Recently, the Sound Transit board has voted to abandon the light rail expansion plan that voters approved in 2016, reducing transit ridership and decimating system effectiveness by deleting some of the highest ridership stations: Chinatown International District, Midtown, and South Lake Union

What’s driving these proposed changes? As far as we can tell, it comes from a deep desire to get your name written on buildings, keep consultant pals employed, help out developer friends in need, and to defer to Amazon whenever possible. The crazy thing is that our own city leadership is quietly standing by as our transit expansion is gutted and delayed within the city, harming generations of future transit riders throughout the region.

Proposed Changes Come at a Large Cost 

Sound Transit's plan to look into the new, out-of-left-field options for the Downtown to Ballard portion of Sound Transit 3 expansion prompted the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) to inform the agency that it will need to perform additional planning processes, since the FTA requires planning do-overs when transit agencies seek to delete stations or move stations to entirely different areas this late in the game.

That means Sound Transit will need to start over or redo parts of the Ballard to Downtown Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), while West Seattle to SoDo proceeds to next steps in the process. An EIS is a very long and convoluted analysis that the federal government requires before doing any transit project. Starting over on the Ballard to Downtown EIS could delay the project for additional years and “can result in hundreds of millions of dollars in cost increases,” emphasis ours, on an already-delayed, already-expensive project, according to Sound Transit’s own Technical Advisory Group.

Sound Transit must come clean on the time and cost implications before going down this path, which was a key recommendation of its scathing Technical Advisory Group report. We cannot afford to continue to ignore best practices and piss away time and money on bad planning and poor leadership.

A Better Way 

Instead of the board pretending to save money and time by picking options that cost money and time, our counter-proposal is simple: Stop wasting time, pick from the options you have, and deliver the system voters approved in 2016. The proposed changes that are driving this update are bad for transit riders (why are we building light rail again??) and need to be stopped now.

It’s time for the Sound Transit board to choose from the existing options created from nearly seven years of process and community engagement. More self-inflicted delays are unacceptable on their own, but these are costly, self-inflicted delays with an end goal of justifying bad decisions. 

Take Action

Don’t let the current Sound Transit board permanently destroy our transit system out of short-sighted priorities. Join us in demanding they stop wasting time and money on endless process, choose from existing options, and stop the new EIS before it starts.


Ben Broesamle, Jon Cracolici, and Jonathan Hopkins are board members of Seattle Subway. Seattle Subway is an all-volunteer advocacy organization that has been fighting on behalf of transit riders for fast, reliable, high-capacity transit expansion since its incorporation in 2013.