Olympia Capitol at Night
State Capitol at night, photo by jwiv

With the legislative session coming to a close, we have some good news to report.

To start with, SB 5433 passed the House with both an authorization for King County to use ferry district taxing authority for transit (discussed in more detail here) and the Simpson amendment to allow transit agencies to ask for transportation benefit districts (discussed here). TCC just broke that the Senate was tied tonight, with Lieutenant Governor Brad Owen making the tie-breaking vote to pass the bill. This is great news for all transit agencies, but especially for Metro.

The transportation budget passed. The I-90 asset assessment remained essentially as Rep. Simpson wrote, funded and inclusive of ST in the process – and moved up a month to be complete by November 1st. Rep. Clibborn’s $10.6 million for R8A preliminary design work survived – and I understand Senator Jarrett supported this as well, although he wasn’t on the conference committee. Regional Mobility Grants survived partially, with $33 million of the Senate’s original $45 million, but I’ll take it – $8 million is included for the $39 million we still need to get Sounder to Lakewood. There was also funding for a third Amtrak Cascades run to Vancouver starting next year, and the final version of the bill kept in the House’s “Seattle pays for overruns” Alaskan Way Viaduct Replacement provision.

Given how bad things looked a month ago, this isn’t bad! In addition to the obvious thanks for Rep. Simpson taking the lead here, I also want to recognize that Rep. Clibborn and Senator Jarrett both played roles in making sure all this funding stayed in place, so thank you to them as well. Perhaps we’ll never know what goes on in those conference committees (ahem, transparency initiative?), but we seem to have fared well enough.

Of course, now that we’ve gotten an inch, next budget session I expect Oregon-like funding for light rail and hourly bullet train service from Canada to Portland. Also a pony.

28 Replies to “Olympia Update: Transit Does Pretty Well”

  1. Unfortunately one of the most cost-effective mobility programs in the state, GTEC, got totally cut in the final budget. The 2.5 million that was dedicated towards this program last year has been stripped which is bad news for the awesome GTEC funded organizations (i.e. Commute Seattle) that help reduce SOV commutes within downtown Seattle, Bellevue, and Tacoma.

    Also the capital spending on passenger rail still took a big hit.

    That said the 10+ million in R8A money, Simpson’s I-90 negotiation amendment, and the modest investment in regional mobility grants were all important wins considering the climate this year.

    1. I had no idea that this even existed, and I’ll make time to look at the state’s GTEC page tomorrow (well, it’s today now).

      For others: This is the state’s plan to help smaller employers, as Commute Trip Reduction Act really only affects employers of 100+.

  2. The pony is just for bargaining purposes, right? A request to be “given up” in order to get the rail funding?

    Crafty, very crafty.

  3. A pony? Isn’t that a single occupancy animal? How about getting a few of them and having them pull a wagon or carriage instead?

    1. I think the pony will appeal to a broader range of the state’s residents and help me gain support for the high speed rail program. :)

  4. What, the State Senate tied? I remember in 2000, the Libertarian(a party no fan of publicly-operated transit, whether bus or rail by the way) running for Lt. Governor wanted to abolish the office because it was a waste of time and money.(GOt 8% of the vote, by the way).

    Good the bill passed, I just hope the King County Council does not dispraportionately hit Seattle with the cuts. Although this is nothing new, even in New York you have up-staters trying to mess around with how the NYMTA is funded.

  5. Yeah, the rail projects took a huge hit but it seems pretty good that we may get most or all (possibly) more than we requested. The big one is the M Street to Lakewood funding but the gap for D Street to M Street is still the critical link.

    The Vancouver Rail Project was also accelerated.

  6. I think our Cascade Corridor will fare better than expected when stimulus money starts to flow (OCT09)for HSR projects, even with the reduction to most of the rail office projects delayed in this budget.
    So far, announced plans for the 11 corridors nationwide indicate requests will be in the 25-30 Bil. range, for just 8 Bil initially, and 5 Bil, follow up over several years. That said, WA will need to monitor closely the ‘match’ commitments from other regions, as that will be a realistic requirement for any significant funding.
    I hope WSDOT is keeping better track of this than I am!

  7. This may be hard to believe, but Washington actually funds transit to a much higher degree than Oregon does (or has in the past).

    TriMet has only gotten to where they are because they sacrificed bus service to provide light rail. And their light rail is cheap compared to Seattle because they haven’t had to build to such a high capacity.

    If Seattle at some point were to want to convert to heavy rail (such as New York or Atlanta), the only infrastructure improvements that would need to be made would be an elevated or subsurface path to replace on-street running through the Rainier Valley. If somebody says “what about 3rd rail” I’ll say that 3rd rail in and of itself does not define heavy rail. There are systems that fit the heavy rail category that use overhead cantenary. Boston’s blue line comes to mind.

    Much of Portland’s lines would have to be rebuilt, and in fact a limitation of their system is that they can only handle 2 car trains because of the 300ft block size in Portland.

    Don’t get me started on the whole Colorado Railcar sillyness. That is the reason they’re cutting their bus service this year.

    1. This may be hard to believe, but Washington actually funds transit to a much higher degree than Oregon does (or has in the past).

      I think per capita they’ve got us beat: https://seattletransitblog.wpcomstaging.com/2009/03/04/chart-of-the-day/

      It seems our state invests more in small transit agencies than big transit infrastructure, too. As for whether heavy rail is really the end-game… I think that misses the point. I don’t look at light rail as a step toward heavy rail.

    2. The key for me is how they target their funding. The state, here, doesn’t help much with the larger projects. While they’re willing to expand I-405, they’re not willing to spend that kind of money to expand Link, even though it better meets the state’s long-term goals.

      This is like the difference between ten dollars or five dollars when you need a thousand, though – perhaps I shouldn’t have used the state of Oregon as an example.

      If we have $2.4B for a viaduct that moves 110,000 a day (and the replacement less), we could be spending that money on transit and getting better long-term bang for our buck.

    3. If by “Washington” and “Oregon” you mean “all levels of government in the state”, then I believe you’re right.

      If you mean the state government itself, which is what Ben was talking about, than the chart John links to disproves your point.

      1. 3rd rail systems are those like NYC subway, BART, DC Metro that run electric cars but do not have overhead wires. Instead they have electric “third rails”.

        These rails require complete dedicated ROW because cars or pedestrian who walk on them get electricuted.

  8. A third train to Vancouver! Next year! That would be great, but when are they going to lay on a second train – is that still for the Olympics next year.

    The news sounds pretty good on transportation. Did Mercer Street in Seattle get anything or King Street Station renovation? I know that the Mayor is confident he has the funds anyway.

    It seems like the biggest challenge is getting additional funds for Sounder to make it down to Lakewood.

    I’d like to thank Rep. Clibborn as well as others on the transportation committee who worked hard on keeping things alive.


      1. When the bullet pony leaves on a trip, do you avoid telling it to break a leg? :)

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