by ANDREW AUSTIN, Policy Associate, Transportation Choices Coalition

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As the holidays quickly approach so does the 2010 Legislative Session. This year the legislature will be convene for a “short” 60 day session that starts on January 11th. Due to the State’s budget crisis it is expected to be a fast-paced session focused on filling a $2.6 billion (and growing) hole in the state’s operating budget. That said, Transportation Choices Coalition will be working hard on behalf of you everyday to ensure that Washington residents have the choices to take transit, bike, or walk in their community.

Transit Funding

Across the State transit agencies continue to face a financial crisis due to declining sales tax revenues. If new sustainable revenue is not identified in the next two years, agencies serving Anacortes to Walla Walla will be forced to make drastic cuts to their service, cuts that will hinder our region’s economic recovery, clog our roads, prevent us from reducing greenhouse gas emissions and leave transit riders abandoned on the side of the road.

As the 2010 legislative session approaches Transportation Choices will be working for you in Olympia to educate the legislative leadership on the transit funding crisis. We will be organizing this year to ensure that transit plays a central role in future transportation revenue packages. But we can not do it alone and need your help communicating with legislators about what transit cuts will mean to you and your local community. We will hold our annual transportation advocacy day on January 28th in Olympia and one of our major issues will be transit funding.

Transit Oriented Communities

Following up on last year’s transit oriented communities legislation we will continue to push for a combination of planning measures and incentives that promote transit-oriented development, particularly in rail transit station areas. We are advocating for grant dollars that cities can access for planning, infrastructure upgrades and affordable housing in “high performing station areas.” These high performing station areas are the ones that will make the most of their proximity to light rail and other high-capacity transit investments by zoning for walkable, mixed-use development, with a healthy mix of housing types in their station areas. (For more on these concepts, please see our new report, co-authored with Futurewise and GGLO, Creating Transit-Oriented Communities: A Blueprint for Washington State). Finally, we will also join Futurewise in continuing to push the legislature to require comp plan updates to factor reducing greenhouse gas emissions into future growth management plans.

Complete Streets

For many years TCC has been working with our city partners and the public health community to implement complete streets guidelines at the local level. We believe the state could do more to incentivize local governments to adopt complete streets policies, which means designing local roads with all users – including cyclists, pedestrians and transit users – in mind. This year we will attempt to establish the framework for a grant program for complete streets projects in cities to incentivize and reward complete streets programs around the state.

Reprinted with permission from the Nov. 30th TCC Newsletter.  See also Erica Barnett’s write-up of TCC’s report in presentation form.

3 Replies to “Op-ed: What to Expect in Olympia”

  1. That’s an interesting concept – ‘complete streets’ – I like the ring of that one!

    I hope that Olympia considers tax increases in the next seassion as cuts have pretty much exhausted themselves as a way of improving the budget situation – if they ever were a good idea. I have always favored improving revenue sources as opposed to cutting expenditures. Pragmatism demands both, but the heart does not.

    My priorities for the next seassion beyond the above tax increases, include some funding arrangements for starting the Mercer Mess project in Seattle – I have no idea the status on this long running saga at present.

    Continued funding for the viaduct replacement and to reintroduce through Representative Clibborn, the idea of people being allowed to opt into the Sound Transit taxing district who are current outside it. I mentioned this to her last year and she said she might/would/could possibly consider it for the upcoming session.

    Other than these remarks, I would like to see Olympia make some effort to coordinate with Vancouver, BC re: track improvements to the station up there. We can only realistically add trains to the Seattle-Vancouver run if the Canadians improve track conditions their side of the border.

  2. Andrew,

    Please don’t get me wrong; I think transit is a great thing. I just started a new contract today at Nike out in Beaverton to which I did today and will continue to commute from Salmon Creek in Vancouver. So don’t dis me as some kind of anti transit lunatic.

    But I have to say, only if the economy recovers will cutting transit “clog our roads, prevent us from reducing greenhouse gas emissions”. It will affect many peoples’ lives as you point out, but right now vehicle miles traveled are in a plunge that looks like it’s not stopping soon.

    If the economy recovers, so will the sales tax revenue that funds transit. If it does not recover, most of the lost vehicle miles won’t be coming back.

    Either way our roads won’t be clogged and GHG emissions will continue to fall if the recession becomes the permanent status quo.

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