I submitted the following to the Times in response to their Aug 12th "South Lake Union: Pedestrian fantasy or car jammed reality" front page story. I decided to post it since they're unlikely to use it.
Special to the Times, South Lake Union Parking Alternative
The recent front page column by Danny Westneat asks the question: "(If) South Lake Union is supposed to offer car-free living, why are they adding so many huge parking garages?” It’s almost as if, those spending the millions to include the 11,835 new parking spaces would avoid doing so, those needing access to the area will find other ways of getting there, easing the area’s future traffic problems.
The reality is for thousands of commuters throughout the entire area, driving a car to a parking space near where they wish to go is the only way to get there. It’s the reason our areas traffic is rated 4th worst in the country with thousands of cars congesting the major roadways for much of the day.
The primary reason for much of this congestion is the total failure of those responsible for providing adequate public transit. It should be a relatively easy thing to do in this area. The destination for the vast majority of commuters, where the congestion is most severe, is either downtown Seattle or the Bellevue/Overlake area. Both areas could easily be accessible via public transit.
Sound Transit sold light rail as the answer. They claimed East Link was the equivalent of 10 lanes of freeway that could increase I-90 transit capacity by 60%. They lied! East Link will be limited to one 4-car train every 8 minutes or one 74-seat light rail car every 2 minutes. Even worse their plan to force all transit riders to transfer to light rail for their commutes into and out of Seattle will limit transit ridership to half the current level during the peak commute.
They plan to spend billions on Central Link extensions that will never have the capacity needed to reduced congestion. Most of their riders will be those who previously rode buses. Reducing the number of buses on I-5 will have no effect on congestion.
The only way to eliminate the need for more parking spaces downtown is to add thousands of parking spaces near where people live and provide those who park there with reliable bus service to where they want to go. The fact that doing so also reduces the areas congestion for everyone makes it even more imperative.
Sound Transit needs to be “persuaded” to spend part of the billions they were planning for light rail tracks to add thousands of parking spaces to existing and new P&R lots throughout the area. Use more of the money to add hundreds of new bus routes to provide those P&R lots with the needed transit capacity.
To reduce transit times on I-90 they need to move non-transit HOV to 4th lanes on the outer roadway and create two-way bus lanes on the center roadway. On I-5 north they need to limit one of the two HOV lanes to buses and +3 HOV. South of Seattle the single HOV lane should be limited to buses and +3 HOV. (The same +3HOV they plan to use on I-405 this fall)
Commuters have to park their car someplace. Doing so near where they live improves the entire area.