First, the bad news. We’ve discussed SB 6570 in the recent past. A state bill, it would allow private transit operators, such as Microsoft’s Connector service or airport shuttles, to use transit-only facilities, including such facilities as BAT lanes, flyer stops and transitways. Our Puget Sound transit agencies have responded in a letter to the chairs of Senate and House Transportation, calling out efficiency problems, costs, and safety issues that would be caused by the bill. Potential delays in HOV lanes, for instance, could cause agencies millions in additional operating costs.

The Federal Transit Administration has also weighed in on the issue, pointing out that projects receiving federal funds require a case by case evaluation to be opened to private transit operators, as opposed to the state bill’s blanket exception. The FTA says clearly: “such a use would appear to conflict with FTA’s rules where those transit facilities and highway lanes … were funded with FTA grants.” The state bill has an exception for state projects that receive federal funds, but this wouldn’t cover agency, city or county facilities, as the FTA points out – and Sound Transit, especially, builds a lot of HOV access ramps.

As we stated before, it doesn’t appear that legislators voting for this bill are considering its impacts, or legal obligations regarding receipt of federal funds. Senate Transportation clearly did not exercise due diligence before passing this bill out of committee, and we hope House Transportation does not make the same mistake.

Fortunately, there’s also good news out of Olympia. The state’s regional mobility grant program for transit, recently stripped of funding in the Senate, has seen $14 million replaced in a House Transportation amendment expected on HB 2838, the House Transportation funding bill, which passed out of committee yesterday. Representatives Mary Lou Dickerson (36th) and Marko Liias (21st) led this effort, and reportedly it passed unanimously. These grants have gone to a number of urban transit agencies in the past, generally to fund congestion reduction capital projects, and it’s good to see House Transportation sticking up for transit funding.

15 Replies to “Bad Legislation, Good Legislation”

  1. So if I get myself a limo with 7 seats not including the driver, and a business license, I can use the Transit Only lanes? Cool! Look out DSTT, here I come!!

  2. Also, those of you with access to the UW vehicle fleet, now’s your turn to borrow a 14 passenger van and go for a tour!!

  3. Good thoughts, Bad thoughts.
    Talk about mixed emotions on a subject, that’s where I’m at on this one.

    Carpools and Vanpools, as well as private bus, jitney, airporter, or what ever else is ‘non-traditional’ public transit is a good thing. King County has led the nation in car and van pool formation. A private vehicle (or nearly so), with a mostly free driver, getting lots more mpg/pax and lots less pollution than either bus or rail can’t be bad. Encouraging more use of that mode is a good thing, and the proposed law moves in that direction.

    As a former transit operator, I shudder at the thought of pulling into a busy transit center, only to find my bay assignment filled up with a ‘Kindercare’ transit van waiting for the little buggers to come back from a field trip. I used to cuss all the private buses that parked on 3rd, between Union and Univ, waiting for a concert to let out, wasting MY bus zone, and MY break at the end of the line, while they all killed time.
    I’d have to come down on the side of transit in most cases.

    1. Carpools and vanpools already have access to the HOV lanes. The issue here is that this bill would allow them access to these other facilities – bus bays, freeway stops, and others – that the drivers aren’t trained to use.

  4. Aside from all that IS truly wrong with this bill… I would like to see a couple of its impacts get passed in an amended bill or entirely new piece of legislation.

    It would actually be quite nice if something like the Microsoft Connector or UW Medicine buses could access transit facilities and park-and-rides.

    And it would actually be much more convenient for the Airporter or Amtrak buses to go to park-and-rides instead of random hotel parking lots.

    Such uses would seem to have little impact on our transit infrastructure — using only time for pick-up/drop-off or perhaps a brief period for layover between runs — but encourage exactly what we want services like these to be: extensions of existing transit service, rather than competitors.

    1. King County Metro is already working with Microsoft about using bus stops, and that’s all they really need. And the Airporter service would just then be getting a subsidy to compete with transit. Amtrak can already partner with Metro to use their stations.

  5. Sen. Ken Jacobsen (D-46th-north Seattle), who co-sponsored the Seattle-bashing bill to stop the city from being able to meddle in highway projects through the city, has drawn a serious opponent, David Frockt.

    I say Mr. Frockt is serious because he has raised at least $38,000 and has 435 “friends” on his facebook page.

    Sen. Jacobsen skipped voting on the bill in committee. Apparently, he thinks he might be in trouble, too.

    1. I doubt Ken is going anywhere, he’s a bit of an institution in the district. Yea, he’s quirky and a bit odd, and he’s probably done something to piss you off at least once. Someone like Jacobsen only gets pushed out when a segment of the establishment decide they need to go. Witness Ed Murray’s challenge of Pat Thibaudeau back in 2006.

  6. In regards to Jacobsen v. Frockt, I certainly wouldn’t count Ken out.

    Ken’s not allowed to raise money until the legislative session is done and Frockt has put over $15,000 into his own campaign so he actually has only raised about $20,000 – much of it appears to be from others with the last name Frockt. Also, Ken has 1,600 Facebook friends and double the number of ‘fans’ on his campaign Facebook page (almost 700 compared to Frockt’s 350).

    Oh, and don’t forget, Ken is widely regarded as the king of doorbelling.

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