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.”
- 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 that passed unanimously included:
- Approving the route, six new station locations, relocation of Theater District Station, and expansion area of the maintenance facility for Tacoma Link.
- Increasing the lifetime capital budget for the Lynnwood Link Extension, from $64,118,687 to $487,861,000;
- Authorizing the CEO to acquire certain real property interests for the Lynnwood Link Extension;
- Appointing Faaluaina Pritchard to the Citizen Oversight Panel.
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) 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’ motion would have to be in the form of an amendment to Butler’s amendment. Roberts’ 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.