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.

Monday, July 18, 2016

The Environmentalist's Transit Solution

One of the purported advantages of light rail is the environmental improvement from reducing the daily vehicle miles traveled (VMT).  While true, the Seattle tunnel restricts the ST3 “Prop 1 and beyond light rail” extension capacity and severely limits any potential VMT reduction. 

The real “environmental solution” for our area is to reduce VMT by allowing more commuters the option of parking their car near where they live and ride high capacity buses on BRT routes to near where they want to go.   Since all of the current P&R lots are essentially already full, Sound Transit needs to allocate the funds to add thousands of parking spaces at existing and new P&R facilities throughout the area.  At $50,000 or more per space the billions required represent a major expenditure.  (Even with their limited capacity, ST3 light rail extensions will require spending hundreds of millions, as yet un-budgeted, for added parking with connecting buses to light rail stations.)

The “environmental solution” along I-5 to Everett is to end Central Link at a T/C near the UW stadium station.  Use the Northgate and beyond light rail funds to add thousands of parking spaces along the I-5 corridor to Everett.  Use East Link funds for West Link light rail to West Seattle.  Doing so would eliminate the environmental problems from vehicle congestion on I-90 Bridge from center roadway closure.  West Link capacity could serve as a supplement to bus transit across West Seattle Bridge.  (Its population density would minimize the need for added parking.)  Drop southend extensions beyond Angle lake.

Use more light rail funds to add thousands of parking spaces on the eastside along SR 520, I-405, and I-90 corridors.  The UW T/C would provide thousands of commuters from both sides of the lake with light rail/520 BRT connections.   South-Lake-Union type streetcars with connections to Bellevue T/C would replace Bel-Red light rail.

Once Sound Transit added the needed parking, high capacity BRT buses would each be routed from one or two P&R lots along limited access roadway lanes to destinations.  Along I-5 from Everett one of the two “express lanes” would be limited to buses only or +3 HOV traffic during peak commute.  Along SR520, I-405 and south I-5 the peak hour HOV lanes would be limited to buses and +3 HOV.   The I-90 Bridge center roadway would be divided into inbound and outbound bus only lanes. 

Commuter egress and access in Seattle would be facilitated by converting 4th Ave into an elongated bus-only T/C with one or two designated drop off and pick up locations on both sides for each route depending on direction.  . 

Not only would BRT dramatically reduce the area’s VMT they could do so using hydrogen powered buses.  Some version of hydrogen fuel cells or highly pressurized or liquefied hydrogen fueled engines could minimize transit CO2 emissions.  Several California cities are currently evaluating buses powered by hydrogen fuel cells.  Oakland for instance is currently using hydrogen fuel cell powered buses to supplement BART. 

While early in the development the potential environment benefits of high capacity, essentially pollution-free transit merit more consideration.  Especially since we have ample “carbon free” hydroelectric power here to produce the hydrogen.  While light rail is also pollution free its limited capacity means the vast majority of commuters will still have to drive or attempt to find parking with access to buses.   

While those buses could also use hydrogen fuel cells, spending $54 billion on light rail extensions with so little benefit fails any rationale cost/benefit analysis.  Taking 25 years to do so when the added parking and bus service could begin next year and likely completed within 5-7 years at a fraction of the cost is absurd.  Rejecting ST3 could prevent it.

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