It’s official: Puget Sound’s Regional Transportation Authority, better known as Sound Transit, is getting a new chief executive officer.
Julie Timm, who currently heads the Greater Richmond Transit Company, will soon be moving across the country to take the helm of Sound Transit. Formed in the 1990s after the Legislature gave King, Pierce, and Snohomish counties the authorization to form a new regional transit entity to increase freedom of mobility in Washington’s urban heart, Sound Transit is in the middle of a decades-long effort to construct a high capacity transit network across the region.
“In hiring Julie Timm, the Sound Transit Board chose an accomplished CEO who offers the right mix of skills and knowledge to guide our transit system forward,” said Sound Transit Board Chair and University Place Council Member Kent Keel in a statement. “It’s no easy task to plan, build and operate the largest transit expansion in the nation. Julie brings the leadership and collaborative approach to ensure our successful work continues.”
The board’s decision to accept the executive search committee’s recommendation was unanimous, with two county executives (Pierce County’s Bruce Dammeier and King County’s Dow Constantine) voicing great satisfaction with the search process and its outcome. State law provides that county executives sit on the Sound Transit Board and also appoint the other boardmembers from their respective counties, so they have a lot of influence on Sound Transit’s trajectory.
Timm succeeds Peter Rogoff, who was hired in 2015 to replace legendary CEO Joni Earl, one of NPI’s Lynn Allen Award honorees.
Via WebEx, Timm told boardmembers she’s extremely appreciative to have the opportunity to lead Sound Transit and will now be looking for a place to live.
After hearing that comment, multiple boardmembers jokingly suggested that she buy a home in the city or county they represent.
“I am profoundly grateful to join the Sound Transit team’s work to transform lives across the Puget Sound region for generations to come,” Timm said in a prepared statement. (She also thanked the board, as mentioned, during the meeting.)
“Together, we will continue to show what is achievable when we prioritize the health of our people and our planet. More than doubling the reach of light rail in the next few years represents a historic level of investment.”
“We will keep these and further projects rolling through strong partnerships and innovative solutions that benefit our parents, our children, and our children’s children. It will not be easy or comfortable to complete this vision. I am truly humbled to become part of such a tremendous effort.”
Timm is correct that the journey ahead won’t be easy or comfortable.
Sound Transit has a lot of difficult, thorny fiscal and alignment decisions to make in the next few years, especially with respect to the voter-approved Ballard and West Seattle extensions, as was evident from the public comment period of today’s meeting, in which numerous speakers offered alignment feedback.
Our friends at The Urbanist have put together an extensive list of issues that will be on Timm’s desk from day one as Sound Transit’s new CEO, which is definitely worth reading. We concur that improving the ridership experience should be a top priority for Julie, along with figuring out how to make the board and senior staff more accessible to more people. Sound Transit will make better decisions if its leadership are more grounded and connected to the communities where the agency is planning to construct or modify right of way.
Congratulations to Julie Timm on being unanimously selected as Sound Transit’s next leader. We hope her arrival gives the agency a beneficial jolt of energy at a critical point in its more than twenty-five year history.