mercerisland1. Tolling is an extension of the time / money tradeoff that already exists in our transportation system. Setting the ideologically motivated aside, if one’s time is valuable in monetary terms, one usually drives; if one has more time than money, one uses transit. There are a few cases in the region where transit is actually faster door-to-door, but for the price-insensitive driving is almost always faster. Carpools exist somewhere in between: suffer the inconvenience of meeting up, but split the costs of driving.

Add in tolls, and the gap in cost increases, while both modes get faster. While the marginal bus/car traveler may shift to the bus, those dedicated to their mode and interested in getting somewhere as fast as possible are big winners. Indeed, if the marginal bus/car traveler didn’t shift modes or abandon the trip, reducing congestion would be impossible.

2. It follows that no one on Mercer Island will be “cut off” as long as inexpensive bus service exists on Mercer Island.

3. One of the more potent arguments against tolling is that it is regressive. Personally, I see no other practical way to ration the road space. Nevertheless, what would clearly make the policy worse would be to exempt the city with the highest median household income in or near the I-90 corridor.

4. Some have expressed angst on behalf of the service workers who commute to Mercer Island. If it’s no longer economic to commute there, wages will inevitably rise. If that isn’t satisfactory, a targeted way to assist service workers in the new regime would be to use a sliver of the new toll revenue to ensure excellent transit coverage on Mercer Island.  From a policy and fairness standpoint, that is a vast improvement over exempting some of the region’s wealthiest residents for what amounts to a corner case.

65 Replies to “Some Thoughts on Tolling and Mercer Island”

  1. Amen! If it were not for the massive government subsidy known as the interstate highway system, those Mercer residents wouldn’t even have their easy commute into Seattle at all. It is time that they pay, just like everybody else, into a transportation system that works better for everyone.

    1. Amen again! The idea that we should give the richest people in the state a government handout to pay for tolls in ridiculous.

      1. Well hell, we’re giving the fine people of Hunts Point and Medina new freeway lid parks and freeway transit stations as part of a bridge project that ISN’T EVEN FUNDED SUFFICIENTLY TO COMPLETE ITS CROSSING.

        No, plain old road bridges over the freeway aren’t good enough, in that neighborhood at least. And I’m sure they’ll be lining up to take the bus into town from those shiny new platforms.

        Same as it ever was….

      2. Scott,

        Have you driven I-90 through Mercer Island? This section of highway pioneered lid design! Not to mention the direct access ramps to the reversible express lanes…

        I’d say Mercer Island is getting a much better deal than Hunts Point or Medina.

      3. Matt–yeah, I drive that every morning when I’m in town. You’re right of course (and the snark is good)…but the comparison was not between rich neighborhood A and rich neighborhood B, but between them and everyone else.

        Still waiting for more lids between downtown and Cap Hill, or 45th and 50th, etc….

    2. I want to agree, but at the same time I am challenged by the idea of the State creating a resource, but then imposing penalties on its use. Conversely, creating a presumably desired resource presumably but having to give people incentives to use it.

      1. Highway investments aren’t permanent. It’s not reasonable to think that just because something is built, its permanent maintenance is funded.

      2. Neither are other transportation infrastructure although some more durable than others. There’s a former railroad ROW in Kirkland that speaks to that.

      3. A toll is not a penalty, but a usage fee. By your logic, the UW should have free tuition.

  2. I guess the question is what happens to current Mercer Island bus services once light rail is introduced to the equation?

    I could see light rail pulling more Mercer Island residents away from driving but also potentially hurting lower paid workers travelling to Mercer Island, if they start to lose direct bus access or see reductions in current services.

    1. It’s hard for me to see why current MI bus services would be affected as a result of Link.

      The 203/213 are pretty successful; the 204 less so. I’d like to see the 204 span of service extended and frequency improved, but with some or most trips going only as far as SE 40th. Downtown MI needs better connections to the P&R, but the southern part of Island Crest Way doesn’t need half-hourly service at most times.

      I hope Link will provide the excuse for Metro to cancel the woeful 201 and 205.

      1. The 201/202/205 won’t have a reason to continue, and I think the 204 will improve in frequency and ridership with Link. Good schedule coordination should ensure easy transfers, and M.I. will have exceptional service considering its demographics and density: 7-10 minute service 20 hours a day from Seattle and Bellevue, probably 15 minute all-day service from Issaquah, and tons of peak service (whether truncated at MIP&R or not) from Sammamish, North Bend, etc. The only missing corridor is the south I-405 corridor, where there is currently no connection outside of peak-only routes (111, 114), and those routes don’t stop at M.I. anyway. I know my mother would love to take the bus to work if it didn’t require a 3-seat ride via the 560/550/204.

