We want to commend the board for its new ST2 plan, which in some ways represents a major improvement over Proposition 1. Unfortunately, however, the plan still has some serious flaws, including some new ones.
Eastside Rail Now! has developed a comprehensive regional rail transit plan which overcomes all of these problems.
It features a very large increase in route miles, a much quicker startup of service, greatly improved inter-regional equity, and the possibility of substantially lower overall costs. We also believe that it would have much greater voter appeal.
This plan calls for constructing light rail all the way to both Tacoma and Everett.
It also calls for treating the Eastside, which has a population and level of economic activity coming to rival those of Seattle, more fairly. Whereas Seattle is getting two exquisite north-south rail lines (commuter and light rail), all the Eastside is getting is some more busses together with promises of a light rail line of questionable value and a possible study of commuter rail service.
Study after study has shown that people prefer to ride in trains rather than busses, especially in higher income areas, such as the Eastside. And the Eastside already has excellent basic infrastructure for commuter rail.
But if so-called "bus rapid transit" is such a good deal for the Eastside, why is one of the biggest priorities of the current plan to replace the existing infrastructure for an excellent "bus rapid transit" system in the I-90 corridor with a rail line at an enormous cost.
We all know that there are a number of very serious, unresolved issues regarding East Link, especially with use of the bridge. Moreover, a cost-benefit analysis by Eastside Rail Now! found that the costs of East Link far exceed the benefits, thus making it completely unacceptable on the basis of conventional economic criteria. Although Sound Transit has conducted a cost-benefit study for its light rail proposal as a whole, among its errors was the apparent failure to also evaluate East Link independently of the other proposed extensions. Eliminating East Link would save a tremendous amount of money for use in more beneficial rail projects.
There are also other ways in which light rail construction costs, which are now more than four times the national average, can be cut dramatically to allow a greatly expanded rail mileage, faster startup of service and likely also a lower rate of tax increase.
This plan is now available on the Eastside Rail Now! website as shown on the handout.
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This page created June 13, 2008.
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