My advice to those concerned about Sound Transit “Surprises” in the June 6th Bellevue Reporter, as well as the entire eastside, is “Be prepared, you ain’t seen nothin yet!”
Many I-90 commuters will be “surprised” when Sound Transit closes down the I-90 Bridge center roadway in 2016 to begin installing light rail. Those who were aware of the closure will likely be “surprised” by the resulting congestion on the outer roadway.
Sound Transit’s claims the addition of the 4th lanes will provide sufficient capacity for all cross-lake vehicles are belied by a joint ST/FHWA 2004 study. ST could have added the 4th lanes 15 years ago and temporarily closed off the center roadway and demonstrated the needed capacity. Instead they chose to delay the lane addition and the “surprise” until 2016.
Cross-lake commuters can look forward to additional “surprises” when East Link begins operation (2023?). East Link will never have the capacity for up to 24,000 riders per hour (rph), the equivalent of 10 lanes of freeway, ST promised voters in their 2008 Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS).
Though ST has yet to provide East Link operating schedules, it will most likely consist of one 2-car train every 8 minutes capable of 2220 rph in each direction. (While 4-car trains are feasible, the operating costs for the Lynnwood portion of the route are prohibitive. This probably explains ST decision to demonstrate light rail/1-90 bridge compatibility with only 2-car trains.)
I-90 Transit commuters can look forward to a particularly “unpleasant surprise” since they’ll be forced to transfer from buses to light rail at the South Bellevue and Mercer Island light rail stations. ST has projected some 40,000 of the 50,000 riders will come from terminating existing bus routes. Since nearly all of those commuters are eastside residents some 20,000 will be forced to transfer at one of the two stations every morning and afternoon.
Even 4-car trains will never have the capacity to accommodate that number of commuters. Those transferring at the Mercer Island station as well as Mercer Island residents will have an especially "unpleasant surprise" since light rail cars will likely be full before they even reach that station.
Again, the Bellevue City Council is well aware of (or should be aware of) these “surprises” awaiting the entire area if East Link is allowed to proceed. The fact they continue on a path toward approving the permits ST needs while objecting to some, by comparison, minor “surprises” is why I continue to write this blog.