The recent Seattle Times article “Region’s commute times worsen” typifies their approach to the area’s transportation problems. They define the problem with “If you’re serious about driving Interstate 5 from Everett in time for work in Seattle, you need to reach the freeway 18 minutes earlier than three years ago”. They provide data showing both Everett and Federal Way commuters riding transit reach Seattle 31 minutes sooner than those in single occupancy vehicles (SOV) and that 44% of I-5 commuters already take advantage of HOV lanes or buses to commute into and out of Seattle. The obvious solution to the problem is to convince more of the SOV drivers to ride buses. A competent newspaper would ask “Why do 56% of commuters choose to add 31 minutes to their morning commuter by driving into Seattle?”
Granted, some work locations may not be readily accessible by transit or commuters may need their cars at work. However, some may know the local P&R will be full when they get there. Many may find the buses too full or not like the idea of standing in an over-crowded bus for 40 or 50 minutes each morning. The fact the article reports I-5 corridor buses between Everett and Seattle are operating at 79% of capacity during the 3-hour morning and afternoon commutes “suggests” that possibility. (Presumably the HOV lanes and bus utilization rates are similar for the Federal Way to Seattle corridor.)
The Times should have recognized the key to reducing commute times is to survey all the major employment centers in Seattle. Find out why commuters choose to drive rather than ride. Ask where and when they would prefer to leave their car or be dropped off to catch a bus into Seattle. Use this information to expedite additional parking where needed and to supplement the current bus schedules from P&R lots or T/Cs. Some routes could be improved to shorten transit times. For example, the current ST510 route between Everett into Seattle could be supplemented with direct connections between Everett Station and downtown Seattle, skipping the stop at South Everett Freeway Station. (A similar survey of eastside employers could be used to improve transit service to Bellevue and other eastside destinations.)
Every additional bus route could eliminate 60 to 90 vehicles on the I-5 corridor and in downtown Seattle. An additional 30 bus routes an hour during the 3-hour morning and afternoon commutes would provide sufficient capacity to reduce SOV traffic by a third. The key is to match up the route improvements with the demands of potential riders.
Spending billions to replace some of them is insane. The Times refuses to recognize the funds that should be used to make these improvements is currently being “invested” in fatally flawed Sound Transits Prop 1 light rail extensions. During the next 8-10 years ST is planning to spend ~$15 billion to create a light rail system that will do absolutely nothing to improve commute times.
What is also beyond belief is the fact the Times supports ST plans to replace I-90 Bridge bus lanes capable of 720 buses an hour with a ~$3 billion East Link light rail system that will consist of one 4-car train every 8 minutes. How’s that for incompetence?.
Sooner or later the “truth” of this debacle will be evident to everyone. I-5 commuters will realize ST, rather than simply improving bus service into Seattle, spent billions on light rail extensions that did nothing to ease congestion and resulted in a light rail service too expensive to operate. East Side residents, whose commute into Seattle would have benefited from improved transit service from I-90 bus only lanes, will face inevitable gridlock from ST confiscation of center roadway.
Those responsible include: the ST Board of Directors, particularly Chairman, County Executive Constantine and WSDOT Secretary Peterson, whose "direction" of ST policies can most charitably be described as "lacking"; East side legislators like Rep Clibborn, the head of the Joint Legislative Transportation Committee and others who could have used their WSDOT oversight to stop it; Rep. Hunter, my 48th District opponent, who showed his compete disregard for his constituents by his early advice “Get over it, Sound Transit is going to install light rail across I-90 come Hell or High Water” and later reneged on his promise to do his own analysis; The Mercer Island and Bellevue City Councils who are well on their way to approving pemits ST needs for East Link.
Yet all of this could have been avoided if the Times had not ignored the obvious problems. The entire area will pay a heavy price for their failure.