(I wrote the following in hopes of "influencing" the Mercer City Councils Dec 1 study session concerning Sound Transit's Integrated Transit Service proposal. They didn't respond to my attempts to talk to them directly so I decided to post it)
Sound Transits “Integrated Transit Service” Insanity
One of the most blatant examples of Sound Transit incompetency is their plan for terminating all the I-90 corridor bus routes at the South Bellevue and Mercer Island light rail stations. They claim their “Integrated Trans Service” (ITS) plan at the two stations will have the following benefits:
• Smooth bus-rail transfers
• Help improve efficiency and cost-savings
• Provide more reliable and frequent service
• Enhance rider experience
• Help optimize transit operations
However, their Nov 9th presentation to Bellevue residents, “Completion of final design—South Bellevue Open House” made no mention of “Integrated Transit Service”. It’s “questionable” whether those responsible for the Bellevue station were even aware of ITS since the presentation assumed only 4500 daily boarders, a fraction of those anticipated to transfer there. The design also included no provisions for accommodating the buses carrying the I-90 corridor commuters.
The subsequent (Nov 19th) Mercer Island presentation went into considerable details about ITS. Their preferred approach was for buses to exit I-90 on WB HOV off ramp to a 200 ft drop off and pick-up area on the 80th Ave overpass before returning to I-90 on EB HOV on ramp. During the peak commute, ST assumed 84 buses per hour would make the circuit.
It wasn’t clear whether the 84 bus-per-hour rate represented current bus schedules, those anticipated for 2023 when service begins, or 2030 when according to ST EIS, “person-moving capacity across Lake Washington on I-90 needs to increase by up to 60%". What is clear is the average “headway” between the buses at that rate is only 43 seconds, a tiny fraction of ST EIS claims buses required headways “15 to 30 minutes or longer”. (It was this assumption that led ST to select light rail over improved bus service in the first place). Obviously in some instances the headway will be substantially less than the 43-second average.
The other obvious problem is that only 2 buses can be accommodated at a time on the 200-ft drop-off and pickup area. Thus each bus will have, “on average”, 86 seconds to drop off or pick up the nearly 120 riders a standard 70-ft articulated bus can accommodate. That simply is not going to happen. Clearly substantially longer drop off and pick up areas are required.
The ITS problem associated with finding space for buses to load and unload commuters pales in comparison to those with ST plans for providing cross-lake commuting for those using MI light rail station. East Link will consist of one 4-car train every 8 minutes or 30 cars per hour during peak commute. If each 74-seat car can accommodate 150 riders, the maximum capacity is only 4500 riders during per hour.
However, if the average ridership on the 84 buses is 90 commuters, 7560 I-90 corridor commuters will arrive at the station during the hour. They will be joined by MI residents from 12 buses per hour with their own drop off and pick up areas. Assuming the MI buses average 50 riders or 600 per hour gives a total of 8160 riders, and that doesn’t include those using the P&R or dropped off at station.
If East Link trains arrived empty at the MI station it will still take almost 2 hrs to accommodate all the MI cross-lake commuters. Presumably a similar number of transit riders will be attempting to switch from buses to light rail at the South Bellevue station or use the expanded 1500 car P&R for access. Thus, at least during the peak commute the light rail cars will be full before they ever reach MI station.
The ST claim ITS would provide benefits for MI transit riders is insane. Equally insane is their claim ITS would improve efficiency and save money. Forcing bus riders to switch to light rail at MI will shorten the bus route by about 7 miles. As other posts have detailed, the money saved will be “drop in the ocean” compared to the $285 million in operating subsidies ST will be required to pay to cover the shortfall between operating costs and fare box revenue for East Link. The ST ITS plan is just another example of why its way past time to end this debacle.