North Sound Transportation Alliance

The North Sound Transportation Alliance (NSTA), formerly known as the Farmhouse Gang,  is a coalition of concerned citizens, elected officials and professional staff of transportation agencies from Washington’s five northwestern-most counties: Whatcom, Skagit, Island, San Juan and northern Snohomish. NSTA strives to develop better ways for people to move through the region by using all available modes in an effective and smoothly functioning network that does not rely solely on the automobile.

NSTA is committed to identifying solutions to regional transportation challenges and – using regional partnerships – implementing those solutions through the establishment of new and/or the improvement of existing transportation services in the North Sound region.  This will be accomplished by:

Meeting Schedule

NSTA meets at least twice a year, and the Steering Committee meets an additional four times a year.

County Connector Passenger Survey

The Whatcom Council of Governments (WCOG) conducted a passenger survey on all four County Connector routes in March and April of 2015. The County Connector Passenger Survey was funded by the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) using Regional Transportation Planning Organization (RTPO) funds.  This report summarizes results of the first passenger survey conducted on the county connector service.

Completed projects

Regional Transportation Governance Study

In 2001, the Governor’s Blue Ribbon Commission on Transportation identified regional governance of transportation as an area in which improvement was necessary.  Following up on these recommendations, the State Legislature considered a number of legislative proposals regarding regional governance and financing mechanisms.  NSTA requested and received funding to conduct its own study of regional transportation governance models, and to develop alternatives that would build upon the positive working relationships that hed been developed in northwest Washington.  The Governance Study was prepared by the Whatcom Council of Governments and the Cascadia Project of the Discovery Institute and was completed in 2002.

Recommendations Regarding Governance

Although the Governance Study found no compelling need or interest in changing fundamental attributes of the NSTA, it did identify opportunities for improvement, including clarification of the coalition’s purpose, mission and goals.  Among the recommendations were clarifying NSTA goals, developing performance measures to better gauge levels of success and strengthening the coalition’s support for its existing constituencies.

Intermodal Connections and Commuter Study

This study examined existing and future demand for work-based and other types of commuter transportation in northwestern Washington and considered the availability, feasibility and desirability of all potential modes.

Traveler Information Kiosk System

This pilot project established ten traveler information kiosks at major transportation crossroads around the region, including train stations, ferry terminals and airports. The kiosks were supplied with poster-sized Transportation Connections maps as well as individual brochures.  This project was funded by a combination of local contributions and federal Transportation Enhancement funds.  Although this project has been completed, WCOG continues to provide maps and update the posters.

Inter-County Transit Service

As a result of the Intermodal Connections and Commuter Study, funding was set aside by former State Senator Mary Margaret Haugen for a joint transit project providing continuous transit service within Whatcom, Skagit and Island Counties.  This project was subsequently made permanent and continues to provide transportation connections to schools, colleges, medical facilities and other services.  Additional connections were coordinated later to allow transit travel from Whatcom County through Skagit and Island Counties to Everett, the major employment center in Snohomish County.

Business Case Study of Passenger-only Ferry Service Between Bellingham and Friday Harbor 

Through NSTA, funds contributed by several parties were combined to determine the fiscal feasibility of and best-case ownership and operating arrangements for such a service, based on a previous four-month ferry service pilot project and survey.

Continuing Research

With federal funding provided with the assistance of U.S. Representative Rick Larsen, studies continue on ways to extend rail, passenger-only ferry and other services in northwest Washington and beyond.

NSTA members meet periodically to identify new and emerging technologies, opportunities and methodologies in the interest of striving for a better transportation system. Membership is open to all and meetings are held throughout the five-county region.  Please consult the Calendar for upcoming meeting dates and locations.

For more information

For more information, please contact Melissa Fanucci, Principal Planner at or (360) 685-8385.