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Strategy pushes region to leverage transit development
Light rail may be decades away in Federal Way and other cities, but one program encourages the region to seize today’s opportunities for transit-related development.
The Puget Sound Regional Council (PSRC) — which encompasses King, Pierce, Kitsap and Snohomish counties — shared its vision for the region’s transportation future with the Federal Way City Council.
Growing Transit Communities (GTC) is funded by $5 million in federal grants. The program identifies and develops transit strategies throughout the region — especially in cities that either already have light rail service, or like Federal Way, are slated to receive such service in the future.
“Our coalition, locally, has as its mission to promote what we call ‘thriving and equitable transit communities’ throughout the region,” said PSRC senior planner Michael Hubner during the council’s April 2 meeting.
The region is investing $15 billion in transit during the next two decades, which presents an opportunity for community development around transit stations and hubs, he said.
“We already have solid regional and local plans in place,” Hubner said. “This is really about implementing those plans and leveraging transit investment.”
Hubner said the work for the GTC program has been going on for the past three years, with 2013 the final year of this phase of the work. That plan was composed of four parts: corridor action strategies, regional equity network, affordable housing strategies, and demonstration projects. Corridor action strategies is the two-pronged plan for developing transit options and also leveraging money for transit opportunities in local communities.
The regional equity network is a coalition of local communities and organizations making sure that the transit needs of underrepresented populations are being heard and addressed. Affordable housing strategies are aimed at identifying financial tools, developing data and determining best practices. Finally, demonstration projects are examples of the GTC program at work.
Outside of that, Hubner mentioned that one of the steps going forward would be to have all the various cities under the GTC program enter into a compact in the near future.
The regional transit communities compact is a high-level, non-binding statement of support for the work of the GTC program, Hubner noted.
“This is a statement that we will be doing outreach to each of the cities and organizations that are a part of our consortium for the remainder of 2013,” he told the council. “And we would be asking for your endorsement of that, once it’s approved by our oversight committee in July.”
Hubner said PRSC thinks there are five benefits for all communities, agencies and organizations participating in the GTC program:
• Developing tools and resources that don’t yet exist.
• Allowing the program to target investments regionally.
• Raise regional competitiveness.
• Build public support for transit communities and development.
• Enhance the quality of life throughout the region, especially in areas where growth is needed.
Growing Transit Communities
To learn more about the Puget Sound Regional Council and the Growing Transit Communities (GTC) program, visit www.psrc.org/growth/growing-transit-communities.
FYI: Light rail and Federal Way
In 2008, voters approved the ST2 plan to build light rail to South 272nd Street, linking the city with Seattle and the airport. However, Sound Transit has delayed the extension to Federal Way until at least 2040, citing a 31 percent shortfall in tax revenue from South King County. According to the original plan, Federal Way was supposed to see a station at South 272nd Street by 2023. The ultimate goal for Sound Transit is to eventually connect the King County system with Tacoma.
Plans are in the works to make light rail “shovel ready” in Federal Way for when funding is available. Sound Transit is looking at pursuing federal funding to meet the tax revenue shortfall caused by the economic downturn that began in 2008.