The Seattle Times June 13th B1 page article “Sound Transit CEO: Suburbs should help pay for 2nd tunnel” personifies Sound Transit’s approach to dealing with the area’s transportation problems. CEO Rogoff uses the “budget silo” analogy to belittle those who believe the funds they spend to reduce congestion should be used to reduce their congestion.
He laments the fact “the agency can afford to build train tracks to car-dependant Issaquah and south Kirkland”. Yet Issaquah doesn’t get light rail until 2041 and its not clear when or where south Kirkland will. He’s apparently unaware the likely reason they’re both “car-dependent” is they have no choice. The two thousand parking spaces near Issaquah are already 99% in use and bus service consists of only 10-12 buses an hour during peak commute. Yet very little if any Prop 1 or ST3 funds will be used to increase I-90 corridor parking or bus service that would reduce the “dependency”.
The parking and bus service for those in south Kirkland is even more limited. If he were really interested in reducing their “car-dependency” he would propose using ST3 funds for thousands of added parking spaces with BRT routes across SR520 rather than some vague promise for “future studies”. (Their partnership with WSDOT "may have influenced" this decision since BRT would have slashed SR-520 bridge toll revenues.)
Rogoff wants suburban taxpayers to cover half the $1.7 billion cost for a second downtown Seattle transit tunnel to avoid “trains getting stuck in the Chinatown International District”. (How exactly do trains get stuck?) The problem area with light rail in Seattle is not the Chinatown International District, it’s the Seattle tunnel, which the PSRC concluded in a 2004 analysis, limited light rail capacity to 8880 riders per hour per direction (rphpd). (Presumably the Capital Hill light rail station design also limits the University Link light rail trains to 4 cars)
It’s a little late to recognize that limitation. It’s also a little late to ask suburbanites to pay for the blunder. Particularly since the money eastside residents have already been paying for years for Prop 1 extensions will close the I-90 Bridge center roadway next year, increasing cross-lake congestion for an East Link light rail extension that will do absolutely nothing to ease their current I-90 corridor congestion. Asking them to pay more for a second tunnel in Seattle is “beyond the pale”.
It’s also not clear where the second tunnel goes. A Dec. 05, 2015 Times article asked voters whether they would support a second tunnel and set of tracks to Everett. The Times March 24th “update” to the December story indicates the second tunnel would also go to Queen Ann Hill. The June 13th version is a “second tunnel from Stadium to Westlake Station”. (It’s not “clear” how the June 13th route avoids light rail trains getting "stuck" in Chinatown or in current tunnel.)
Wherever it goes, Rogoff’s claim Sound Transit needs an additional $850 million from suburbanites for the second tunnel to prevent the $54 billion, 116-mile network from getting "stuck" personifies their whole approach. Giving him the money to spend as he wishes seems "ill advised" at least to this suburbanite. Especially since Sound Transit fails to recognize the need to spend the billions of dollars required to accommodate the vast majority of their future “half-million daily riders” by providing them with bus service from near where they live or from where they can leave their cars. (Most will have to do so someplace!)
Once they decide to add the parking and connecting bus service the question then becomes whether they route the buses to light rail stations or directly to where commuters want to go. Sound Transit will need to spend the vast majority of the $54 billion ST3 funding over the next 25 years to provide the required light rail stations and light rail tracks. The buses could be added as needed to match up with the added parking for a fraction of light rail costs; and they could begin doing so next year.
They would use existing HOV lanes limited to either buses only (or +3HOV) during peak commute hours to reduce travel time. Commuter egress and access in Seattle would be facilitated by converting 4th Ave into an elongated T/C with dedicated drop-off and pick-up locations for each route on both sides. Bellevue and Overlake T/Cs would be used to reach eastside destinations.
All of this could be done with existing Prop 1 funding. Rejecting ST3 is the only way to force Sound Transit to “consider” doing so.