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.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Post for Washington State Legislative Committee on Transportation

(I sent an email to all the committee members referring them to this blog)
This post is an attempt to urge the Washington Legislatures Joint Committee on Transportation to take a more active role, either directly or through its oversight of the WSDOT, in monitoring Sound Transits activities.  It’s the latest of the 89 posts I’ve included on this blog during the last nine months concerning problems with Sound Transit policies in general and their East Link light rail program in particular.  

Any competent analysis would have quickly concluded Bus Rapid Transit (BRT, two-way bus-only lanes on center roadway) was a far better choice than light rail for cross-lake mass transit than light rail  (See 8/08/12 Post).  Sound Transit could have initiated BRT some 15 years ago, alleviating congestion for cross-lake commuters and saved the hundreds of millions spent on light rail.  Instead ST failed to even consider BRT on the I-90 center roadway as the “no-build” option in the 2008 DEIS.

Since the DEIS publication I’ve spent the last four years attempting to expose this truly historic blunder.  This includes emails to the Sound Transit Board, Bellevue City Council, WSDOT, Seattle Times, Bellevue Reporter, eastside legislators, local radio personalities, and others.  I’ve also made many presentations during the Bellevue City Council “public comment” sessions.  All have been essentially ignored. 

My goal in last year’s campaign for 48th District Representative was to use the “Voters’ Pamphlet” to attract attention to this blog.  Unfortunately, that effort was “hampered” by the Secretary of State’s failure to include the blog address in the general election pamphlet.  I have since continued with the blog as my way of making a “difference” and knowing in the end I will be “vindicated”.

The Bellevue City Council has been “less than helpful”.  They’ve
apparently reached an agreement with Sound Transit to approve  permits needed for construction.  The 3/06/13 post explains the devastating effect this agreement will have on those living along the route; the added cost to all of Bellevue for the BCC inexplicable decision to pay $200 million for a tunnel when eastside residents have already paid far more than their fair share of ST revenues; and the inevitable gridlock on the I-90 Bridge from East Link confiscation of the bridge center roadway.  Cross-lake light rail will be a disaster for the entire eastside.

More recent analysis of Sound Transit policies has led to the conclusion their problems go far beyond East Link.  The whole light rail concept was based on the premise that the capital costs associated with creating a light rail system would be offset by lower operating costs for the trains.  Yet ST light rail trains cost $797.58 per revenue hour, 4 times the $194.52 (per ST 2013 Budget) revenue hour costs for buses.

Central Link trains have higher capacity with about 150 riders sitting or standing in each car.  Comparable numbers for conventional buses are 60-70 riders and 80-90 riders for articulated buses.  Thus it would take 4 buses to match the capacity of a 2-car light rail train and the operating costs would be comparable.  However, anything less than peak capacity would allow fewer buses and lower operating costs.  It makes no sense to operate 2 or even 1-car light rail trains for 20 hours a day.  Replacing trains with buses after 7:00 or 8:00 PM and maybe during mid-day would substantially reduce operating costs.  Reducing the number of train trips would also probably result in less depreciation and further savings.

As the 3/09/13 post explains Sound Transit plans to extend Central Link to Federal Way is truly idiotic. The Central Link extension to Northgate can potentially be justified by the anticipated increased ridership.  However, the decision to tunnel makes it less financially viable because of the resultant increased costs and reduced access from fewer stations.  Light rail's high operating costs make any further extension even less viable. 

Central Link ridership could be increased if the University light rail station was designed to serve as the terminus for 520 BRT service (see 7/29/12 post).  If needed, the number of cars in each train could be doubled for additional capacity greatly improving light rail economics.  (A typical Paris subway train has 10 cars).  Cross-lake commuters from both sides of the lake would benefit and Seattle congestion would be reduced because of fewer buses.

In conclusion, the Sound Transit Board, the WSDOT and the media have all ignored my many attempts to raise these issues.  Hopefully the members of the legislatures joint transportation committee will recognize that allowing Sound Transit to continue with its current plans will devastate the east side and burden the entire area with the costs of operating a fatally flawed light rail system.     

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