Despite a rating of “excellent” from the Sound Transit board, CEO Peter Rogoff will forgo this year’s performance bonus and merit raise amid the COVID-19 economic recession.
Rogoff’s 2021 salary will remain $379,600. He’s expected to miss a bonus valued at $6,000 under his 2019-21 contract, and a 4% yearly raise worth $15,184.
He chose a pay freeze “in light of the financial challenges brought on by the pandemic, and his desire to lead by example as the agency works toward containing operating costs,” transit-board Chairman Kent Keel said in a committee meeting last week. A final board vote is planned Thursday.
The agency’s 1,100 employees will also miss a yearly raise to account for inflation, but will receive a lump-sum bonus — typically $3,000 for “successful” performance, spokesperson Geoff Patrick said.
Rogoff did a phenomenal job coordinating the agency when the coronavirus pandemic struck, as hundreds switched to working from home, Keel said in an interview.
“It was just stellar, and trying to keep some semblance of operations, and trying to keep essential workers moving through Puget Sound,” said Keel, a University Place City Council member.
Sound Transit’s ridership on trains and express buses is just one-third of normal. The agency reduced peak-time light rail service this week, so trains run 12 minutes apart, because of a COVID-related shortage of train operators, who work for King County Metro Transit.
Just as the outbreak hit, the agency finished the Connect 2020 project — reversing trains at Pioneer Square Station while contractors attached new Eastside tracks at International District/Chinatown Station — without severe passenger delays and crowding. Light rail expansions remain on schedule to reach Northgate in September 2021 and Bellevue-Overlake in June 2023.
Rogoff missed the top rate of “outstanding” because some people on the 18-member board weren’t satisfied with how promptly the staff addressed questions, Keel said. But relations have improved since three years ago, when staff complaints of an abrasive management style caused Rogoff to lose his bonus and almost lose his job.
Sound Transit is undertaking the nation’s biggest transit expansion program, and a $99 billion 2017-41 financial plan. Some future projects, including I-405 buses along with rail to Everett, Ballard and West Seattle, face the threat of delays because of lower tax revenue. Rogoff and the board are expected to face agonizing decisions about fiscal “realignment” in 2021.