Transportation Choices has worked for three decades supporting transit agency funding measures and the delivery of voter-approved projects. At Sound Transit, we championed the Sound Transit 3 “ST3” measure in 2016, which passed with 54% support across the Puget Sound region. ST3 continues the work of building out a light rail system that will be one of the highest-impact transportation projects in the state.
Sound Transit’s success is vital for the equity, sustainability, and safety outcomes we at Transportation Choices want to achieve. That’s why supporting equitable and efficient delivery of voter-approved projects at Sound Transit is one of our top priorities for the upcoming year!
A very short history of Sound Transit
Sound Transit builds and operates regional transit service throughout the urban areas of Pierce, King, and Snohomish Counties, including Link light rail, Sounder trains; ST Express Bus, Tacoma Link light rail; and soon, Bus Rapid Transit. With voter approval in 1996, 2008, and 2016, the agency is planning and building the most ambitious transit expansion in the country, with new service opening every few years.
With the completion of ST3 in particular, the light rail system will more than double to 116 miles with over 80 stations. Light rail will expand north to Everett, south to Federal Way and Tacoma, east to downtown Redmond, south to Kirkland and Issaquah, and west to Ballard and West Seattle. ST3 will also invest in Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) in two corridors and expand Sounder commuter rail. Though service is situated within three of the state’s counties, its linkages to neighboring transit agencies provide connectivity for passengers throughout Western Washington.
The ST3 Plan was developed through an open public process over three years. During that time, Sound Transit coordinated closely with cities and counties, the state of Washington, the Puget Sound Regional Council (PSRC), and local transit agencies. Advocates from nonprofits and community-based organizations also played a key role, providing feedback on alignments (where and how routes will be placed) and on critical policies for sustainability, multimodal access and integration, and transit-oriented development (TOD) in the plan.
How we’re engaging with Sound Transit now
These days, Sound Transit’s 18-member Board of Directors is finishing the build-out of ST2, finalizing the alignments and design of ST3, and undertaking important policy and organizational reforms. Here’s what Transportation Choices is focusing on at Sound Transit in the upcoming year.
- Ensuring decision-making aligns with policy goals. Transportation Choices wants to ensure that all staff and Board decisions are driven by policy goals that center riders. Equity, multimodal integration, access, sustainability, and affordability are central to delivering a great regional system. While our organization does not focus on neighborhood-level organizing to advocate for particular alignments or station locations, we believe that if the Board and staff ground their decisions in their policy frameworks, community engagement, equity analyses, and the plan voters approved at the ballot, they will achieve the right outcome.
- Supporting organizational updates to improve trust and project delivery. Improving the public’s trust in Sound Transit is critical to efficiently delivering excellent projects and programs. Sound Transit can address this issue head-on by prioritizing organizational improvements, including some changes the agency is already exploring, such as clarifying Board and staff roles and responsibilities, adding new experienced megaproject staff, streamlining decision-making, and more. We aim to learn more about these and other ideas and how we can support the agency in their implementation.
- Supporting the reform and adoption of essential policies. Sound Transit’s Board adopts important regional policies that guide everything from fares to transit-oriented development, equity analyses, station naming conventions, accessibility, and parking. We monitor and strategically engage in relevant policies by bringing together varied partners to review and provide feedback. We also help disseminate information and opportunities for community engagement.
- Convening stakeholders. We will continue to convene regional partners to learn more about Sound Transit’s work directly from their staff. Bringing together advocates from land use, disability rights, housing, climate, business, social justice, and more ensures that our joint policy positions, strategy, and coordinated advocacy are intersectional and comprehensive. These are also spaces where we learn about upcoming service disruptions/impacts and can brainstorm with Sound Transit on managing and communicating them better.
What’s on Sound Transit’s docket?
Here are some of the key policy, planning, and project milestones coming up.
- New station openings. In August, the ST Board of Directors received a presentation from staff on a recommended sequence of project openings. This sequencing hinged on the Board’s decision to move forward with an “East Link Starter Line (ELSL),” which will open a portion of the East Link Extension (ELE) before the whole line is ready. The anticipated sequencing is as follows:
- East Link Starter Line – Spring 2024
- Lynnwood Link Extension – Fall 2024
- Full East Link Extension – 2025
- Federal Way Link Extension – 2026
- Though it wasn’t included in the presentation, Sound Transit recently announced the service start date for the Hilltop Tacoma Link Extension as September 16, 2023!
- Additional Ballard Link Extension analysis. Planning for the Ballard Link Extension has been extended to 2026 from the original schedule as a result of further studies last year and additional environmental work across multiple segments. The West Seattle Link Extension Final EIS is anticipated in mid-2024.
- Updated fares & parking fees policy. In mid-September, Sound Transit will begin passenger and public engagement on fares-related work. In particular, the agency will explore whether they should maintain a distance-based fare or adopt a flat fare and how the parking program might expand or change.
- Strengthening equity. Sound Transit’s incredible Office of Civil Rights, Equity & Inclusion has been developing a suite of tools and guiding documents to ensure that the Board and staff incorporate equity into their projects, outreach, culture, and more. We’ll seek opportunities to ensure the agency uses its Anti-Racist Strategy, Racial Equity Tool, and Equitable Engagement Toolkit as projects and policies move forward.
How you can get and stay engaged
Our success depends on partners like you. If you are interested in supporting equitable and efficient project delivery at Sound Transit, here are some ways we can work together towards that common goal:
- Join our stakeholder groups! If your organization wants to learn more about Sound Transit and weigh in on important policy issues, contact email@example.com to discuss!
- Watch Sound Transit Board meetings. You can learn a lot about the agency by watching their meetings online. Meetings will also include links to presentations and other related materials if you want to dive deeper into a topic. ST Board meeting materials can be found here.
- ST3 engagement. Follow this system expansion page to learn about the status of upcoming projects.
- Sign up for our newsletter to stay up-to-date on opportunities to engage on Sound Transit topics such as fares and more!
We’re excited about the future of our regional transit system, and we know Sound Transit has their work cut out for them to deliver the projects that voters approved equitably and efficiently. That’s why we’re committed to supporting their work as we can—by convening stakeholders and helping to ensure that Sound Transit’s decision-making and policies are up to the task. We hope you’ll join us in this work.