Spotlight on Sustainability: Puget Sound building communities around transit
A Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) regional planning grant is helping the Central Puget Sound region plan for future growth and leverage a significant transportation investment.
Sound Transit Light Rail; credit: LeeLeFever
Investing in Puget Sound
The Central Puget Sound region approved the Sound Transit 2 Plan (ST2) in 2008 to develop and construct more robust regional rapid transit. At an estimated $17.8 billion cost, the majority of which is devoted to 36 additional miles of light rail track, the project will more than double the current system, expanding service to three counties and connecting the larger Seattle metropolitan area. Upon completion, slated for 2023, the project’s planners expect half of all trips to Downtown Seattle will be on transit. ST2 will help support the projected growth of the Puget Sound region in the coming years, with an anticipated 1.5 million new residents by 2040.
The Puget Sound Regional Council (PSRC), an organization focused on planning for regional transportation, growth management and economic development, realized the need to prepare the Puget Sound area for a projected population of 5 million. Working with residents and county, city, and local officials, PSRC developed VISION 2040, a regional strategy for accommodating the area’s projected growth. Complimenting ST2’s efforts, VISION 2040 is a set of regional policies that local jurisdictions must consider when planning their decisions addressing land use, economic, and environmental issues. While an effective framework for regional growth, the plan does not focus on the individual community level and local benefits, opportunities, and potential impacts of ST2. Says Ben Bakkenta of PSRC, “There wasn’t that bridge from the regional vision to the local jurisdiction.”
Growing Transit Communities
To address this gap, PSRC applied for a HUD Regional Planning Grant in 2010. The $5 million grant they received has helped develop strategies for communities receiving new light rail stations, as well as those with other high capacity transit, such as bus rapid transit. Growing Transit Communities seeks to ensure that ST2’s investments help to concentrate housing, jobs, and services near transit, promoting faster and safer travel. Led by a diverse consortium of 39 partners including local governments and regional transit agencies, business organizations and non-profits in the central Puget Sound region’s 3 counties, the project has a particular focus on housing affordability and equal access to opportunity and transit.