The Times reports this morning that Tim Eyman’s measure will definitely be on the ballot.

It would create a traffic-congestion-relief fund by tapping car-sales taxes, revenues from red-light-camera tickets and the money set aside for art on transportation projects.

The initiative also would require cities to synchronize traffic signals and open car-pool lanes outside rush hours.

There really isn’t enough time in the day to go through all the things wrong with this proposal, although the total lack of attention to road maintenance — with bridges threatening to collapse all over the state — is pretty galling, even if you’re pro-road.

If you read this blog, you’re probably pretty strongly disinclined to vote for an Eyman initiative anyway, but I’ll also point out that opening up HOV lanes to general traffic is a direct assault on the Express Bus system, and the potential for any Bus Rapid Transit line.  The position of various public figures on I-985 will be a pretty good discriminator between those who genuinely believe BRT is the best transit solution in the region, and those who merely use it as an excuse to attack light rail.

I personally believe that many BRT advocates (Doug MacDonald?) are arguing in good faith, and we’ll find out who those people are real soon.

Furthermore, the existence of the kind of sentiment expressed in I-985 is a good argument against BRT in itself.  When you construct asphault for the sole use of buses, there’s always going to be some segment of the population agitating to turn it over to cars.  That doesn’t happen with train tracks.

18 Replies to “I-985 is Certified”

  1. “When you construct asphault for the sole use of buses, there’s always going to be some segment of the population agitating to turn it over to cars.”


  2. Damn. I don’t see any reason why this initiative won’t pass. To the average voter, it just says, “do you like free candy? vote yes for free candy!” It’s incredibly cynical and unworkable, like most of his initiatives, but unfortunately appealing on a cursory read.

    1. I think the fact that it draws hundreds of millions from funding that would otherwise go to schools and public safety is good enough reason not to.

      But nobody dares question that, since voting against Eyman is a vote for taxation!

    2. Frank, I think basically every municipality and agency is going to say “please vote no.” That should help.

    3. “”A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can
      only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves
      largesse from the public treasury. From that moment on, the
      majority always votes for the candidates promising the most
      benefits from the public treasury with the result that a democracy
      always collapses over loose fiscal policy, always followed by a
      Alexander Fraser Tytler (later Lord Alexander Fraser
      Woodhouslee), in “The Decline and Fall of the Athenian Republic,”
      published 1776.

  3. A cruel part of me hopes this passes since I don’t live outside of Seattle. No real reason to use HOV lanes or express buses.

    It has the potential to sink the express bus system and drive people into more convenient locations. It also can blitz BRT since they lose lanes AND their signal priority.

    Also, it costs millions more than he’s talking about. Each and every city has to foot the bill for this required light-sync program. Does he know what this will do to cities like Yelm or Ephrata? The city governments out there are flipping out while their constituents are acting like they’re dancing on the grave of Seattle.

    They, of course, are dancing on their own graves since a lot of these cities are in a budget crunch already and if they have to hire traffic engineers and pour thousands upon thousands into these changes, they aren’t going to have the money they need for a lot of, you know, actually important things.

  4. I don’t care for BRT either but the argument that assphalt laid for buses only is vulnerable to someday being opened up to cars reminds me of the expensive boondoggle called BART. They insisted on building the tracks at Russian guage instead of American so no other trains could use their trackage. This means BART trains have to be custom made, no off the shelf tech for them. And of course the cost of going back to regular American guage is even more costly than the special trains so BART will permanently cost up the wazoo….

    1. The BART argument is silly. The BRT argument has worked for the last forty years – in 1968, we were supposed to have bus-only lanes, and they turned into choked HOV.

  5. A big problem with synchronizing traffic signals is that you are actually going to bias the system for one direction over another. That’s fine if there is little cross traffic, but once you have commutes crossing each other someone is made to wait.

    Example: Santa Clara County (Silicon Valley) synchronized traffic signals on the major north-south arterials during commute hours to improve capacity. I had an east-west commute and had to cross all of these roads to get to work. As I now had to wait longer to cross each intersection, it made the commute so bad I sold my house and moved.

  6. all sides of the pro transit debates will oppose the Eyman initiative and have opposed his initiatives in the past. His is a right wing populist approach with junior high arguments. but they are suprisingly effective.

    note that the Rossi transportation proposal would use some of the same revenues for different projects; they could be in conflict.

    Yes, there will be a big fight over tolling during the 2009 Session.

    1. At least with ST, we can just sit back and watch – ST doesn’t need any tolls.

  7. How would I-985 affect Bus only lanes? Is it possible to have HOV lanes during peak hours and change them into Bus only lanes during mid day?

    I could say, yeah, more jobs for traffic engineers but that would be a conflict of interest which I am not interested in seeing happening.

  8. Oran, under the I-985 definition, bus lanes and HOV lanes and carpool lanes are all the same thing — they’re good only 30 hours/week and all the rest of the time, they are open to everyone, regardless of traffic conditions. No dodging the effects of this initiative, using our own creative definitions. Even the Metro Busway in SODO will be open to all traffic most of the time. Maybe even the downtown Seattle transit tunnel.

    I-985 is toxic to BRT, but I have yet to see even one BRT advocate argue against it. Phonies all.

  9. Ugh, scary indeed. Now, it’s giving me nightmares.

    This will effectively kill BRT and all the “more buses” crowd’s argument. Rail will definitely be the winner in avoiding congestion while drivers and bus riders trapped in gridlock wonder how did we get in this mess? *looks at self reflection in the window*

    If cars actually try to drive through the transit tunnel it’ll be hilarious. I actually imagined Critical Mass cyclists taking over the tunnel but I don’t think they would be as cruel as Eyman is. Oh well, I guess that means kicking all the buses out of the tunnel and ripping the road bed out.

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