Seattle’s King County Metro and Sound Transit reached an agreement to continue operating and maintaining the Link light rail system for the next four-and-a-half years, and potentially up to 10 years. The agreement was sent to the King County Council and Sound Transit Board’s Executive Committee this week for consideration.
King County Metro has operated and maintained Sound Transit Link light rail since it launched in 2009. If approved, the new agreement will continue the dependable service to the region through Dec. 31, 2023, and potentially through December 2029.
Whether it comes to planning, operations, and vision, the integration of King County Metro and Sound Transit projects and services has been key to serving the region successfully. This new agreement has clearer lines of authority, cost containment, operating rules, data reporting, and other language, which reflects the lessons learned in a decade of joint rail operations.
Sound Transit carried 24 million passengers on Link light rail in 2018 as it traveled between the University of Washington through downtown Seattle and to Sea Tac International Airport and Angle Lake — a 20-mile system with 16 stations. More than 370 King County Metro employees operate and maintain Link light rail service from 5 a.m. to 1 a.m. daily under the current agreement, which totaled $46 million for service in 2018. Link light rail operations and maintenance costs are projected to be $66 million in 2020 as the agency ramps up efforts to open service to Northgate in 2021.
King County Metro’s partnership with Sound Transit to operate light rail during this rapid expansion keeps light rail operation dependable and stable through the demonstrated strength of Metro’s rail division, and offers the best path to seamless operations and a positive experience for customers.
This partnership comes as King County Metro builds on its ridership success and moves toward its long-range vision, Metro Connects, and Sound Transit plans light rail extensions to the University District, Roosevelt, and Northgate in 2021, Bellevue in 2023, and Redmond, Lynnwood, and Federal Way in 2024.
By working together, the agencies hope to find better efficiencies, improve the customer experience, handle emergencies, use public resources wisely, and provide economic prosperity.