Residents voice strong interest in regional transit expansions as agency begins update of Long-Range Plan

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Work begins on draft supplemental environmental impact statement

Sound Transit received nearly 12,000 public responses during an Oct. 25-Nov. 25 period for shaping the alternatives to be studied as the agency updates the Long-Range Plan for regional transit.

The Sound Transit Board today discussed the strong public response and next steps for updating the plan, which will shape ballot measures for further transit expansion following completion of the Sound Transit 2 projects that voters approved in 2008.

“Growing challenges getting around our region mean more and more people want congestion-free transit options,” said Sound Transit Board Chair and Pierce County Executive Pat McCarthy. “People want more service today, let alone two decades from now when our population has grown nearly 30 percent.”

During the Oct. 25-Nov. 25 scoping period Sound Transit held public meetings around the Sound Transit District and promoted comments via an online survey, e-mail and writing. Major themes of public input included:

  • Keep expanding high capacity transit
  • Build it faster than planned
  • The system should be easy to use
  • Support for specific projects and corridors around the region

The non-scientific online survey, which attracted 11,200 participants, reflected particularly high public support for expanding congestion-free light rail service, with 86 percent of respondents favoring light rail over commuter rail or express bus expansions. Respondents rated the importance of expanding regional transit services 4.7 on a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being extremely important.

Following today’s Board meeting, the agency will begin work on a draft supplemental environmental impact statement. The effort will study issues addressed in public comments, with exceptions mainly limited to proposals outside Sound Transit’s statutory mission, duplicative of those in the current Long-Range Plan or inconsistent with past voter-approved measures. More opportunities for involvement by citizens, jurisdictions and stakeholder groups will come in summer 2014 following the document’s release.

As part of the effort to update the Long-Range Plan, in the coming months the Sound Transit Board will receive updates on studies now underway of high-capacity transit options for a number of specific corridors, as directed in the Sound Transit 2 ballot measure. Information on work to update the plan will available at www.soundtransit.org/longrangeplan.

The current Long-Range Plan, last updated in 2005, is part of Transportation 2040, an action plan for transportation in the central Puget Sound region for the next 30 years. By the year 2040, the Puget Sound Regional Council estimates the region is expected to grow by roughly 1.5 million people and support more than 1.2 million new jobs. All of these new people and new jobs are expected to boost demand for travel by about 40 percent.

Sound Transit is on schedule to complete a 50-mile regional light rail system by 2023. These funded expansions and rising demand are forecasted to increase Sound Transit's weekday ridership from 100,000 today to approximately 350,000 in 2030.

In 2014 the Sound Transit Board will discuss whether and when to initiate a ballot measure for further expansions. The majority of existing taxes are committed through the 2030s for operating current services and building the extensions that are now underway. Any significant new expansion before the 2030s will require new revenue sources. Updating the Long-Range Plan will help set the stage to explore future funding options.