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TO BELLEVUE CITY COUNCIL - RE EASTLINK- LIGHT RAIL
PETITION COVER LETTERTO: THE BELLEVUE CITY COUNCIL AND FELLOW BELLEVUE-ITESThis note contains a Petition asking the Bellevue City Council to defer signing a planning agreement (MOU) with Sound Transit regarding the EastLink proposed Light Rail extension to Bellevue and other Eastside locations. The voters approved such a plan in 2008. It is the contention here that most voters were not fully informed about the cost and intrusion of such a venture. The situation is not unique to Seattle and data from authoritative sources suggest that Seattle-Bellevue does not have sufficient population density for EastLink to do much beyond: drain citizen purses with further tax burdens, but result in no real congestion improvements. Some critical factors to consider are these:• New York City has an effective rail system because the population density is 6 times greater than Seattle. Moreover, many people in NYC can comfortably live /shop /attend theater etc., without owning a car.• Some ideological urban planners have a vision of “smart growth” for America. This philosophy seeks to expand mass transit at the cost of personal autos. To be successful at this, people must gravitate from dispersed suburban homes toward higher population density by enticing/forcing more residents into tightly clustered high-rise buildings, to be more compatible with the inflexible outreach of a mass transit system. This accounts for the strong reluctance of some to generate any effort toward increasing roadway capacity.• But mass transit systems in moderate-low population density regions, do not mitigate the need for personal autos for shopping, recreation, culture and commuting to work. Car commuting is still required since most people do not live at Transit Station A and work at Transit Station B. Rather, they must walk, drive, or be bussed at both ends of the rail commute. Moreover, many Citizens are not willing to abandon our lovely suburban homes, parks and neighborhoods for the doubtful pleasures of big city living.• The introduction of Light Rail systems into already-developed suburban or small city environments has a very intrusive impact on residential areas and downtown businesses, where tunnel construction may be required to mitigate the burden. A recent estimate (ref. 1) says that downtown Bellevue businesses will lose $1.4B due to the tunnel construction effort alone. And Bellevue residents are estimated to be facing a 3% Property tax rise for 9 years to pay for just certain construction costs. • Light Rail systems average 3 times the capital (“upfront”) cost of a high-quality bus system. Moreover, Light Rail systems are only fractionally funded by ridership fares. The bulk of the long-term funding goes to operating expenses and is generated via taxation of the entire population in the transit area. So even if a citizen never rides the Light Rail, he/she will have the doubtful pleasure of being taxed on it for a lifetime.• Worse yet, most citizens find Light Rail seductive because they believe it will help reduce road traffic for motorists. This is fully disproven by experience (ref. 2) in many sizeable American cities. Traffic mitigation, except in high population-dense areas is often gaged in the tenths of 1% range .• Moreover, Transit Agencies (mostly overseen by unelected officials) have the unenviable record of frequently coming up quite in error ( toward Citizen disbenefit) on proposed cost, schedule and ridership targets, see also ref.3 .• So, Citizens are seduced by the vision of sleek, modern trains whisking them effortlessly and cheaply through their daily lives. The truth is: the sleek modern trains and station stops quickly become dirty; on average, few riders actually use the train; cost to citizens is an ongoing outlay; neighborhoods and downtown businesses are heavily disrupted during the several years of construction; and even most of the riders of light rail soon learn that they incur even longer commute trips than in pre-rail modes.Accordingly, the Petition below seeks you support to have the Bellevue City Council slow down the upcoming MOU decision until a more comprehensive effort is made to educate Citizens to a detailed, balanced, objective, cost-benefit analysis provided publicly and conveniently to the Citizens of Bellevue. Further references to some of these matters can be found here:1. Hebert Research, Inc., “East Link Construction Economic Impact Research”, Oct 26, 20112. T. Balaker, The Reason Foundation, Policy Study #321, “Past Performance vs Future Hopes”3. www.slideshare.net/MarkS181/ce-charts-for-bvue-council-mou-nov-7-2011
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