Peter M. Rogoff, Next CEO of Sound Transit
Peter M. Rogoff,
Next CEO of Sound Transit

You can plan for growth, or you can be overwhelmed by it. This community is planning for it. — Peter M. Rogoff, next CEO of Sound Transit

The Sound Transit Board held its monthly meeting Thursday, featuring a hotly-debated fare change on ST Express and Sounder and the confirmation of Peter M. Rogoff as the new CEO of Sound Transit.

Sound Transit staff had just held a party for outgoing CEO Joni Earl Wednesday, on her 15th anniversary at ST. When Rogoff was given a chance to speak just after the board voted unanimously to confirm him, he looked back on the interview, when he was asked why he was the best candidate for the job. “I thought about it, and then answered that I’m not the best candidate. The best candidate is a healthy Joni Earl.”

Rogoff is currently Under Secretary of Transportation for Policy, a post to which he was appointed by President Obama in January of 2014. Previously, he led the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) from 2009 to 2014.

Rogoff was the first recipient of the Rosa Parks Transportation Equity Award from the Transportation Equity Network, in 2010, for helping overturn restrictive transit funding guidelines and allow livability, equity, and sustainability to become criteria in funding major transit projects.

Regarding Rogoff’s reason for taking the job, he said that Seattle is one of about three communities in the US that are truly planning for growth and building the infrastructure capacity to support it. “You can plan for growth, or you can be overwhelmed by it. This community is planning for it.”

Board members took turns thanking the Search Committee and thanking Rogoff, for which Rogoff said he was “humbled by all the support I’ve received here.”

Consent Agenda

  • The Board unanimously passed a whole list of major resolutions by consent, including:
    adopting the 2016 Service Implementation Plan, which included ULink related changes such as the addition of Route 541 between Overlake and UW Station
  • Authorizing the CEO to execute a new agreement with King County Metro for maintenance of the King County portion of the ST Express fleet
  • Authorizing a new contract with the Port of Seattle for operations and maintenance of SeaTac/Airport Station;
  • Authorizing an extension of the agreement with BNSF for operation of North Sounder;
  • Authorizing an amendment to the agreement with BNSF for operation of South Sounder, to reflect the opening of the Lakewood extension and the coming implementation of positive train control.
  • Authorizing the CEO to execute an agreement with Guy F. Atkinson Contruction, LLC, to construct the Link tunnels under downtown Bellevue for $133m

The first five items were from the Operations and Administration Committee and were covered in more detail a couple weeks ago.

Business Items

Business items that passed unanimously included:

ORCA LIFT Showdown

The Board held a rare public split roll-call vote, on an amendment to an amendment to the resolution setting fares for Sounder and ST Express.

Board member John Marchione (Mayor of Redmond) moved resolution R2015-29, which had blanks for the board to fill in for fare options on Sounder and ST Express.

Fred Butler (Mayor of Issaquah) tried to move the adoption of Option 3 for Sounder (implementing a 50-cent fare increase for most riders on Sounder, a 25-cent RRFP fare increase, and a new low-income ORCA LIFT category matching the youth fare) and Option 3 for ST Express (implementing 25-cent fare increases for all riders, and then creating a new low-income category, matching the youth fare, on all ST Express routes). Chairman Dow Constantine (King County Executive) said the motion would have to be in the form of an amendment to Marchione’s motion.

Paul Roberts (Everett City Councilmember)Dave Earling (Mayor of Edmonds) moved for Option 3 on ST Express, but Option 1 on Sounder (no fare change, meaning no low-income fare). Dave Earling (Mayor of Edmonds) joined Roberts in expressing concern about the impact on Sounder ridership, which ST has been spending lots of money to improve (with more parking and mudslide prevention). Acting CEO Mike Harbour chimed in that the ridership projections used a standard demand elasticity formula used throughout the industry, but that that was probably unnecessarily conservative due to half of the riders having employer-subsidized Business Passport ORCA cards. Various other board members pointed out that low-income riders are more price-sensitive. Sunnie Sterling from ST’s Treasury Department pointed out that a fare increase will have to happen on Sounder within two years anyway, to maintain the policy-required 23% fare recovery. Butler pointed out that Sounder’s fares are now lower than some express bus routes serving the same trips, and that its last fare increase was in 2007. Indeed, that is the only fare increase that had ever happened on Sounder.

