Recent articles in local papers have criticized the majority council members for objecting to Sound Transit’s preferred light rail route through Bellevue. The council proposal would apparently create a huge “hole” in Sound Transit funding.
Sound Transit needs to be reminded 40% of their funds come from the Eastside. The added costs of the council’s preferred route in no way makes up for Sound Transit failure to meet obligations to spend that money on eastside transportation.
The Sound Transit financial “hole’ is a direct result of their own incompetence. The Sounder train operating costs, along with the limited number of riders, are such that each commuter riding from Everett into Seattle costs Sound Transit more than $45 and another $45 for the return trip.
Their Central Link rail was originally projected to carry 110,000 riders daily by 2010. They had less than 25,000. The $75 million dollars lost because of the missing riders is 50% more than the expected yearly revenue from 520 tolls.
What is truly absurd is Sound Transit’s proposal to speed up extending Central Link southward, eventually reaching Federal Way. The costs associated with constructing the extension along with the added equipment and operating costs to maintain service over the longer route will far exceed any potential revenue from additional riders.
Sound Transit incompetency soars to even greater heights with their East Link proposal. Central Link, for all its financial problems, has minimal effect on other traffic. East Link will actually increase congestion for the vast majority of cross-lake commuters by forcing all vehicular traffic onto the outer bridge sections.
Prior to Prop 1 vote, East Link was promoted as the equivalent of up to 10 highway lanes across the bridge. We later learn service will be limited to one train every nine minutes. Each train will be restricted to between two to four cars by either bridge structural concerns or station design.
Sound Transit compounds this capacity problem by restricting access for potential riders. Only one P&R is planned along the route. Thus, East Link ridership, like Central Link, will fall far short of Sound Transits projected 50,000 daily riders by 2030.
In conclusion, the council should refuse to approve permits Sound Transit needs for East Link construction. This action would not only prevent them from devastating Bellevue, it would also stop their confiscation of the bridge center section and avoid the resulting increased cross-lake congestion.
A small part of the $5-6 billion saved could be used to convert the bridge center section to two-way bus only lanes with ten times light rail capacity ten years ahead of light rail. The remaining funds could be used to eliminate the need for 520 tolls and to improve 405.