The Sept 2, 2015 MI Weekly prompted me to write the following post:
Mercer Island “Loss of Mobility” Compensation
The Sept 2 MI Weekly asked voters to “Save the Date: Light Rail Open House and Listening Session Sept 24" with the following explanation:
The City has worked with Sound Transit to provide new opportunities for Islanders to identify their outstanding concerns related to the light rail station project on Mercer Island.
Anyone who read that would think the council is simply asking for new Islander input about the light rail station. They’d have no idea of the problems facing Islander commuters because of the council’s failure to recognize the impact of Sound Transit’s East Link on their cross-lake access to Seattle.
They follow that with:
In the coming month, a broad public input process will gather comments to inform additional feasibility studies, to be presented to the Board of Sound Transit. These studies will build the necessary foundation for any future Council negotiations with Sound Transit.
After 6 years of placidly acquiescing to ST demands the council is now asking for “public input” about “feasibility studies” for any “future council negotiations”. It’s a little “late in the game” for the council to report the following:
The City Council has recently re-iterated its related concerns over general loss of mobility due to the closure of the I-90 center roadway for light rail construction.
The “loss of mobility” phrase hardly describes East Link impact. Mercer Island commuters will lose their easy access to Seattle when Sound Transit closes the congestion-free center roadway in 2017. MI commuters, being the last to access I-90, will face long lines on onramps to outer roadways. Once on the bridge they’ll encounter heavy congestion because of the inability of the added 4th lanes to make up for the loss of the two center roadway lanes.
Other I-90 commuters will undoubtedly attempt to use MI P&R lots for access to transit to avoid bridge congestion and Seattle parking costs. The Sound Transit 2016 closure of the South Bellevue P&R simply adds to their incentive. Unless some scheme can be devised to prevent non-residents from using the P&R, any MI plans to use ST “loss of mobility” compensation for additional parking will be of little benefit to Islanders.
When East Link begins operation in 2023, Sound Transit intends to require all transit riders transfer to light rail at either the South Bellevue or Mercer Island light rail station. They told the MI council during a Jan 21, 2014 presentation they estimated 40,000 of their projected 50,000 light rail riders will come from the terminated bus routes. Since essentially all are from the east side, every morning and afternoon 20,000 riders will transfer at the two stations.
Yet East Link service will consist of one 4-car train every 8 minutes. If each 74-seat car can accommodate 148 riders (PSRC assumption) it will take 4 ½ hours for the 20,000 riders. Thus, at least during the peak commute, light rail trains will be full well before they ever get to the island. The lack of peak transit capacity also means many I-90 corridor transit riders will be forced to drive rather than ride adding to the outer roadway congestion for all cross-lake vehicles. Thus East Link operation will actually increase Islander “loss of mobility”
In conclusion, East Link will require island commuters to choose between attempting to drive on a heavily congested outer roadway or wait for space on an overcrowded light rail car. The fact the council is even discussing some sort of “loss of mobility” compensation for this reality seems totally repugnant.
ag to drive on a heavily congested outer roadway or wait for space on an overcrowded light rail car. (It will also perversely limit any attraction for other commuters to use MI P&R lots.) The fact the council is even discussing some sort of “loss of mobility” compensation for this reality seems totally repugnant.