Washington State Capitol Panorama (wikimedia)

There are two important bills we’ve identified for transit funding this session:

HB 2855 would restore the $20 vehicle license fee for transit that Governor Gregoire vetoed last session.  Since this already passed the legislature last year, you have to like its chances if it’s given the time in what should be a busy session.

Section 9 has a provision to form a panel of stakeholders to create a “blueprint for public transportation services”:

The blueprint should, at a minimum, serve to guide investments in public transportation and establish a plan to significantly improve connectivity between transportation providers and across jurisdictional boundaries.

There’s a little concern that this could be an effort at the hated “governance reform,” which we bash here and here, but a source in Olympia tells me that that isn’t a threat in this case.  Rep. Clibborn (D-Mercer Island), one of the sponsors, did not reply to a request for comment on this provision.

HB 1591 would change the law governing Transportation Benefit Districts (TBDs).  Currently, they are limited to 10 years of tax collection on a single ballot measure.  The bill would extend the period to allow standard 30-year bonding, meaning that the overall size of the package could more than double.  A TBD could be a big part of whatever plan Mike McGinn puts together to build light rail, so this bill would dramatically improve the chances of doing something worthwhile.

There’s also an amendment by STB favorite Geoff Simpson that would loosen limits on having overlapping TBDs, and specify that at least 50% of any amount over $20 per year must be used for transit.

My Olympia source says this bill “has momentum” in the House; prospects in the Senate are not as bright, but Senate Transportation Chair Mary Margaret Haugen (D-Camano Island) is for it.

In other news, Publicola has a good writeup on various bike bills to which I don’t have anything to add.

17 Replies to “Important Bills this Session”

    1. when they say “Complete Streets” do they mean that if they build a road they need to build sidewalks, bike-lanes, transit-lanes, etc … from the outset?

      1. Yeah basically. It usually means that unless adding these things significantly increase project cost they must be included.

      2. “Partisan political posturing” is nicely alliterative, but meaningless.

        I can’t tell what the bill would do.

        Requiring sidewalks and curbs, and reducing cul-de-sac counts in new development would be huge positives. The BIAA would lose their minds.

        This sounds more like forcing WSDOT to build bike lanes on rural road rebuilds. Nice to have, but low value, and extremely low usage. If so, it’ll look like a greenie boondoggle to Eastern WA voters.

        Transportation Choices links to Rep Jim Moeller’s (D Hazel Dell ??? ) web page, but not to the bill.

        Does someone have a description of what the bill might accomplish?

      3. psf:

        Most “rural road rebuilds” are county roads, not state highways. It’s been in the law for years that state highways need to be passable by bicycle, and that bicycle passage space also allows for breakdowns, and increases nighttime safety.

      4. Secondly, bicyclists don’t like to ride on roads without enough shoulder room, which makes bicycling look like it’s not worth supporting, because few people use those roads… It’s a downward cycle. Besides the bill does factor in reasonable costs in the criteria for whether it applies or not.

  1. Don’t forget Senate Bill 6345. This is on par with seatbelt and drunk driving legislation which have saved thousands of lives.

    Essentially it would:

    -Make it a primary offense to operate a wireless communications device while driving that is not completely hands-free. Right now it’s a secondary offense, meaning you have to have been stopped for an unrelated infraction in order to be nailed for cell phone use.

    -Makes it an offense for someone with an intermediate driver’s license to operate a wireless communications device of any kind while driving. This would block beginning drivers from using cell phones in any way while driving a car.

    -Exempts drivers of authorized emergency vehicles, tow trucks responding to disabled vehicles, and any citizen reporting illegal activity or calling to summon emergency or medical help. This doesn’t change from the current law.

    -Does not result in an infraction that goes on the driver’s record or is reported to insurance companies or employers.

    I’m planning on writing about it when I get the time. There is very compelling data behind it.

    1. There should definitely be an exception for a stopped vehicle. Such, as, the freeway is jammed honey, I can’t pick up the kids.

      FWIW it is probably also okay to text on an open freeway, but I don’t see a way to legislate that. Douchebags unable to stop using their cell phones in inappropriate places ruin a major benefit of the devices for all.

      Perhaps there is an language recognition app for the iPhone?

      1. Hands free talk is still allowed which I think is realistic. You can dial a number and receive a call but you may not talk while holding the phone. So as long as you plug in your hands free headset or put on a blue tooth headset the examples above shouldn’t be an issue.

        Also I bet you most of the fender benders that occur in stop and go traffic are caused by people talking or texting.

