Rob JohnsonThough Sound Transit 3 won’t be on the ballot until next year, the recent elections will have a direct impact on ST3, shuffling 3 of the 18 Sound Transit Board seats. The current board will get one crack at the ST3 project list at a December 4th Board Workshop (more on this soon), but new boardmembers will be appointed early next year and will be highly influential in shaping the eventual ST3 package, both in critical board votes and (more importantly) in behind-the-scenes negotiation.

As County Executives are automatic appointees to the board, incoming Snohomish County Executive Dave Somers will appoint himself to replace outgoing John Lovick. Current boardmember Claudia Balducci represents the board as Bellevue Mayor but was just elected to the King County Council, and current boardmember and County Council chair Larry Phillips will retire next month, replaced on the County Council (but not the Sound Transit Board) by Jeanne Kohl-Welles. And that’s where things get interesting.

As a refresher, Sound Transit’s enabling legislation determines the board’s composition, with RCW 81.112.040 laying out the following criteria:

  • Automatic appointment of County Executives and WSDOT Secretary
  • The largest city in each county must be represented
  • 50% of the board must serve on another transit agency governing authority
  • Proportional representation from cities within each of the 3 counties

Given these requirements, here is the composition of the current board, and my best sense of what the 2016 changes will do to it:

Screen Shot 2015-11-05 at 2.11.15 PM Screen Shot 2015-11-05 at 2.13.54 PM

If Balducci remains on the board representing King County District 6 – Mercer Island, most of Bellevue, and parts of Kirkland, Redmond, Bothell, and Woodinville – she will ostensibly replace Larry Phillips as a County Councilmember and “member of a transit governing authority”, which opens a slot for a representative from a King County city. If, sensibly, Executive Constantine feels that the new Bellevue mayor should serve on the board alongside Balducci during East Link’s construction, that would effectively dilute Seattle’s representation heading into ST3, leaving just Mike O’Brien and Mayor Murray representing Seattle.

From a Seattle perspective, there a couple ways around this. One would be not to renew Balducci’s appointment, appoint the new Bellevue mayor, and pick either a Seattle city councilmember or a Seattle-based King County Councilmember. The other would be to let Bellevue’s representation run through Balducci and then select a Seattle representative. Among the options here are a slew of relatively uninspiring names when it comes to transit policy, including Jeanne Kohl-Welles, Larry Gossett, Rod Dembowski, (likely) Lisa Herbold, (likely) Bruce Harrell, Kshama Sawant, Debora Juarez, and Lorena Gonzalez. Better options might include Sally Bagshaw or Tim Burgess. But the best option of all might be incoming Seattle City Councilmember Rob Johnson.

Keeping Balducci while keeping strong Seattle voices on the board seems like the best outcome. This is just the beginning of this conversation, but it’s one that should happen in the open. The public should be advocating for a representative that is technically literate, well-versed in transit policy, passionate about the subject, and ready to make key ST3 decisions from day 1. Rob fits that bill, and it’d be great to see Dow consider him for appointment.

32 Replies to “Rob Johnson for Sound Transit Board?”

  1. It would be awesome if Rob was on the ST board over hella-disappointer Mike O’Brien, but don’t you think that a city wide rep should be on the board in our new district system? I think Tim Burgess should probably be the dude (and then John Roderick in 2017 when he beats Burgess for his seat ;D)

  2. I agree with this idea. I hope it happens.

    I biked home from downtown along Eastlake today and I was thinking about how great it would be to have an option to live somewhere the individually owned car was not the dominate method of transportation. I don’t mind driving and realize as you get older it is harder to walk and bike, but man alive our urban environment has been ruined by a choice we never really made.

    Road diets, protected bike lanes and dedicated right of way for transit, are the way forward to a better tomorrow. I hope Rob can continue his work in getting us there.

  3. I would prefer the Seattle Transit Blog had a regular commentor or contributor on the Sound Transit Board… or at the least able to sortie many a public comment ;-). OK?

    I know that’s a low bar but there’s something to be said for being Tip Of The Spear.

  4. The way the “Bored” is selected is one of the major reasons ST sucks. How does the Mayor of Sumner even have a say in how billions of dollars are spent shaping the future of transportation in the region? It’s no surprise we have a transit agenda focused on promoting suburbia. ST3 should be a measure that equates $$$ to decisions. Seattle ponies up major bucks. It should have a major say. Bellevue/Kirkland/Redmond combined also == major bucks. Sumner… Forget about it! Tacoma, you;’d think transit decisions would be about getting people into Tacoma instead of shipping employment to Seattle.

