Rendering of a Siemens-made LRV
Rendering of a Siemens-made LRV in Sound Transit livery

Ride The Wave may be Sound Tran­sit’s cur­rent and best known slo­gan, but it’s not the only tagline the agency has used dur­ing its two plus decades of operations.

Around the turn of the cen­tu­ry, as Sound Tran­sit was work­ing to devel­op more real­is­tic plans for build­ing the net­work of light rail, com­muter rail, and express bus ser­vice autho­rized by vot­ers in the 1996 Sound Move vote, it had a dif­fer­ent mot­to: Mov­ing For­ward. Those words no longer appear promi­nent­ly on Sound Tran­sit’s web­site or pub­lic doc­u­ments like they once did, but the sen­ti­ment they stand for remains deeply infused in the agen­cy’s cul­ture — as evi­denced by its lead­er­ship’s com­mit­ment to accel­er­at­ing and deliv­er­ing projects in uncer­tain times.

Last year, vot­ers in Sound Tran­sit’s juris­dic­tion gave it the green light to extend Link light rail in all direc­tions, devel­op new bus rapid tran­sit lines in key cor­ri­dors, add ser­vice hours to ST Express routes, and expand Sounder com­muter rail with more trains and more sta­tions, hand­i­ly approv­ing the agen­cy’s Phase III expan­sion pro­pos­al. The out­come of that vote left the agen­cy’s crit­ics stunned and infu­ri­at­ed; dis­graced ini­tia­tive pro­mot­er Tim Eyman mem­o­rably char­ac­ter­ized it as “a gut punch” when asked by a reporter for his reac­tion to the elec­tion results.

Shock has since giv­en way to anger and schem­ing. Eyman — along with his Sound Tran­sit-loathing accom­plices on right wing talk radio — are hell bent on “stick­ing it to Sound Tran­sit”. Their objec­tive? Force the can­cel­la­tion of as many vot­er-approved ST3 projects as pos­si­ble by sab­o­tag­ing the agen­cy’s funding.

Eyman tried twice in 2016 to qual­i­fy a statewide ini­tia­tive that would repeal Sound Tran­sit’s author­i­ty to levy vehi­cle fees. Both attempts end­ed in fail­ure, but Eyman has decid­ed to try again. For this attempt, he’s get­ting help from right wing talk radio hosts like John Carl­son, Dori Mon­son, and Jason Rantz, who have been using their pro­grams to beat the drums for Sound Tran­sit’s incapacitation.

Their yap­ping has seem­ing­ly got­ten loud­er and sil­li­er with each pass­ing week. For­tu­nate­ly, nei­ther their on-air rants nor Eyman’s mul­ti­week­ly email tantrums have stopped Sound Tran­sit from get­ting the peo­ple’s work done.

Last week, the agency host­ed an event at the site of its future North­gate Link light rail sta­tion with U.S. Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Prami­la Jaya­pal, who rep­re­sents Seat­tle in the U.S. House. Rep­re­sen­ta­tives of local media out­lets were afford­ed the oppor­tu­ni­ty to see the progress the agen­cy’s con­trac­tors have been mak­ing towards the com­ple­tion of North Link, which is sched­uled to open in 2021.

North Link will bring light rail ser­vice to North­gate via the U Dis­trict and Roo­sevelt neigh­bor­hoods, which will each have an under­ground sta­tion. At North­gate, the align­ment tran­si­tions to an ele­vat­ed con­fig­u­ra­tion along­side Inter­state 5 and the North­gate mall. Con­struc­tion of the three sta­tion North Link exten­sion is pro­ceed­ing both on sched­ule and on bud­get, Sound Tran­sit says.

Hap­pi­ly, North Link’s tun­nels and cross pas­sages have already been dug, which means the most chal­leng­ing com­po­nents of the exten­sion are already done with.

But Sound Tran­sit won’t be stop­ping at North­gate. When North Link ser­vice begins in a few years, the agency wants to be well on its way to Lyn­nwood and beyond. Weary com­muters through­out the region want alter­na­tives to grid­locked high­ways like I‑5 as fast as pos­si­ble — and Sound Tran­sit is anx­ious to deliv­er for them.

Whether the agency can suc­ceed at con­trol­ling costs and fin­ish­ing on time or not will depend on whether Con­gress defies Don­ald Trump and keeps fed­er­al dol­lars flow­ing to tran­sit projects. Trump’s bud­get office has pro­posed gut­ting fund­ing for Amtrak and pub­lic trans­porta­tion all over the country.

