I have been advocating that the Mercer Island City Council impanel a public transit committee for the purpose of keeping the Council informed of transit issues affecting Mercer Island. Typically, City Council members are not public transit users and are unaware of public transit issues that affect Mercer Island.
Last week, Mayor Bassett proved me correct on this point when he said that his solution for I-90 tolling was a “win-win” for the Island. His solution was to toll only those who drive completely across the lake, thus allowing Island residents to drive free of I-90 tolls. His statement completely ignores what would happen to the MI P&R (i.e. Park and Ride), if such a solution were implemented.
At this time we have plenty of off-Island commuters who like to take advantage of the free parking at the P&R, and it is all but impossible to find a parking spot after 7:30 a.m. Consider what the parking would be like if these commuters could avoid paying a toll by stopping on Mercer Island at the P&R (or even just to visit the store.) This is what the mayor proposed, and after implementing the mayor’s solution, we can forget about finding parking at the P&R.
Since the majority of vehicles in the MI P&R originate on the Eastside, the only I-90 tolling solution that will preserve P&R access for Islanders will be to toll only on the East Channel Bridge. We will end up paying a toll eastbound with the consolation that the bus will still be accessible from the MI P&R.
Mercer Island contributes greatly to public transit in King County. We pay lots of tax to support Metro/Sound Transit, and we are going to give up a safe and reliable I-90 so that Sound Transit can use the express lanes for light rail. In spite of our contribution, we are getting very little transit in return. As our representatives, it is incumbent on the City Council to protect our interests in public transit just as they are now with I-90 tolling. I urge the Council to start being advocates for the Island in the area of public transit.