The 12/08/13 and 12/11/13 posts have detailed the problems with Sound Transits current plans for implementing the Prop 1 extensions the public approved in the 2008 referendum. The bottom line is the combination of the Seattle tunnel limitations and the high operating costs for light rail trains should force an end to all the extensions.
If allowed to proceed, the $20 billion ($2007 dollars) Sound Transit will spend on light rail over the next ten years will do absolutely nothing to relieve the areas already serious congestion problems. The East Link confiscation of the I-90 Bridge center roadway for light rail will actually increase congestion. When the extensions are completed (2023) the operating costs for the longer routes will make 4-car trains prohibitively expensive and necessitate huge subsidies, even for 2-car trains. The end result will be a huge public debt, a light rail line with limited capacity, and an operating deficit that will perpetually drain the areas transportation funds. Even more absurd, the Prop 1 commuters’ transit times will be longer than existing, or what could easily be available bus routes.
The alternative is to limit light rail to a trunk line between University and SeaTac that will allow the use of 4-car trains at least during the peak commute hours. Add a T/C at the University light rail station, initiate BRT service on both 520 and I-90 Bridges, and expedite adding the 4th lanes to the I-90 bridge outer roadways. The University T/C would add the thousands of 520 commuters needed to make light rail viable financially. 520 and 1-90 BRT would provide Seattleites with easy access to Eastside and allow eastside commuters to leave their cars at P&R lots near where they live reducing congestion throughout the area. The 4th lanes on 1-90 Bridge would reduce transit times for those choosing to drive.
All of the alternatives could be done for a fraction of the $20 billion cost and in far less time than the 10 years required for Prop 1. The remaining funds could be used to help fund Metro, the 520 bridge rebuild, the tunnel replacing the viaduct, and needed improvements to 405. Again the choice is clear.