While it is true that Sound Transit has suffered from organizational problems, the focus on those shortcomings has diverted the Board’s attention from the more fundamental problem that is the source of most of Sound Transit’s difficulties. That problem is the plan itself. In particular, the decision in 1995 to build a system based on light rail technology. After more than twenty-five years it has become painfully apparent that very high costs (over $250 million per mile), neighborhood disruption, a huge carbon footprint, and a decades-long timeline for construction are unavoidable consequences of basing the system on light rail. These problems have persisted under five different CEOs, several prime contractors, and more than a dozen different board chairmen. If organizational dysfunction was really the problem you’d think one of those CEOs would have figured it out. The fact that Sound Transit has had huge cost overruns and lengthy delays under every CEO and on every light rail line indicates the agency’s insistence on sticking with ill-suited light rail technology is far and away the biggest obstacle to economical implementation of an effective regional public transportation system.




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