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Sound Transit Board receives 'tough love' from oversight panel

Central Puget Sound Regional Transit Authority’s board members heard some difficult — but valuable — words from its Citizen Oversight Panel (COP) when it presented its year-end 2000 performance report. And it’s taking those words to heart.

Since last fall, Sound Transit’s local reputation has been put through the wringer due to cost-estimate errors. And COP did not see evidence that such errors could be avoided in the future. It did, however, feel that revenue assumptions in the agency’s new financial plan were overly optimistic, and recommended that the board now devise policies anticipating future actions if the estimates do not hold true in practice.

COP also gave Sound Transit a biff on the chin, stating the agency, "repeatedly failed to control its budgets and its schedule" and "expressed concern about a lack of attention within the agency to management and reporting discipline."

The Panel further said that change must come from senior management in using real-time project controls and instituting real accountability to ensure in-place systems are used.

Sound Transit’s board didn’t escape its own slap on the wrist. COP stated the board "did not act rapidly enough in holding management accountable for the problems that arose."

But not all the news was bad; COP did acknowledge that Sound Transit and its board already had taken steps to remedy past errors, including appointing new interim management, signing a $500 million federal government full funding grant agreement, updating its long-term financial plan, and forming a light-rail project review committee.

"The role of the Citizen Panel is to provide us with very direct and constructive criticism and that’s exactly what they’ve done," said Board Chair Dave Earling, an Edmonds city councilmember, in a prepared statement. "The COP has accurately captured the issues that the board and agency must address to restore public confidence."

COP has evaluated the agency’s performance semi-annually since its inception. To further aid Sound Transit both in meeting its commitment to public accountability and in restoring the public’s faith in the agency, COP intends to increase the frequency of its evaluations and reports.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 3/9/2001