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Nordic News

The student news site of Inglemoor High School

Nordic News

Sound Transit light rail expansions coming in 2024

A+Sound+Transit+Security+guard+and+a+customer+support+employee+patrol+Northgate+station+to+help+riders+get+to+their+destination+safely.
Cate Bouvet (she/her)
A Sound Transit Security guard and a customer support employee patrol Northgate station to help riders get to their destination safely.

In 2024, the initial segment of the East Link extension between South Bellevue and Redmond will open. An extension of the One Line — currently the only line in the Sound Transit light rail system — for four stations into Lynnwood of the light rail is also planned to open in fall of 2024. Additionally, the West Seattle Link Extension and the Ballard Link Extension are under environmental review as part of the planning phase of expansion projects. 

“Public transportation, mass transit, helps reduce carbon emissions. It’s convenient, it connects people throughout the region,” Rachelle Cunningham, a Sound Transit Public Information Officer said. “I think it’s just a mobility issue as well. There are huge traffic problems all throughout our region. This gives people a way to get to where they’re going without getting stuck in traffic.” 

Cunningham said that Sound Transit funding comes from property taxes and vehicle registration assessments. The Sound Transit taxing district includes Pierce County, King County and parts of Snohomish County. 

“Those are the folks who would vote on the expansion method measures,” Cunningham said. “That would include the people in the areas where we’re building.”

Cunningham said that in building infrastructure, there are always lots of challenges. She said that although major challenges with construction quality delayed the Eastlink project from opening, the construction of the Lynnwood extension has progressed fairly smoothly. Cathal Ridge, the Executive Corridor Director at Sound Transit, said that the West Seattle Link extension is currently navigating Federal and tribal approvals, city permitting and the construction market. 

“The construction market is just a risk in general, depending on where the market is at,” Ridge said at the Sound Transit Community Oversight Panel on Jan. 10. “But right now, costs, construction factors, availability and contracts and all that is driving prices.”

There are currently 31 light rail stations open, and over 84,500 passengers ride the light rail every day. Instead of gates to enforce fares, the light rail has a proof-of-payment system, meaning riders are required to show proof of payment once they board the train. During the pandemic, Sound Transit stopped charging fares. They slowly returned to charging fares in June 2020. The Link light rail fare, per trip, is $3 for adults. Riders can get an ORCA card to pay transit fees electronically and receive various discounts. Additionally, riders 18 and under can ride the light rail for free. Cunningham said that there have been some challenges over the past several years with fare compliance going down. 

“The reason Sound Transit does not use fare gates is that there are portions of the system that are open — like we have parts in the Rainier Valley, and there’ll be other ones as well, where the train runs along the streets there,” Cunningham said. “So there’s a danger that people would try to avoid fares by sort of crossing the tracks and that kind of thing. It wasn’t feasible to build.” 

Another challenge is the increase in assaults on trains and in stations in the last couple of years. At the Sound Transit Community Oversight panel, Ken Cummins, the Sound Transit Director of Public Safety, said there was a 125% increase in assaults in 2023, with 311 reported non-verbal assaults and 109 reported verbal assaults. In 2022, there were only 142 reported non-verbal assaults, Cummins said.  

“In response, Sound Transit hired three — I believe — security firms to increase the number of security officers who are available on the trains and also in all of the stations,” Cunningham said. “There are significantly more security officers within the system, and so we hope that that will have a positive impact on the feelings of safety that people will have and cut down on the number of incidents that we have on the train.” 

In partnership with King County Community Health and Services, Sound Transit piloted a program that created an outreach team to address unmet mental health needs and drug use on the transit system. Cummins said that from January to October of 2023, the team had approximately 11,700 contacts with non-destination riders — people riding the train to keep warm and have shelter — or riders deemed in need of social services, and 290 of them accepted services of shelter or programs at the time they were offered. Cummins said that the fentanyl crisis is also apparent on the transit system. Of the 15 deaths on the Sound Transit system in 2023, Cummins said that five were from drug overdose. 

Despite safety challenges on the light rail and construction challenges during development, Cummingham said that voters believe transit is important for a lot of reasons. She said that for many people who don’t drive, public transit enables them to have the same opportunities to get to work and medical appointments. 

“These are voter approved expansion projects,” Cunningham said. “It also makes us on par with some of the other cities in terms of mobility options.”

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About the Contributors
Weiju Wang (he/him), Co-Copy Editor
Junior Weiju Wang is heading into his third year in Nordic and second year as a copy editor. He’s excited to work with everyone on staff and continue to contribute to the publication. Outside of Nordic, he participates in the school’s robotics team and a variety of hobbies, including language learning, coding, piano, and calligraphy.
Cate Bouvet (she/her), Co-Editor-in-Chief
Cate Bouvet is the Co-Editor-in-Chief of Nordic News this year and is excited to lead Nordic’s staff in publishing relevant and engaging articles. In her third year on staff, she hopes to mentor new reporters and strive for objectivity. Outside of Nordic, Cate is also captain of Inglemoor’s cross-country team and volunteers at Seattle Aquarium. In her free time, she enjoys reading, writing, skiing, and spending time with family and friends. 

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