Lyn­nwood Link is among the projects that would be affected.

“We are grate­ful for the lead­er­ship of Con­gress­woman Jaya­pal, Con­gress­man Rick Larsen, Sen­a­tor Pat­ty Mur­ray, Sen­a­tor Maria Cantwell and oth­er mem­bers of our con­gres­sion­al del­e­ga­tion toward main­tain­ing crit­i­cal fed­er­al tran­sit fund­ing, and par­tic­u­lar­ly the $1.17 bil­lion grant for start­ing Lyn­nwood con­struc­tion next year,” Sound Tran­sit CEO Peter Rogoff said, empha­siz­ing the impor­tance of fed­er­al dol­lars to past, present, and future Link light rail projects.

“Fed­er­al fund­ing for Link light rail is crit­i­cal­ly impor­tant to con­nect­ing our com­mu­ni­ties and strength­en­ing our econ­o­my,” agreed Jaya­pal, who has tak­en up the man­tle once worn by Jim McDer­mott as greater Seat­tle’s cham­pi­on in the Unit­ed States House of Representatives.

“Our region is doing its part to fund the growth of our mass tran­sit sys­tem. But with­out strong fed­er­al part­ner­ship, project time­lines will be thrown off and res­i­dents will con­tin­ue to strug­gle with con­ges­tion,” she noted.

“I will do every­thing I can to ensure that the Fed­er­al Tran­sit Admin­is­tra­tion fol­lows through on fund­ing the Lyn­nwood Link so that we can deliv­er the high-qual­i­ty tran­sit our region needs with­out harm­ful delays.”

The North­gate Sta­tion con­struc­tion site is a busy place. Absh­er Con­struc­tion serves as gen­er­al con­trac­tor for the project, while sub­con­trac­tor Gran­ite Con­struc­tion is respon­si­ble for the ele­vat­ed guide­way. Jacobs Engi­neer­ing and CH2M are respon­si­ble for con­struc­tion man­age­ment through a joint ven­ture, North Star.

It is worth remem­ber­ing that Sound Tran­sit’s orig­i­nal Cen­tral Link line and Uni­ver­si­ty Link exten­sion (which opened last year) would not have been built with­out fed­er­al dol­lars. The agency in 2003 secured a hard-won com­mit­ment from the Bush admin­is­tra­tion and Repub­li­can-con­trolled Con­gress to pro­vide mon­ey to con­struct Link’s first twelve sta­tions, track­way, and ini­tial main­te­nance base.

Sound Tran­sit wast­ed no time in get­ting start­ed once Con­gress had giv­en the project its bless­ing. With­in weeks of get­ting the green light, ground was bro­ken, begin­ning near­ly six years of con­struc­tion and lat­er sys­tems testing.

In 2007, Sound Tran­sit final­ized an agree­ment with the Port of Seat­tle to speed up com­ple­tion of Air­port Link. The SeaTac/Airport sta­tion ulti­mate­ly opened to the pub­lic just five months after the ini­tial twelve sta­tions.

By that point, Sound Tran­sit was already hard at work on Uni­ver­si­ty Link, an exten­sion financed to an even greater extent with fed­er­al dol­lars than the orig­i­nal line. U‑Link opened in the spring of 2016, six months ahead of sched­ule and over a hun­dred mil­lions under bud­get, to wide acclaim. The inau­gu­ra­tion of ser­vice to Capi­tol Hill and Uni­ver­si­ty of Wash­ing­ton prompt­ed an unprece­dent­ed rid­er­ship boom that impressed crit­ics and boost­ers of Sound Tran­sit alike.

U‑Link’s debut was fol­lowed in Sep­tem­ber of 2016 by the open­ing of Angle Lake Link, a new south­bound ter­mi­nus locat­ed in the City of SeaT­ac.

Angle Lake Sta­tion cel­e­brat­ed its first anniver­sary yesterday.

Mean­while, today, Sound Tran­sit inau­gu­rat­ed two new Sounder round trips on its south line, demon­strat­ing it’s active­ly work­ing to pro­vide Pierce Coun­ty com­muters with more options for get­ting to work with­out a car.

“The new trains will pro­vide more choic­es, more capac­i­ty and more fre­quent depar­tures,” the agency said in a news release dis­trib­uted last month.

“With the addi­tion of these two trains, there will be thir­teen dai­ly roundtrips on the Sounder south line in South King and Pierce coun­ties. Dur­ing peak hours, Sounder trains will arrive as often as every twen­ty minutes.”

