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, October 4, 2014

Rep. Ross Hunter No "Saint"

 The comments in the Times editorial regarding my candidacy were no surprise.  “Perennial single issue Republican candidate Bill Hirt offers the same recipe of concerns about Sound Transit that voters have repeatedly rejected”.   They continue to ignore the fact my candidacies have never been to attract voters but to attract attention to this blog.   The reason I’ve been “less than successful” as a candidate is a failure to make more people aware of ST plans.  For example, many of those I talk to aren’t even aware Sound Transit will close the 1-90 bridge center roadway in 2017.   The Times, a major reason for the lack of public awareness, seems to regard me as some sort of “Don Quixote”.  (I consider my candidacy an attempt to emulate another literary figure, the little girl in “The Emperor’s New Clothes”.) 

During my prior 48th district “attempt” they at least invited my to meet with their editorial board.  As the 9/13/12 post details, they simply refused to allow me to explain my Sound Transit concerns and I was “excused” early.  Since then they have ignored the many emails referring to posts on this blog.   As this year’s candidate, I had again hoped to be given the opportunity to discuss the concerns.   They apparently weren’t interested, as I was never invited.

Conversely, the Times seems to have anointed my opponent with “sainthood”, claiming his track record reflects an ability to produce a budget “that balances the services that people want with the taxes needed to pay for them, and deliver the service in a cost effective way”.

My only real contact with Rep Hunter was a meeting for lunch in mid July.  He demonstrated a complete lack of knowledge about the impact of East Link on his constituents and I-90 commuters, as well as the financial burden light rail operating costs will have on the entire area.   At the time he opined the issues were very complicated and that he and his staff needed to “run their own numbers”.

I subsequently referred him to several emails (e.g. 7/19, 7/27, 9/12, 9/17) detailing my concerns.  He, like the Times, continued to ignore them.  If he had, even a cursory review would have concluded the following:   

Fifteen years ago Sound Transit could have moved non-transit HOV traffic to 4th lanes on the I-90 Bridge outer roadway and divided the center roadway into two-way bus only lanes.  Both could have been done in a year.  The 4th lanes would have eased congestion for all cross-lake commuters, especially reverse commuters.  The bus lanes would have allowed existing bus routes to be supplemented during peak commute by express bus connections between eastside P&R’s and downtown Seattle.  The costs would have been minimal and the additional riders attracted reduced congestion throughout the east side.  The entire area has already paid heavily for their decision not to consider two-way center roadway bus lanes as the cross-lake “no-build” alternative.

Instead in 2017 they’ll close center roadway, increasing outer roadway congestion and begin 7 years of construction disrupting downtown Bellevue and those living or commuting along the route into Bellevue.  When complete they’ll initiate light rail service consisting of one 4-car train every 8 minutes or 30 cars per hour.  Assuming each 74-seat car can carry 150 riders, the 30 light rail cars can carry 4500 riders per hour (RPH).  (A fraction of the "up to 12,000" they promised in 2008) 

While ST still insists they can easily increase train frequency, the Puget Sound Regional Council 2004 guidelines limit the number of trains through the tunnel to one train every 4 minutes, with presumably half allocated to East Link.  By comparison each bus lane could easily accommodate 720 buses an hour (assuming 5 sec headways).

Sound Transit intends to use East Link to replace all cross-lake buses, with 40,000 of their projected 50,000 riders in 2030 coming from terminated bus routes.  Every morning 20,000 eastside transit riders will be forced to transfer to light rail at either the South Bellevue or Mercer Island light rail stations.  At 4500 RPH, it will take nearly 4½ hours for 20,000 riders.  Not an attractive option, especially for Mercer Island commuters and transferees since light rail cars will likely be filled well before they get to the station.  ST failure to increase train frequency to provide needed capacity further belies their claimed ability to do so.

East Link’s predicted operating costs will dwarf any potential fare box revenue.  The ST 2014 budgeted $22.48 per mile light rail car cost combined with their plans to route the 484 East Link cars daily over the 77 mile circuit from Redmond to Lynnwood and back will cost nearly $850,000. Assuming the 40,000 bus riders won’t have to pay a second fare leaves 10,000 non transfer payers or $30,000 in fare box revenue and an ~$820,000 short fall.  Assuming weekend subsidies are half weekday levels and adding $30 million for depreciation gives an annual operating deficit of ~$285 million.

I initially thought Rep Hunter would follow through on his promise to “run the numbers”.   The calculations involved are very simple for someone responsible for “setting the state’s budgets”.  It’s not clear whether he or his “staff” did so.  If he did and his results disagree with the above conclusions, he has yet to respond to my emails.  Whatever the case, his continued silence on the issues indicates a willingness to go along with an East Link program that will gridlock I-90, disrupt downtown Bellevue and those living or commuting along the route, and create a huge “financial black hole” for the areas transportation funds. 

As a result, his constituents and the entire east side will face a choice between attempting to drive across a heavily congested I-90 Bridge or ride a bus to a light rail station and attempt to get on an over-crowded bus.  Both sides of the lake will suffer from the operating cost debacle. The entire area deserves better, despite what the Times decrees.  

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