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.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

What Sound Transit Should Do If ST3 is Rejected

This post is my answer to what Sound Transit should do in response to the post "What if ST3 is rejected" to achieve "What could have been" post.

What Sound Transit Should Do if ST3 is Rejected
The first thing Sound Transit should do would be to dismiss any plans to resubmit the ST3 package at a later date.   It’s unlikely voters will ever agree to allow any organization to spend so much of their taxes over such a long period of time with so little control.   The only way to attract the needed support is to come up with a “five-year plan” showing they understand how to deal with the area’s congestion.  Something ST3 failed to do.

For example, their plans to close the South Bellevue P&R this year, next year disrupt those who live or commute along the route into Bellevue and close the I-90 Bridge center roadway, will surely “detract” from eastside support.    The best way to garner eastside support would be to abandon East Link, a light rail extension that would increase not decrease I-90 Bridge congestion.  (It’s still not clear they’ve solved the light rail/floating bridge compatibility problems) 

Proceed with adding the 4th lanes on the I-90 Bridge outer roadways for non-transit HOV and initiate two-way BRT on the bridge center roadway.   Propose using existing Prop 1 funds and any needed additional funds over the next five years adding thousands of parking spaces throughout eastside.   Use more of the funds to add the buses needed not only for BRT routes across I-90 Bridge into and out of Seattle but also to and from Bellevue and Overlake T/Cs from some of the P&R’s.

“Abandoning” East Link would avoid disrupting those who use the South Bellevue P&R or live or commute along the route into Bellevue.  It would also negate the need to close the I-90 Bridge center roadway avoiding the resulting congestion on bridge outer roadways.  Bellevue residents could retain their “City in the Park” persona and the Mercer Slough Park’s quiet solitude.   Cross-lake BRT capacity could dwarf any foreseeable transit needs.   Thousands of additional transit riders would reduce congestion throughout the eastside and garner widespread support for Sound Transit.

Sound Transit should also acknowledge the limitations imposed on light rail operation by the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel prevent it from ever having the capacity to significantly reduce congestion on I-5.   (Their initial plans last year for a second tunnel and tracks to Everett reflected that reality)  Stop funding the Central Link tunnel extension to Northgate.   Again propose using the Northgate extension funds and whatever additional funding is needed over the next five years adding parking and buses for BRT routes into Seattle.   

Part of the Northgate and beyond moneys should fund a T/C at the UW light rail station with BRT routes across SR-520.  Again added parking would allow eastside residents to use BRT for the morning commute to the UW or light rail connection into Seattle.  Seattleites could use the return routes for access to Bellevue and Overlake T/Cs.  The routes would be reversed in the afternoon.

Sound Transit’s five-year plan should include surveying all those who regularly commute into Seattle, Bellevue, and Overlake.  Find out where they would be willing to leave their car or be dropped off at, and when and where they would like to go.  Use those results to prioritize where to add up to ten 2000-car P&R lots each year.  Each of the P&Rs would have direct BRT routes into Seattle and, depending on their location, to Bellevue and/or Overlake T/Cs.  Service frequency would be set by P&R demand.

Sound Transit should make the BRT routes from the new P&R's especially attractive by making them toll free.  Fare box revenue would be replaced by parking fees. Those within walking distance or dropped off at the P&R could ride free.  Those needing to leave their car there would be required to pay a monthly or annual fee for an assigned parking space.   They would be assured of parking whenever they needed it and could share its use and cost with others.  

"Ride Free" operation would avoid the delays associating with paying to get on or off the buses. Sound Transit could set the parking fees to cover a to-be-determined portion of operating costs for the BRT routes from the P&R.   (Sound Transit’s fare box revenue currently pays less than 30% of light rail operating costs.) 

Commuters would benefit from leaving their car near where the live and avoiding the likely far higher costs for parking near their destination.   Sound Transit could benefit from somewhat higher operating cost recovery from parking fees.    Those unable or unwilling to use transit would benefit from having fewer vehicles on the road.  Sound Transit’s lost fare box revenue from each “free rider” would pale in comparison to the ~$50,000 it would cost to pay for their parking space.     

After five years the added 100,000 paid parking spaces and the ability to ride free on BRT to where commuters wish to go would significantly reduce congestion.  (100,000 added parking spaced, about 5 times current capacity, seems like a lot but those cars have to be parked somewhere and the closer to where commuters live the better.)

That’s what they should propose to do for the next five years.  The additional costs beyond what Prop 1 funding provides will be a fraction of ST3 and far more likely to be approved.   Future growth would require additional years of added parking and bus service.  Sound Transit would likely have no trouble getting additional funding for doing so. 

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