“In the morn­ing peak, an addi­tion­al train will run between the first Lake­wood depar­ture at 4:36 AM and the 5:45 AM depar­ture. This addi­tion­al train will help ease con­ges­tion on the line’s most crowd­ed trains.”

There are also improve­ments to Sounder’s PM schedule.

“In the after­noon, the new sched­ule will pro­vide ear­li­er ser­vice to Lake­wood dur­ing the tra­di­tion­al peak, and reduce the gap between the first and sec­ond trains to 40 min­utes,” Sound Tran­sit explains.

“To enable this ear­li­er depar­ture, the 2:35 PM south­bound train will ter­mi­nate in Taco­ma, with con­nect­ing express bus ser­vice from Puyallup to Lake­wood. The last evening trip will depart King Street Sta­tion ten min­utes lat­er, at 6:30 PM. Addi­tion­al­ly, a third reverse-peak roundtrip will be added, allow­ing late morn­ing trav­el to Taco­ma and ear­ly after­noon trav­el to Seattle.”

Final­ly, to ensure more peo­ple can uti­lize the mid­day train that Sound Tran­sit debuted a year ago, addi­tion­al cars are being added.

The new sched­ule can be found here.

Because Sound Tran­sit does not own the right of way Sounder oper­ates on, it has not been able to expand the ser­vice as fast as as many com­muters or its own lead­er­ship would have liked. (Sound Tran­sit pays Burling­ton North­ern San­ta Fe Rail­way both for access to its right of way and to oper­ate its Sounder trains.) Nev­er­the­less, the ser­vice has a much bet­ter sched­ule than it did when it first launched around the turn of the century.

In addi­tion to reg­u­lar week­day ser­vice, Sound Tran­sit also oper­ates spe­cial “game day” ser­vice to help fans get to events at Safe­co and Cen­tu­ryLink fields.

Sounder South does not yet have a late evening train run­ning in either direc­tion, which it real­ly ought to have to accom­mo­date peo­ple who get off work late or wish to spend the first cou­ple hours of their evening in the city.

These devel­op­ments show that Sound Tran­sit and its many part­ners have become adept at mak­ing progress on mul­ti­ple fronts simul­ta­ne­ous­ly, which is great news for every­body, even tran­sit haters.

Projects are present­ly in the plan­ning phase, in the design phase, or are under con­struc­tion in every sin­gle sub­area with­in the agen­cy’s jurisdiction.

The now-com­plet­ed Angle Lake Sta­tion in SeaT­ac — along with the con­struc­tion zones dot­ting the East­side and Seat­tle neigh­bor­hoods north of the Ship Canal — are vis­i­ble proof that the projects financed by the ST2 sys­tem expan­sion approved by vot­ers eight years ago will soon be a reality.

Sound Tran­sit’s staff and board are doing their best to speed up the suc­ces­sor ST3 projects approved last year to lib­er­ate even more com­mu­ni­ties from lack of mobil­i­ty options, but those efforts will be for naught if Eyman and com­pa­ny suc­ceed in their sin­is­ter quest to crip­ple Sound Tran­sit. That’s why NPI is work­ing to ensure Eyman’s ill-con­ceived I‑947 gets the vig­or­ous oppo­si­tion that it deserves.

About the author

Andrew Villeneuve is the founder and executive director of the Northwest Progressive Institute, as well as the founder of NPI's sibling, the Northwest Progressive Foundation. He has worked to advance progressive causes for over two decades as a strategist, speaker, author, and organizer. Andrew is also a cybersecurity expert, a veteran facilitator, a delegate to the Washington State Democratic Central Committee, and a member of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps.

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One reply on “Sound Transit keeps moving forward despite attacks from Tim Eyman, right wing talk radio”

  1. It takes true blind­ness and igno­rance to not see that Sound Tran­sit is a greedy, cor­rupt, inept and pow­er-hun­gry agency that lies, mis­leads, spins and evades at vir­tu­al­ly every oppor­tu­ni­ty. They are noth­ing more than thieves sup­port­ed by a thiev­ing social­ist local gov­ern­ment. You can dis­miss its crit­ics all you want, but it is they who speak the truth and who use actu­al facts and data to time after time ver­i­fy their claims of Sound Tran­sit being the immense blun­der and pub­lic RIP-OFF that it is. Now that the pub­lic is a lit­tle more informed (yes, it was their own fault the first time for being fooled yet again by these liars), let’s do a re-vote and see how THAT comes out, now that so much more day­light has been shed on what ST is all about… shall we? 

    No, I did­n’t think you’d go for that.


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