Opinion

Travel times | Editorial

Lets imagine how it will be to get to work or school or the doctor from the south end of Mercer Island in let’s say, three years time. The operative word might be, ‘challenging.’

The failure of the 2013 Legislature to pass a $10 billion transportation package will leave many roads and bridges in need of repair, fewer buses on the roads and more uncertainty about the future or our state’s economy. It is ugly from every angle.

But lets just look at Metro for a moment. Metro says plans to cut bus service by 17 percent could take effect next year. Even those who do not use bus service will feel the effect of cuts — even if the routes eliminated are in places far from here. Fewer buses will mean more cars on the roads at peak hours. Commute times will certainly increase as the population in our region continues to grow.

And a new wrinkle in all of this seems to be about to appear. Metro is planning a pilot study next year to see if charging commuters to park at four busy park and rides (including Issaquah’s) in the region, can work. The agency will investigate how much to charge based on whether the vehicle is used to carpool or by the time of day, etc. Those who purchase a permit to park will be guaranteed a place to park. So, the Island Park and Ride is already at capacity. If such an idea becomes reality, how will parking there be allocated? Anecdotal evidence indicates that many Eastside commuters already skip lots closer to home to come to the Island instead.

It will help when the new SR 520 bridge opens to traffic in 2014 or 2015. But the work needed on routes that feed into the new bridge, is not yet funded. In addition, Sound Transit will begin construction on the tracks for light rail in the existing center lanes of Interstate 90 right-of-way. The HOV center lanes will be shut down by the end of 2016 for the duration of construction, planned to end in 2023. The new HOV lanes constructed on the outer lanes are to pick up most but probably not all of that traffic.

So life will change. We will adapt. It won’t all happen at once. But, we’d better start walking now.

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