The Seattle Times is running a story in tomorrow’s print edition about the 48th LD state Senate race, which pits well-liked State Representative Cyrus Habib against Republican Michelle Darnell, an attorney. Habib, who captured over 63% of the vote in the August Top Two election, is considered to be a shoo-in, but that’s not stopping Darnell from campaigning (nor should it).
The Times gave both candidates an opportunity to speak to their views on the issues. On the topic of transportation (which is one of the top concerns of Eastside voters) reporter Lynn Thompson had this to say about Darnell:
She’s also critical of Sound Transit and Metro, which she said are too Seattle-centric and leave Eastside drivers stuck in traffic and spewing pollution. Instead, she said she’d like to see more private transportation solutions such as the vans and jitneys that move people around other cities in the world.
Sound Transit and Metro may be run from Seattle, but they are hardly Seattle-centric, as Seattleites would be the first to point out.
Darnell is clearly not very familiar with our region’s mass transit system, or she’d know that Metro’s planners care about seeing that the Eastside is well served.
Perhaps she’s unaware that both the Eastside and the south county got RapidRide lines from Metro before Seattle did. (The A line serves the south county; it opened in 2010. The B line serves the Eastside and opened in 2011. Seattle didn’t get RapidRide until 2012, when the C and D lines opened).
Sound Transit, meanwhile, is devoting considerable resources to East Link, which will bring light rail out to Redmond’s Overlake neighborhood via Mercer Island and Bellevue. Presently, the Eastside is well served by Sound Transit Express bus service. In fact, half of Sound Transit’s routes have terminuses in Eastside cities!
For the record, Michelle, these are the routes:
- The 522, connecting Woodinville and Seattle via SR 522.
- The 532, connecting Everett and Bellevue via I-405.
- The 535, connecting Lynnwood and Bellevue via I-405.
- The 540 and 542, connecting Redmond and Kirkland with the U District.
- The 545, offering fast and frequent service between downtown Seattle and Redmond via SR 520. It’s easily one of ST’s most popular routes.
- The 550, connecting downtown Bellevue and Seattle via I-90.
- The 554, connecting Issaquah and Seattle via I-90.
- The 555 and 556, connecting Issaquah and Northgate (these routes use I-90, I-405, SR 520, and I-5).
- The 560, connecting Bellevue and SeaTac Airport via I-405.
- The 566 and 567, connecting Auburn and Kent with Bellevue and Redmond’s Overlake neighborhood via I-405 and SR 167.
Is there room for improvement? Certainly. But the point is, the Eastside is not being ignored by Sound Transit or Metro. King County leaders made a deliberate choice to go to the voters of the whole county earlier this year with a request to approve badly needed funding for Metro and KCDOT – and that’s because they didn’t want to pursue a Seattle-first approach to protecting our bus service.
As for Michelle’s comment that she’d like to see more vans and jitneys… perhaps she’s unaware that our state has the largest vanpool fleet in North America. According to WSDOT, there are nearly 3,000 vanpools in operation as of last November. The program has been growing like gangbusters:
Since 2003, vanpools in Washington have increased by more than 85 percent – a net increase of more than 1,300 vanpools. In 2009 and 2010, vanpool growth flattened primarily due to the Great Recession. Since then a slow but steady economic recovery has spurred vanpool growth in the state. Increases in fuel costs and traffic congestion (especially in busy corridors) have also added to vanpool growth.
The Eastside is not without private transportation solutions, either. Eastsiders can choose to take a taxi, Uber, or Lyft. In addition, Microsoft operates its own private bus system to help employees commute to and from work… The Connector.
Again, there’s always room for improvement, but a major reason our traffic is lousy is due to the way the Eastside was built. Traffic is an inevitable problem of constructing auto-centric suburbs. Unfortunately, we’ve been doing this since the 1950s, so we’ve dug ourselves into a pretty big hole.
And we can’t seem to stop. King County has foolishly continued to permit auto-centric exurban development east of the Eastside’s inner suburbs.
Fortunately, cities like Redmond and Bellevue are increasingly growing up instead of out. The increased density will make it much easier to live on the Eastside without a car and make the build out of light rail more cost effective.
Darnell would do well to read an eye-opening text like Suburban Nation to understand the root of our traffic problems and why they’re hard to solve.