It’s not likely the May 1 post concerning the Seattle Times ignoring the East Link debacle prompted their May 3rd editorial, “Help Eastside Bus Riders Survive Rail Projects”. More than 2 years ago I referred them to a 2/13/15 post on this blog, “ST's South Bellevue P&R Replacement Debacle” where it was clear Sound Transit didn’t have a clue as to how to provide transit access to those affected by the closure.
Typical of Sound Transit they promised the following in a 4/17/15 Memorandum of Understanding with Bellevue City Council:
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.
At the time the P&R closure was scheduled for March 2016. Subsequent emails referred the Times to blog posts about the lack of promised ST updates on the “replacement strategy”. Instead ST delayed the closure until 2017, “perhaps” concerned about adverse affects on ST3 vote.
After the vote, ST came out, not with a replacement strategy, but with vague ideas about alternate parking and bus connections. That culminated in an April 18 news release essentially warning transit riders about the closure and telling them “you’re on your own”. Apparently even the Seattle Times finally recognized the problem.
Their belated response to the P&R debacle raises the question as to when if ever they will respond to Sound Transit’s next blunder: Their June 2 closure of the I-90 Bridge center roadway without ever demonstrating the 4th lanes added to the outer roadway can make up for the loss of the two center roadway lanes. A 2004 FHWA Record of Decision concluded adding the 4th lanes to outer roadways (R-8A) configuration would not provide adequate capacity for cross lake vehicles unless the two center roadway lanes continued to be available for vehicles. Sound Transit’s response was their 2008 DEIS claim vehicle travel times would improve or remain the same with East Link's added 4th lanes. The Times has ignored multiple emails referring to posts concerning the failure to demonstrate outer roadway capacity.
As of their East Link Extension April 2017, SEPA Addendum, Sound Transit still hadn’t decided on whether to use the added lanes for GP traffic during construction and switch to HOV lanes when East Link began operation or go directly to the HOV lanes. Allowing SOV traffic on all 4 lanes would minimize traffic times for those drivers but eliminate any benefit from carpooling and transit. Going to HOV lanes initially would undoubtedly result in WSDOT initiating HOT in order to maintain the 45 mph such lanes “require”. It’s likely the fees will be very high due to outer roadway congestion. Thus, whether its used as HOV initially or later, I-90 Bridge drivers will inevitably be faced with the choice between finding two riders, paying very expensive HOT fares, or enduring gridlock on GP lanes. Again the Times has yet to respond to countless emails referring them to posts on the problem.
Even more important the Times should also comment on the absurdity implied by the Sound Transit plan to use the 4th lanes for GP only during construction: that East Link operation will dramatically reduce outer roadway congestion. Their East Link Extension website video depicts its operation as “a three or four car train every eight to ten minutes". A 4-car train every 8 minutes will only accommodate 4440 riders per hour in each direction (per PSRC guidelines).
Sound Transit’s April 2017 SEPA Addendum detailed their “Bus Transit Integration Configurations” they’re considering for East Link to replace cross-lake buses. It’s not clear how many riders Sound Transit claims each bus accommodates on I-90 Bridge during peak commute. (A 70-ft articulated bus can accommodate 119 sitting and standing riders.) Whatever that number, it’s absurd to think reducing outer roadway vehicles by 50 buses an hour on HOV lanes will reduce outer-roadway-GP-lane congestion.
The P&R editorial is only the start. The Seattle Times needs to speak out far more about this $3.6 billion debacle.