Last night, Sound Transit had the first of six open houses asking residents of the district: What do you want to see from Sound Transit next?
Sound Transit staff and Mayor McGinn both spoke about how this process works, and the mayor pointed out that getting a Sound Transit expansion package will also require legislative work – advocacy from us in Olympia. I wish there had been more people – between ST staff and the mayor, the presentation was the most complete explanation of how Sound Transit operates that I’ve heard yet.
The rest of the event was time for Sound Transit and consultant staff to talk to attendees about what they wanted, collect comments, and generally answer questions, much like most public meetings. They did some cool stuff, taking video of people answering questions, and working on a time-lapse of a big map on which attendees can put colored dots where they want transit.
There were a lot of good meeting materials – an overview from top to bottom of why Sound Transit exists, what it does, and how it plans. I haven’t found PDFs of the boards Sound Transit had up, but they have a very clear web page about the process.
Turnout last night was low. I think it’s difficult for people – even transit advocates – to really understand the steps an agency has to go through before funding and building a project, and so going to a “long range plan open house” doesn’t seem that exciting to many. The people who did show up were a cross-section of the most experienced and involved advocates in Seattle, there just weren’t many new faces. I hope to see that improve at the other events!
I think we’ve written about Sound Transit’s overall process before, but I’ve heard some specific misconceptions recently, so rather than a big explanation of how we get to ST3 and ST4, I just want to make a few points:
– The Long Range Plan is the big list of all the projects Sound Transit wants to build. It doesn’t mean they’re funded or even voter approved projects, it’s just the library from which they pull projects when sending them to the voters. They have to be in the LRP *before* they can be part of a ballot measure.
– The biggest projects that could be in Sound Transit 3 are already part of the Long Range Plan. Transit to Redmond, Issaquah, Everett, Tacoma, Ballard, Renton – most were part of the Long Range Plan in 2005. Planning work for them was in ST2, so that they might be funded in ST3.
– West Seattle isn’t in the Long Range Plan right now, as far as I can tell, but it’s in study. It’s worth noting that the ST board has some leeway here to study things outside the LRP, but if we want rail to West Seattle in ST3, this should be a clear reminder that we will need to advocate *heavily* for it, as it is much farther down the list for ST than Ballard. WSTC, you folks picked the right time to organize!
So what should really be in the Long Range Plan that isn’t? Here’s my opinion (in addition to West Seattle):
– A UW-Kirkland crossing at Sand Point, rather than trying to use 520. Sound Transit should at least study it, but they won’t without it in the LRP.
– An SR-99 or Greenwood corridor for rail north from downtown, paired with rail southbound to Georgetown, South Park, and beyond.
– Extension of the Ballard line north, then across the city to Northgate, Lake City, Kenmore, and beyond.
– Sounder to Olympia. Just as ST Express runs outside the ST district, Sounder could too, but we need to know the costs and benefits before creating the partnerships to fund it.
We should also absolutely advocate during this process for what should be in ST3 – it’s an opportunity to engage the ST board. Just remember as well that what we want in ST4 will need planning funding in ST3 – which means it needs to be in the Long Range Plan now.