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Sound Transit and King County Metro strengthening procedures on service disruptions associated with protest activity

Summary

At the direction of Sound Transit Chair Dave Somers and King County Executive Dow Constantine, Sound Transit and King County Metro transit have formalized a protocol under which the agencies’ senior leadership will review all future requests by law enforcement to interrupt rail or bus service during protests.

Story

At the direction of Sound Transit Chair Dave Somers and King County Executive Dow Constantine, Sound Transit and King County Metro transit have formalized a protocol under which the agencies’ senior leadership will review all future requests by law enforcement to interrupt rail or bus service during protests.

The elected leaders called for the two agencies to meet today after Link light rail and bus service to and from the SeaTac/Airport station was interrupted for about 30 minutes Saturday at the request of Port of Seattle law enforcement officials.

The interruption of Link service started at about 6:27 p.m., ended at about 7 p.m. and affected three northbound trains and three southbound trains. It was initiated after the Port of Seattle contacted the Link Control Center. Metro operates Link service under contract to Sound Transit and was asked to suspend service due to safety and security concerns. A short time later Sound Transit CEO Peter Rogoff rescinded the service interruption after observers at the scene determined there was no apparent threat to public safety. The Port of Seattle concurred.

Rogoff and King County Metro General Manager Rob Gannon met this morning to discuss formalized and strengthened protocols that will apply for any future requests for suspensions of rail and bus services that law enforcement agencies make in association with protest activities. 

At the meeting, Rogoff and Gannon confirmed that both agencies will continue to comply with legal requirements to honor requests from local law enforcement agencies to suspend bus or rail service due to safety and security concerns. Going forward, the two agencies will simultaneously initiate a formal protocol for CEO and/or general manager review of any disruption associated with protest activity to determine if continuing to provide transit service represents a genuine threat to the public’s safety and security.

“A bedrock of our nation and community is the right to assemble and the right to free speech,” said Sound Transit Chair and Snohomish County Executive Dave Somers. “Transit agencies and transportation systems are here to serve our residents and help people move, be it to a Seahawks game, a job, a protest, or to school. The system must accommodate the need to the best of its ability. Sound Transit exists to get people to where they need to go, while also protecting the safety of its passengers.”

“Transit should always be available for those who want to participate in our democracy,” said Executive Constantine. “Under the new protocol, any request by law enforcement to disrupt rail or bus service, except for an immediate and serious threat, will be quickly reviewed by senior leadership at both Sound Transit and King County Metro. This will help protect both public safety and the constitutional right to peacefully assemble.”

“As a transit agency, our first obligation is to deliver our passengers to wherever they want to go in a safe and secure manner. That includes passengers desiring to peacefully assemble to protest government policies,” Rogoff said. “Protecting public safety requires us to suspend service whenever requested by area law enforcement. But going forward, when protest activity is involved, we will immediately and independently evaluate conditions on the ground with the goal of restarting service as soon as possible. Sound Transit and Metro will advocate with jurisdictions to observe criteria for service disruptions that are based solely around the safety of the public.”

“As operator of both Link light rail and bus service throughout King County, our paramount concern is the safety and security of our passengers, our employees and our facilities,” said Gannon. “We all rely on local law enforcement. This partnership and our coordination must remain strong and effective. We want transit to serve the needs of our community – including peaceful assembly – and are focused on making sure we have the best balance between service and safety going forward. By reviewing and revising our practices, we can hope to better achieve that balance.”