      2. Downtown Mercer Island already has a very good connection to the P&R. It’s called walking.

  3. Your final point is particularly clever – workers commuting onto the island will be able to do so and will search elsewhere, driving down supply and demand up, increasing wages for the service workers who are retained or replace those who no longer make the trip.

    That’s a win-win for everyone except those who have to pay the higher wages. I have no sympathy, since that should be considered a cost associated with the choice of living on an island. Complaining otherwise is massively unfair.

    1. The biggest winners will be workers who bus into the island. They get the higher wages to compensate for the tolls, yet never actually have to pay those tolls.

      1. I don’t think it’s a given that the presence of a toll will lead to increased wages for low-wage workers. As evidence, see the comment by Kristy below.

        If there are increased commuting costs, some workers may just accept the added cost and continue on with a certain job, some may switch to transit and save money, while others may quit the job and look for work elsewhere. For that last group, they may be replaced by an MI resident or someone else who doesn’t have the same commuting costs. There really is no need for the employer to raise their wages unless they have vacant positions they can’t fill.

  4. There’s a sidewalk on I90. People can still walk off the island for free. The fight against tolling I90 is ridiculous

    1. Yes, it could be worse….

      During the Malvinas/Falklands War (this dates me), the UW Daily had a funny edition wherein the UW invaded Mercer Island. Perhaps this is what the islanders truly fear, as with Link it couldn’t be easier for the invading hordes to get from the UW to the island.

    2. The people trying to get a Mercer Islander exemption are confusing the issue. Tolls are regressive and thus unfair for everyone. It’s not enough to exempt the Mercer Islanders: everyone should be exempt, and we should find a fair way to share the cost of our shared infrastructure.

      1. Mars,

        All consumption-based taxes and fees are “regressive”, because people who earn more spend a smaller percentage of their income. That doesn’t mean that all such taxes and fees are bad.

        Most taxes and fees are levied on things that we like: earning money, spending money, owning property, etc. Because of the tax, people will engage in less economic activity than they would if the tax didn’t exist.

        However, some taxes and fees are levied on things that we don’t like, or at least that we want less of. Currently, there are too many cars using the I-90 bridge. There are too many cars competing for parking spaces in Seattle. People buy too many cigarettes and too much gasoline. By charging a tax or fee for these things, we simultaneously raise revenue and curtail the activity being taxed. It’s a win-win.

        I firmly believe that the regressiveness of Pigovian taxes doesn’t really matter. If you can’t afford to pay the toll, then you won’t drive over the bridge. If you can’t afford to pay for parking, then you’ll drive less. In all these cases, society is better off.

        To me, the real problem is that we rely so heavily on non-Pigovian taxes, especially on consumption. I think the general retail sales tax should be abolished, and replaced with a graduated income tax. I think that property taxes should be replaced with a Georgian-style land tax. I think that a good portion of our excise taxes are ridiculous and should be eliminated. But to the extent that we tax things that we want less of, I don’t think the regressiveness is a major problem.

      2. What’s fairer than requiring the people who use the infrastructure the most to pay for it? General gas taxes can pay for ordinary roads, but I think tolls are a great way (indeed, probably the best way) to pay for the cost of extraordinarily expensive pieces of infrastructure like floating bridges and deep-bore tunnels.

      3. That’s exactly what I’m complaining about, Eric – I’m not talking about the idea of tolling SR520 to pay for SR520 construction, but this batty rip-off idea of tolling I-90 to pay for construction on a completely different bridge. The people who will be paying this toll get precisely nothing for their money: they are the people who aren’t using the new bridge.

        I live near the western end of I-90 and I work in Bellevue, so I cross I-90 every day. Under this new tolling regime I’ll be contributing a not-inconsiderable chunk of my salary to the construction of a bridge I will likely never cross, ever, even once. How is that fair?

        You can argue that I should help pay because I will benefit indirectly: but so does everyone else in the region. If the proposal were a regional tax to cover SR520 construction, I would be happy with that. Yes, let’s all pay for this shared piece of infrastructure we will all benefit from.

