(The Sept 20th Bellevue Reporter prompted the following post).
The news accounts of the 9/17 forum at Stevens Elementary concerning the need for a 10.5 cent increase in the gas tax as the “Transportation Fix” exemplifies problems with the entire area’s transportation leaders.
The proposed gas tax increase will provide $200 to $250 million a year in additional income which apparently would be directed primarily towards avoiding cuts in Metro bus service. The hypocrisy comes from the fact those responsible for funding transportation ignore the fact Sound Transit is committed to spending nearly 10 times that amount annually for the next ten years on light rail extensions that completely fail any rational cost/benefit analysis.
It would be one thing if the money spent on the extensions lowered transit operating costs, shortened commute times, or reduced congestion. The reality is the high light rail operating costs ($45.60 per mile for 2-car train vs $9.50 per mile for bus) will increase Central Link operating costs far beyond likely fare box revenue from additional riders. The construction costs and the capital and operating cost increases with the longer routes will create a perpetual "financial black hole" for transportation funds. What's worse, commute times for most light rail commuters will actually increase over what is currently or could be available with the far less expensive buses.
The $2.8 billion East Link extension is particularly absurd in that it not only increases operating costs and commute times for riders (relative to buses); it also increases I-90 congestion by forcing all cross-lake vehicles onto the outer roadway. (Also devastates a beautiful part of Bellevue and wrecks havoc on city center.)
In conclusion the proposed gas tax increase will do very little to reduce the congestion concerns of those who attended the forum. The 9/17/13 post explained how the Supreme Court erred when they allowed Sound Transit to proceed with East Link. Central Link extensions would undoubtedly fail a rational cost/benefit analysis. Diverting the $2 billion Sound Transit will spend each year on light rail would go a long way to solving the entire areas transportation needs.