Last night’s meetup featured two big names in transportation– WSDOT Secretary Paula Hammond, and Sound Transit CEO Joni Earl, both of whom spoke at length about the role and status of women in transportation as well as general transportation issues at hand. It was one of our best attended meetups ever with roughly 60+ in the audience. The speaking session was led off with short introductions from Hammond and Earl who talked about their beginnings in transportation, and was later followed by a lengthy Q&A session.
Both Hammond and Earl talked about the evolving role of women in transportation, the shrinking gender gap, and cited a few examples where women now occupy traditionally male-dominated positions. Earl mentioned that
75% 25% of Sound Transit’s senior management is comprised of women and that the CEOs of both Pierce and Community Transit are both women too. On the highway side, the project managers of the State’s three mega-projects – the Deep-Bore Tunnel, Columbia River Crossing, and 520 replacement – are also women, according to Hammond.
Transportation funding and revenue sources also dominated the discussion for much of the night. Repeated jabs were made at Tim Eyman and his incessant war on transport funding. But what was most interesting was Hammond’s unfavorable view of the gas tax, which, according to her, has lost 49% of its purchasing power over the last ten years since the tax isn’t tied to inflation. When asked if she supported defining transit as a “highway purpose” in context of the 18th amendment, Hammond iterated her support for a more user-based fee, like a VMT tax, and stressed that using gas tax money to fund transit wouldn’t likely work out in the long-run.
Other topics of the night also included State involvement in transit, burdensome bureaucratic regulations at the federal level, integration between highway and transit capital projects, and light rail buildout. While time was limited, the event provided a robust forum for transit advocates to hear directly from Hammond and Earl, even on opinions we’ve disagreed with.
A big thanks to our guest speakers Secretary Hammond and CEO Earl for coming out to share their perspectives, as well as April Putney with Futurewise, who helped us coordinate this event.