The Seattle City Council voted Monday to take the first steps toward integrating the monorail into the ORCA pod, and annexing the unincorporated North Highline area, including parts of White Center and Boulevard Park.
The City of Seattle had previously deferred to the City of Burien on annexing the North Highline area, but residents voted down Burien annexation in 2012. The Seattle City Council was enticed to action by a state sales tax incentive program worth $5 million for 10 years, that would expire if the City didn’t take an initial action of intent by the end of the year. Councilmember Tom Rasmussen described the resolution as a “placeholder”, in case the City decided to move forward with annexation. The council passed the resolution 8-0. Annexation doesn’t quite solve the Route 120 problem but it gets us closer. The earliest White Center could vote on being annexed by Seattle would be 2016. White Center Now has more in-depth coverage.
The council also passed the bill containing the substitute version of the monorail concession contract, which was made available Friday, between the City and Seattle Monorail Services, 8-0. Thom Ditty, General Manager of Seattle Monorail Services, proclaimed that the new contract “puts the City in the driver’s seat on the ORCA pass.” Councilmember O’Brien asked the resolution sponsor, Councilmember Tom Rasmussen, whether it was his intent to include transfers and passes in the ORCA integration. Rasmussen repeated his previous refrain that he wanted the fare system to be “as convenient as possible, in all possible ways”.
Rasmussen explained why the study called for in the resolution wouldn’t be due until the end of the second quarter in 2015: The monorail needs a sponsor among the seven member agencies of the ORCA Joint Board, and the support of the rest, in order to participate as an affiliate.
The section added Friday in the contract contains a fallback plan in case the study shows fare integration to be a money loser for Seattle Monorail Services: The City and SMS can negotiate mitigation, and if negotiations fail that terminates the contract.
In a final charm offensive, the SMS team had in tow Kelly Pearson, Chief Development Officer of Wellspring Family Services, who lauded SMS for being Wellspring’s charitable partner for the past two years, increasing Give Big Campaign donations by 45%.
Regarding the last-minute effort to get ORCA into the contract, Ditty said, “I’m glad it happened. I expect both ridership and revenue will increase.”