Chairman Constantine said Roberts’Earling’s motion would have to be in the form of an amendment to Butler’s amendment. Roberts’Earling’s amendment to Butler’s amendment failed on a lopsided roll call vote, with Roberts, Earling, John Lovick (Snohomish County Executive), Marilyn Strickland (Mayor of Tacoma), and Dave Enslow (Mayor of Sumner) voting Yes.

Pat McCarthy (Pierce County Executive) expressed concern about the lack of a LIFT card distribution plan in Pierce and Snohomish Counties. Chairman Constantine explained how various human service agencies, led by Public Health, have qualified card recipients at the same time they are applying for other benefits, and that King County has done outreach to targeted audiences, including in multi-lingual newspapers and to various organizations. The human service agencies currently distributing LIFT cards have expressed interest in doing the same in Pierce and Snohomish County. Mike O’Brien (Seattle City Councilmember) asked staff to give the board ongoing briefings on both ridership and LIFT card distribution.

The board then proceeded to unanimously pass Butler’s amendment (implementing the fare increases and full ORCA LIFT adoption on both ST Express and Sounder), and then pass the full resolution with the chosen options rolled in. The fare changes are scheduled to take effect March 1, 2016.

The new regular fares on ST Express will be $2.75 1-county and $3.75 multi-county for most riders. Youth 6-18 and LIFT (low-income) card users will pay $1.50 1-county and $2.75 multi-county. RRFP holders will pay $1.00 1-county and $1.75 multi-county.

Regular fares on Sounder will range from $3.25 to $5.75, depending on distance. Youth and LIFT card users will pay $2.50 to $4.25. RRFP holders will pay $1.50 to $2.75.

    Update and summary of ORCA LIFT votes:

All board members in attendance voted to support the 25-cent fare increases and creation of a low-income fare on ST Express.

The vote on Dave Earling’s amendment, which would have kept Sounder fares the way they are now, was 5-9.

Voting yes were Dave Earling, Paul Roberts, John Lovick, Marilyn Strickland, and Dave Enslow.

Voting no were Chairman Constantine, Fred Butler, John Marchione, Joe McDermott, Ed Murray, Mike O’Brien, Pat McCarthy, Mary Moss, and Lynn Peterson.

19 Replies to “ST Board Confirms New CEO and Fares”

  1. Welcome aboard, Mr Rogoff!

    A new contract with the Port for maintaining Airport Station? Interesting. . . I wonder who wanted this more: ST or The Port?

    1. What kind of maintenance I wonder? Could we see better station access?

      Maybe the airport wants to pay to add a new station at their new terminal?

      1. In addition to custodial maintenance (especially for the public restrooms — not an easy challenge these days), the two entities had to lay out who was responsible for maintaining the area under the guideway and the station. A lot of the guideway and the station is on Port property, IIRC.

  2. Suggestion for writing – I had a lot of trouble following all the amendment to the amendment stuff. Even the summary was confusing for me:
    “The board then proceeded to unanimously pass Butler’s amendment (implementing the fare increases and full ORCA LIFT adoption on both ST Express and Sounder), and then pass the full resolution with the chosen options rolled in. ”

    What are “the chosen options”? Maybe just have a single clear sentence like “Sound Transit voted to include ORCA Lift for all Sound Transit bus and train routes” (assuming that’s what happened, I’m still not 100% sure)

    Also, is it normal for the low-income reduced fare to not be the cheapest fare available?

    1. I lost it there too, keeping track of which amendment did what. Thanks Brent for the parenthesized explanations of the net impacts. I didn’t need the first few but in the second half that’s all I can go on.

      1. It is also worth noting that Pat McCarthy (I think) tried to move to split the discussion up and address ST Express and Sounder fares separately, but Constantine ruled that out of order as Earling’s amendment (to Butler’s amendment to Marchione’s motion) was on the table at that point.

  3. [Moved from the open thread.] “It sounds like he’ll be good at getting federal grants and writing environmental impact statements. And that’s what ST was looking for, somebody with government/bureaucratic/grant/consensus-building experience. But does he have experience in designing a good transit network? Does he think, “What would Jarrett do?” Because that’s what we most need.”

