Sound Transit Board plays hooky, plans to study fare enforcement

Summer school. Credit: David Seater

Thursday’s Sound Transit Board meeting didn’t have any Earth-shattering news, but it did feel a lot like summer school. Agency staff presented some updates on ongoing projects, but the board didn’t do much: too many elected officials cut class to move along the day’s most substantial agenda item.

Fare enforcement

Metro rolled out a new fare enforcement policy a few weeks ago. (Expect an in-depth look soon.) The transit and social justice activists who worked with Metro are excited about the Metro policy, which will reduce fines and hopefully prevent escalation.

The same coalition approached Sound Transit to make similar changes, but the agency is moving more slowly; on Thursday, the board approved a staff proposal to study fare enforcement policy and come up with recommendations.

Capitol Hill affordable housing

The board formalized ST staff’s laudable work on several affordable housing projects on Broadway, which we covered in depth here. The board approved the requisite land transfers with Seattle Central College and affordable housing developers.

Seattle Mayor and ST board member Jenny Durkan praised the projects, and said that the city would try to get the buildings open sooner by expediting permitting and construction.

Northgate Link construction update

The Northgate extension is humming along. ST staff said that construction is on schedule. Most of the major structural work on the stations is done, and the right of way is nearly ready for guideway system installation.

Northgate Link’s budget allocated about $223 million to handle contingencies and cost overruns. The board voted on Thursday to allocate $3.7 million from that pool to complete final design work.

Federal Way Link land transfers

After ST builds the Federal Way Link extension, the agency will have some leftover land. The agency needs to hold staging sites and the land under the future guideway during construction, but not after. When the project is finished, ST plans to transfer some of the surplus land to WSDOT, which will build an extension of SR 509.

The board was supposed to approve the baseline budget for the project on Thursday, but needed a supermajority vote to do it. However, the board didn’t have a the votes necessary for the supermajority, so the vote couldn’t go ahead. (The board did approve the land transfer.) Early in the meeting, the board stalled votes because a quorum of members was not present.

Claudia Balducci compounded the embarrassment by pointing out that the project’s baseline budget had not yet been studied by the ST Board’s capital committee.

“Because we’re not going to take action on this, can this go through capital committee like it should have in the first place?” Balducci said.

The board sent the land transfer back to committee, after a wisecrack by Durkan (who skipped the last board meeting):

“Who knew so much could be done by people not showing up?”

This post has been corrected. According to ST spokesperson Scott Thompson, the board approved the eventual land transfer, but not the Federal Way baseline budget. An earlier version of the post said that the land transfer was not approved.

Sound Transit to use PTC on all Sounder trips by December

Sounder South at Safeco Field. Credit: Andy Tucker

Sound Transit will implement positive train control (PTC) on all Sounder trips by the end of 2018, according to Sound Transit Director of Systems Engineering Peter Brown.

In a presentation to the Sound Transit board on Thursday, Brown summarized the progress of PTC implementation. In 2008, the federal government mandated that all commuter rail systems implement PTC on all trips by 2020, and show progress on implementation by the end of 2018. Sound Transit expects to beat the deadline by two years.

Continue reading “Sound Transit to use PTC on all Sounder trips by December”

Sounder North’s New Slide Prevention Protocol

Sounder North in the Rain in "Kodachrome"

The Sound Transit Board received a presentation from Martin Young, Sounder Commuter Rail Operations Manager of the new protocol to cancel Sounder North service.  Deputy CEO Mike Harbor explains that a small slide that blocked a Sounder North train inspired the briefing. Video is 78:35 into this link.  Below are the slides for you to browse through.

Sounder Cancellation Protocol 2015-01-22 Presentation

After going through the slides, Sound Transit’s spokeswoman Kimberly M. Reason explained the three USGS predictive tools are “rainfall, rainfall intensity and soil saturation” (see here), but also that “Sound Transit uses weather forecast data and information on field conditions to inform service decisions.”  Although Sound Transit attempts to make a decision “the afternoon before the day of service”, there is no firm deadline to make a decision before — or during — a Sounder North run.

Continue reading “Sounder North’s New Slide Prevention Protocol”

North by Northwest 43: Sounder North on the Thursday Sound Transit Board Agenda

The Upper Deck of one Sounder North Car Nearing Everett...
Author photo inside a Sounder North from last autumn

Just an acute head’s up January 22, 2015 [Thursday], 1:30 pm – 4:00 pm, Union Station, Ruth Fisher Boardroom, 401 S. Jackson St., Seattle will have as a report to the board, “Sounder North Service Protocols” right before public comment.  Hoping there will be dialogue about preemptive cancellations of Sounder North when there’s high slide risk and also the history of how Sounder North hasn’t exactly panned out as promised (such as STB noted back in 2012 and I’ve said there’s a license to kill Sounder North).

Have a last-minute schedule conflict (SIGH) so I won’t be able to attend in person (as probably 99% of Seattle Transit Blog readership due to work issues).  Hopefully before the end of business Friday, Sound Transit will please have the video on their website.

As I’ve said before: If you want to make your views known to the Sound Transit B0ard – EmailTheBoard-AT-soundtransit-DOT-orgNow is the time…