After learning from a Seattle Times story that Sound Transit spent $858,379 in taxpayer money on the grand-opening parties for the University of Washington and Capitol Hill stations, one transit-board member recommends saving expenses on the next celebration.

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Sound Transit should try to save money on the grand opening of the Angle Lake light-rail station in SeaTac this September by cutting expenses or finding sponsors, said transit-board member Dave Upthegrove, who lives nearby.

He said he would make the suggestion to the Sound Transit board after learning from a Seattle Times story that the agency spent $858,379 in taxpayer money to plan, advertise and run the March 19 grand-opening parties for the University of Washington and Capitol Hill stations.

“I’m surprised to see the overall figures for that, and I think you can have a nice community celebration for less cost,” Upthegrove said Friday.

He said spending to promote new stations is worthwhile, because it encourages people to ride.

On the other hand, Upthegrove said, “That stop in Angle Lake is in one of the lowest-income, most diverse parts of the [King] county, and I don’t want to do something that’s ostentatious.”

The new University Link segment is drawing thousands more riders than projected, and heavy promotion contributes to that, the agency has said. Weekday ridership on the entire light-rail line is around 60,000, compared with 35,000 before the two stations opened.

Transit-board Chairman Dow Constantine, who is King County executive, referred an interview request Friday about the party budget to transit staff. His office hasn’t gotten any swell of feedback from the public about the March event, a spokesman said.

Angle Lake Station is 1½ miles south of Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. It will provide 1,050 park-and-ride spaces, bus access via the RapidRide A Line, and sidewalks to offices and motels.

“Angle Lake will add to our steep ridership climbs out of the gate for U-Link,” spokesman Bruce Gray said Friday.

The board last year provided roughly $150,000 for the upcoming Angle Lake event in its $710,875 contract with The Workshop of Seattle. The contract pays for planning expertise and nearly all the event-day logistics, including crowd control for both the March U-Link celebration and September’s Angle Lake party. The firm received glowing reviews by transit executives for managing the 2009 grand opening of light-rail’s first segment, from Tukwila to downtown Seattle.

Outside that contract Sound Transit pays for advertising, supplies, police and event-day shuttle buses, according to records the agency released to Smarter Transit, a nonprofit that opposes Seattle-area light rail.

Sound Transit considers the opening events a normal marketing expense. Also, the agency says it deliberately avoided seeking sponsors among Link’s construction and engineering companies, because that would create the appearance of bias in future bid competitions.

Light-rail supporters argue the celebration costs are minuscule compared with at least $200 million Sound Transit saved, by finishing under its $1.95 billion budget for the three-mile U-Link tunnel, stations and trains.