Short billions for coming voter-approved projects, Sound Transit beginning ‘realignment’ process

With news that new estimates show light rail to Ballard and West Seattle will cost billions more than expected, Sound Transit will hold a public workshop this week to bring its board of directors up to date on the cost challenges:

The Sound Transit Board of Directors will convene a workshop on Jan. 21 as part of work toward planned July decisions on long-range capital program adjustments in response to revenue impacts and cost pressures. The 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. workshop will take place as a videoconference due to ongoing COVID-19 precautions and can be watched at the below link. Information on the realignment process and the revenue and cost challenges is available at soundtransit.org

“Sound Transit is facing an unprecedented and extremely challenging financial environment caused by two major, simultaneous factors: (1) a pandemic-driven recession that has severely reduced consumer spending and government agency tax revenues; and (2) unrelenting pressures in the real estate and construction sectors of the economy that are continuing to drive costs to levels significantly beyond those foreseen in our plans,” the agency’s “Realignment Overview” reads.

“With greatly depleted revenues and higher construction costs, Sound Transit will not be able to deliver many expansion projects on their original timelines unless we receive alternative revenue from federal or state sources,” the overview says. Continue reading

Sound Transit dropping color plan so you can take the 1 Line to Capitol Hill Station

(Image: Sound Transit)

Sound Transit is transitioning to an alphanumeric system for naming its light rail lines and bus routes. The public transit agency announced the decision last week to adopt the new system of numbers and letters that will change the line currently connecting north and south through the city via Capitol Hill to the 1 Line.

In November, CHS reported on the agency’s ill-fated “Red Line” designation of the route serving Capitol Hill Station as Sound Transit was preparing for the launch of the Blue Line serving a new connection to the Eastside.

“As the term Red Line became more visible we heard concerns from members of our community, that this term carries unfortunate associations with the punitive practice by lenders of ‘redlining,'” Sound Transit said at the time. Continue reading

Light rail service reduction and transfers to continue as Sound Transit needs one more ‘Connect 2020’ closure

New tracks for Connect 2020 (Image: Sound Transit)

The past weekend was supposed to be the final in a series of closures in the push to complete Sound Transit’s Connect 2020 project to hook the coming East Link light rail expansion to the city’s existing underground transit tunnel running from downtown to Pioneer Square.

Looks like contractors will need some extra time after an issue was identified in some of the newly installed track: Continue reading

Sound Transit fare enforcement reform recommendations get early 2020 deadline

A roster of King County and Seattle officials are asking for Sound Transit to have answers about how it will reform its fare enforcement policies early in the new year.

A letter signed by Sound Transit Board officials including King County Council member, Joe McDermott, Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan, King County Executive Dow Constantine, and Seattle City Council member Debora Juarez calls on Sound Transit CEO Peter Rogoff to have findings and recommendations for overhauling how the agency manages fare enforcement by February. Continue reading

‘It’s good to remind folks how the system works’ — On first day of school, students get lesson in Sound Transit fare enforcement

The start of the year for Seattle Public School students who rode Sound Transit light rail to school Wednesday included an important lesson. The fare enforcement process deployed by the transit agency is draconian.

And you can’t trust adults.

A photo posted by SPS educator Jesse Hagopian showing an enforcement employee reportedly requesting and photographing student IDs on light rail Wednesday morning sparked backlash about the practices and policies deployed by the agents. Continue reading

Beep beep — There’s a new sound from riders tapping out at Capitol Hill Station

If like CHS, you can’t hear a beep, chirp, bleep, toot toot, or other rhythmic sound sequence without immediately mimicking it like your aunt’s canary, you’re about to get a new song as you enter and exit Capitol Hill Station.

