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, January 8, 2017

South Bellevue P&R Closure only the Beginning

The January 6th Bellevue Reporter front page article “Sound Transit’s South Bellevue parking mitigation plan could displace commuters” is the latest example of what happens when the Bellevue and Mercer Island councils quietly acquiesce to Sound Transit plans for East Link.  It began more than 8 years ago with Sound Transit DEIS claims East Link was the equivalent of up to 10 lanes of freeway that would increase cross-lake transit capacity by up to 60%.  The reality is when East Link begins operation it will have about half the current transit capacity available from buses.  

The DEIS also claimed cross-lake transit times for vehicles would be reduced or remain similar with East Link.   A 2004 FHWA ROD concluded the center roadways were still needed for vehicles after Sound Transit added the 4th lanes for HOV (R8-A) on outer roadway.  Sound Transit refuses to conduct the tests needed to refute the FHWA concern.

The South Bellevue P&R closure is just the first of Sound Transit East Link actions that will change forever the lives of  those who use the I-90 Bridge for their cross-lake commutes. The P&R has nominally 519 spaces but commuters use parking around the periphery for an additional 200 spaces, all of which are full by 7:30 AM.  During the peak commute an ST550 bus stops to pick up riders every 5 minutes.  The P&R also provides access to ST555, ST556 and ST560.  It, along with the East Gate P&R provide the major access to transit for I-90 corridor commuters; the ST550 route having more riders than any other ST route.

Typical of Sound Transit, their February 9, 2015 presentation to the Bellevue City Council claimed the closure was needed in March of 2016, not for staging construction equipment, but to begin the new P&R.  (They could have planned to continue to use the  area along SE Eastgate Way near Seattle Humane Society facility.)  Anyone who viewed the presentation would have concluded they didn’t have a clue as to how to accommodate those commuters. 

Their preferred alternative “existing P&R” was for I-90 commuters to drive to South Kirkland P&R.  Their other general comment was they intended to use multiple small “Satellite P&Rs” to replace South Bellevue.   No mention was made of how they intended to route buses to all of these “Satellite P&Rs” and what that would do to commute times. 

To be fair the council attempted to get some clarification of these “details” with vague promises of response from Sound Transit.   The end result was a ST/BCC East Link MOU, Section 23.0 PERMITTING, PROJECT CERTAINTY, AND MITIGATION where paragraph 23.4 South Bellevue Park-and-Ride Closure, includes the following:

At least 60 days prior to the closure Sound Transit will identify and implement alternate parking and transit access for the commuters who utilize the existing park and ride in consultation with the Transportation Department Director and King County Metro.

Apparently Sound Transit had their own “interpretation” of what that meant,  “leasing 350 total stalls from seven churches in Renton and Bellevue” claiming a “one-to-one” replacement wasn’t required.  (They likely delayed the closure until after the ST3 vote over concern the results would “detract” from voter support.) 

What’s “interesting” is at least according to the article, it wasn’t the Bellevue City Council that objected to Sound Transit’s “interpretation”.  It was a Mercer Island Council member who pointed out none of the proposed replacement parking was on the ST550 bus route.  It’s just another example of the Bellevue council’s obsequious deference to Sound Transit.

The Mercer Island City Council have every right to be concerned that their P&R, being the only one with access to ST550, will be flooded with “off islanders”.  However, their dispute with Sound Transit should go way beyond the South Bellevue P&R closure. They can assure Islander access to parking by requiring Sound Transit offer Islanders the opportunity to buy an assigned parking stall.  Those buying the stall would also get a free transit pass.  Those wanting to ride transit would be assured of parking, while “off-islanders” would have access to whatever parking remained. 

Islander demand for transit parking will likely increase this summer when Sound Transit closes the I-90 Bridge center roadway.  Those wishing to avoid the resulting heavy congestion on bridge outer roadway GP lanes or probable fees on HOT lanes will want access to transit.  Thus additional paid parking, as part of Sound Transit “loss of mobility” compensation, should be available to meet their demand.

The other Mercer Island East Link issue is more problematic.  Their “FAQ on I-90 Access and I-90 Negotiations Updated: 28 December 2016” included the following introduction:

The extension of voter-approved light rail to the Eastside will give Mercer Island residents a fast, frequent and reliable connection to both downtown Seattle and Bellevue, SeaTac Airport, and beyond, without traffic gridlock.

The council still doesn’t recognize while light rail may prove fast, reliable connections to downtown Seattle, SeaTac Airport and beyond, its one 4-car train every 8 minute schedule severely limits capacity.  The lack of capacity will frequently result in full light rail cars before they ever reach the Mercer Island light rail station. Thus, Islanders will still require more parking and buses for cross-lake transit. 

Again, the South Bellevue P&R closure is only the beginning.

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