This started as a short post but obviously isn’t any more. For those unfamiliar with reading bills, like me a few weeks ago, the “Bill Digest” gives you an very simple overview of the legislation, and the “Bill Analysis” or “Bill Report” gives you a more detailed description if available. “Fiscal Notes” tells you what kind of financial impact a bill would have.

Important Bills:

SB 5416 –  This bill would limit the use of toll revenue in the same way that gas taxes are through the 18th Amendment. Senator Haugen, who is the Chair of the Transportation Committee is a sponsor of this legislation. If there is any bill you should fight it is this bill. It will set the exact opposite precedence that needs to be set. Tolls and transit are the keystone our transportation future and they must be integrated, not segregated.

HB 1536 – A temporary $30 dollar car tab tax we previously wrote about. This bill certainly is good but the timing of the bill has been troublesome for Pierce Transit’s Proposition 1. Agencies certainly need more money but there are so many morally imperatives needs this year in Olympia any new taxing authority is going to be hard to get.

HB 1382 – Moves forward with the implementation of High Occupancy Toll (HOT) lanes on I-405. The end goal of this bill is a continuous one or two lane managed corridor on SR-167 and I-405 from Puyallup to Lynnwood. The bill essentially moves forward a two phase “Option 4”. Phase 1 converts the HOV lanes on I-405 north of Bellevue into HOT lanes in addition to one general purpose lane (existing and new and already funded by existing revenue) between Bellevue and SR-522 in Bothell. Phase 2 is a high capital, unfunded phase and fills in the gap between SR-167 and Bellevue with a two lane HOT system and direct flyover ramps between SR-167 and I-405.

Lots more after the jump.

SB 5326 – Increases penalties when a motorist hits vulnerable users due to negligent driving. I think bicycle advocates aren’t doing an effective job in framing the discussion around this bill. Most of what I hear essentially boils down to “we don’t punish drivers enough for hitting or kill a pedestrian or cyclist”. I don’t think that is an effective way to advocate for the bill. The end goal of any vulnerable user legislation should be based on the common sense idea that those road users that pose the largest danger to other road uses must correspondingly take a higher level of responsibility when using the road. Its not about punishing drivers, its about hold people accountable for the risk the pose on others. That might sound nuanced but I think it is an important difference.

HB 1171 – Would exempt BRT projects from the state’s current high capacity transit planning requirements. In my opinion this is a mixed bag. BRT probably shouldn’t have as rigorous planning requirements as light rail but it certainly shouldn’t be exempt from all planning requirements.

Other Noteworthy Bills:

SB 5541 – Requires cities to refund taxes to certain public higher education institutions (read UW) at an amount equal to or greater than what they invest in their transportation demand management program (UPass)

HB 1217 – Allows municipalities to more easily lower speed limits on non-arterial streets. In Oregon, Portland has wanted something similar for a while, mostly to use in conjunction with bike boulevards. This has passed out of the transportation committee already.

HB 1700 – Requires the state to consult with municipalities on projects and ensuring they consider the needs of all users.

HB 1005 – Creates a Washington State Ferries (WSF) commission. Invokes the emergency clause of the constitution, barring referendums.

HB 1516 – Ferry bill requiring WSF  to meet performance goals, make changes to ferry management, etc. If performance goals not meet in two years management functions of WSF must be privatized. HB 1119 straight out privatizes ferry management and is an early version of HB 1516.

HB 1018 – Mutual responsibility bill for cyclist and drivers. Tabled due to a cool reception from bike advocates.

HB 1071 – Complete streets grant program. Requires applicant cities to pass complete street legislation. Currently no funds a available through the program.

HB 1590 – Requires voters in a municipality to approve the use of red light cameras and requires a 4 second yellow phase. Two similar bills by Rep. Hurst (HB 1098 and HB 1099) also limit the use of red light cameras. A similar mess of bills in the Senate.

