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.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Seattle Times Highway Toll Fetish

The June 26th Seattle Times headline “Time to pay?  Tolling doesn’t get much love, but it eases gridlock” is another example of the paper’s attempt to use tolls to address the area’s transportation problem.  The previous post dealt with a June 19th article advocating tolls and earlier posts, their apparent support for I-405 HOT lanes.  The article's chart show delays on I-405 continue to increase.   

The article also makes no mention of the ST3 funding the paper urged voters approve allowing Sound Transit spend $54 billion over the next 25 years on “Prop 1 and beyond” light rail extensions.  Presumably because they concede the light rail spine will do nothing to ease congestion for the vast majority of commuters.  

The article reports traffic delays are at new highs, doubling between 2011 and 2015”.  However, the chart showed I-90 delays, which haven’t changed at all in ten years, are a tiny fraction of total delays. (It’s not clear how “un-delayed” travel-time baselines were established since congestion along I-90 corridor seems to have increased.) 

The limited I-90 corridor delays raises even more questions about Sound Transit spending $3.6 B on an East Link light rail extension that will end forever Bellevue's persona as the "City in the Park".  Particularly since its confiscation of the I-90 Bridge center roadway will also increase delays, inevitably leading to gridlock on bridge outer roadways.  The WSDOT, according to commitments to Mercer Island, has anticipated HOT lanes on the bridge since 2007.  

Tolls in other areas have apparently reduced congestion.  They can reduce congestion by persuading those who have the option of choosing when and where they “wish” to go to minimize tolls or to avoid them completely.  Tolls on SR520 have reduced congestion because many  of those commuters have switched to I-90. 

However, tolls are unlikely to “ease gridlock” along roadways large numbers of commuters “need” to use for their morning and afternoon commutes.  (Most I-5 commuters have very little choice.) Those willing to pay only increase congestion for those unwilling or unable to do so.  Again, the increasing delays along I-405 with HOT are a perfect example.

The only way to “ease gridlock” for those commuters is to provide them with an alternative way of commuting.  Barring additional highway lanes the only viable alternative is to increase the 10% of commuters who currently use public transit.  That requires providing them with parking with access to transit with the capacity to take them from near where they live to near where they work.  

Unfortunately the parking in areas with access to major roadways is already fully “in use”.  Yet Sound Transit waits until 2024 to begin spending $698 million on 8560 parking spaces; not only way too late, but a fraction of what’s required to attract transit ridership needed to reduce congestion.  Even if Sound Transit added the parking their light rail spine won’t have the capacity needed to accommodate the numbers of commuters required to reduce congestion.

The Times needs to recognize the only way to reduce congestion for the morning and afternoon commuters is to give them access to addtional public transit.  The only way to do that is to add thousands of parking stalls throughout the area with access to bus routes when and to where commuters want to go.  The billions Sound Transit will spend on Prop 1 and beyond light rail extensions will do neither.  They need to be “persuaded” to use ST3 funds to do both.  

Instead the June 26th Times article is another example of the paper’s failure to recognize that reality.

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