I prepared the following in response to an invitation to meet with the Stranger as a candidate for King County Executive. I decided to post it since before I was halfway through they stopped me and told me they were not “interested” in transportation problems.
Presentation to The Stranger
My appearance this morning is not an attempt to get the Stranger’s endorsement but to urge you to tell your readers that while the current county executive may be effective in many respects, the policies of the Sound Transit board he controls can only be described as M,I,A; mendacious, incompetent, and arrogant.
Mendacious, because their claims for the light rail spine ridership are sheer fantasy. The problem is all the Prop 1 and beyond light rail extensions are routed through the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel. The PSRC concluded in a 2004 report the tunnel limited total ridership to 8880 riders per hour in each direction. Yet Sound Transit claims the Lynnwood and Everett extensions will add more than 100,000 riders. (Despite the fact daily bus ridership from the two cities totaled less than 9000 during 2017 first quarter)
They make similar claims for the East Link and South Link extensions despite the fact their capacity will be limited to half the 8880. Thus, none of the $54B spent on Prop 1 and beyond extensions will have the capacity to increase the 10% of commuters who currently use transit; the only way to reduce congestion. Along I-5, their limited capacity means whatever ridership the extensions add will displace those who currently ride Central Link. During peak commute they’ll likely lose all access to light rail.
Incompetent because a competent Sound Transit would have recognized this reality and expedited the light rail extensions to West Seattle and Ballard. Seattle commuters surely deserve it since their 70% support for ST3 made the extensions possible. Along I-90, a competent Sound Transit would have recognized East Link would never have the capacity to make up for the loss of the center roadway. They would have added the 4th lanes more than 10 years ago reducing congestion for commuters from both sides of the lake, especially reverse commuters. They would have initiated inbound and outbound BRT on the center roadway with 10 times light rail capacity at one-tenth the cost.
Arrogant because they simply ignored an FHWA 2004 ROD concluding that, even with the 4th lanes added to the outer roadway, the center roadway lanes were still needed for vehicles. The increased Issaquah-to-Seattle travel times with the recent center roadway closure are a clear indication the FHWA was right. Sound Transit’s likely claims East Link operation will reduce congestion are absurd since the 50 buses it will replace on HOV lanes will do nothing to reduce GP lane congestion. Congestion that will only increase with Sound Transit’s predicted doubling of cross-lake commuters.
They showed even more arrogance by claiming they didn’t need to abide by the Revised Code of Washington. RCW 81.104.100 requires high capacity transit planning consider “a do-nothing option and a low capital option that maximizes the current system”. Even a cursory study would have concluded BRT was infinitely better for I-90 center roadway and that increased bus service along limited access HOV lanes on I-5 could have provided needed transit capacity at a fraction of light rail cost.
Even worse, the extensions Sound Transit will spend billions creating, not only won't help the area's commuters, their operating costs will create a black hole for the entire area’s transportation funding. Residents throughout the area will pay for the fact the longer route lengths in combination with the light rail car’s high operating costs, 2 1/2 times that of buses, will result in trip costs that dwarf rational fare-box revenues.
Again, I don’t want your endorsement, I urge you to tell your readers these facts.