The only way to realistically reduce the area's traffic congestion, purportedly the 4th worst in the country, is to increase the number of riders choosing buses for their commute. A bus can accommodate 70 to 90 riders or 40 2-person carpoolers. An HOV lane has the capacity for more than 5000 vehicles per hour. The way to reduce congestion is increase the number of buses on the HOV lane and attract more riders.
Instead Sound Transit is spending billions on Prop 1 light rail extensions whose primary result will be to replace some of the existing bus routes with light rail trains. They recently announced plans to spend another 15B to add more extensions to replace even more buses. Their reasons for doing so were highly “dubious” claims by ST officials that people were "clamoring for light rail service in their area" and urging them to be “bold” with new light rail extensions.
It’s bad enough the billions spent on light rail extensions will do little to reduce congestion. Increasing route lengths drive up operating costs, particularly for light rail cars that cost $23.00 per vehicle mile compared to $9.02 for buses. The costs for operating light rail trains over the extended lines will require subsidies to cover the shortfall between operating costs and fare box revenue that dwarf those for buses.
The only way to make light rail financially viable is to restrict routes to where the increased light rail car capacity is needed to cover higher operating costs. Doing so requires ST replace the Northgate extension with a T/C at the UW light rail station and to limit any extension past SeaTac. The UW T/C would enable thousands of commuters from both sides of the lake to combine 520 bus routes with light rail trains into and out of Seattle. The added ridership would allow light rail to make the most of its limited capacity from restrictions on train frequency and number of cars per train imposed by the Seattle Tunnel
The 26-mile East Link extension should be replaced by a far shorter extension to West Seattle. Replacing East Link also prevents ST from the absurdity of confiscating the center roadway and spending billions on a light rail system with a fraction of two-way bus only transit capacity.
Use the money saved to expand P&R facilities and supplement existing bus routes by increasing frequency or more direct routes. Restrict 2nd and 4th (or other streets) in Seattle to buses and provide dedicated drop off and pick-up points for the different bus routes to reduce commute times. While the West Seattle Link will take several years, the added bus routes could be operating within a year and the added parking within 2-3 years, well before any light rail extensions and for a fraction of the cost.