The Times Oct 29th B section article about the upcoming Mercer Island election is another example of Sound Transit efforts to do whatever they can to perpetrate their East Link debacle on the entire east side. Thomas Acker is absolutely right when he “argues the current council is too willing to let Sound Transit dictate the terms of a planned Mercer Island light rail station”.
However, even he doesn’t go into the absurdity of the current council “Loss-of-Mobility-Compensation” discussions with Sound Transit. How in the world do you “compensate” islanders for the fact that in 2017 they will lose access to the I-90 center roadway? That islanders will be the last with access to an I-90 outer roadway already gridlocked from the loss of the two center-roadway lanes? That, if East Link is allowed to precede, the light rail trains during the peak commute will be full well before they get to the island?
Acker’s slogan challenging current Mayor Basset, “Residents before Region” summarizes the whole debate. Basset argues “the center is the right place for growth” and “by putting it there we have saved the rest of the island from redevelopment”. Saved it from whom? Surely the council has ways of limiting “redevelopment” on the island for whatever their "share" of regional growth means.
The current council voted 6-0 to oppose “Sound Transit’s initial proposal to have future buses into the light-rail station make their turnarounds back to I-90 through the Town Center”. Typical of ST they didn’t reject it outright instead saying “it has no plans to significantly increase the number of buses that go to the island today, about 350, but plans for the turnaround are still up in the air”.
The ST spokesman opined “This is no different than the negotiations with any of the 50-plus municipalities we work with” and “There’s always room for give and take”. Again ST refused to recognize that the MI concern wasn’t the number of buses going to the their light rail station, the problem was the 350 bus loads of riders using it every morning and afternoon to transfer to and from trains. The statement “plans for the turnaround are still up in the air” suggests ST will likely proceed with the bus "turnaround" plans despite the fact that East Link’s one 4-car train every 8 minutes won’t have the capacity needed for all the transferees.
In conclusion Acker and “Save our Suburbs” are exactly right. However, using the “development” issue to oppose Sound Transit doesn’t expose the real problems islanders face with East Link. They need to expose the willingness of Mayor Bassett and other incumbents to negotiate away islander access to Seattle. Once that's lost Mercer Island will be far less attractive to everyone.