Sound Transit Citizen Oversight Panel Releases Year-end 1998 Performance Report

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The Citizen Oversight Panel (COP) appointed to monitor Sound Transit's performance issued its year-end 1998 report today. The Citizen Oversight Panel found that in 1998 the agency moved forward in all areas. COP also found that the agency stayed on mission and focused rigorously on meeting the schedules and budgets to which it committed. In presenting the report Steve Goldblatt, the Panel's outgoing chair, told the Sound Transit Board of Directors, "Sound Transit management and staff have been dedicated in keeping to the commitment to build a regional system, even as numerous local pressures to satisfy individual communities have emerged." 

However, he went on to say, budget constraints have become evident in almost every area of the agency's work and have begun to require adjustments to facility designs and service plans. As a result citizens and communities in some instances have not been pleased to discover that all of their expectations may not be able to be met. 

The Citizen Panel reported on some of Sound Transit's particular achievements in 1998:

  • The Link light rail division successfully met a very tight timeline and delivered its Draft EIS for the central Link corridor on time. 
  • Sound Transit completed its Service Implementation Plan for regional bus service and adopted initial policies on contracting with local transit agencies to deliver the service. 
  • The agency successfully negotiated a fare integration agreement and regional fare policy with four other transit agencies. 
  • Community-based technical advisory committees were formed and commuter rail station design began in Tukwila, Kent, Auburn, Sumner and Puyallup. 
  • Sound Transit was awarded among the highest bond ratings of any transit agency in the nation by Standard & Poor's and Moody's. 
Reid Shockey, the Panel's incoming chair, told the board, "We applaud Sound Transit for these accomplishments." He also noted that COP found some areas that needed improvement.

Sound Transit's relationships with a number of communities have become fragile and existing processes have not been as effective as they could be in articulating the regional mandate of the Sound Move program. As a general recommendation, COP urged the board and staff to be involved in a new proactive role in championing Sound Transit's benefits to the region. It also encouraged the agency to continue to work on its relationships and on strategies for involving communities and stakeholders and on developing improved skills as listeners and communicators.

The Panel also noted that in each of the three modes, serious fiscal constraints are emerging. Community expectations are high, scope changes are being introduced, and costs in some cases are coming in higher than originally estimated. Each of these factors individually is contributing to pressure on budgets. Cumulatively their future effects are still unknown, but COP urged the agency's management to provide early warning about emerging risks. And, it went on to urge the Board to exercise great caution in entering into future financial commitments. 

The Citizen Oversight Panel, an independent body comprised of 15 volunteer members from throughout the Sound Transit district, has been meeting for two years. This is its fourth report. The report's Executive Summary is attached. The full report including additional information on the Panel's members, its evaluation process, and its findings is available by contacting Susan Hellein at 206-684-1348. Soon this report will join COP's previous reports on the web at www.soundtransit.org.


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