Delivering for the Long-term. The Central Puget Sound Regional Transit Authority, better known as Sound Transit, is a public transit agency serving the Seattle metropolitan area in the State of Washington. Sound Transit operates the Link Light Rail system in Seattle and Tacoma, Sounder regional commuter rail, and Sound Transit Express bus service. The agency also coordinates the regional ORCA fare card system, which is used by local transit operators.
In 2017, Sound Transit services carried a total of 47 million passengers and averaged 157,000 riders on weekdays. Today, Sound Transit is in the process of planning and building the most ambitious transit expansion in the country, including a new light rail system costing around $800 million, with the eventual goal of putting 155 new light rail vehicle cars into service. The agency is investing in the future by betting on green energy and reducing their carbon footprint.
With a project this large involving taxpayer money, there is also a significant investment by the Federal Transit Administration (FTA). The FTA investment requires extensive oversight and adherence to strict quality assurance guidelines. To assist in meeting the myriad of compliance expectations throughout the project, Sound Transit signed an eight-year long contract with Talson Solutions, which started in 2016 with Safety and Security Certification audits. Specifically focusing on hazard identification, mitigation, conformance documentation, and safety and security certification, Talson verifies the completeness and integrity of all system-wide elements. The comprehensive audits allow the CEO of Sound Transit to sign off on passenger use of their trains. Due to the body of work already conducted by the firm, Talson successfully won additional work from Sound Transit to conduct a detailed performance audit of the transportation agency’s design engineering and construction management activities. The quality of their work caught the eye of the newly appointed Director of the Audit Division, Patrick Johnson. “When I was hired, Talson was already our contractor, but I think that the relationship really took off after I joined. Talson has the ability to grasp the bigger picture and focus on it. Their vision aligned with mine so much so that it seemed like a perfect match moving forward onto other projects,” said Johnson. Patrick did not actually meet the Talson staff until their first onsite visit in Seattle while working on the East Link project, one of Sound Transit’s soon-to-open rail line extensions. A fifteen-year veteran auditor, Patrick had a strong idea of what he wanted in his audits, and he was admittedly impressed with the attention to detail Talson achieved. Recalling a specific instance, he described the foresight Talson had to see potential issues Sound Transit could encounter with their massive purchase of 155 rail cars just from the first four sets they saw.
From the first audit, Talson showed they had Sound Transit and Patrick’s success in mind. Their exceptional auditing work identified a multitude of issues that previously had neither been noticed nor corrected, allowing the Sound Transit team to triple their rail fleet targets. “We are in the midst of multiple capital projects, and probably the most ambitious transportation project expansion in the United States. Talson is a key player. I’ve said it multiple times to my executives, Talson is a strategic partner in the work that we do to push Sound Transit forward, and I honestly couldn’t work without them.” added Johnson. As Sound Transit continues its expansion in the Pacific Northwest, with projects already planned between now and 2041, they hope that their current contract with their auditing firm evolves into a long-lasting partnership. Considering the number of audits and findings, Sound Transit is highly satisfied with Talson’s work. While continuing its audit role, the firm conducted a performance audit comparing Sound Transit’s construction performance metrics against other U.S. transit agencies. Talson has shown its value, leaving Patrick Johnson and the Sound Transit team more confident that they are providing the quality transit system that their taxpayers want and deserve.