        But the idea that all of us who don’t use 520 should be required to bear the burden of its construction, just because we happen to use a completely different piece of transportation infrastructure? This makes no sense.

        It would be just as fair to pay for SR520 by imposing a surcharge on ferry trips to Bainbridge Island, but not to Bremerton. Or to put a toll on the Hood Canal bridge. Or, I know, we could put Good-to-Go readers on the I-5 south offramp to 405, and charge all the commuters passing through Renton for SR520 bridge construction. Any of these crazy ideas would make as much sense as tolling I-90.

      4. Mars, You’re not getting it. YOU’RE NOT PAYING FOR BRIDGE CONSTRUCTION WITH TOLLS ON I-90. You’re paying for the right to access that bridge.

        The tolls on 520 may have been justified as a means to pay for the bridge construction, but as we should all know, the 520 bridge is about $2Billion short of funding even with those tolls. Yet, people who are TOLL ADVERSE choose to transit I-90 to avoid paying those tolls thus affecting the commute times for everyone else who uses the I-90 corridor.

        Tolls are one mechanism to regulate the demand for this corridor. It isn’t about paying for construction it is about inducing the market to balance itself so that traffic times are optimized and people have less incentive to avoid tolls in their normal travel corridor.

        This is perfectly sound economics.

      5. I-90 and 520 are basically fungible. People go from one to the other based on traffic – that’s why the variable signs were installed, to let people have more information before doing so, but people have used the traffic site online for years to look as well.

        Changes on one of those bridges impact the other bridge. They’re one corridor – and it makes sense to toll both so that a toll on 520 doesn’t just push people to 90, impacting the 90 users.

      6. Mars,

        I cross I-90 a lot too, occasionally in my own vehicle. And when there’s a toll, we won’t be getting nothing. We’ll be getting time back, as congestion will be lower.

      7. I-90 and 520 are basically fungible.

        Depends on the trip origin/destination. Totem Lake to UW I-90 is not a good substitute. 522 would be shorter. For trips originating on M.I. 520 is not a reasonable alternative route to Seattle. But I really don’t see how the “one corridor” argument holds any sway in using I-90 tolls to fund 520. The federal agreement to allow tolling on I-90 specifically states that it’s to be used for demand management and clearly that’s secondary to the legislature’s stated goal of filling the budget gap on 520. I suspect the charge will be jacked up to meet a revenue goal rather stop at where traffic flow is evened out. Why? Because they can! As the two routes are not fungible for a large number of trips. To be fair either the toll revenue should go into the same pot as HOT lanes on 167 or reserved for I-90 maintenance above what a “normal” mile of freeway costs to maintain.

      8. @Martin,

        We’ll be getting time back, as congestion will be lower.

        It would be interesting to know your time value of money. Goes to my point of the State jacking rates up beyond balancing demand in order to raise money from people they’ve got by the balls. Tolling I-90 won’t start before 2015 at which point 520 tolls, even with Good2Go will be over $5 each way. How many minutes do you need to save and think you’ll save spending $10+ per trip?

        Again, I think tolling I-90 is a great idea. I just question the way the State is going about it.

      9. It would be interesting to know your time value of money.

        Good question, Bernie. Obviously I’m strongly inclined to take the bus, so if I’m in the car I’m in a pretty time-constrained situation. For starters it’s definitely at least what we’re paying the nanny, which probably comes out to about $5 worth on a bad-traffic day. I’d certainly place a value on not staring at taillights for so long, but I’m not sure what that would be.

        The 520 toll is clearly reaching for both revenue goals and traffic goals. Do you think it’s mismanaged?

      10. After a rocky start I think WSDOT is doing a good job with the 520 tolls. The next big issue coming soon is when people who have declined to pay start getting whacked with huge fines before they can get new tabs. The 520 tolling has accomplished it’s goals; #1 it’s meeting revenue targets, 2nd it’s managed traffic with most days keeping the relative commute time within 5 minutes on both bridges and finally it’s increased transit usage some 20%. So with regard to traffic management it’s hard to justify the expense of tolling I-90 as it’s working fine simply by charging for the bridge with the much smaller capacity. Pure and simple it’s a money grab so my main issue is that State’s purpose is at odds with the reason tolling authority was granted by the Feds. The only part that can be reconciled is to increase transit use. And if that’s the goal then the toll revenue should be earmarked for funding the increased transit.

      11. Bernie,

        Glad to hear 520 is working well.

