Sound Transit CEO announces new operations group, other organizational changes

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Chief Executive Officer Joni Earl announced today she is forming a new department within Sound Transit devoted entirely to serving the region's growing number of transit riders. The department will increase efficiency and focus on serving customers by consolidating responsibility for managing operations of Regional Express buses, Sounder commuter trains and Tacoma Link light rail.


The changes are part of an agency reorganization that will position the agency to increase its focus in each of its three main priorities: passenger operations, capital projects and long-range transit planning. Additional organizational changes focused on improving agency operations and creating efficiencies include:


  • Sounder and Regional Express capital projects will be managed within a single department.
  • Real estate, contracting, diversity programs and other functions that support Sound Transit's capital construction projects will be consolidated in a single Project Delivery Support Services Department that will include the agency's quality assurance and project control functions. A new director reporting to Deputy Chief Executive Officer Vernon Stoner will be hired to oversee the department.
  • Security and safety functions will be overseen by a new manager under Stoner's supervision, with particular focus on working closely with federal, state and local agencies to respond to security imperatives facing transit agencies around the nation.

The changes, announced at today's meeting of the Sound Transit Board, will be implemented without increasing the number of people employed by the agency and within the existing budget.


Under the current organization structure, operations functions for different transit modes are spread out across separate departments, and Sounder and Regional Express each manage their own capital projects.


"Sound Transit started out in 1996 as an agency responsible for building an integrated transit system to serve the region," said Earl. "Today we're carrying an average of 31,000 passengers daily while we continue managing the region's largest capital construction budget in recent history and plan for the region's long-term transit future."


"It's a fact that daily service is becoming a bigger part of what we offer the public," said Earl. "It used to be that capital construction was our primary activity. It's still a huge part of what we do, but service is beginning to rival it. That trend will continue as we complete projects and increase service in coming years. My responsibility to the board and the public is to make sure the agency is well positioned to deliver."


"One of Sound Transit's key challenges is continuing to build our regional transit system serving 53 cities and 1,088 square miles in Pierce, King and Snohomish counties," Earl said. "Our region's future depends on mobility. With continuing population growth, more and more people will continue choosing transit as an alternative to traffic jams and congestion. As we move forward with Phase 2 planning, we will increase our focus on working with communities throughout the region to meet these challenges."


Sound Transit is currently updating the agency's Regional Transit Long Range Vision, which will provide a framework for the region to consider future phases of transit investments.


Sound Transit's daily ridership has grown steadily since the agency put its first express bus routes into service in late 1999. Since then, bus service has expanded to 19 different routes spanning King, Pierce and Snohomish counties. In September 2000, Sound Transit kicked off the popular Sounder commuter rail service with two round trips daily between Seattle and Tacoma. The agency added a third run to that line in 2002, and inaugurated one daily trip between Everett and Seattle in 2003. Last August, Sound Transit began operating its first light rail service in Tacoma, which has already carried more than 500,000 riders.


In the next three years, commuter rail service is scheduled to increase by an additional six daily roundtrips between Seattle and Tacoma, and by three additional trips between Seattle and Everett. Rail service between Tacoma and Lakewood is slated to begin in 2007. Central Link light rail will begin operating in Seattle by 2009.


The new Transportation Services Department will bring together staff managing the operations of ST Express, Sounder and Tacoma Link services, plus customer service, facilities, and service planning units, under the management of Marty Minkoff, Director of Operations. Minkoff currently directs the agency's Sounder department.


Agnes Govern, the agency's interim Chief Administrative Officer and former Regional Express Director, will oversee the consolidated Sounder and Regional Express Capital Projects Department. The consolidation recognizes that projects such as train stations, parking facilities, and transit centers are part of an integrated regional system. Examples of current Sound Transit capital projects that will serve both commuter rail and buses can be found in Lakewood, South Tacoma, Edmonds and Mukilteo.


Light rail capital projects will continue to be managed by Link Director Ahmad Fazel. The Central Link initial segment is currently under construction in Seattle's SODO area, with construction in the Rainier Valley to begin next month. This summer construction will begin on Beacon Hill and in downtown Seattle.


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