The 3/06/13 post opined it wasn't "prudent" for Sound Transit to spend $92 million on East Link “final design” in 2013 without finishing the 4th lanes on the 1-90 Bridge outer roadways or verifying the bridge could withstand the loads from East Link 4-car trains. This post details why another item on the ST 2013 plan, the $72 million spent on their plan to extend Central Link to Federal Way, is truly idiotic.
This funding is a down payment on an eventual 11-mile light rail extension to Federal Way. The budget didn’t provide any costs for construction or for the additional trains and other equipment required to maintain current service levels. Presumably these costs will total in the $1.0 - 1.5 billion levels.
The 2013 budget did include the fact light rail train operating costs were $22.80 per revenue mile and $779.58 per revenue hour. Thus when completed, the 11-mile extension will add about 22 miles and over $500.00 to the operating costs for every Federal Way light rail train into and out of Seattle
Central Link trains run on average every 10 minutes for 19 hours or about 114 times a day. If all the trains operate between Westlake and Federal Way the extension will add $57,000 to Central Links daily operating costs. Has Sound Transit bothered to determine how many commuters the extension will add?
If the want to retain the current $6.08 cost per boarding or $12.16 per rider (assuming two way commutes) roughly 5000 additional daily riders would be needed. Sound Transit Central Link ridership projections have been, to put it mildly, “optimistic” with current 26,000 weekly daily rides about a quarter of their original 100,000 predictions for 2010. I doubt if even Sound Transit would predict the Federal Way extension would add 5000 riders.
Sound Transit already provides Federal Way commuters with good bus service. For instance every 30 minutes ST574 connects Federal Way to SeaTac. It takes 25 minutes to reach the SeaTac transit station with an additional 5 minutes to the terminal baggage area. The 11-mile Central Link route, depending on the number of stops, would probably take 20-25 minutes to the transit station, a far less convenient drop off and pickup point for most travelers.
Central Link Route ST577 runs between FW and 4th & Union every 12-20 minutes. It takes between 25-37 minutes depending on the time of the day. Conversely, Central Link takes 38 minutes from SeaTac to Westlake, approximately 15 miles. Again, the 11-mile FW extension would probably add 20-25 minutes for a total of about an hour from FW to Westlake or 30 minutes longer than the bus.
In conclusion ST is planning to spend probably close to $1.5 billion to extend Central Link to Federal Way. They’re doing so presumably with the belief that large numbers of additional transit riders will be attracted to light rail even though the commute takes 30 minutes longer than their current bus routes. Even more absurd, they’re apparently trying to attract people away from a bus with operating costs of $194.52 per revenue hour (per ST 20113 budget) to trains costing four times as much. That truly is idiotic.