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, December 8, 2015

Not only "no" but "HELL NO!"

The 12/05/15 Seattle Times headline question “Would voters dig another tunnel?” prompted the following.

Not only “no” but “HELL NO!”,

One can only hope the voters’ response to the question headlining the 12/05/15 Seattle Times article “Would voters dig another tunnel?” would not only be “no”, but “HELL NO!”.   It’s just the latest Sound Transit attempt to garner support for additional light rail funding that began more than 30 years ago when they “selected” light rail for cross-lake transit on I-90 Bridge. 

The ST need for eastside funds for light rail in Seattle led them to claim East Link was the equivalent of “10 lanes of freeway across Lake Washington”.  Not only was light rail some magic carpet for the center roadway, “Travel times across I-90 for vehicles and trucks would also improve or remain similar with East Link”.  Instead East Link will be limited to 4500 riders per hour and ST refuses to demonstrate the outer roadways won’t have the same congestion problems I-5 HOV commuters are currently having. 

Cross-lake commuters have endured 15 years of congestion because ST delayed adding the 4th lanes over concerns they would have resulted in demands to temporarily close center roadway and demonstrate outer roadway capacity.  The ST decision to allow existing bus routes to continue into Seattle rather than switch to light rail means the daily ridership for the $3.6B spent in East Link will shrink from 50,000 to 10,000, mostly Seattleites.  Meanwhile eastside commuters, be they transit riders, car poolers, or single-occupancy drivers, will face ever-escalating travel times beginning in 2017 when ST closes the center roadway.

In 2014, ST recognizing the need for additional funds, released the Long-Range Plan Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (FSEIS).  It supposedly “evaluated the potential transportation and environmental effects of implementing the Current Plan Alternative and the Potential Plan Modifications Alternative using a 2040 planning horizon”.  ST attempted to garner support by including Central Link extensions north to Everett, south to Tacoma and beyond to Dupont, and East Link extensions to Woodinville, Issaquah, and Renton.  They used these “potential” extensions to ask legislators for authority to ask voters to approve additional funding.

Once the legislation was approved, the ST 2040 plan was followed by ST3.    It asked “Where will light rail take you?” attempting to garner voter support by supposedly giving them some influence on light rail extensions. ST chairman Dow Constantine’s answer was

“What we can do is create light rail to take you where you want to go, when you want to go, on time, every time, for work, for play, for school”    

The Times article indicates Constantine’s ST has decided “Where light rail might  take you” and “is considering a 25-year $27 billion package for next year’s fall ballot”.  It includes a second tunnel and another light rail extension to Everett, again attempting to get their support.  ST hopes the proposed light rail connections to Ballard and West Seattle will attract Seattle votes.  What is truly absurd is the ST attempt to garner eastside support with a proposed light rail connection between Totem Lake and Issaquah. 

Voters need to recognize that all the ST attempts to raise additional funds next year have very little to do with extending light rail beyond what they promised voters in 2008 and all about finding the funds needed to complete even the Prop 1 extensions they’ve already truncated.  If they don’t get that authorization, the funding for all the Prop 1 extensions would seem to be in jeopardy.

Any sort of rational cost/benefit analysis of the Prop 1 extensions would surely justify voters rejecting the ST request for additional funds.  The costs of creating tracks for the Central Link 4-car trains are presumably the same as for more conventional 10-or-more car trains. The Times article, using a rather “optimistic” assumption of 3 minutes between 4-car trains concluded Central Link could accommodate 12,000 riders per hour (rph). (The PSRC concluded it would require 4 min. or 9000 rph) 

Even this capacity is barely able to accommodate the 33,000 riders who currently use I-5 transit buses between Everett and Seattle during the peak 3-hour morning and afternoon commutes.  ST could choose to terminate all the current bus routes, presumably at Northgate station. Doing so would have no effect on congestion further north, and the reduction in number of buses into Seattle would have a minuscule effect on HOV congestion into Seattle.

The only way to ease congestion is to persuade thousands of commuters to use light rail or bus transit for their commute into Seattle.  The billions spent on extending Central Link to Lynnwood and beyond (or to Angle Lake and beyond) will do nothing to reduce congestion unless commuters have access to the added capacity.  Doing so will require added parking at light rail stations or expanded parking facilities elsewhere with bus routes to the light rail stations.  Adding a second tunnel and light rail extension would presumably require even more “off-station” parking and connecting bus routes. 

The other option, routing all the buses directly into Seattle, would eliminate the need to spend billions on light rail tracks.  The lower bus operating costs ($10 per mile vs. $25 per mile for light rail car (per ST 2016 budge)) would save additional millions each year.  Restricting the number of non-transit vehicles on the HOV lanes would minimize bus travel times.  For example, going to +3 car pools on one of the two HOV lanes would dramatically reduce the current 75-minute commutes for buses between Everett and Seattle. Doing so, at least during peak commute hours, would also reduce Federal Way-to-Seattle transit times.  

The ultimate would be bus-only lanes that could easily accommodate more than 1000 buses an hour dwarfing any foreseeable transit needs.  (ST insistence on using the I-90 Bridge center roadway for light rail rather than two-way bus-only lanes exemplifies their total incompetence.)

ST could provide access to this capacity by diverting the $600 to $700 million they would spend on light rail tracks to adding 20,000 parking spaces each year for three or four years with bus access to I-5, I-90, and SR520.  (It’s parking and bus service they will need to reduce congestion wherever they decide “light rail will take you”.)

Egress and access in Seattle can be facilitated by converting 4th Ave into a two-way elongated T/C with dedicated drop-off and pick-up locations for individual bus routes.  A T/C at the University light rail station would provide 520 transit commuters from both sides of the lake with a combination of bus-light rail service.  ST could spend the billions they’re currently planning for East Link on a “West Link” light rail to West Seattle.  (The only rational “possibility” in their latest proposal). 

The area’s commuters have already endured years of increased congestion because ST and WSDOT refuse to acknowledge the limitations of light rail.  Again, the best way to end it is to respond to the latest ST plea for additional funds with not only “no” but “HELL NO!”.

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