Opinion

Sound Transit, it's time to pay the piper | Lewis

For years the Board of Sound Transit has relied on overloaded city streets and parking lots to carry the ever-increasing burden of transit riders. From one end of the Sound to the other, evidence is gathering that change is coming, and Sound Transit is woefully behind.

As the region comes out of the Great Recession cities are working to build transit communities along the Sound Transit routes. Cities have had plans on the shelves for a decade and now the developers are on the way. Cities require that development include parking for its tenants but that takes city lots and city owned properties off the books for surplus parking for Sound.

Cities are doing what they have been asked to do by the regional governments and responding rapidly to change. The idea of transit related development has been the hot-button issue with planners and now it is starting to happen.

But transit is not a city issue so much as it is a regional problem and Sound Transit has made little effort to engage with the cities to solve the problem.

Each study by the staff of the transit authority reveals the fact that a majority of the riders using the service live outside city limits. They use the service yet the agency's model of working with cities is to tell each community that alternative modes of transportation must be worked out by the city. Given the facts found in Sound's studies the bulk of the transit users don't live in the immediate city boundaries so the cities have little ability to control the situation.

Now development of transit-oriented communities is under way. The "free parking" that Sound has been granted by the recession is coming to an end. With each upcoming successful transit oriented development will come a smaller and smaller inventory of off site parking for the non-development area ridership.

Cities are already being told individually and in regional meetings by Sound Transit staffers that the time is coming for another authority wide vote for funding. This is a call for higher taxes, yet nothing is said of city needs, only of Sound's requirements.

In this new era of development there needs to be engagement and a new partnership with the cities involved with and suffering from Sound planning. If Sound Transit is to receive the cooperation and active support of the cities that have been afflicted with overcrowding of city streets then that new partnership must include real conversations and plans for the future development working together and not imposed from above.

Reach Mayor Pete Lewis at www.facebook.com/auburnmayor or plewis@auburn.wa.gov

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