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Northwest Voices

Seattle Times letters to the editor

June 21, 2009 at 3:21 PM

Light rail in Seattle

More buses to light-rail stations will increase ridership

All the recent press activity leading up to Sound Transit’s initiating light-rail service to Tukwila [“The train stops here,” Times series] ignores the fact that light rail will never be a major factor in alleviating congestion in the region.

The fundamental problem is the ability to carry large numbers of riders is limited by underground tunnel restrictions on the length and frequency of the trains. Sound Transit compounds the problem by planning to devote about half of that limited capacity to providing light-rail service to the Eastside. As a result, neither the Tukwila train nor the cross-lake East Link train will have adequate capacity. The East Link portion is particularly nonsensical because it confiscates the bus and HOV lanes and will increase rather than decrease congestion.

Sound Transit should concentrate its efforts on maximizing ridership on the soon-to-be-operational Tukwila portion. They can do this by providing express-bus connections between all the South King County park-and-ride lots and the Tukwila light-rail station. Commuters could go to lots in Kent, Auburn, Federal Way and Des Moines and get on a bus that would take them nonstop to Tukwila.

This would reduce bus congestion in Seattle, be attractive to large numbers of additional commuters and take maximum advantage of the limited light-rail capacity. The added buses would also probably negate the need for any light-rail extensions beyond the airport. In any case, it could be available within 12 months rather than the 12 years required for the light-rail extension.

Sound Transit should also plan for this express-bus service north of Seattle. In this case, Northgate would be the logical terminus for light rail. Express buses would service riders from all the park and rides in the region, eliminating the need to run light rail beyond Northgate. The shorter route would reduce construction costs and the number of trains needed to meet frequency requirements.

— Bill Hirt, Bellevue

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