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Coalition for Effective Transportation Alternatives

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Samples of Letters We've Sent

Letter to Tukwila City Council

June 10, 2002

Dear Mayor Mullett and Hon. Councilmembers,

I know you have received many messages about tonight's deliberations and vote. As a former strong supporter of the Light Rail system, I know how difficult it is to reverse a position. My allegiance is to the tens of thousands of people in the Region who use and support truly good, effective transit. After objectively researching the issue I had to stop trusting and following proponents of old and expensive technology.

After looking at the documents, instead of listening to the rhetoric, I am convinced that Surface light rail will leave us further behind in our race and efforts to give the taxpayers alternatives to traffic and the expense of having to own one, two and three cars. Surface light rail in Seattle is only benefiting Bond Counsels, Contractors, Environmental Consultants, Construction trades, land speculators and lawyers.

After you consider these facts I hope you can support a "No" vote on signing the MOA with Sound Transit.

1. "The Portland-Vancouver area had more residents who drive alone to work than Seattle-Bellevue-Everett, 73% to 70%. It also had a smaller percentage who take transit: 6% in Portland, 8% in Seattle." Seattle Times, June 8, 2002 from the US Census. Clearly we are doing something right- people do take the bus, and seem to prefer it to slow surface rail.

2. According to the recent GAO report - in four out of five cities, light rail is much slower than buses; LA is the only city where it is faster on average- 23 mph to 17 mph for bus.

Dallas					San Diego
16 mph LR				21 mph LR
56 mph Bus				24 mph Bus

Denver					San Jose
11mph LR				16 mph LR
35 mph Bus				32 mph Bus

14 mph LR
29 mph Bus

3. According to that same report the average cost of light rail is $35 million/ mile to build, busways about $14 million/mile. Sound Transit's Link cheapest segment is now at $200 million /mile.

4. The GAO found that in five out of six cities the operating costs per hour were considerably lower for bus rapid transit than for surface rail. Light Rail ranged from $89/hour in San Diego to $434/hour in LA. Average bus rapid transit per hour cost was $56/ hour in Los Angeles to $143/ hour in Pittsburgh.
GAO 2001-984

5. According to 4 studies: 1) Parson Brinkerhoff studies in 1992, 2) Final EIS for the Regional Transit System Plan in March 1993, 3) DMJM+Harris engineers study and 4) Niles/Nelson/MacIsaak study in 2001, the maximum capacity through the Downtown Bus Tunnel for buses is between 13,000 and 15,000 people per hour per direction. The Maximum for surface light rail is between 15,000 and 16,000 people per hour per direction. That is contingent on rail to the Eastside. Both assume full loads and maximal use of the facilities.

Surface rail will never carry a significant number of more people than bus rapid transit given equal investments. NEVER, Yet in the last study done by Sound Transit to justify joint operations, they state that the maximum capacity for buses is only 5700 people per hour per direction. Why the major discrepancy with even their own past work?

" Our 5700 number assumed no improvement to the operating environment," Jim Jacobson service planning manger, stated. In other words, best case scenario for trains- and keep the present service levels for buses. Not a fair or objective comparison.

6. Surface light rail has never been measured against Bus Rapid Transit to see which would be best for the region. Grade separated rail was the alternatives studied, not surface rail. In fact, surface light rail was taken off the table as an option. Because,

"While surface LRT has been very successful in some systems due to low-cost right-of-way or a very dense urban setting, its operating performance relative to grade-separated systems is generally characterized by slower speeds, lower ridership, lower capacity, and lower reliability. these characteristics mean that surface LRT is unlikely to satisfy the demands of a three-county system." Pg 2-50 FEIS RTA System Plan.

In that same analysis, Bus Rapid Transit competed very well with grade separated rail coming in at about 90% of the ridership but at 1/2 the cost.

I have listed these examples from independent and inside sources to demonstrate the amount of hidden or misinformation we have been given about surface light rail and bus rapid transit.

This agency and its predecessor have had over 10 years and millions of dollars to develop and implement a plan. Surface light rail, is clearly too expensive and disruptive for this region. Monorail provides grade separation at least and bus rapid transit is 2/3 built. Vanpools are a major sleeper for positive cost/benefit advantages.

We need a combination of investment in: Finishing the HOV corridors and fly over ramps, Increased express and local bus service around the region along transit friendly corridors, Possible investment in Monorail More Vanpools

These modes are now working to attract 40% of commuters going to Seattle and Bellevue. Where we put it in it works well. Now it is time to finish and expand it to other areas like South King County.

The Region cannot afford to spend or wait for a $3-8 billion surface light rail line that gets to Northgate and maybe Southcenter in 2020.

If you say no to the MOA, we can start working on investing in real transit that will serve the whole region, now and into the future.

One last number for you. According to Sound Transit's own FEIS Addendum, Nov. 2001 pg. 13 under Auto Trips, In 2020, after spending over $3 billion dollars and disrupting thousands of bus riders, clogging the streets downtown Seattle with more buses coming out of the tunnel and killing pedestrians and motorists along MLK Way, Sound Transit's light rail will take a whopping 400 cars off the streets!

Thank you for your time and attention to this vitally important issue for our region and our children.


Maggi Fimia

Coalition for Effective Transportation Alternatives

Sane Transit

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