HB 1279 – Requires a certain yellow signal phase as well as require annual crash reports for intersection in which red light running cameras have been installed.

25 Replies to “Legislative Bills to Track”

  1. I’m not one to be a word police, but: “mutual responsibility” not “mutually responsibility.” “Invokes” the emergency clause, “barring” referendum.

    1. No no thanks a lot. I’m *horrible* at proof reading after I have read a sentence once or twice.

  2. As a part-time bike commuter, part time running commuter, it kind of embarrasses me that some fellow cyclists will scream for equal rights and safety on the road…unless it means that they also have to make concessions. What I’ve come to learn is that if you respect the huge chunks of metal hurtling down the road just feet from you, they tend to respect you back. You wouldn’t think that this law is necessary, but there are morons on both side of the solid white line that do make it necessary.

    1. As a bit of a Seattle-only anti-cyclist, that “we’re not giving up anything” attitude really bugs me. Car, buses, and trains have to give everything up for cyclists with nothing in return. And we can’t even get cyclists to stop at bleeping stop signs. Where is the middle ground?

      1. Can you cite examples where cars, buses and trains have actually given up everything? Did they go on walkabout, or join a monastery?

      2. … what exactly are you giving up? The road doesn’t ‘belong’ to car drivers who just allow everyone else to use ‘their’ roads.

  3. I don’t like this 405 plan because it involves adding lanes to 405, plus removing the HOV lane from Bellevue to Renton. It doesn’t even guarantee investment in 405-BRT either! Frankly, I think the status quo is better than this plan, and this plan will cost hundreds of millions, if not billions of dollars. However, there are easy fixes:
    1. Instead of express lanes between bellevue and Renton, make them HOT lanes.
    2. Don’t add any lanes, just repurpose SOV lanes as Necessary.
    3. Guarantee the money for 405-BRT, and invest in center-lane freeway access ramps at every single stop on this BRT.

    1. Not sure where to find the definitions, but essentially the express lanes referred to are HOT lanes. It’s a common terminology problem. WSDOT refers to the proposal as “ETL” or Express Toll Lanes which are essentially HOT lanes as many elsewhere define them.

    1. If they do build it and it’s not congested within the first year of operation it’s a massive waste of taxpayer money.

  4. The long war on ferries in this state has to end. They’re a vital part of a transportation network in a metro area built along a major interior waterway. We don’t ask highways to meet these kind of performance standards and limit their funding by region, do we?

    As for the HOT lanes on 405, I’m against them. I’d rather have variable tolls on all lanes of 405, or tolls targeted to bottlenecks (like the bridges) rather than a system that creates simultaneous classes of motorists based solely on willingness to pay. I suppose if I thought they were only an interim step to general tolling I’d support them, but my fear is that it just creates resentment from motorists about tolling in general for a relatively small benefit.

    1. I don’t see anything wrong with a voluntary toll. So what if people who pay enjoy less congestion? The important thing is that those who can’t pay aren’t forced to pay anyway. The HOV lanes are pretty empty now, so it’s not going to add a huge number of cars to the general-purpose lanes compared to what we already have.

      The more important question is, what will the toll money go to? If it’s to improve transit, great. If it’s to maintain the same road, that allows general taxes to go to other things (and the non-tollpaying drivers should thank the tollpaying drivers). If it’s to add more general-purpose lanes, then it’s a problem.

      1. I’m a regular user of the 405 HOV lanes (transit and carpool) and have to say that while they flow better than the GP lanes during rush hour, I can’t say that they are empty. Many times they get almost as slow as the GP lanes.

      2. I’ll second Oran’s point: the 405 HOV lanes are anything but empty. One thing to realize is that with every car carrying at least two people, plus buses, the number of people using the lanes is larger than it might appear even when it’s not crowded. Even at times when the lanes continue to move at speed they’re probably carrying as many people as the non-HOV lanes. Often, they’re carrying more.

