales tax increase of 4 cents on a $10 purchase (estimated $100 per year new cost per household).
  • Maximized Rail Extension: Extend light rail north from the University District to Lynnwood, south from Sea-Tac Airport to the Port of Tacoma vicinity and east to the Overlake Transit Center or potentially as far as Downtown Redmond. Provide some expansion of ST Express bus service and transit center capacity at specific locations. Estimated 2030 daily light rail ridership (systemwide): up to 294,000. Estimated 2030 systemwide ridership after expansions: 351,000 daily and 106 million annually. This option is financed by sales tax increase of 5 cents on a $10 purchase (estimated $125 per year new cost per household).

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Sound Transit plans, builds, and operates regional transit systems and services to improve mobility for Central Puget Sound.