    ST3 is completely open-ended as to which alternatives will be chosen, how many stations it will have and where, how much it will deviate from highways to population centers, whether Seattle will get a robust number of lines to match its needs, and whether ST will consider projects and alternatives not on its existing menu. So we need somebody that can make urban-friendly and non-driver friendly suggestions, and not just copy Dallas’s and Denver’s race to the furthest suburbs on highways and nothing else.

    1. Mike,

      “[U]rban-friendly and non-driver friendly suggestions” are not in the cards for most of what ST3 will build. You know that as well as any of us: the enabling legislation was written to ensure the “completion of the spine” and the spine will be completed or nothing else of note will be.

      That may be a reason to vote “No” on ST3, but that leaves SLU with major arterial bleeding and nobody running up with a tourniquet.

  4. Was Rogoff the FTA boss back in 2004-5 when they were dissing the First Hill station as being insufficiently useful to warrant funding?

    1. He was on the staff of the Senate Appropriations Committee until 2009, when he became head of the FTA.

  5. And now back into analytical mode:

    The two Pierce Transit Board members on the ST Board (McCarthy and Strickland) voted for ORCA LIFT on ST Express, and McCarthy voted against keeping the Sounder fares as are. It’ll be interesting to see if PT steps forward now to partner in the ORCA LIFT program. LIFT cardholders in Pierce County will be paying $2 to get on PT buses, but only $1.50 to cross the county on ST Express. PT stands to benefit the most from a LIFT fare because of their sky-high cash fumbling rate.

    Dave Earling is the only member of the Community Transit Board who is also on the ST Board. Voting record aside, he is not a fan of LIFT, judging by his body language throughout the debate. But he does not seem to want to be seen as a low-income fare foe, so he stuck to referring to his position as “Option 1”.

    One more vote for full ORCA LIFT adoption was Lynn Peterson, Washington Secretary of Transportation. While that position gives here a seat on the Sound Transit Board of Directors, it does not give her a seat on the Washington State Transportation Commission, which sets policies and fares for Washington State Ferries. There are two vacancies on the Commission presently. WSF still does not accept PugetPass or transfers on ORCA, which would be even more important than LIFT in making crossing Puget Sound affordable for the working poor priced into living across the water from their jobs. It is also hair-pulling that the fare policy might be a contributing factor in the efforts to re-implement huge-subsidy-per-rider water taxis between Kitsap County and Seattle.

    And then there are Mayor Ed Murray and Councilmember Mike O’Brien, both of whom supported full ORCA LIFT implementation and both of whom could play roles in ordering the red tape to be cut so that the monorail could join the ORCA pod and offer a low-income fare from the get-go. If there is $50,000 membership fee that Seattle has to pay to get the monorail admitted, Mayor Murray could snap his fingers, and the check would be cut. If a budget line is needed, Councilmember O’Brien could move it, and probably have unanimous support from the rest of the council. If Mayor Murray and the city council really want the monorail to join the public transit system, they can make it happen.

    1. That’s still complicated to understand. I think we can only deal with one or two individual boardmembers and issues at a time.

      So you seem to be saying that Seattle’s Murray and O’Brien have the right idea on LIFT, they just need to recognize the monorail issue and then they could implement it easily. WSDOT’s Lynn Peterson has limited authority so she can’t put the ferries on LIFT or PugetPass, but WSDOT should do so.

      CT’s Earling has a negative view on low-income fares. Why is that? Does he think poor people don’t deserve it or don’t need it, or is he afraid it would make unacceptable cuts to CT’s already-low level of service?

      PT’s McCarthy and Strickland supported LIFT on ST Express, so that gives poor people an option throughout the region. But McCarthy voted against LIFT on Sounder. I’d say it’s still not clear what Sounder’s role is supposed to be, and it’s currently priced as a premium service so in that context it makes sense. And the main losers of no LIFT on Sounder are not in Tacoma but in Puyallup, Sumner, Auburn, and Kent. The first four don’t have the 578 in the peak direction when Sounder is running, and Kent never has an ST Express route to Seattle.

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