Once again I’m filing for Pos No 1 in the 48th district because the Seattle Times, King County Council, Mercer Island and Bellevue city councils, eastside legislators, as well as the legislatures joint transportation committee don’t recognize (or don’t care about) the debacle that awaits the entire area from Sound Transit’s Prop 1 light rail extensions. As before, my goal is to use my candidacy to attract attention to the devastating effects of Sound Transit’s two monumental blunders.
Their first blunder was the decision nearly 20 years ago decreeing light rail as their choice for I-90 cross-lake mass transit. They failed to recognize the Seattle tunnel restrictions limit light rail capacity to a fraction of the buses they purport to replace on the bridge center roadway. ST claims the outer roadway capacity can accommodate all cross-lake vehicles is belied by a 2004 FHWA document they helped produce. The lack of light rail capacity on the center roadway along with the lack of vehicle capacity on the outer roadways is a sure recipe for future cross-lake gridlock.
Cross-lake commuters have already paid dearly for the ST blunder. Fifteen years ago they could have added the 4th lanes to the I-90 outer roadways and eased congestion in both directions particularly for “reverse commuters”. The added outer roadway lanes would have inevitably been followed by two-way, bus-only routes on the center roadway. With ten times light rail capacity, the center roadway could have provided bus rapid transit (BRT) connections to every P&R ending any chance of light rail.
Instead ST “justified” the light rail decision by refusing to consider the two-way bus lanes as the “no build” option in their Environmental Impact Statements. Even worse, they still won’t add the 4th lane to outer roadway and demonstrate it can accommodate all vehicle traffic before they close down the center roadway in 2016. Instead they spend millions finalizing the designs for light rail stations that won’t be needed until 2023.
Sound Transit’s second blunder was their failure to recognize the devastating effect of high light rail car operating costs on their Prop 1 light rail extensions to Federal Way and Lynnwood. The purported rationale for light rail was the high cost of initiating light rail service was offset by its capacity and operating cost benefits. However, Central Link’s high light rail operating costs relative to buses (~$25.00 per mile per car vs.~$10.00 per mile for bus) can only be justified if their higher capacity is needed to meet ridership demands. Ridership projections for both Central Link extensions are far less than needed to make them financially viable. Even those projections are likely based on terminating competing bus routes capable of shorter commute times than light rail trains.
The Lynnwood extension overcapacity problem is particularly egregious since East Link trains will also be routed there. (Whatever ST decides for East Link operation will never have the needed capacity for cross-lake commuters but will be far in excess of Lynnwood needs.) ST compounded the overcapacity problem by agreeing with the UW not to include a T/C at the University light rail station. The T/C could have added thousands of riders daily as an interface between 520 bus riders in both directions and light rail into and out of Seattle. The loss of riders makes a mockery of ST claims Central Link would have more than 100,000 daily riders.
Sound Transit needs to recognize adding the U/W T/C is vital to making light rail financially viable. They also need to recognize that operating costs will be prohibitive for any extension to Northgate and beyond to Lynnwood if East Link trains are also routed there. Replacing East Link with two-way bus only lanes will not only allow Northgate and Lynnwood light rail service to be far better matched to local demands, it will eliminate gridlock on I-90. My goal as a candidate is to make people aware of that reality.