Photo by Connie Au-Yeung with the Seattle Metro Chamber
Seattle survived the first phase of its "squeeze" - what's next? Local transportation agency leaders spoke to members of the Seattle Metro Chamber Transportation Task Force and Policy Leadership Group on how their organizations are staying focused during a time of tremendous change for our region's transportation system. Amy Grotefendt, principal with EnviroIssues and co-chair of the Transportation Task Force, moderated the discussion.
Seattle Department of Transportation zeroes in on top priorities
First, attendees heard from Sam Zimbabwe, the new director of the Seattle Department of Transportation. Zimbabwe spent the last seven years in Washington, D.C., where he served in senior management positions at the District Department of Transportation.
Zimbabwe gave updates on the Seattle Squeeze, continued streetcar investment, the bike master plan and delivery of multi-modal transportation choices. “It’s been great to get exposed to the region,” Zimbabwe said of hitting his three-month mark with the Seattle DOT.
He outlined three major agency priorities:
- Maintaining mobility throughout the period of the Seattle Squeeze, which began and has progressed successfully
- Continued transit investment, including investment in streetcar, Rapid Ride and rail
- Maintaining safety and multi-modal options including for pedestrians, bikes and freight or goods
King County Metro explores new mobility complements
Terry White, deputy general manager with King County Metro, focused on the agency’s shift from seeing itself as a fixed service to a more expansive role as a mobility agency.
This shift involves considering how density differences require different types of service, and being open to new and better ways to get people moving.
For example, Metro has launched of several pilot programs including Ride 2, Via to Transit, and Trailhead Direct. White talked about the importance of testing pilot programs and recognizing that pilot programs are subject to reevaluation. A-P Hurd, member of the Seattle Metro Chamber Board and the Seattle Metro Chamber’s Policy Leadership Group, voiced her happiness to see a public agency identify the importance of testing and experimenting with programs.
White also shared lessons learned from Metro's response to this winter’s major snowstorm, the most significant snowstorm our region has seen in 10 years. He noted that partnerships, including those with the Seattle Department of Transportation and Sound Transit, were crucial to the transit response.
Looking to the future, White spotlighted King County Metro's goal of having a zero-emission fleet by 2040
. He added that the agency will strategically target the local regions that most need to receive clean-air buses first.
“We want to help people to reach their full potential no matter what,” he concluded. “If you have mobility, you have a chance.”
Sound Transit keeps close eye on project approach, labor needs
Peter Rogoff, Sound Transit CEO, discussed two-year priorities for the agency, including continued planning to deliver the nation’s largest transit expansion. Rogoff touched on Connect 2020, a period of construction scheduled beginning in January of 2020, that will connect the Eastside with Link light rail.
Rogoff then looked out to the full Sound Transit construction timeline through 2041, which includes Link extensions around the region and increased parking capacity to keep up with growing Sounder ridership. Another significant change is Sound Transit’s approach to project development- an adjustment that is necessary to meet the agency’s goals and complete projects by set deadlines.
Rogoff and Zimbabwe talked about regional work by the transportation agencies to address labor shortages through training and apprenticeship programs to get more people into the pipeline and into transportation work.
Agencies keep lines of communication open
Throughout the meeting, Zimbabwe, White and Rogoff discussed the crucial collaboration underway between their three agencies during both unexpected events like weather and expected disruptions including construction projects. The Seattle Department of Transportation, King County Metro and Sound Transit are in regular communication with one another, leaders noted, and each expressed their gratitude for ongoing interagency work.