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.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

PSRC Still Doesn't Get It

The May 8th Puget Sound Regional Council’s presentation to the Eastside Transportation Partnership, “Stuck in Traffic: 2015” is filled with information about the area’s congestion problems but little about the solution.  The charts show data on population and employment growth for the four counties and where the employment increases were from 2010 to 2014. 

Their corresponding “Car Travel (Vehicle Miles Traveled)” (VMT) chart was relatively flat from 2010 to 2013, yet delays increased by 27%.  While they didn’t show VMT for 2014, it’s unlikely it increased sufficiently to account for an additional 25% in delays during the year.  It’s unfortunate the PSRC didn’t provide VMT changes for the individual freeways that might have provided a more direct correlation with delays.

The obvious way to reduce VMT would be to persuade those using single occupancy vehicles (SOV) to switch to transit.    The PSRC charts showed some success during the four years when transit boardings increased by 17M to 176.9M and the number of transit riders from 8.6% to 9.8% of all commuters.  However the SOV reductions, from 74.4% to 73.6% of commuters, were relatively small.  Again the PSRC did not identify which routes had the increased transit ridership.

Its unfortunate the PSRC chose to include all of the King County Metro boardings in their presentation since relatively few Metro buses are routed along the major freeways experiencing the delays.  Those routes are served primarily by Sound Transit express bus service.  They had 17.1M boarders in 2014 a substantial increase from the 12.5M in 2010.  Even more important the increased bus ridership was achieved with slightly fewer revenue miles; 11.9M in 2010 vs. 11.6M in 2014.  

The obvious solution to the PSRC delay problem is to attract additional boardings to the ST bus routes serving the congested freeways.  This requires making the routes more accessible by increasing the P&R capacity and bus frequency.  (While I’m not familiar with the P&R and bus capacity problems along I-5, the I-90 lots are generally full by 7:30 and many of the buses are overcrowded).   

The bus routes would be even more attractive if HOV lanes were restricted to buses only during peak commute hours where there is only one HOV lane or continuously with two.  (+3 HOV requirements might be sufficient on some routes with single lanes.)  Doing so would minimize the increased HOV travel times PSRC charts show along I-5 and I-405 when buses are forced to share lanes with car pools.  The bus only lanes would also provide far more transit capacity along I-5 than any light rail extension.

(This inability of a single lane to accommodate both buses and car pools is presumably what led ST to their "Integrated Transit System" attempt to replace all cross-lake buses with light rail.  They, and apparently the PSRC,  refuse to acknowledge the only way to meet I-90 transit demand is to move car pools to a 4th lane on the outer bridge roadway and initiate two-way bus only lanes on the center roadway.)  

The cost for providing additional parking for commuters near where they “live” is probably far less than for parking near where they “work”.   ST can undoubtedly provide the additional parking and bus revenue hours for a fraction of the cost of construction and operating their Prop 1 light rail extensions.   The fact the money ST plans to spend on Central Link extensions will have a miniscule effect on I-5 congestion and their East Link extension will gridlock I-90 and be too expensive to operate makes the choice even clearer. 

In conclusion, the continued PSRC support of ST Prop 1 extensions, presumably as part of the freeway delay solution rather than advocating for bus-only lanes or increased bus service, is a clear indication they still don’t get it.

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