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Who benefits from the Mercer Island Park & Ride?
A comment, last week, indicated a misunderstanding of who benefits from the Mercer Island Park and Ride. The answer is that the Park and Ride is a benefit for Seattle first, the Eastside second, and Mercer Island third.
I say this because the Park and Ride has no impact on Mercer Island traffic at all. It does remove traffic from the streets of Seattle and it is used by some Eastside and Mercer Island residents to park their cars while they work in Seattle. But what it doesn’t do is lower the traffic on Mercer Island. In fact, it increases the traffic because it attracts drivers off I-90 and onto Mercer Island streets. Mercer Island residents also use the Park and Ride while they work in Seattle, but they still add to the total traffic load on Mercer Island streets.
The real beneficiaries of all the Park and Rides in King County are: 1) Seattle, which loses traffic and 2) those commuters who are lucky enough to arrive before the lots are full.
I should point out that the Mercer Island Park and Ride is full because of Eastsiders who, when they hit the first real traffic on I-90, pull off at Island Crest Way, park and then take the bus to Seattle. This is fine; after all, they paid for it, too, and they should use it. But there should be no confusion about the Island benefiting from the Park and Ride.
As a whole, it doesn’t because it does not reduce traffic on Mercer Island; just the opposite, it increases traffic on Mercer Island. True, some individuals, even myself, like to park there and ride to Seattle or the airport. But when we do so, we are not improving the environment on the Island. Only those people who don’t start their cars in the morning can say that they are improving Mercer Island by not commuting in a private vehicle.
So with regard to the East Link Light Rail project, one should ask, does it make sense to replace the 550 bus route with a billion dollar light rail that follows the same route and does the same thing as the 550? The plan that Sound Transit would like to execute would eliminate the I-90 express lanes, restripe a safe I-90 into a dangerous freeway, create a choke point at the single light rail stop on Mercer Island, and not reduce any Mercer Island street traffic.
The only possible improvement on the present plan would be to create two more stops on Mercer Island at East and West Mercer Way with the hope that a significant number of walk-on, bike and drop-off passengers would be diverted from the Mercer Island center to the additional stops.
Beyond that, the only way to salvage the East Link Light Rail for Mercer Island and King County would be to put it on the proposed 520 bridge, an option supported by Seattle’s mayor.
Seattle is lucky to have a mayor who is willing to get involved with public transit issues. It would be useful if our Mercer Island mayor and City Council would try to influence this project for the benefit of Mercer Island instead of ducking the issue (e.g. come back with something for Mercer Island).
Many years ago, in my home room class at Mercer Island High School, our teacher would frequently arrive an hour or so late due to another head-on collision on the incredibly dangerous, old floating bridge. Eliminating that bridge, the most dangerous element of life on Mercer Island then, was at the top of everyone’s agenda. We went through years of construction (and broken windshields) to get the present super-safe bridge. And now with the present East Link Light Rail plan, we’re going to give up the safe bridge, and we’re not getting anything in return.