Still wondering if transit advocacy can have an actual impact on public policy? Last Thursday, when the Sound Transit board voted to adopt the new Long Range Plan the answer was made crystal clear: transit advocacy works.
Proof that our voices were heard came in the form of Sound Transit Long Range Plan Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement Final (SEIS) which individually responded to the hundreds of stakeholder, organization, and reader comments to the SEIS, and included a section with summary responses, the majority of which are directed at issues that were brought up by both Seattle Subway and, via our guest posts, readers of Seattle Transit Blog.
The biggest news for us in these responses to our comments is an about-face on policies related to driverless trains, a pillar of what Seattle Subway advocates for since our inception three years ago. We support driverless trains because they can lead to a self-sustaining operating system (as in Vancouver), which frees up money for even more transit. Until this response, Sound Transit solidly refused to study the technology, publicly declaring they would not consider driverless trains. However, their latest response says that driverless trains can be considered as long as it does not interline with the spine section or have at-grade sections. We continue to remain confident in the value of driverless trains (we’re getting close to the era of driverless cars, after all!) and believe that by the time an interlining opportunity comes up, Sound Transit’s perception will likely change.
Many of you echoed our championing of building out West Seattle and the Ballard Spur. The Sound Transit responses to West Seattle and Ballard were similar: they will not make routing decisions until the next phase (system planning) which is resource-constrained. Our contention is that the data given to the Sound Transit Board during system planning must contain ideal options in order to be considered, which is exactly why we began to give detailed feedback at this stage. We will continue to monitor the situation and will give feedback as opportunities arise during the system planning phase.
The response to our Better Eastside Rail article was similar to West Seattle and the Ballard Spur: specific routing decisions will be made as part of the system planning process. However, we break the Eastside out separate from West Seattle and Ballard because we think Eastside options need further development. Due to the scale of the rework needed to bring good study options to the table, we have concerns about timing. Any options presented to the Board should be worth voting for in the ST3 package. Remember, the Eastside voted for ST2, but heavily against King County Proposition 1.
A surprising number of you (60) echoed our thoughts about the PSRC population numbers. Initially our stance didn’t seen to be well received, but people in a position to fix the problem read it and the point was well taken. Sound Transit’s response consisted of a mostly technical explanation of the model that objectively doesn’t work and concludes with discussion of making changes to the model used for ST3. However, since we wrote this article, we have met with PSRC staff and had some very productive discussions. Matthew Johnson will publish a more in-depth PSRC article soon, but the bottom-line issue appears to be related to the way population models treat designated regional growth centers (Ballard isn’t one). Despite the appearance of doubletalk, we do think ST and the PSRC are aware of the issue and are dedicated to making sure they get the best numbers possible in the version of these estimates that really matter—the ones that determine funding priorities and the service plan for ST3.
We have long supported an infill Graham Street Station, and many of you agree, evidenced by a petition with 776 co-signers submitted to Sound Transit. Their response has proved very interesting. Apparently Sound Transit’s board can decide to build the Graham Street or Boeing Access Road stations at any point, so long as funding becomes available in the North King Subarea. As you likely know, U-Link is finishing up $150M or more under budget and we wonder if that money could be used to add infill stations.
When we recently found out that the Sand Point corridor we referenced in our Let’s Build a Sand Point Crossing! article was in danger of being removed from the LRP for study we issued an action alert and a lot of you responded. Due to the the leadership of Councilmember O’Brien and Mayor Murray and with the help of ST staff, the corridor is now explicitly included – it will be studied when an additional Lake Washington crossing is considered. We think that study will show that it is a better rail crossing than 520.
We want to thank Sound Transit staff and board for listening to the public and thank the members of this community for substantive policy discussions. Your efforts supporting Seattle Subway truly have real world dividends. Thank you.
If you would like to help Seattle Subway or there are things you think we could be doing better we invite you to come get involved. We are an all volunteer organization and strive to be non-exclusive. Come help us make a difference for the future of Seattle.