The upstairs of Hale’s Ales was packed on Wednesday, as well over a hundred people crowded in to hear Sound Transit CEO Joni Earl and Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn discuss the upcoming Ballard High Capacity Transit study. The room was a mix of STB regulars, agency staff, political insiders, neighborhood activists and interested members of the public. A show of hands before the speeches indicated the audience was overwhelmingly enthusiastic at the prospect of building better transit to Ballard.
After Martin’s words of welcome, Chuck Sloane from the Municipal League of King County announced that Seattle Transit Blog is this year’s recipient of the Best Government News Reporting award, which we’re thrilled to receive; Martin will have a separate post on that soon.
Our first speaker, Joni Earl, introduced the study by way of explaining ST’s previous and ongoing work in building out Link; the ideas of sub-area equity and the agency’s regional mandate, which have thus far operated to focus construction outward from Seattle to the surrounding region; and the crucial fact that any major new project by ST would require new taxing authority from the legislature, and in all likelihood, a public referendum.
Mayor McGinn spoke in more detail about the study. The only thing formally decided is the study area itself; essentially everything else — type of vehicle, alignment (Uptown versus Fremont) etc. — is on the table. The area is shown on this map, and includes Ballard, Fremont, Interbay, Queen Anne, and downtown Seattle. One of the primary purposes of the study will be to generate a set of alternatives, with estimates of construction and operating cost, ridership and other pros and cons for each. The first open house (in the more traditional format with presentations and posterboards etc.) will be held sometime in March; you can be sure we’ll announce it when we find out specifics.
The speeches were intentionally brief to provide maximum time for audience questions. As at many such public events, a majority of the questions were only vaguely related to the subject at hand (parking and traffic in Ballard, Sounder to Olympia, Ballard Sounder station, buses to Golden Gardens, Fremont-Queen Anne bus connections, labor disputes involving an ST contractor etc.), and to most others (What would the streetcars look like?, What about building another downtown bus tunnel?, How much is revenue is it plausible to ask of from the legislature?), the answers are simply not known yet.
I’m sure I’ve forgotten all the best questions and answers, so please chime in below with all the things you learned that I missed. Thanks to all of you who brought your questions and your enthusiasm; but particularly to our special guests, Joni Earl and Mike McGinn, and their respective agencies, who put this together; to our gracious hosts at Hale’s Ales; and to the donors who helped STB cover the cost of the venue.