      2. Isn’t talking (and associated loss of concentration) the dangerous part about cell phones, and has nothing to do with physically touching the thing?

      3. Yes and no.

        Anything that you do besides concentrating on driving is a distraction. However, from my understanding the real danger is when a driver doesn’t have both hands on the wheel and is attentive to what is ahead of them and surrounding them. Holding a phone to one’s head makes controlling a car hard as well as makes it harder to look in the mirror or turning to look for peds or other cars. Texting takes a drivers eyes off the road for an average of 5 seconds (see below).

        From personal experience (I used to talk on my phone while driving) after I hung up my cell phone I would be able to tell you anything about what I has just past in the last 30 seconds or where other cars were around me. When I didn’t talk on a phone I could tell you what I have passed for the last several minutes, the make and model of the cars all around me, and if someone is driving in a way that makes me uncomfortable. When I have a conversation with someone in a car I don’t feel like my attention decreases because if I really need to concentrate on driving I can just stop talking to them for a few seconds and they understand because they can see that I’m changing a lane, etc.

        Here are some facts from http://www.nodistractions.org

        New research shows that cell phone driving is even more dangerous than experts realized.
        – When drivers talk on a cell phone, they’re as impaired as intoxicated drivers with a .08 blood-alcohol level. [1]
        – Cell phone talkers are a half second slower to hit the brakes in emergencies, and they miss more than half of the visual cues spotted by attentive drivers. [2]

        Texting while driving represents the greatest threat.
        – Texting drivers are as impaired as drunk drivers with a .16 blood-alcohol level—twice the legal limit. [3]
        – Texting drivers look down at their devices for 5 seconds at a time on average—enough time at highway speeds to cover more than a football field. [4]

        We need stronger laws to address these growing dangers.
        – 97% of Seattle drivers already know there’s a law banning handheld cell phone use by drivers, and yet the law has had little effect on behavior. [5]
        – Two out of three teens admit to texting while driving. [6]
        – Bans on cell phone use by drivers can be effective—when backed by primary enforcement. In DC, the rate of cell phone driving is 43% lower than would be expected without a ban. In CA, it is 58% lower. In CT, it is 65% lower. [7]

        [1] Source: David L. Strayer, Frank A. Drews, and Dennis J. Crouch, University of Utah
        [2] Source: John Medina, University of Washington School of Medicine, and author of Brain Rules
        [3] Source: Matt Richtel, “Utah Gets Tough With Texting Drivers,” New York Times
        [4] Ibid.
        [5] Source: EMC Research and Seattle Department of Transportation
        [6] Source: Allstate Foundation’s State of Teen Driving Survey, 2009
        [7] Source: Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and Automobile Club of Southern California

      4. Now you’ve made me curious enough to Google the issue. It looks like a 2009 study in Canada shows that hands-free cell phone use is no safer when driving.

        I’m not arguing that it’s safe to use a cell phone while driving – it clearly works against safe driving. But the current and proposed laws make no sense in this context. It seems more like a political issue: perhaps in that voters wouldn’t think of banning themselves from any cell phone use while driving.

      5. Interesting but I think that its hard to simplifying the effects and say the law would make NO sense.

        For example this bill will ban all use of cell phones for those with intermediate licenses. Also it sends a strong message that driving and talking on phone is unsafe and that behavior should be avoided. Currently that message is half assed a best and the secondary offense law doesn’t really help.

        Also just because you can use a hands-free device doesn’t mean drivers will, especially if this law is accompanied by information about how any kind of distracted driving is bad. For example I got on my dad’s case for talking and driving. He has a hands free headset but on his own accord he has decided to completely stop using a phone while driving because he has realized how much it affects his driving.

        And finally I think that a law completely baning driving and talk would never pass. It simply appears to onerous and unrealistic too most lawmakers. Its kind of one of those screwed if you do, screwed if you don’t and I personally think that it is more important to try something other than stay with the status quo.

      6. All reasonable points. It still feels like an arbitrary way around the problem to me. Perhaps we should have a primary law banning driving while talking on brightly colored cell phones. That would accomplish just as much (increase awareness, reduce the number of people talking and driving, spur spending on devices that don’t accomplish the intended goal). At least it would get rid of those terribly annoying handsfree devices (that I always forget to charge, or leave inside on the charger, etc).

      7. Haha. Problem is I think that everyone would see it as much of a joke as our current laws.

  2. Tab fees are politically divisive, something to be avoided, when possible. TBD’s use them, and probably a fatal flaw for the November’s Burien initiative.
    For McGinn and Seattle I would be quite confident that they will help! (which is fine, in Seattle)

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