To help clear up confusion when using ORCA fare cards, Sound Transit is changing the way its sensor beep — beep beep:

Link and Sounder fares are based on how far you travel. So we ask you tap your card before boarding the train and again when you get off so we know the correct fare to charge you or your employer that’s paying for your ride. Based on rider feedback like the tweet below, the ORCA readers will now beep twice when you tap off and end your trip. One beep to ride, two beeps to end your ride
Continue reading

Capitol Hill Station development not tall or affordable enough for you? Sound Transit approves deals for more

The Sound Transit Board approved the nitty gritty business terms of two deals Thursday that will create hundreds of affordable housing units a short walk or a First Hill Streetcar ride away from its Capitol Hill Station light rail facility.

Terms approved Thursday in one deal are worthy of the most complicated baseball trade involving a four-way swap between Sound Transit, Seattle Central and the state community college system, and Capitol Hill Housing.

  • Sound Transit will convey Site D to the College Parties in exchange for the Atlas Site. Sound Transit will then convey the Atlas Site to CHH for a mixed-use, affordable housing development that meets the requirements of RCW 81.112.350. Continue reading

Groups announce First Hill plan for Seattle’s ‘largest’ affordable housing building

Nonprofit developers Bellwether Housing and Plymouth Housing Group announced Monday morning that they are moving forward on an affordable housing project on surplus Sound Transit land on First Hill. The project will be “the largest building constructed by any affordable housing provider in Seattle, with 12 to 15 floors of housing over a floor of retail, service, and community space.”

Sound Transit has agreed to transfer to the two organizations at “zero-cost” following a November decision on what to do with the land originally acquired for a never-built First Hill light rail station at the corner of Madison and Boylston. Continue reading

Maybe Sound Transit’s ‘Vertical Conveyances Report’ will finally address the Hedberg principle — UPDATE

If you’re tired of encountering broken down — and blocked off — escalators at Capitol Hill Station and across the rest of Sound Transit’s light rail facilities, here’s hoping for some good ideas in the University of Washington Vertical Conveyances Report.

The wonky sounding update is scheduled to be delivered Thursday at the Sound Transit board’s afternoon session of the Operations and Administration Committee. The report follows a fiasco level incident in March in which every escalator at UW Station was out of commission and hundreds queued up for long waits for the only access to the platform — the elevator. Continue reading

Two big items on Sound Transit’s agenda for lots of affordable housing on Broadway, First Hill — UPDATE

UPDATE 3:35 PM: The Sound Transit board approved both motions Thursday afternoon paving the way for a “no cost” transfer of two First Hill properties to nonprofit developers Bellwether Housing and Plymouth Housing and, in the second vote, putting in place a memorandum of understanding between the transit agency, Seattle Central, and Capitol Hill Housing for a swap of Capitol Hill properties. Details on the plans are below.

In public comments, Bellwether’s CEO Susan Boyd called the joint proposal with Plymouth “a bold plan” that will create much needed affordable housing on First Hill.

Board member and Seattle City Council member Rob Johnson called the First Hill proposal “very consistent with what the community asked for” and said the neighborhood’s “YIMBY” spirit was reflected in the plan.

King County Executive Dow Constantine said affordable housing is now central to Sound Transit’s mission as it also works to provide transit to the region’s growing population. Pierce County Executive Bruce Dammeier, meanwhile, voted against the motion saying he was troubled by the “no cost” aspect of the plan as a “dangerous precedent.”

Additionally, the board also approved a motion on a plan for “Central Transit-Oriented Development” near the Roosevelt light rail station that will involve Bellwether and Mercy Housing Northwest.

Original report: Sound Transit’s board is scheduled to make two key decisions on property it owns across First Hill and Capitol Hill that will potentially open the way for big deals around affordable housing and and expanded Seattle Central.

The Sound Transit Board will vote Thursday whether to move forward with two land deals.

One motion paves the way negotiate with Plymouth Housing and Bellwether Housing in a purchase of Sound Transit land at 1014 Boylston Ave and 1400 Madison meant for high-rise affordable housing, up to 160 feet.

“We thought in viewing their proposal that their numbers were reasonable,” said Sarah Lovell from Sound Transit. “It is an expensive project. It’s expensive to build a high-rise. But stacking two housing project increases their ability to get subsidies. They’re trying to be really efficient with their design.” Continue reading