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 travel in the region by pursuing the following objectives:

Download the NSTA Backgrounder document for more information.


Passenger Only Ferry Service in the North Sound
Friday, July 9, 2021 10:00am

The Puget Sound Regional Council Passenger Only Ferry Study included two routes located in the NSTA 5-county region that made it to the final levels of analysis: the Bellingham-Friday Harbor route and the South Whidbey-Everett route. We’ve asked a panel of experts to discuss the biggest challenges to implementing these routes. What institutional/political support exists and is still needed for these efforts? And what is the funding reality for passenger ferries following the Coronavirus pandemic? Join us!

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Focus Workshops

NSTA participants held a series of topic focus workshops in 2018 and 2019 to identify key strategies and actionable items that can be used to develop a work plan for 2020/2021.

Health & Transportation

Health and Transportation Workshops were held  in 2017, 2018 and 2019 to refine a list of top five strategies to address gaps in healthcare transportation within NSTA’s five county region. See the 2019 NSTA Report for more details.

September 14, 2018 Health and Transportation Workshop Executive Summary

September 8, 2017 Health & Transportation Workshop Summary

September 8, 2017 Health & Transportation Workshop Full Report of Proceedings

Regional Ferry Service

On April 13, 2018 and October 18, 2019 participants held Focus on Ferries Workshops to identify key priorities for future ferry improvements in the region. The initial workshop specifically looked to address “door to door, not shore to shore” travel solutions and look at sustainable ferry service that accommodates projected ridership growth. Five primary objectives were identified to pursue. See the 2019 NSTA Report for more details.

April 13, 2018 Focus on Ferries Workshop Report of Proceedings


Transit-focused meetings were held in October of 2018 and 2019 to describe an ideal regional transit system and what services that system would provide. Based on feedback, identified strategies were prioritized based on cost effectiveness and overall impact of the service. See the 2019 NSTA Report for more details.

Regional Trails & Active Transportation

The first goal of the April 26, 2019 Trails & Active Transportation Workshop, held in Mt. Vernon, Washington, was to develop a list of active transportation goals that are prioritized and can be used to identify future project strategies. A second goal was to subsequently identify those regional trail and active transportation projects that have the potential to be a regional connector. Results from the workshop are available below. See the 2019 NSTA Report for more details.

April 26, 2019 Trails & Active Transportation Workshop Executive Summary

April 26, 2019 Trails & Active Transportation Workshop Full Report of Proceedings

Passenger Rail

A Regional Rail Conference held on September 13, 2019 discussed state rail initiatives impacting rail travelers north of Everett and looked at opportunities and challenges to advancing NSTA’s long-standing interest in adding mid-day passenger rail service between Seattle and Vancouver, B.C. See the 2019 NSTA Report for more details.

Completed projects

The following projects were completed prior to 2017 and were completed with grant funding for the North Sound Connecting Communities Project, also known as the Farmhouse Gang.

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.

County Connector 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.

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.

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.

For more information

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