Time to decide: Sound Transit kicks off public involvement on mass transit expansion options

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Public input provided over the next month on options for expanding the mass transit system will help determine how far and how soon the region’s mass transit system expands.

Starting today, residents throughout the region will begin receiving postcards inviting them to take part in the most intensive public involvement effort Sound Transit has undertaken. In addition to open houses around the region, community members can sound off on their views about mass transit through an online questionnaire and, for the first time, using touch-tone phones.

“With high gas prices and record numbers of commuters riding trains and buses, it’s time now to move forward,” said Sound Transit Board Chair and Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels. “Sound Transit needs to hear from you to make sure the region enjoys the mass transit system it deserves.”

The Sound Transit Board is seeking public review of new options for a future public vote on a package of system expansion options the agency would complete in 12 years. The new options for a smaller package would lower the costs of the Sound Transit 2 package that was part of last year’s unsuccessful Proposition 1 measure that outlined a 20-year construction plan. The 12-year options would cost 62 percent to 67 percent less than the total Proposition 1 price tag when factoring in the roads projects that will not be part of a transit-only measure.

Under this more incremental approach, designed to increase accountability, further expansions would go before voters as part of a separate election. Alternately, the Board could move forward with a larger 20-year package authorized through a single vote. Public input will help shape whether an election occurs in 2008 or 2010.

 

There are four ways to get involved:

  1. Review the options and answer a questionnaire online found http://future.soundtransit.org/
  2. Answer the questionnaire by phone: 1-877-263-3801
  3. Send comments by mail: 401 S. Jackson St., Seattle, WA 98104
  4. Attend an open house: 5:30 – 8:30 p.m., presentation at 6:30 p.m.

Open House Schedule

All meetings run 5:30 - 8:30 p.m.; presentation at 6:30 p.m.

Thurs., May 22: Lynnwood Convention Center, 3711 196 St. S.W., Lynnwood

Wed., May 28: Highline Community College, 2400 S. 240 St., Des Moines

Tues., June 3: Daffodil Valley Elementary School, 1509 Valley Ave., Sumner

Wed., June 4: Northgate Community Center, 10510 5 Ave. N.E., Seattle

Thurs., June 5: Meydenbauer Center, 11100 N.E. 6 St., Bellevue

Tues., June 10: Washington State History Museum, 1911 Pacific Ave., Tacoma

Wed., June 11: Everett Station, 3201 Smith Ave., Everett


 

The new 12-year options would achieve a 55 percent increase in the number of daily riders Sound Transit would serve in 2030. The new options center on a core set of investments funded by a sales tax increase of four-tenths of one percent (0.4 percent). Adding another one-tenth of one percent (for a total of 0.5 percent) would fund additional projects and services. The costs work out to an increase of about $55 (0.4 percent) or $69 (0.5 percent) a year for every adult, or either four or five cents for a $10 purchase.

The 12-year options would include funds for preliminary engineering, environmental review and early property purchase that would contribute to extending light rail to Everett and Tacoma in later phases.

Last year’s Sound Transit 2 plan called for building 50 miles of light rail over 20 years. If that plan were modified in favor of a 12-year approach, the new options propose that the expansions would include:

  • Link light rail: 18 to 23 miles of light rail expansions to the north, south and east, potentially serving communities including Bellevue, the Overlake area of Redmond, Mercer Island, Des Moines and Seattle’s northern University District, Roosevelt and Northgate areas. Connector light rail service would link Seattle’s International District, First Hill and Capitol Hill areas.
  • Sounder commuter rail: Increases of up to 90 percent in Sounder service between Tacoma and Seattle, potentially including 12 additional daily trips and platform extensions to allow longer trains.
  • ST Express regional bus: Service increases of 10 to 15 percent in key corridors, bus rapid transit service on State Route 520 and up to 20 miles of new arterial transit lanes.
  • Improved station access: Funding to increase access to transit facilities in Auburn, Edmonds, Everett, Kent, Lakewood, Lynnwood (including Ash Way and Mariner), Mukilteo, Puyallup, South Tacoma, Sumner, Tacoma and Tukwila. Projects will be tailored to the needs of each location and may include expanded parking; pedestrian improvements at or near stations; additional bus/transfer facilities for improved feeder service to stations; bicycle access and storage; and new and expanded drop-off areas to encourage ride sharing.
  • Partnerships for expanded transit: Partnership funding for Eastside passenger rail on existing freight tracks; as well as for potential extensions of Tacoma Link light rail and transit projects in Bothell, Burien, Kirkland and Shoreline.

Public input collected in the first quarter of 2008 showed strong support for expanding the regional transit system, a perspective mirrored in a scientific telephone survey of 800 randomly selected residents. The results are available at www.soundtransit.org/future.

Sound Transit’s system of regional express buses, commuter rail and light rail currently carries about 50,000 riders each day, a number that will more than double following the 2009 opening of light rail service between downtown Seattle and Sea-Tac International Airport. Construction of that light rail line is moving forward on schedule and is now about 90 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. The Federal Transit Administration has awarded the University Link project its highest rating for proposed transit projects in the nation, and the Bush administration included $100 million for the project in its 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.