Sound Transit's most recent preferred alternative on the left, and Bellevue's on the right

Tuesday night’s open house and public hearing for Sound Transit’s East Link’s SDEIS was nothing more than the perennial ST bashing exercise.  The public hearing was laden with several comments on why ST is a bad government bureaucracy yet there was the sole proviso that the agency could be magically forgiven for its sins if it were to choose B7 instead.  The meeting was very negative from the standpoint of a B2/B3 supporter but likely a party for B7 supporters, who criticized Sound Transit on everything from Central Link’s delayed opening to Bellevue councilmember Grant Degginger’s “conflict of interest.”

Things got heated early as one B7 supporter began dropping expletives and loudly accosting Sound Transit employees during the open house, claiming that no one would stay in the Bellevue Club’s hotel if a train would be screeching by all evening.  His rampage was stopped only by a fellow Bellevue resident, who calmly reprimanded him for his foul mouth.  Aside from the isolated commotion, the rest of the open house maintained composure and went on unscathed, sporting the usual set up of various stations staffed by ST employees.

More below the jump.

According to ST estimates, there were roughly 130 in attendance, a large portion of which was an organized turnout from B7 supporters.  Out of the roughly 20 or so speakers that testified, approximately half spoke either: in favor of B7, in favor of Bellevue’s fiscally responsible study, against B2M, against Sound Transit, or against Link in general. Whichever way the cards were played, a large amount of the rhetoric was more about ST’s “failure” as an agency and less about the actual merits of B7.  The heavily partisan crowd made sure to reward every B7 supporter at the podium with applause.

There was no shortage of misleading commentary as well.  One gentleman made the oft-used and bold claim that Link would only carry 2% of trips in and out of Downtown Bellevue (conveniently ignoring a fair corridor-level time-competitive comparison).  Another argued that B2M would be creating a whole “new transportation corridor” in lieu of using an existing one (built specifically for freight, mind you), but later plainly stating that this supposed “new transportation corridor” is currently used by thousands of cars daily.

Unfortunately, would-be valid concerns of things like noise impacts nastily turned into ideological rhetoric.  The second commenter, the same who caused the ruckus earlier during the open house, went on to assert that light rail would “destroy our way of life!”  One woman, from the pro-B7 Build a Better Bellevue, claimed light rail is too inefficient (but B7 would solve that!).  She later stated that B7’s crossing of Mercer Slough would create known impacts, a much better alternative to B2M’s “unknown lasting impacts.”  Right.  I’m not sure direct wetland impacts are ever better than buffer impacts, known or unknown.

The evening wasn’t a total knockout for B2M supporters.  Several people did speak in favor of the agency’s preferred alignment and urged moving forward on the planning process.  Those who did testify as such came across as far less hostile and more accommodating on valid issues like noise and traffic impacts.  There were a few neutral testimonies as well– a student representative from Bellevue College asked ST to consider serving the college with East Link, though it’s been determined decades ago that that won’t happen.

Sound Transit is still soliciting public comments for the SDEIS until January 10th of next year.  For those of you who aren’t familiar with the East Link goings-on, you can read a rundown summary here.

19 Replies to “No Shortage of Negativity at East Link Public Hearing”

  1. Had that person been hanging out in the Bellevue Club bar before the meeting? :-)

    When ST was having some of their first meetings on Beacon Hill, there were some hotheads that showed up looking for a fight. In our case, the neighbors weeded them out pretty effectively.

    Just build it. Who cares what a bunch of cranks think?

  2. I can’t help but to read all that and laugh. There really isn’t any use arguing with these kind of people anymore. Facts be damned!

    1. The only way to argue with them is to become one of them and understand their worldview. Argue within their worldview and you’d be surprised at how much you can accomplish. There is always a way for the truth to enter.

  3. So the people supporting the worse option of the two organized a group of supporters for their proposal to come and storm the meeting, while the ones who support the better proposal were underrepresented and walked upon?

    I wonder how this is going to turn out.

  4. 1. In public transit, you have to let a lot of things roll off, and just keep working. Worst thing about bus driving was that invariably, the worse somebody smelled, the closer they always sat to the driver.

    2. The best defense against wrong information is right information, delivered with authority and confidence, but also with an understanding of the legitimate position of an honest questioner.

