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, July 19, 2014

Two Numbers Should Stop East Link

I wrote the following post because of a luncheon meeting with Rep. Hunter.  He expressed concerns that Sound Transit issues were very complicated and he and his staff needed to “run their own numbers”.   His response when I emailed him a copy after initially posting it was:

I said it would take a while. I will get briefed on all of the Sound Transit projections and cost models. I would be astounded if I come to any conclusions before the end of August. It is very hard to set up meetings during the summer, and I’ve been out of town.

I’ll leave it to others whether they agree with his lack of concern on the issue.

Any competent East Link review would quickly conclude two numbers about the insanity of the project.  They are 8.888 hours and $116.90 million. 

The 8.888 hours is the time required for East Link to accommodate the east side bus riders Sound Transit plans to transfer to and from light rail trains for their daily commute into and out of Seattle.  It is based on ST’s latest East Link operating plan for one 4-car train every 8 minutes during the peak commute.  Each 74-seat light rail car can accommodate 150 riders.  Thus simple mathematics gives the following peak capacity:

7.5 trains per hour X 4 cars per train X 150 riders per 74-seat car
= 4500 riders per hour (RPH)

The 4500 RPH is barely a third of the 12,000 RPH Sound Transit promised voters in their 2008 DEIS with claims East Link was like adding 10 lanes of freeway across Lake Washington that would boost transit capacity by up to 60%.

The number of commuters is based on ST projections for 50,000 daily commuters with 40,000 from terminating all the existing cross-lake bus routes.   Since nearly all of the commuters on existing routes are eastside residents, 20,000 morning and afternoon commuters will be forced to transfer between buses and East Link trains at either the South Bellevue or Mercer Island light rail stations.  Thus the total time needed to accommodate the morning and afternoon commute is:

40,000 riders per day/4500rider per hour = 8.888 hours per day

It’s clear thousands of transit riders needing to go into Seattle during “normal” peak commute times will be forced onto the outer roadway.  Mercer Island commuters as well as those who take bus routes that terminate there will have little access to light rail since all the train cars will be full well before they arrive at the station. 

Those forced onto outer roadway will encounter another ST “exaggeration”: "Adding the fourth lane for HOV traffic will allow the outer roadway to accommodate all cross-lake vehicles".  A 2004 FHWA study ST participated in, showed the added lane wouldn’t have needed capacity if it allowed non-transit +2 and +3 cars to displace 60-70 passenger buses.  Thus closing the center roadway to install light rail will undoubtedly increase congestion on the outer roadway.  Obviously the thousands of cross-lake transit riders forced onto the outer roadway because of inadequate capacity on the center roadway when East Link begins operation will add to the gridlock.

The bottom line is ST has already spent close to a billion dollars over the last ten years on a light rail system that will gridlock the I-90 Bridge.  Instead of a cursory analysis that would have quickly shown this reality they’ve spent the money on countless promotions and lucrative contracts to consultants designing light rail stations that won’t be needed for ten years.  If allowed to continue they will close down the center roadway in 2017 to begin spending an additional $2 billion perpetuating this transportation debacle. (As well as devastating the route into Bellevue and violating environmental law with light rail’s noise impact on Mercer Slough Park)

What is almost beyond comprehension, ST manages to combine the East Link capacity debacle with a $116.84 million annual light rail financial debacle.   ST decision not to terminate Central Link at the University Station means all the East Link trains will be routed to Lynnwood.  ST’s planned East Link operation will result in 484 cars daily routed the 12.8 miles to Lynnwood adding 25.6 miles to the route or 12,390 car miles per day.  If weekend car miles are half that level, East Link will add 74,342 car miles per week or 3,865,805 car miles per year.  

ST 2014 budget estimates light rail operation costs of $22.48 per car mile (excluding depreciation) for a yearly total of $86,903,291 in direct operating costs.  Assuming the sixty ~$5 million light rail cars East Link will require can last an average of 10 years, depreciation will add another $30 million to the annual costs.  Thus ST plans to route East Link to Lynnwood will add $116,903,291 to operating costs for light rail service that will be totally superfluous to commuter needs.  The nearly $117 million added operating cost is more than twice ST’s total annual fare box revenue.   Even that number is a fraction of the costs involved if ST proceeds on their 2040 plan to extend light rail to Everett.

The 8.888 hours and $116.9 million operating costs would stop any competent organization.  Unfortunately ST hasn't been "competent" in the past and those that could force it to do so have instead gone along with this debacle.   My candidacy is an attempt to stop it.  

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