        I would disagree that I-90 is not in need of management. It’s not horrible every day, but most days there is significant congestion where the HOV lane ends. In the summer, this frequently extends to I-405.

      12. 520 works well most days. Some days, and it’s not rare I see the freeway signs on 405 indicating that it’s significantly faster to use I-90 and other times it’s the reverse. As you intonate “Crap” happens := The only way to smooth out events like this would be to institute variable tolling like they use for the HOT lanes on 167. Tolls on I-90 can’t “manage” away congestion by pushing traffic back to 520 because it’s already at full capacity and since things are more or less in equilibrium it would only take a small toll on I-90, less than the cost of collection, to shift much of the diversion traffic back to 520.

      13. I don’t buy the congestion-management argument. If this were actually about congestion, they’d be putting the tolls on I-405, not I-90, and they’d have done it years ago. In my experience I-90 is actually the least congested of Seattle’s highways.

        I took the bus in to work today, because of the weather; it crawled along SR520 at maybe 30 mph. Over on I-90, it’d have been more like 50-60 mph. If tolls haven’t fixed the serious congestion on SR520, how am I supposed to believe that they will magically fix what little congestion there is on I-90?

        If traffic is so fungible, between the two bridges, then why is SR520 still clogged up while I-90 flows freely almost all of the time? Traffic on I-90 is only up 11% since SR520 tolling began. It’s barely noticeable.

        No, this just about the money. The state needs money to pay for the SR520 bridge, and they’ve decided to take the easy way out by slapping a toll on a completely unrelated piece of infrastructure instead of doing the honest thing and taxing everyone fairly.

  5. These last going-on twenty-three years, the center lanes of I-90 could have provided real “bus rapid transit” to the East Side if they had been converted to two-way transit-only right-of-way.

    A station stop could have been built at roadway level at Island Crest Way, so transit would not have had to go to the surface. Many hours of operating time would have been saved, and the resulting transit way would have been pretty much impervious to traffic and weather.

    The reason this did not happen was that this plan was incompatible with Mercer Island’s exemption from HOV limits on these lanes.

    Personally, I’d be willing to give every present resident of Mercer Island a lifetime regional transit pass- which would get them a faster ride Downtown than we get from Ballard.

    After thirty years of needlessly lamed Tunnel operations, it would be worth it to finally get decent two-way transit along a major corridor.

    Mark Dublin

  6. I don’t understand what the big issue with Mercer Island is. Did someone seriously propose tolling BOTH the Floating Bridge and the East Channel Bridge?

    If so, they should stop, and only toll the Floating Bridge. Controversy over.

    If not, then Mercer Island is in no different position than Bellevue or Issaquah. Controversy over.

    1. No, if there is to be any sort of toll break for the MI folks (i.e. paying half tolls), one way on each of the bridges should be tolled. This gives no disproportionate advantage or disadvantage to working/shopping on either side of the lake–or, in the case of workers coming TO the island, no disadvantage in living on either side.

      Of course, Link would do just as well for many of those trips, and they’ll probably figure that out. It’s a damn sight better than most places in this region will get in my lifetime.

      1. If you live on the Eastside, there is already a “disproportionate advantage” to work and play on the Eastside, because of the SR-520 toll.

        For better or worse, Mercer Island has a stronger connection to the Eastside than to Seattle. So I think Chad’s suggestion makes a lot of sense.

      2. Really? Because of all the cultural events, major league and college sports etc. that occur on the Eastside? And even if this is so, then you’re arguing that to go where they most want to go they should be able to avoid the tolls completely.

      3. @Scott: What I’m arguing is this.

        Most of the traffic on the I-90 bridge is through traffic. Therefore, from a demand-management perspective, tolling one bridge will therefore be nearly as effective as tolling both bridges. Also, tolling one bridge will be cheaper than tolling both, since less physical infrastructure is needed. So I don’t think that the marginal cost of tolling the second bridge is worth the marginal benefit.

        Tolling one bridge also has the convenient effect of avoiding a controversial situation involving people who live on Mercer Island.

        If you have to pick one bridge to toll, the obvious choice is the floating bridge.

        Now, from a “fairness” perspective, you could certainly make the argument that Mercer Islanders can afford to pay the toll. But the question is, why are we levying a toll in the first place? If it’s for demand management, then I think the single toll does the job. If it’s so that road users pay for what they use, then we should be tolling *all* of our limited-access roads, not just the bridges.