    3. There’s no stronger advocate than an former critic who finally decides you’ve got a good project.

    4. It’s too bad professional engineers tend to be uncomfortable speaking in public (I think the understanding in the trade is similar to the military: civilians make policy).

    In my observation, ordinary people who are reflexively suspicious of professional public relations staff will often give a better reception to the same information coming from a project engineer.

    Mark Dublin

    1. Very nicely said Mark!

      I love Seattle Transit Blog but I’m concerned about the vitriol being slung recently- the Seattle Times Editorial in particular. Let the facts speak for themselves and things will become clear over time. Call out inaccuracies but hopefully the STB won’t lower itself to the level of some of those who spout inaccuracies.

  5. I haven’t seen this much public hostility since the bikini barista fiasco last year. That was the last thing that was supposedly going to “destroy our way of life!” I guess the upper-middle-class lifestyle must be fragile if it is so easily destroyed.

  6. Saying that the 1995 Regional Transit Service Proposal made any final decisions is a little bit misleading. There are lots of things in there that ST had decided to change. My favorite is this promise of an integrated fare system.

    The RTA will work with the local transit agencies to coordinate
    bus and train schedules and develop a single, integrated fare system.

  7. “loot rail will destroy my way of life”

    Is this guy a pan handler? ’cause speeding trains won’t be stopping at intersections for handouts to bums with cardboard signs.

  8. Here’s the thing: light rail is coming up Bellevue Way and 112th. If I was on the pro B7 side, I would grab my sign and start fighting for a tunnel, retained cut, auto traffic improvements, parks, parking, etc. That has a much better chance of going somewhere possible.

  9. If I were an eastsider wanting Link to go somewhere else, I would work with ST to find where else they actually want to run Link and help make it happen…

    If the eastsiders on the ST Board were to go along with spending eastside ST revenue on building South Link, would anyone complain?

    The big hitch would then be that WSDOT would need to reimburse ST for the cost of building the bi-directional I-90 express (HOV?) lanes, or turn those lanes into transit only. Indeed, if ST is footing the bill, I think those lanes should be transit only at least until East Link opens.

  10. Given the anti-ST rhetoric and general nastiness that these meetings turn into I can’t imaging that opponents to a B2M alignment are doing themselves any good. Right or wrong, ST has pretty much decided on the B2M alignment and has State law backing it’s ability to choose where the line will go. Bellevue can play obstructionist, file lawsuits, and drive up the costs for everybody. This all seems likely to push ST towards a surface option which many supporters and virtually every opponent feel will cause major disruptions to Bellevue traffic. The increased costs will lead to fewer amenities, a lower quality system, and more wealthy lawyers.

    With the exception of Bernie, virtually every opponent I’ve spoken with comes across as a petulant child who will say *anything* to get their way – facts be damned.

  11. Sound Transit (or a supporter) needs to tell these people upfront that B7 isn’t happening and if they keep holding up B2M they’ll only get something worse.

  12. Can someone who knows Bellevue, especially its people and neighborhoods, exactly what has this particular group of people so hysterical about Sound Transit’s preferred route?

    I’m willing to bet Kemper Freeman has always had some particular price in mind, which, once met, will induce him to throw massive support to light rail. But what about this particular set of residents? I wonder if any of them have ever actually seen rail like ST’s Eastside line destroy a community?

    A little over ten years ago, I was along on a field trip to Portland sponsored by Sound Transit for interested citizens. It might be worth a few train tickets to let people from Surrey Downs go look at MAX- especially the Yellow Line, which runs comfortably through many neighborhoods.

    Some free LINK tickets for them and their children might also change some minds. Especially the kids- in my observation, every passenger under ten will, on their eighteenth birthday, be good for at least eighty years of positive transit votes.

    Meantime, they’ll immediately start bugging their parents to get them a light rail line like the one they rode on. Hard on anti-rail parents- but who said politics was nice?

    Mark Dublin- Electroliner passenger at 8.

  13. Just a correction. I was present at the Open House and Public Hearing held in Bellevue. Only 2 speakers spoke in favor of alignments other than B7. By any mathematical calculations that shows that most folks speaking were in favor of B7.

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