Sound Transit forms new task force to examine operations

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The Sound Transit Board of Directors has approved the formation of a new task force to comprehensively examine how the agency manages its operations as more services reach maturity and new facilities come on line. The six-member task force, to be led by Sound Transit Board member and King County Council Vice Chair Dow Constantine, will look at current service approaches and search for ways to make the services more efficient and effective.

“To date, Sound Transit has mainly been planning and building a new transit system, with operations being a smaller part of our work. As Link light rail comes on line next year, the agency's emphasis will necessarily shift to operating the integrated transit system we have built to best effect,” Constantine said. “This committee will closely examine our current and planned operation of light rail, commuter rail and express buses to make that system as efficient, effective and customer friendly as possible.”

King County Council Chair Julia Patterson, Sumner Mayor Dave Enslow, Issaquah City Council Deputy President Fred Butler, Edmonds City Council member Deanna Dawson and Redmond Mayor John Marchione will also serve on the task force. All are members of the Sound Transit Board.

Ridership on Sound Transit’s regional system of Sounder commuter rail, ST Express buses and Tacoma Link light rail has steadily risen since the first passengers came aboard in 1999. Last year almost 14 million riders used Sound Transit services, a 12.3 percent increase over 2006. About 50,000 riders a day take Sound Transit services between Everett, Seattle, Bellevue, Tacoma and points in between.

The new Operations Task Force will compare Sound Transit’s current operational costs with peer agencies and review industry standards for operations and maintenance benchmarks. The group will seek out opportunities for more efficient overall operations costs, including an examination of current agreements with Sound Transit’s partners. The group will also consider policy options to address parking constraints at Sound Transit facilities.

Sound Transit expects to open Link light rail service between downtown Seattle and Sea-Tac International Airport in 2009. Construction is now more than 85 percent complete.

Expansion of Link light rail between downtown and the University of Washington is slated to begin this year and be completed in 2016. University Link is projected to nearly triple the regional light rail system’s ridership to more than 114,000 a day by 2030. Last month, the Federal Transit Administration awarded the University Link project its highest rating for proposed transit projects in the nation, and $100 million for the project was included in the Bush administration’s proposed FY 2009 budget.

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Sound Transit’s regional network of express buses, commuter rail, light rail and transit facilities connects communities in King, Pierce and Snohomish counties.