    Instead,, we get choo choo trains. And as far as anyone from B’vue being on the board… look at the East Link DT B’vue station disaster. The entire agency is just a money pit with no hope of doing anything sensible the way it’s currently structured. Liberal 30 somethings keep voting for it because they think spending money on something is better than not extracting taxes at all because then the money would just be spent on SUVs that cost as much as a house. They may be right :-(

    1. Seattle is 1/5 of the metropolitan area so it’s not surprising there’s a suburban majority on the board. And as long as subarea equity remains in place, Sumner is only competing with Tacoma, not with Seattle.

      A better transit authority would look at where people want to make non-car trips throughout the metropolis, and that would lead to a more Seattle-focused network like Vancouver or DC. But that would require a different mandate than what Sound Transit has, and creating it would require a legislature not dominated by suburban and rural interests. We can also look into the past to see why suburban interests are so strong and fragmented: it’s because of five decades of sprawl, and the halt in annexations that occurred at the same time. Serious sprawl got underway in the late 1960s, and it went into overdrive in the 90s and 00s.

      1. Indeed and there’s now a sizable Skagit County contingent that commutes to Snohomish County & Seattle jobs + opportunities. Skagit politics have gone more purple to blue as a result.

        If that isn’t a validator of your remarks above, then I don’t know what is.

      2. >> Sumner is only competing with Tacoma, not with Seattle.

        It’s not a matter of competing, it’s meddling. The “bored” has to approve everything everywhere and micro manages to death every project. Yokels like EnSlow get to spend way more money than their elected base would raise in a lifetime by being appointed to a ST position. Sub area equity only determines where the money is spent, not how,

  5. Rob Johnson does seem like a “good guy”. How do we get someone like this on the B’vue council?

  6. Has the idea that the ST rep from the council should be one of the two city-wide councilmembers been expressed anywhere other than this thread?

  7. Another Seattle guy who thinks that people outside the city are second class and subhuman? Why not? That is most of the board already.

    1. You must be talking about a different Sound Transit, perhaps in another universe. Most of the board here believes in “Spine first!” By the way, the Eastside was a beneficiary of that.

      1. The political class in Washington and King County think people outside Seattle do not matter.

      2. If the political class thought nothing outside Seattle matters, why isn’t the Ballard-UW subway approved already, and official plans for a Denny Way-Central District subway? Why are we talking about Tacoma and Everett?

      3. And if you say subarea equity prevents a disproportionate number of Seattle lines, remember that the political class created subarea equity. Vancouver doesn’t have subarea equity or suburban-dominated regional planning, so its transit network is focused where the most people and willing riders are; i.e., the city of Vancouver.

        From the article: “From a Seattle perspective, there a couple ways around this.”

        This is not ignoring the suburbs. This is Seattlites naturally trying to increase their own influence, and non-Seattlites recognizing that Seattle is where transit can most succeed. As for the south end (I tink you said you’re from Des Moines), there have been several articles on the need for a dramatic increase in South King County transit, which has both a large population and a large number of transit-dependent people. Aleks Culver proposed a revenue-neutral frequent network in south King County, and David Lawson has endorsed the idea and written his own proposal although he didn’t finish it. South King County voted against King County Prop 1, so they themselves degraded their transit service. And now Des Moines and Federal Way are forcing ST to run Link on I-5 outside walking distance of potential riders. Seattle politicians haven’t been asked what they think about increasing South King County’s transit service, but I bet they’d say yes. Especiiay White Center and the corridor to Burien, and Skyway, which are in Seattle’s direct interest because a number of Seattlites have moved there or frequently travel there. And Mayor Murray says he’s Mr Deal-Maker, and previously represented suburban interests in the state, and wants to represent suburban interests in the state again.

    2. I am not saying that the powers that be are not expanding in the south end. They are expanding as Seattle wants and not as we want.

      1. Considering the organized letters from South King cities mostly in favor of the current alignment, you’ll need to substantiate that statement. What do you claim South King wants, and on what basis do you say it wants that?

    3. A great example is the ST link station in Des Moines. The people in Des Moines want it on the I-5 station. The powers that be want on the 99 station. It is typical the Seattle powers say that we are to stupid to know what we need.

      1. Kent owns the east side of 99, and it wants Link on 99.

        The powers that be want it on I-5 because that’s where ST put it, without any opposition by a board minority or Seattle politicians. The transit intelligentsia, if you will, wants it on 99, but we are not the political class or the powers that be or the Seattle powers, otherwise we’d have more influence. We’ve been screaming for a NE 130th station too but that’s still not happening, we only got an “option” for a possible future station. As for Des Moiners being too stupid to know what they need, they’re thinking short-term and for a small number of people, and that’s indistinguishable from stupid because it leads to the same outcome.