        Frequently, the HOV lanes are moving nearly as slow as other lanes, because at peak times the number of vehicles using the HOV lanes starts to overwhelm their capacity. That’s a sign that we need to reduce congestion in other lanes, or redefine high-occupancy as 3+ as on 520.

      3. “So what if people who pay enjoy less congestion?” One might argue that some are paying a relatively small amount to use a road that everyone paid for. “Rich people roads” some might call them, paid for mostly by taxes on the poor and middle class. Some might say the same thing about the downtown tunnel.

        I’m not sure I’m one of those people, but I do have a problem with HOT lanes if they impede transit at all.

    2. Well said Cascadian!

      Especially since the topography of the bottom of Puget Sound and its “tirbutaries” (what’s the correct term?) is so steep and deep.

      You cannot build conventional bridges to replace ferry routes in the region, and floating bridges (or floating tunnels) are no bargain.

  5. Am I the only one who thinks the “HOT” lane invariably pencils out to be slower for transit than current “HOV” lanes? Seems to me that in addition to 2-passenger cars and motorcycles, you’re adding one-passenger cars whose drivers can afford to pay.

    What is current experience with ST Express on 167. Can the 566 use those lanes at all?

    If my math is wrong, somebody clue me in. Of course, if transit gets its own lanes and ramps, preferably barrier-secured, I’ll let HOT lanes stand on their own merits for other traffic.

    Mark Dublin

    1. They did have to change the routing for the northbound 566 because there isn’t an entrance to the HOT lanes just north of Central, so rather having the bus sit in GP traffic up north of 212th where the next entrance is, it gets on 167 at Willis where there is an access point. I don’t use 167 during the AM rush but during PM rush the HOT lanes tend to flow pretty well.

    2. Mark, if you add SOV’s to the already-congested 2+ HOV lanes, then no – of course they’re bad for transit (and everyone else too). 3+ HOV would be better, but there is no way to get there politically because it would make traffic a *lot* worse while leaving the HOV lane seeming empty — a situation that would last a week at longest if the legislature is in session.

      HOT/Express lanes are a way to get to 3+, but with some room left to sell to paying customers. The price can then be used pretty effectively as the way to manage volumes and speed. In my view, this can be a plus for transit if done right, because it provides a way to manage traffic more effectively to achieve better speeds and reliability. And while people don’t seem to care much if HOV lanes are unreliable, expectations for good performance will be a lot higher if people are paying for a faster trip. That higher expectation for performance will benefit transit service using those lanes.

  6. Thanks, Greenwood. But what if so many people are willing to buy into the HOT lanes that traffic still slows down? And what if message out of that constituency is that they’ll pay for fifteen miles an hour if all the other cars are stuck?

    In other words, it seems like transit schedules, which need certainty, are left at the mercy of market forces, which by definition and experience, are constantly fluctuating.

    Maybe there’s nothing to lose by trying. Only, based on experience with 167, could we at least insist that the lanes be designed as well as possible for transit in the short run, and easily convertible to busway and/or rail when the time comes?

    Mark Dublin

    1. Mark, the goal of the HOT lanes is the allow the lane’s excess capacity to be used by paying SOVs while maintaining priority for HOV/transit. The toll rate is adjusted according to changing traffic conditions. So as volume increases and speeds begin dropping, the rate increases to discourage SOV traffic. Sometimes the lane may be closed to non-HOV/transit if the HOT lane becomes too crowded. The goal, according to WSDOT, is to “ensure that traffic always moves smoothly in the HOT lanes at speeds of at least 45 mph 90 percent of the time.”

      Of course, if the HOV lanes are already packed with carpools and buses, then that lane is not a good candidate for a HOT lane like currently on I-405. That’s why WSDOT is proposing two express HOT lanes in each direction. An extra lane will certainly increase transit reliability. Carpools and transit still get to use the express lanes for free. If they can generate enough revenue to fund HOV/transit access improvements, all the better.

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