      4. Right, that’s the fundamental question here. Are our roads a shared resource, which we should pay for out of shared funds, or are they a private good, to be paid for by the people who use them? Tolling I-90 in order to pay for 520 is trying to have it both ways, and that’s not fair.

      5. @ Aleks,

        Your point is well taken re demand management. Not as sure about the infrastructure costs being dramatically higher, as you’d really only need a second gantry over the highway. You’d still need the same number of lane sensors; I’m not certain as to whether data from them is transmitted wirelessly. At any rate, the marginal cost would be a small fraction of the combined cross-lake projects.

        Regarding fairness, however, I don’t care one way or another as to whether the people of MI can afford to pay the tolls or not. The fairness issue to me is more one of avoiding tolls completely even though they are located on an island in the middle of a lake that requires bridges to cross. The bridge system is holistic and should not be separated any more than saying that you shouldn’t have to pay a fare on Link if you board at MI.

        If you allow one way off to be free, you’re also managing where service workers choose to live by adding a tax to living in Seattle and making it “free” to commute from the eastside (the peak-hour tolls on 520 add up to about $140/month R/T–not insubstantial), and you’re managing–to some extent–what direction people on the island choose to take when shopping, etc. Maybe they all go that way anyway, but then my point stands–you’re allowing them to use the system for free when every other person needs to pay. I don’t have a particular problem with them paying partial tolls since they are only crossing part of the lake, but something should be paid either direction. Certainly if you live on Vashon it’s not free to take a round trip to/from the peninsula as opposed to Seattle–assuming a round trip, you’ll pay something at some point either way.

      6. The most reasonable approach is toll traffic going onto Mercer Island and make it free to leave the island. Then round trips to/from Mercer Island in either direction cost half as much as round trips across the lake. And people on Mercer Island get the added bonus of demand management of ‘their’ Park and Ride since people from other places will need to pay a toll to get to it.

      7. Paul makes a good point about demand management for the M.I. P&R. However Rep. Clibborn has been emphatic that there be one free direction on and off the island. I expect this will be the East Channel Bridge and the calculation is that more trips are made to/from the eastside than Seattle. Even if more Islanders work in Seattle it’s way easier to take transit to DT Seattle (or sports events) than it is to take transit to shopping, kids sports, recreation, etc. on the eastside.

    2. Well, that is a flawed assumption. The I-90 traffic analysis done as part of the East Link EIS showed roughly a 60-40 split of trips orginating on MI between Seattle and the east side. In other words a strong majority of Island commuters still go to Seattle.

      1. And the great bulk of them go downtown, where there is a very good transit alternative that’s going to get even better. I just don’t think complaints about tolling the Seattle side only have a leg to stand on.

      2. I think you have the stats flipped. I couldn’t find it in the Exec Summary but in I-90 MOA To Irish letter 10-02-06 it says:

        Over 65,000 vehicle trips per day have origins or destinations on Mercer Island. Of these trips, about 43 percent are oriented to Seattle and 57 perent to the Eastside.

        That was 2006 and with the huge building boom in Bellevue and the turnover in the workforce shifting from banking to tech I’d have to guess the number is even more skewed to the eastside today.

  7. I live on Capitol Hill and work on Mercer Island for a large national company that happens to have its local office here. The idea that if commuting price goes up then wages will go up is not the case with my company, whose headquarters are in MN and which gives no shits what the price of commuting is for its workers.

    Personally, I am all for a toll — they should have tolled both bridges from the very beginning of this rebuild — but when it goes into effect, the bitching in this office will increase to a nearly unbearable level, that’s for sure. Most of my coworkers (90%+) are commuting from Mill Creek/Everett or from the Tacoma area and have to use their car for work travel, many times unexpectedly, so it’s not really possible for them to take public transportation in.

    My grand idea is that the company should just invest in a small Zipcar fleet for our work travel and give us transit passes, but that’s never going to happen.

    Tolling will be a win for my personal politics but a big lose for my sanity.

    1. If folks are commuting from the north or south, and only one bridge is tolled (as seems likely), they should be able to use the other bridge.

    2. It seems to be about 25 miles each way between MI and Mill Creek. Your SnoCo coworkers are likely already burning $9 or more on gas per day. If you figure the IRS per-mile rate, it’s more like $25 per day– and that would be the fair thing to do, since I assume that’s what the company reimburses them for mileage.

