Women of Washington

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Women of Washington is an educational organization with a focus on understanding local, national, and global issues that are critical to our world today.

Transportation: Volume 1, Issue 9

One of Sound Transit's Fabrications

Sound Transit overstates the effectiveness of light rail on a consistent basis
 in an effort to convince voters to support their outrageous tax grab. ST also denigrates the potential of alternatives such as Bus Rapid Transit. A rigorous evaluation of these claims has been completed by the Eastside Transportation Association (ETA) with reports at www.eastsideta.com. The bottom line is that buses can and do carry more people in a single lane than does light rail in Seattle.

Sound Transit justifies the expenditure of vast Sound Transit’s Propaganda sums of tax payer dollars based on a wide range of assumptions and claims, many of which are false and/or fabrications. One of the fabrications has to do with the stated ability of light rail trains to carry people in comparison to a freeway lane. The claim is that a light rail train track can carry 12,000 people per hour (pph) whereas a freeway lane can carry only 2,000 pph as shown in this Sound Transit slide. Sound Transit Board Chair Dow Constantine recently upped that number to 16,000 pph in a King 5 TV broadcast on Feb. 29 

The Truth: The truth is that a freeway lane can carry more than double the people per hour in buses if it is operated as an exclusive bus lane, as shown here and in A FREEWAY LANE CAN MOVE MORE PEOPLE THAN LIGHT RAIL at rail capacity.

All it takes is 170 buses per hour in a freeway lane to match light rails’ capacity as built by Sound Transit. Currently, there is no demand for that level of transit in the Seattle area.

In fact, as shown in How People Really Choose to Travel at rail ridership, the I-5 carpool lane from Downtown Seattle to SeaTac carries more people than the Sound Transit Central Link light rail, in both the peak period of travel and on a daily basis.

This is a corridor that has both a light rail train that has been in operation for over five years and an HOV lane traveling between the region’s major employment center of Downtown Seattle and the airport. The HOV lane beats the light rail in all cases. In this corridor with the only operating light rail line in the region, the bus agencies have scheduled 62 buses southbound in the afternoon peak hour. These buses carry more people than the light rail line does, at a fraction of the cost. 

So, Sound Transit tells the politicians and the voters that a light rail line can carry six times as many people as a freeway lane when the truth is just the opposite. Buses in a freeway lane can carry more than twice as many people per hour as the rail line, and where they are currently in competition, the I-5 HOV lane carries 3.6 times as many people per hour as the rail line in the peak hour, and the buses in the HOV lane actually carry more people than the rail line going to the same place. 

It’s also true on a daily basis. The pair of I-5 HOV lanes between SeaTac and Downtown Seattle carry three times as many people per day as Central Link light rail. See How People Really Choose to Travel at www.eastsideta.com. 

Keep your eyes open. Sound Transit staff presented the initial analytical analysis of the ‘wish list’ projects to the Sound Transit Board on Dec. 4. You can view the video of the Board Meeting at wish list. This is the first of many rounds of information being prepared to encourage the voters of the light rail district to say yes to the planned ST 3 ballot issue scheduled to be presented at the November, 2016 general election. This will be the largest tax increase request in the history of the state, at about one billion dollars a year, forever. Sound Transit will have a “suggested” list of goodies they will provide for the billion/year, but there will be no hard requirement, and no sunset of the taxes if past history is of any value. When you hear Sound Transit promoting spending your tax dollars on light rail with tax dollars to benefit congestion, hang on to your wallet and ask questions.  

Light Rail: Does too little, Costs too much, Takes too long.