After diligently ignoring the good news only the day before, the Times at least acknowledged the positive in the much more significant annual report of the Sound Transit Citizen Oversight Panel (pdf).
Find out more about the panel itself here.
The report is an outstanding, concise, independent summary of the state of the agency. Here are a few tidbits that jumped out at me:
- Despite troubles in the Beacon Hill tunnel, Central Link is still on schedule to open July 3, with Airport Link to follow on December 31.
- The panel singles out Mayor Nickels for his leadership in getting proposition 1 passed. Together with Senator Murray, he really is the politician most responsible for the region’s continued forward progress on rail.
- The Star Lake Freeway station has been scrapped due to budgetary limitations. That’s disappointing because Star Lake is the eventual terminus of South Link, and a clean connection with express buses would be really nice. Here’s hoping they find a way before 2020.
- Since the state has deferred the appropriation for its share of the I-90 HOV project to 2017-2019, East Link is in serious danger of being significantly delayed. I lost faith in Olympia a long time ago, but hopefully Joni Earl’s request to Congress gets somewhere.
- Although it isn’t the state’s fault, there are similar budget shortfalls that threaten Sounder extension to Lakewood. That’s also on Ms. Earl’s stimulus wish list.
- ORCA, though not an ST project, may slip beyond the July 3 light rail opening, and there are still security concerns.
- Prudent financial policy has largely insulated Sound Transit from any catastrophe related to the financial meltdown, at least for now.
- Operating costs are spiraling up quickly, but the panel is unsure if that’s an organic result of service growth or inadequate controls at Sound Transit. They hope to have answers by the end of 2009.
- The Express Bus service contracts with Metro, Community Transit, and Pierce Transit are up for renewal this year. Watch out for those three, especially Metro, to attempt a shakedown in order to patch their own budget holes.
- Tacoma and Central Link operating costs are a bit higher than we would like. Meanwhile, Sounder costs per hour are coming down and there’s scope for further reductions.
- ST is raising a significant security force. That’s good news to me, although the COP has some legitimate concerns about the way the plan was developed.
It’s been this blog’s position since STB’s inception that Sound Transit is a well-managed agency that provides the fastest path to achievement of our regional transit objectives. That remains the case, but obviously nothing is perfect, and it’s refreshing to hear constructive, informed, non-hysterical criticism of the agency that also acknowledges where things are going well.