Sound Transit Board updates regional transit Long-Range Plan

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More public involvement opportunities coming in 2015 to shape a Sound Transit 3 ballot measure

The Sound Transit Board yesterday updated the regional transit Long-Range Plan, setting the stage to begin work in 2015 on shaping a Sound Transit 3 ballot measure.  

"Our Long-Range Plan creates the vision for the high-capacity transit needed to increase mobility in the Puget Sound region," said Sound Transit Board Chair and King County Executive Dow Constantine. "Over the coming year, this plan will help us determine the projects to present to voters to move regional transit forward."  

Information on the updated Long-Range Plan (LRP) is available online. More than 24,000 comments and survey responses from across the region helped shape a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement that informed the Board's actions to update the plan. The LRP identifies regional transit expansions that can be constructed through future ballot measures after current voter-approved projects are complete.  

High-capacity transit investments are the best way - and in many cases the only way - to significantly expand transportation capacity in the state's most congested corridors as the region's population grows a projected 30 percent by 2040.  

"This action gives our citizens hope that they will have an alternative to being stuck in gridlock traffic. It takes us a step closer to connecting our region, from Everett to Tacoma to Redmond and points in-between, and connecting people to where they work and play," said Sound Transit Board Vice Chair and Everett City Council Member Paul Roberts.  

"We will work with residents and cities throughout our region to meet the high demand for more regional transit. In order to do this, the Legislature must grant additional local funding authority for voter consideration," said Sound Transit Board Vice Chair and Tacoma Mayor Marilyn Strickland.  

In 2015 and 2016 Sound Transit will engage with local residents and jurisdictions to shape a ballot measure for voter consideration as soon as November 2016. Sound Transit will seek the required local revenue authority during the 2015 Legislative Session that gets underway in January.  

A June 2014 survey reflects that voters see transportation and traffic as the region's greatest problem, with 85 percent supporting further transit expansions in the years ahead. Action by the Legislature to give local voters options to expand service is supported by 75 percent of voters.  

The LRP, originally established in 1996 and updated in 2005, emphasizes the regional vision of a light rail spine between Everett and Tacoma and all the way to downtown Redmond. Potential expansions added to the LRP include:

  • Adding potential light rail service from Downtown Seattle to West Seattle/Burien; from Everett to North Everett; from Downtown Tacoma to Tacoma Mall to DuPont; and from Downtown Tacoma to Tacoma Community College; to the Southwest Everett Industrial Center/Paine Field area; and from Issaquah to Issaquah Highlands.
  • Adding high-capacity service along Seattle's Madison Street; from State Route 522 to State Route 520 serving the Totem Lake and South Kirkland areas; from Puyallup/Sumner to Orting; from Downtown Tacoma to Parkland; and from I-5 to SR-522 in the North Seattle/Shoreline area.
  • Adding bus rapid transit service in Puyallup, notably along Meridian Avenue; and Regional Express bus service from Woodinville to Bellevue.

In addition to the above changes to the LRP map, updates to the plan also include a range of text amendments summarized at the above link. Text amendments include plans to study other projects, including potential high-capacity transit connections from the Issaquah Highlands to Overlake via Sammamish and Redmond; and across northern Lake Washington from State Route 522 to State Route 520, including connection options from Seattle's Sand Point area to Kirkland and Redmond or Bellevue and access and high-capacity transit options on Northeast 145th Street from State Route 522 to Link light rail.  

Other text amendments include emphasizing that capital projects and services will be designed and developed consistent with Sound Transit policies promoting transit-oriented development including market-rate and affordable units; sustainability; and accessibility to pedestrians, bicyclists, people with disabilities and riders of other public transit services; and supporting efficient, high-frequency, and accessible transit service to low-income and minority populations.  

Next steps
While working with the Legislature to secure funding options the agency will provide extensive public involvement opportunities through which the region's commuters and local jurisdictions will shape the Sound Transit 3 ballot measure.  

As this work moves forward, Sound Transit will continue an ambitious initiative to work with other transit agencies and the state to create efficiencies and stretch dollars by further integrating the planning and operation of transit services in the Puget Sound region. In September 2014 an initial Transit Integration Report documented the efforts that are underway, with initial work focusing on Sound Transit and King County Metro services.  

The Sound Transit District is home to 50 cities and more than 40 percent of Washington's population. Link light rail ridership has increased in double-digit percentages every year since the system opened in 2009. The latest numbers show that Link's average weekday ridership was 37,242 in the third quarter of 2014, 18 percent higher than in the third quarter of 2013.  

The University Link light rail extension, with new stations on Seattle's Capitol Hill and at Husky Stadium, is on track to open in early 2016, six to nine months early and approximately $150 million under budget. In 2016 Sound Transit is also on schedule for an early opening of an extension of Link service one stop further south from the airport, to Angle Lake.  

In 2021 light rail service is scheduled to open to Northgate. By 2023 Sound Transit is on track to extend service further north to Lynnwood, south to Kent/Des Moines and east to Redmond's Overlake area. These extensions, which total more than 30 miles, are projected to increase Sound Transit's weekday ridership to more than 350,000 in 2030.