Light-rail is 10 years from reaching Lynnwood and Overlake, yet Sound Transit is already seeking public comment for a possible next round of rail projects.
People who attend public forums can even have themselves filmed inside a video photo booth, talking about what kind of transit the region should build.
Information will be used to update the region’s long-term transit plan, which is required by law, and which would be studied by officials when they consider future projects. The work is beginning now so there would still be adequate time for environmental studies and decisionmaking by the transit board, in the event leaders decide to offer “Sound Transit 3” to voters as early 2016.
New taxes would be needed, since the agency’s bond debt payments will likely extend until 2040 or later to build the first 50 miles of light rail, plus express buses, park-and-ride garages and Sounder commuter train service, approved by voters in 1996 and 2008.
An online survey encourages people to pinpoint two corridors they believe deserve high-capacity transit, and rank their priorities (frequency of service, park-and-ride access, environmental sustainability, etc.) One question tilts toward rail, listing the alternative as “focus on express bus and Bus Rapid Transit services with lower construction costs, but lower capacity and increased vulnerability to rising congestion without investments in dedicated or priority lanes.”
Presentation materials explain that “high-capacity transit” in state law means vehicles which run mainly in their own lanes. Yet after the 2008 plan passed, Sound Transit provided $134 million for Seattle to design and build a First Hill Streetcar that will run in mixed traffic next year. Spokesman Bruce Gray said the agency considered the streetcar a “mitigation package” for canceling a deep First Hill light rail station, rather than true high-capacity transit.
Some areas commonly discussed as ST3 destinations include Everett, Federal Way, downtown Redmond, Issaquah, Ballard, West Seattle, or a crosstown Ballard-Wallingford-University line.
The first forum, with presentations and public comment, will be Tuesday night at Seattle University, followed by five more in the next nine days. “It’s going to be fun to look at where transit might go, way down the road,” Gray said.