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.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

How Sound Transit “Should” Use ST3 Funds,

ST3 approval means Sound Transit will have access to an additional billion a year for at least the next 25 years to deal with the area’s congestion problems.   Unfortunately, their current plans for spending the vast majority of those funds on “Prop 1 and Beyond” light rail extensions are “unlikely” to significantly reduce congestion.  Their decision to route light rail through the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel will preclude the light rail spine from ever having the capacity to attract the number of transit riders needed to significantly reduce congestion on I-5 or I-90 corridors. 

The best way to use the ST3 funding is to proceed immediately with both the West Seattle and Ballard light rail extensions.  The 70% of Seattleites who approved ST3 should not have to wait until 2030 or 2035 for light rail.  Rather than spending $2B on a tunnel to Northgate (and billions more beyond) they should spend it on a tunnel to Ballard.  Rather than spending countless billions on East Link and light rail extensions beyond SeaTac they should spend it on light rail to West Seattle.  Routing it through a tunnel would allow it to supplement the West Seattle Bridge rather than replace it.  

Both Seattle light rail routes will have the ridership needed to justify the cost of implementing service without the need for expensive added parking.   The relatively short route lengths would have far lower operating costs minimizing the subsidies required to cover fare box revenue shortfall.

Those who use I-90 or I-5 corridors to commute could ride bus rapid transit (BRT) for free.  Fare box revenue would be replaced by charging a monthly or annual fee for a designated parking stall at a P&R.  Their ST3 funds should be used to add thousands of parking stalls to existing and new P&R lots throughout the area.  Each P&R could have express bus routes to destinations in Seattle or east side with total capacity dwarfing light rail.     

Sound Transit could set the parking fees for each P&R to cover a “to-be-determined” share of the operating costs of the bus routes.  (Central Link fare box revenue covers 28.5 % of operating costs in 2016 budget and bus operating costs are about half those of light rail with similar capacity.)  Those who purchased a stall would always have access to it and could share both the cost and access with others.   Whatever the parking costs, it’s likely to be less than what they (or someone else) would have to pay near their destination.

Avoiding the need to pay either on entry or exit would reduce station times.  Restricting a traffic lane to buses (or buses and +3HOV) during peak commute would minimize transit times.   Seattle egress and access would be facilitated by converting 4th Ave into an elongated two-way T/C with designated drop-off and pickup locations for each route.   Eastside destinations could be reached via bus routes to Bellevue and/or Overlake T/Cs.

Again Seattle residents should get their added light rail service in 5 years not 15 or 20.   East side residents could avoid the disruption and increased cross-lake congestion from East Link construction and operation.  Added parking and bus service could begin reducing I-5 and I-90 congestion in 2 years at a fraction of the cost of the light rail spine.   Free transit would likely be a magnet for increased density near P&Rs or near a existing or new development willing to pay a fee for the bus service.    

Sound Transit could set parking fees to cover a  higher percentage of bus operating costs than they could ever get from fare box revenue with the “Prop 1 and Beyond” light rail extensions.   The end result will be those who rarely use transit will have to pay far less for those who do.  It's also the only way to attract the numbers of transit riders required to reduce the area's congestion.  Everyone would benefit!

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