New group wants in on transit conversation
By JOSHUA ADAM HICKS
Bellevue Reporter Former Staff Writer
March 19, 2010 · Updated 5:06 PM
A new citizens group announced its arrival to the transportation conversation Thursday at the downtown Bellevue transit center.
Citizens for Responsible Transit (CRT) says its mission is to "promote conversation, provide information and advocate for effective transportation solutions at the local and regional level."
But not everyone is convinced of the group's benign intentions.
The birth of CRT comes near the tail end of a contentious discussion about Bellevue light-rail routing – one that has lasted more than a year heading into the final environmental-impact review.
The group formed primarily around supporters of the B3 (Bellevue Way) light-rail route for South Bellevue, although participation in the group is not limited.
CRT co-founder Michael Marchand is a resident of Bellevue's Enatai neighborhood who tried unsuccessfully to unseat Mayor Don Davidson in the November election.
Marchand has been a longtime supporter of the B3 route. He says CRT has officially endorsed that alignment over the B7 route, which would run just west of I-405 along the abandoned BNSF rail corridor.
"There's a lot of people arguing on behalf of an issue because they want to be right or because they're concerned about what's in it for them," Marchand said. "We're about what's going to benefit the region as a whole."
Supporters of the B7 route have something to say about that. They claim their preferred alignment will cost less and have fewer impacts on residential neighborhoods.
Advocates of the B3 line say their option will attract more riders.
Both sides are claiming fewer impacts on the environment, although Sound Transit's draft environmental-impact statement supports the B3 argument in terms of effects on wetlands.
The Bellevue City Council recently sent a letter to Sound Transit stating that the majority of the council prefers B7.
Marchand says the city needs to be careful about using up all of its political capital on the South Bellevue segment. He's trying to shift the focus away from routing toward mitigation concerns.
"Sometimes in the conversation I feel like we're missing the forest for the trees," he said. "We need to be thinking about the overarching asks we'd have for any segment.
"We're so worried about siting that we're missing the next conversation."
Betsy Blackstock, a staunch supporter of the B7 line and a resident of the Surrey Downs neighborhood, isn't ready to move past routing just yet.
"It's not time to talk about mitigation," she said. "You've got to have all the facts first.
"Once you have all the facts, then you can say 'uh-oh, look out here' or 'look out there.'"
Blackstock also takes issue with CRT's name. She claims an older group called Neighbors for Responsible Transportation – which she is associated with – is the real deal when it comes to advocating for sensible decisions.
"We absolutely consider ourselves to be citizens for responsible transit," she said.
CRT has not named a preferred downtown alignment for light rail, at least not officially.
"C9T is something we currently support, but there's been no final decision," Marchand said.
The Bellevue City Council this week agreed to support that route, which would run light rail through a tunnel beneath 110th Ave. NE.