LD 1 and LD 41 Candidate debates: #405ETL responses

I attended voter forums held for Legislative District 1 (Bothell, Juanita, Canyon Park, Maltby, Mount Lake Terrace) and LD41 (Mercer Island, Bellevue, New Castle, Sammamish).  Here is video of the responses to questions on tolling for the candidates.

LD1 Senate: Guy Palombo vs Mindie Wirth
LD1 Rep seat 1: Derek Stanford (could not attend) vs Neil Thannisch
LD1 Rep seat 2: Shelley Kloba vs Jim Langston

Note: Rep Derek Stanford was traveling and unable to attend the forum, but he was one of the few legislators to stand up for his district and sponsor the bill to remove the tolls.  Personal opinion here: It takes a true leader like Derek to stand up for his district even when it may not yet be a popular position among others.

Some personal thoughts that come to mind as I watch this video, I hope our candidates recognize that if the tolls are failing for part of our district, then they are failing for our district. Period.  Our representatives are being elected to represent all of us.  This will probably present the first and biggest challenge for our legislators and a true test of their loyalties to the people of their district vs. those who want express toll lanes.

Also note:  Tolling is not required in order to keep a BRT system traveling at 45mph.  TRUE BRT calls for separate lanes from the car lanes and that the buses were actually part of the cause for the breakdown of the carpool lanes. Unfortunately, the City of Kirkland blocked putting mass transit on the Eastside Rail Corridor to make it a bike trail.  Loss of that short segment has ruined the opportunity for the ERC to solve our transportation problems on I-405.  Meanwhile, WSDOT has already confirmed that tolling is failing to provide the 45mph goal, even at $10.
___________
LD41 Rep seat 2: Judy Clibborn vs Michael Appleby
Note: No tolling questions were asked of the Senate candidates, but Senator Steve Litzow was a sponsor of the bill to remove the tolls.
Rep seat 1 did not have a debate because John Pass had a family emergency and could not attend.

Fact checker regarding the responses:
Claim 1: “There will always be people who are against tolls.”
FALSE.  We accept taxes that make sense.  (I am one of the authors of the voter pamphlet pro- statement for Bothell Prop1: Safe Streets and Sidewalks levy lift.)  But the Express Toll Lanes are fiscally irresponsible, socially inequitable, fail at what they were intended and have unacceptable, unintended consequences. They are just a slick sales job by the tolling industry.

Claim 2: “The revenue that is being generated in those lanes are going to pay for..because we don’t have general purpose lanes in our new transportation package.  There is no money in the new transportation package to put those general purpose lanes in.  These tolls will pay for that.”

FALSE.  In the past you have stated that the purpose of the Express Toll Lanes is NOT to collect revenue, but to “manage congestion”.  Yet now you are stating they will fund additional lanes.  Which is the truth?  The fact is, they generate only $10M in annual profits.  It will cost an estimated $580M to add a GPL from SR522 to I-5.  That would take 58 years to pay off, plus the 10 years it will take to recoup the $111M spent installing the tolling system. The fact is the tolls CANNOT pay for adding GPLs

Claim 3: “The point is to make sure that you are always able to move goods and people through a corridor.”

EXACTLY.  But commerce is suffering because trucking cannot use the ETL.  They are stuck in the slow-moving general purpose lanes or are taking alternate routes like Hwy 9 to avoid the worst congestion. Some businesses have even added a surcharge for delivering to the Eastside.  The GPL carrying the majority of people are also moving slower so the few in the ETL move faster.

Claim 4: “These Express Toll Lanes are not just an experiment. It is something that is being done across the nation. It works in other states…We will looking at this under statute in 2 years and we will evaluate whether it’s working and whether we want to continue, but you don’t stop in midstream.”

FALSE. As she contradicts herself, this is in fact a 2 year pilot study.  And while they are in use elsewhere, those states are having the same problems we are having.  Miami has already found their tolls maxing out with no impact on congestion and Texas is examining what it would take to eliminate all of their tolls altogether.  So just how bad does it have to be before we abort this failed project and move on?  It is hard to trust what Rep Clibborn said when they have already designed and begun construction of more ETLs on I-405 from Bellevue to SR167.  Will they really change that plan back to simply increased capacity?

Claim 5: “When we had 2+ HOV the whole corridor was broken down.
FALSE. The whole corridor was not failing because we had 2+ HOV.  The GPL was (and is) failing because of a lack of capacity.  As for the carpool lane, transportation engineers confirm that at only 1200 vehicles per hour maximum, the carpool lanes did not fail because they had too many cars. The true reasons for them failing were detailed in another blog post.

Claim 6: In both forums it was said that “the toll lanes were implemented badly” or that “the roll-out could have been done better”.

FALSE.  These ongoing problems with the tolls are not merely a result of bad implementation:

– a decline in carpools
– increased congestion in the GPL where no capacity was added
– failure of the ETL to meet the 45 MPH minimum speeds
– 50% of revenue is lost to operating costs and tolling company profits
– traffic diverting to alternate routes
– new delivery surcharges by some businesses in the corridor
– increased collisions/reduced safety
– increased driver frustration
– FlexPasses that frequently don’t work
– over 2 million billing errors so far

If you attribute these to “bad implementation”, how will you fix them for the existing 405ETL and how will you avoid them when implementing more tolls on I-405 from Bellevue to SR167?

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3 comments on “LD 1 and LD 41 Candidate debates: #405ETL responses
  1. transpengr says:

    That’s a lot of evening activity covering all the debates — thank you. And this report is top drawer with all your informed responses.

    It may not be clear to all that the claims you were responding to in LD41 were those of Judy Clibborn — her opponent Mike Appleby is for removing the tolls. Judy is either badly misinformed of simply untruthful. In either case we do not need people like that filling these crucial roles that affect the lives of so many people (400,000 or so in this corridor alone).

    As a side note, the 40 mile private section of the Austin toll road Texas 130 is bankrupt and will leave taxpayers with a 1/2 Billion $ debt. The interesting part is the optimistic traffic forecasts were a big part of the problem but the consortium will not release them because they are proprietary. Sounds very similar to the situation on I-405 wherein the forecasts for HOV lane use were developed with a proprietary forecast model and thus not available for scrutiny or evaluation by others as is normally the case for transportation projects in this state. So guess what — the actual HOV lane usage was less than 1/2 of that forecast (the forecast was for the period from 2009 to 2014). Would that effect the design of the system — you bet as their car pool forecast would clearly overload a single HOV lane.

    Like

  2. Marsha Hebert says:

    Rather than a toll lane for 2+, wouldn’t it work better if there was a charge for single occupant vehicles? Many or even most people going to the same place can get one other person to ride with them each day. If charged for not having a passenger, it would encourage people to find a passenger resulting in fewer cars on the road. I suspect that the powers-that-be wouldn’t like that as with fewer cars, there would be fewer cars buying gas and therefore paying all that gas tax. Looks like revenue rather than congestion is driving this issue for our leaders. Thought they were supposed to be representing ALL of US. Guess NOT.

    Like

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