    4. POLITICAL POWERS: (priorities beyond ST2 in order)
      – 1.: Link to Everett and Tacoma on I-5. (Possibly 99 in Pierce County.)
      – 2.: :Paine Field and Everett CC extensions. (Possibly Tacoma Mall.)
      – 3.: Ballard to West Seattle light rail.
      – 4.: Some kind of north-south BRT or light rail around Kirkland-Bellevue-Issaquah.
      – Last or unimportant: Ballard-UW light rail, NE 130th station, Lake City light rail.

      – 1. Ballard-UW and/or Ballard-downtown light rail.
      – 2. “Metro 8” light rail between Uptown and the Central District.
      – 3. Mixed rail-bus tunnel from at least King Street to Mercer Street branching both west and east of Lake Union; with RapidRide C, D, E and other routes using it; and BRT to West Seattle -OR- West Seattle light rail.
      – 4. Some want BRT from Lynnwood and Des Moines to Everett and Tacoma and other parts of Snohomish and Pierce Counties; others want light rail to Everett and Tacoma.
      – 5. NE 130th Station.
      – 6. A comprehensive bus network in Seattle.
      – 7. A comprehensive bus network in the Eastside, instead of “405 BRT or light rail”.
      – 8. Lake City light rail.

  8. In the alternative of a third member from the City of Seattle, Executive Constantine should consider looking at a number of the members of the Shoreline City Council, including Will Hall. Many members of the Council have been very supportive of transit and transit-oriented development (and other policies supported by this blog), and I believe at least two made contributions to discussions here.

    1. I’d like to believe and support this position, but the lack of sanity and common sense on the 145th vs 155th St question from the Shoreline political class makes it difficult for me to do so.

  9. Contrary to what was written, I have years of relevant pro-transit credentials, including having served for many years on the Transportation Choices Coalition Board and having co-convened the successful effort in 1996 comprised of 21 cities, towns and neighborhoods between Everett and Tacoma to gain voter approval of the RTA in 1996 following its defeat in 1995. Ballard voters were critical to the approval but still have not gained a station for HCT, having only been designated for a provisional heavy rail station at the time.

    I believe I should be appointed to succeed Larry Phillips on the Board as, once again, Ballard’s and Northwest Seattle’s voters will be critical in gaining voter approval of ST3 next year.

    1. Well It really does not matter if it is you or Rob Johnson on the board. You both are people who think that those of us in the south end do not matter. Seattle is all that matters to you both because those of us outside the city are second class and sub human to both of you.

    2. Thanks for reading STB and offering your opinion, and recognizing the remaining need in Ballard. Ballard is Seattle’s largest urban village furthest from an ST2 Link station, which makes it especially critical.

      Since you’re here, may I say that what Seattle most needs from King County is to get Ballard-Fremont and Lake City designated as PSRC Regional Growth Centers. They have the highest all-day transit ridership, walkability, and mixed use compared to other RGCs not on ST2 Link, so they have a good foundation to build on. The fact that they are not RGCs while the isolated and practically empty Totem Lake and northwest Issaquah are, has put them at a disadvantage in being considered must-serve by ST2 Link or ST3 Link. That contradicts the fact that tens of thousands of people are right now ready to live, work, take transit, and locate companies in these areas if they were RGCs with Link. The roadblock seems to be that King County’s criteria is based on the amount of zoned jobs capacity, while these neigborhoods may be low on jobs but they’re above average on housing and a jobs-housing balance. So they need to be recognized as RGCs, and the RGC criteria may need to be adjusted to give greater weight to a good jobs-housing balance.

      1. Mike Orr, isn’t it the case that Ballard-Freemont are already grown, so they have less potential growth than outlying areas that have plenty of room to expand. Maybe that’s not the best way to designate RGCs, but it seems to be the way that PSRC has adopted.

      2. Denser places have the best ability to grow because they have more of a neighborhood environment and local commerce to build on. In other word, if a new company needs a partner or a supplier, and the employees need a place to go for lunch and a place to live and a local pub, then chances are they’re already available in the neighborhood, and surrounding businesses can use what the new business supplies. The more people in an area, the more opportunities for relationships, and thus the more opportunities for growth. Also, I believe the PSRC’s formula is based on the total number of potential jobs, not the total number of not yet existing jobs. Otherwise downtown Bellevue or the U-District wouldn’t be eligible because most of their jobs are already there.

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