City elected officials respond to ST3 draft

Since the Sound Transit 3 (aka ST3) draft plan was released late last week, two City Council members and the Mayor have responded with their thoughts.

Mayor Ed Murray, a member of the Sound Transit board, had this to say:

“How we move around Seattle impacts us all, and transportation is consistently the number one issue that the public demands we improve. Together we can – and must – make the investments to create the transit system to meet the needs of our growing city and region. We all need better choices for how we get to work and to school. While building a stronger transit system will not be easy or cheap, we must move forward together. Now is the right time to expand Sound Transit.

“With our new stations at Capitol Hill and UW, we must continue to build out our light rail system to serve our densest neighborhoods. I look forward to a day when you can jump on a train in Ballard or West Seattle and know exactly how long it will take to get downtown. The reliability of light rail is unparalleled.

“Now that we have a draft ST3 plan, public input is critical. This proposal is a great start, but we know it is not perfect. Now it is up to Seattle residents to help us refine this vision for the future of transit in our region.”

Council member Debora Juarez, who lobbied heavily for an “infill” light rail station at 130th Street N, was clearly upset that it was listed as “provisional rather than as a core part of the plan:

District 5 is a transit-dependent community experiencing exponential growth. Sound Transit 3 represents a major shift in the way people will move around our region for the next century. We need a light rail station at NE 130th Street to address future housing and job growth around our readily available mass transit system.

Our station would service the critical east-west corridor including Lake City, Bitter Lake, and Haller Lake via frequent and reliable busses. With the approval of ST3 and the NE 130th Street Station, we would begin the process of engaging the community in concurrent planning for a brand-new, walkable, and transit-rich urban village, right in the heart of District 5.

The draft Sound Transit 3 proposal designates the potential boon of a NE 130th Street Station as a “provisional” project. This means that no funding is currently included in the package, and that the Sound Transit board would need to secure funding to make this station a reality. This is unacceptable.

I will be a fierce advocate for funding the NE 130th station in Sound Transit 3. I would like to invite every community member who supports our vision to join us in making their voices heard at April’s public comment sessions and by submitting statements of support to Sound Transit starting 3/29.

Finally, I thank Mayor Murray and Councilmember Johnson for their work on the Sound Transit board and their support of the NE 130th station. I look forward to continuing the fight for our transit future with these dedicated leaders.

Council member Rob Johnson, who is also the City Council’s representative on the Sound Transit board, issued this statement:

“Building out the next phase of light rail is a critical step to improve commutes, create tens of thousands of jobs, and make our region more affordable.  Today’s plan puts forward an ambitious goal of building light rail to Ballard and West Seattle, as well as building a second transit tunnel in downtown Seattle.  We still have work to do to refine this plan, so I welcome anyone to contact me with changes they’d like to see in the proposal.

“As we move toward a final plan adoption this summer, I’ll be working hard to speed up the opening of the proposed Graham Street and 130th Street stations, increasing funding for bike and pedestrian access to stations, and improving our bus/rail integration amongst other priorities.  As a Sound Transit board member, I’ll also be working to ensure the ST3 plan we put in front of voters in November continues the vision we began in 1996 of building out a fast, reliable and affordable mass transit system throughout the three county region.”

It’s interesting that none of them speak to the two biggest complaints of Seattle citizens: that it doesn’t deliver enough to Seattle (in favor of the Eastside, Everett and Tacoma), and that the light rail extensions to West Seattle and Ballard won’t arrive until 2033 and 2038 respectively. I find it difficult to imagine Ballard residents having much enthusiasm for waiting 22 years for their turn at light rail. Although to be fair, the folks up in Everett are not happy with the timeline either.

Council member Mike O’Brien, the chair of the Sustainability and Transportation Committee, has not commented on the ST3 draft plan yet. But Tuesday morning his committee meets and will be receiving a briefing the plan, so he will likely make his thoughts known then.