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.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Sound Transit’s "Big Blunder"

The previous post detailed how Sound Transit, after having used their ST3tax.com website to “mislead” voters about ST3 car tab taxes, closed the website and “lied about lying”, claiming they had never done so.   This latest bit of mendacity is just the “tip of the iceberg” when it comes to Sound Transit's lack of veracity and competence.  The impact of the increased tab costs pale in comparison to what awaits the entire area because of their “inadequacies”. 

Their big blunder was the decision years ago to route light rail through the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel (DSTT).   A 2004 PSRC Technical Workbook “Central Puget Sound Regional High Capacity Transit Corridor Assessment” reported “Light Rail capacities were calculated to be at a maximum of 8,880 people per hour per direction (pphpd) through the DSTT”.  Sound Transit was “presumably” aware of the PSRC study since they referenced it in the 2008 East Link DEIS preface; “the cross-lake corridor connecting the urban centers of Seattle, Bellevue Overlake and Redmond had the highest potential for near-term development of high-capacity transit (HCT)”.

While the DSTT capacity was adequate for light rail between UW and SeaTac, spending billions to extend it does nothing to increase it; failing any reasonable cost/benefit analysis.  (Extending route lengths without increasing capacity is also a sure way to increase shortfall between operating costs and fare-box revenue.) Especially since the UW station could have included a T/C where SR520 transit commuters from both sides of the lake could take advantage of a combined BRT/light rail transit. 

Sound Transit claims for light-rail-extension ridership are a complete disconnect from the reality of the PSRC capacity limits.   For example, their ST3 claims the Everett extension ridership along with their earlier predictions for Lynnwood extension would total up to 119,000 daily.  Even a fraction of that number would fill light rail trains before they ever reach Northgate.  “Fortunately” that’s not likely to happen “very soon” since the 2017, 1st quarter ridership reported only 8489 rode the 510/513 bus routes into Seattle.

Sound Transit will likely use light rail to replace those routes.  Those commuters are the only ones with access since all the available parking is full and they neglect to add what’s needed to increase access.  Reducing the number of buses on I-5 will do little to reduce congestion.  However, light rail riders from Everett and Lynnwood will reduce the available capacity at Northgate and stations nearer Seattle.

The decision to route light rail through the DSTT means its capacity from Everett is never going to increase. Rather than increasing transit capacity the billions spent extending light rail to Everett will reduce it.   Sound Transit could avoid the capacity loss by choosing not to use light rail to replace buses.  They could add parking with connecting bus routes to light rail stations.  However total capacity would still not increase since those riders would still displace riders from stations nearer Seattle.

The only way to increase capacity is to route the buses from the added parking directly into Seattle rather than to a light rail station.  A hundred additional buses an hour could increase transit capacity by 10,000 pphpd.  Additional buses could be added to meet future demand.  The only limitation would be having sufficient parking to access capacity.  Travel times could be minimized during peak commute hours by limiting an HOV lane to buses or buses and +3HOV. 

The bottom line is Sound Transits decision to route their "Prop 1 and beyond" light rail extensions through DSTT prevents it from ever having the capacity to increase transit ridership required to reduce I-5 congestion between Everett and Seattle. The fact that the extensions to Tacoma and across I-90 Bridge will each have only half that capacity makes them even more “problematic”. (More on those later)

The area has already paid a heavy price for the Sound Transit "blunder".  It’s probably too late to prevent Sound Transit from extending light rail to Northgate.  They've already closed the I-90 Bridge and begun constructing light rail their and disrupting the route into Bellevue.  Like their closure of the ST3tax.com website that "misled" voters about car tab taxes, a recent google search shows the 2004 PSRC report is no longer available on the internet. 

Still sooner or later the entire area will recognize the impact of Sound Transit’s “blunder”.   My candidacy for County Executive is an attempt to make that “sooner” rather than ”later”.

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