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.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Light Rail Hall of Shame

(I took a week off to visit Disneyland with the grand daughters)
This post is the first of several I intend to add to this blog over the next few weeks identifying those most responsible for allowing Sound Transit to proceed with the Prop 1 light rail extension debacle.

Light Rail Hall of Shame,

Sound Transit has spent $2-4 billion over the last five years as a “down payment” tor the $18.7 billion (2007$) Prop 1 light rail extensions to Central Link voters approved Prop 1 in 2008.  If allowed to continue over the next ten years the result will set a new standard for mass transit mismanagement.  The East Link extension will never have sufficient capacity to meet cross-lake commuter needs at the same time the capacity of the Central Link extensions to Lynnwood and Federal Way will dwarf any rational ridership prediction. 

East Link confiscation of the I-90 bridge center roadway will result in inevitable gridlock on the bridge outer roadways. Central Link operation will not only create a huge debt for construction and start-up costs, its operating deficits will result in a perpetual “black hole” for the area’s transportation funds.   

What is truly “remarkable” is “everyone” is obsessed with the need to do something about Metro’s current need for an additional $75 million annually to avoid large cuts in service.  At the same time no one seems concerned with ST plans to spend nearly $20 billion over the next ten years on light rail extensions that will do absolutely nothing to reduce the area’s congestion, purported to be the 4th worst in the country.  

This debacle can still be stopped.  Two-way bus only lanes could be operational on the I-90 Bridge center roadway in less than two years at a fraction of light rail cost with bus routes that could easily meet cross-lake transit capacity needs and reduce congestion throughout east side.   Central Link could be limited to light rail between a T/C at the University and SeaTac with improved access to the Tukwila station.    

Doing so would create a cost-effective “trunk line” that would fully utilize the limited capacity of light rail in Seattle (i.e. a 4-car train every 4 minutes).   The Lynnwood and Federal Way extensions would be replaced with less expensive bus routes with shorter commute times than light rail and schedules easily adjusted to meet local demand.  (It would also avoid the obvious insanity of Lynnwood having twice the number of trains as the entire eastside.)

Unfortunately that’s not likely to happen since “everyone” seems perfectly willing to go along with if not actively support ST current plans.   Thus “everyone” will “share” the blame freeing those primarily responsible for the ultimate debacle of any real rebuke.  This post is intended to clearly identify those most culpable for the debacle that awaits the area.  I call it the “Seattle Light Rail Hall of Shame”.  

It’s not as if the “inductees” aren’t aware of the concerns.  But, as the saying goes “You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make them drink”.    All have been “led to the water” countless times by emails referring them to nearly all of the posts on the blog.  The result has varied from 100-400 views a week totaling over 17,000 since the blog began.   The large number of page views suggests the blog’s “audience”, largely limited to those having an impact on transportation issues, knew or should have known of Prop I problems.  The fact they chose to “ignore the problems” rather than use their position to “speak out about them” surely qualifies them for the “Hall of Shame”. 

The first “inductee” is the one person most directly responsible for the current Sound Transit operation, Dow Constantine, the King County Executive.  He appoints the Sound Transit Board members tasked with providing guidance to those responsible for  ST current operations and for the implementation of new transportation projects. The “public” has very little influence over how the board members approve plans to spend the 10% of the areas sales tax they get each year along with funds from other sources.  Also the board is apparently under no constraint to have expenditures match revenue. (Contrary to King County Metro)

It’s not clear what Constantine requires in terms of qualifications for the appointees.  Any board member surely has a responsibility to understand the basics of the operation they are “directing”. Transportation board members should understand the basics of what is required to meet transportation goals such as capacity and operating costs.  The issues are not that complex or difficult to understand.  Like board members in countless publicly held companies they also have an obligation to represent the best interests of those owning stock in the company.  When “stockholders” (i.e constituents) raise concerns they have a responsibility to respond.

For nearly 2 years the Sound Transit Board members have failed to respond to countless emails concerning problems with the Sound Transit Prop 1 extensions detailed in other posts on this blog.  Its only fitting they “join” Dow Constantine as initial “inductees” in the Sound Transit Hall of Shame.  They are:

Paul Roberts, Councilmember, City Of Everett
Marilyn Strickland, Mayor, City of Tacome
Claudia Balducci, Mayor, City of Bellevue
Fred Butler, Mayor City of Issaquah
Dave Earling, Mayor, City of Edmonds
Dave Enslow, Mayor City of Sumner,
John Lovick, Snohomish County Executive
John Marchione, Mayor, City of Redmond
Pat McCarthy, Pierce County Executive
Joe McDermott, King County Councilmember
Mary Moss, Councilmember, City of Lakewood
Ed Murray, Mayor, City of Seattle
Mike O’Brien, Councilmember, City of Seattle
Lynn Peterson, Secretary of WSDOT
Larry Phillips, King County Councilmember
Dave Upthegrove,  King County Councilmember
Pete von Reichbauer,  King County Councilmember

All of the board members, except for Lynn Peterson are leaders in the various communities that elected them. Their collective failure to represent their constituent’s best interests when it comes to overseeing Sound Transits mass transit plans is unconscionable.

Some members rate higher on the “Shame List”.  For example Lynn Peterson’s position as the Secretary of WSDOT surely makes her most responsible for providing guidance about the basics of what makes an effective transportation system.  While she is a relatively new member, her willingness to go along with Dow Constantine is worthy of special mention.

Claudia Balducci and Fred Butler, the Bellevue and Issaquah mayors  are also worthy of special mention for their willingness to go along with an East Link light rail system that will result in perpetual gridlock for their constituents who are cross-lake commuters.  Balducci’s position as chair of the Transportation Policy Board that advises the Puget Sound Regional Council Executive Board on “key transportation issues” makes her even more culpable.

The four county council members are also extra “shameful”.  They recently asked voters to approve another burdensome tax and fee increase primarily to provide the $75 million Metro needs to avoid drastic service cuts.  However, they apparently have no objections to ST spending $20 billion over the next ten years on Prop 1 extensions that will do absolutely nothing to relieve congestion.  One would have thought Ed Murray, the new Seattle Mayor would have similar concerns.

In conclusion, the consequences of the board’s past failure to “guide” ST policies pales in comparison to the debacle that awaits the area if ST proceeds with the current plan.  All it takes to stop it is for a single board member to play the role of the little girl in the fable “The Emperor’s New Clothes” who alerts the “village” about the “weavers” and the “wise men” who went along with them.  The entire area would be in their debt.

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