About this blog

My name is Bill Hirt and I'm a candidate to be a Representative from the 48th district in the Washington State legislature. My candidacy stems from concern the legislature is not properly overseeing the WSDOT and Sound Transit East Link light rail program. I believe East Link will be a disaster for the entire eastside. ST will spend 5-6 billion on a transportation project that will increase, not decrease cross-lake congestion, violates federal environmental laws, devastates a beautiful part of residential Bellevue, creates havoc in Bellevue's central business district, and does absolutely nothing to alleviate congestion on 1-90 and 405. The only winners with East Link are the Associated Builders and Contractors of Western Washington and their labor unions.

This blog is an attempt to get more public awareness of these concerns. Many of the articles are from 3 years of failed efforts to persuade the Bellevue City Council, King County Council, east side legislators, media, and other organizations to stop this debacle. I have no illusions about being elected. My hope is voters from throughout the east side will read of my candidacy and visit this Web site. If they don't find them persuasive I know at least I tried.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

BRT Obvious Choice Over Light Rail

This post is an attempt to explain in more detail the advantages of Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) systems for cross-lake commuters.  The National Bus Rapid Transit Institute (nbrti.org/build.html) describes BRT as follows:

BRT is an innovative, high capacity, lower cost public transit solution that can significantly improve urban mobility.  This permanent, integrated system uses buses or specialized vehicles on roadways or dedicated lanes to quickly and efficiently transport passengers to their destinations, while offering the flexibility to meet transit demand.  BRT systems can easily be customized to community needs and incorporate state-of-the-art, low-cost technologies that result in more passengers and less congestion.

The web site goes into great detail about what makes BRT such a successful transportation system.  Any review would quickly conclude a BRT system is ideal for not only for cross-lake mass transit, it also benefits the entire east side. 

The primary criterion for effective BRT operation is the level of separation from other traffic.  Increasing levels of segregation through exclusive arterial lanes, grade separated lanes or exclusive transit ways on separate rights-of-way add increasing levels of travel time savings and reliability improvement for the operation of BRT services.”

The I-90 center roadway is ideal once the non-transit HOV traffic is relocated to the outer roadways.  It’s 40 ft wide with room for inbound and outbound lanes divided by a third lane for increased safety and access in case of maintenance problems.  The only limitation on the “headways” or intervals between buses is the ability to safely stop if the bus ahead has a problem.   The resulting 15-20 bus-per-minute lane capacities could accommodate all current bus routes along with any foreseeable demands for BRT service.  (East Link will at best have one 4-car train every 7 minutes.)

The second requirement is to provide the access needed to “draw passengers from their market area”.   The BRT systems cross-lake capacity would allow direct routes from each of the eastside P&R lots into Seattle.  Each P&R route would have two or three dedicated drop off points along 4th Ave and two or three pick up points along 2nd Ave for the return routes.  (2nd and 4th Ave would be restricted to buses to facilitate this service at least during the peak commute).  Seattleites would use the return routes for access to and from Bellevue T/C and other eastside destinations.  (East Link’s only access for the vast majority of cross-lake commuters is the South Bellevue P&R.)

Each eastside P&R would have its own dedicated transportation system that operates independently of other P&R routes.  The service would be matched to demand as determined by surveys of the nearby residents at home or their place of work. Some P&R lots could also provide BRT connections to Bellevue T/C and Overlake area.

Another important aspect of BRT operation deals with collecting fares.  "An onboard payment to a fare box or a processing unit for tickets or cards adjacent to the operator does not require significant fare collection infrastructure outside the vehicle.  However, requiring passengers to board through a single front door and pay the fare as they enter can result in significant dwell times on busy BRT routes."

The fact that the only eastside access for most BRT routes will be at their respective P&R lot makes it relatively easy to collect fares when boarding in the morning and exiting at night.  Seattleites would also pay fares on the eastside when getting off in the morning and on in the evening.  Collecting fares only on the eastside eliminates the need to collect fares at multiple locations downtown.   Requiring payment adjacent to the operator minimizes the loss in revenue from fare evasion.  (Central Link losses due primarily to fare evasion in 2011 resulted in average fares of $1.30 per rider, about half the quoted fares.)

In conclusion, by every significant criterion, BRT is infinitely better than light rail for cross-lake mass transit.  (At 1/10th the cost and 10 years sooner.)  BRT’s capacity to provide every eastside commuter the opportunity to leave their car at a P&R near where they live can also potentially alleviate congestion throughout the eastside.  (Again East Link will do nothing to relieve SR405 and I-90 congestion.)

Sound Transit’s decision to selected light rail over BRT 15 years ago has already resulted in hundreds of millions wasted and forced commuters to endure years of increased congestion.   They should be “persuaded” to stop this debacle, initiate BRT service as rapidly as possible and use the billions they were planning to spend on light rail to help fund the 520 bridge rebuild and other eastside improvements.  

Allowing them to proceed with a plan to spend more billions on a transportation system that will, instead, gridlock I-90 and devastate parts of Bellevue would truly be unconscionable.

That’s why I run. 

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