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.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

BCC ST3 Support Reflects Their Vision of Light Rail Rather than Reality

The Bellevue City Council’s decision to support Sound Transit 3 during their Monday meeting (9/19/16) is a perfect example of their failure to recognize the difference between their “vision” of what light rail “could” do for the area and the reality of what it “can” do.  What light rail “can” do is limited by the fact that the Sound Transit light rail spine is routed through the Seattle bus tunnel. 

A 2004 PSRC study concluded that it could only safely accommodate one four-car train every four minutes in each direction.  It’s that limitation that presumably led Sound Transit to propose a second tunnel and set of tracks to Everett as part of their initial ST3 package last fall.  They quietly dropped that idea knowing voters would be less than enthused about paying for two light-rail extensions to Everett. 

The limits on trains and cars-per-train means no matter how many riders Sound Transit claims each 74-seat car can accommodate, the Sound Transit spine will never have the capacity to significantly reduce congestion on any of the area’s major roadways.  Sound Transit’s operating schedule for East Link during peak operation of one four-car train every 8 minutes utilizes half of the tunnel capacity.

Both those for and against recommending ST3 approval were allowed an initial 10 minutes to address the council plus five speakers each allowed three minutes.  The 10-minute-pro ST3 spokeswoman made some interesting comments to the council.  She started out mentioning the fact that the ST550 bus she rode to Bellevue was full to the point that she was forced to stand on the “yellow” line, apparently violating safety rules.  She used that to indicate eastside commuters desire for transit.  One would have thought it would also suggest Sound Transit increase the frequency of bus service.

She later showed a chart showing “What it would take to transport 800 people”.  That it would take 500 cars and 10 buses to transport the 800 people who could ride on one 4-car light rail train.  She “neglected” to mention that East Link operation only provides one of those trains every 8 minutes, or 7.5 trains per hour.  Even with the rather dubious assumption the four-74 seat cars can average 200 riders each the total capacity is 6000 riders per hour, about half the current cross-lake bus capacity and a fraction of what’s needed to meet the growth Sound Transit is projecting to justify ST3.     
                                                                                                 Meanwhile, a 70-ft articulated bus has a rated capacity of 119 standing and sitting riders.  Thus Sound Transit could achieve nearly the same increased transit capacity by simply adding 50 high capacity bus routes per hour.  And they could add more bus routes to meet future growth, something East Link can never do. 

They could do so even if East Link confiscates the I-90 bridge center roadway by restricting the 4th lanes Sound Transit is currently adding to the outer roadway to buses.  ST3 perpetuates the stupidity of Prop 1 spending billions for light rail rather than for two-way bus rapid transit (BRT) on the center roadway.  The added 4th lanes on outer roadway could be used for non-transit HOV.

In conclusion, the only way to reduce the congestion on the area’s roadways is to convince more commuters to use transit.  Doing so requires adding thousands of parking spaces near where people live with access to transit to near where they want to go.  Prop 1 does neither and ST3 spends $54 billion and 25 years perpetuating that failure.  It's clear the ST3 reality is far different from whatever vision the Bellevue City Council had that led them to recommend approval.  One can hope voters will recognize the difference.  

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