      Just keeping this all in perspective. I assume that companies that based driving employees in Gig Harbor faced similar challenges when the Narrows bridge was tolled.

      1. The company doesn’t reimburse for commute milage, only for business trips (long or short), of which there are admittedly a good amount. However, the company reimburses from the office to wherever you are going for business, and also for the trip either back to the office or back to your house, whichever is closer to your destination at the end-point. For example, if you live in Mill Creek and need to travel to Olympia, you are only reimbursed for MI–>Olympia round trip, and the remaining commute is on you. However, if you live in Tacoma and are traveling to Olympia, you can actually get reimbursed MI–>Olympia–>Tacoma. It’s a possibility that we could begin to expense tolls for those trips specifically, although we wouldn’t be able to expense them for every-day commuting. Either way, base wages are not going to change at all when tolls take effect.

        And again, this isn’t an argument against tolls — I really don’t think it’s going to be so awful and I agree we need to raise the money. It just feels sometimes like I am the only one on Mercer Island who believes that, unfortunately.

    3. Kristy,

      I have a bunch of coworkers complaining about an analogous situation, so I feel your pain.

      Regarding the wage argument, from your description it doesn’t sound like your work is a group of low paid, unskilled service workers. That’s the core of the social justice argument, which I think is false.

      My impression is that your coworkers are a bunch of middle class people complaining about tolls. That’s their right, and they’re certainly not alone, but they’ll also benefit from from reduced congestion, and it hardly seems like a reason to grant a blanket exemption for the third richest city in the state.

      1. I think Kristy makes a fair point that most employers will not increase wages; in the case of teachers they can’t by State law (somewhat dumb law). The cost of tolls will be absorbed by the M.I. workers. But since it sounds like most are coming from N. or S., gosh the main eastside demand, if the East Channel is free then it’s a non-issue. For minimum wage jobs it’s a boost to teenagers that live on the Island and are willing to flip burgers. Isn’t part of sustainability to encourage living close to work?

      2. They are upper-middle class workers who, mainly because they don’t live in Seattle, don’t think it’s fair they have to pay a toll. I disagree with their sentiments and think it’s perfectly fair, and agree that they will be much less impacted than lower wage workers in a similar situation. I disagree completely with an exemption for those who live or work on MI, but I am the only person in my office who really feels that way, which is disappointing.

    4. “…work on Mercer Island for a large national company that happens to have its local office here.

      ….have to use their car for work travel, many times unexpectedly, so it’s not really possible for them to take public transportation in.”

      For the sort of company where the enployees frequently drive around town for work, Mercer Island is a crazy place for the company to put their office!

      More idiot US CEO-think, I guess….

  8. Have read that Dwight Eisenhower originally intended that the interstate highway system be created as a network of high-speed military roads, bypassing urban and suburban areas completely.

    Now that this system is in need of major repairs, it might be a good idea to do something like this: toll every part of the system whose major use is connecting cities with surrounding suburbs.

    As these sections are rebuilt, orient the rebuild to include much rapid transit-as should have been done sixty years ago.

    “Good to Go” pass could then be issued in same packet with license tabs.

    I doubt that “Ike” would have tolerated present likelihood of a convoy headed into action being blocked by rush hour. Talk about damage from “friendly fire!”

    Mark Dublin

  9. If I lived on Vashon or Bainbridge, I would use a successful I-90 toll exemption to militate against ferry fares. It is grossly unfair for those on the islands to have to pay fares approximately equal to the proposed I-90 toll just to get to Seattle. Oh, the inequity of it all. They should at least get free coffee and Danish.

  10. Maybe it’s time to split King County into three parts:

    King County would remain Burien through Tukwila to Southcenter and north to the lake through Lakeridge Park and everywhere north to the SnoCo line with the border at the east side of Lake Forest Park.

    Cascade County (?) would be everywhere east of that border and south of the SnoCo line as far as SE 80th extended to the summit of the Cascades.

    Green River County (?) would be everything to the south of the two others.

    These would be relatively similar in total population and more homogeneous politically and culturally.

    1. There already has been a serious effort following the GMA for rural King County splitting off to form Cedar County. I don’t think far east residents ever really did the math but the passion was there. If Seattle lost Kirkland/Redmond/Bellevue money they’d be screwed. Richobia would laugh all the way to the bank; no loss of access to anything in Seattle and no reason to pay for any of it.

  11. One example of a corridor that implements tolling on a route by route basis, without thinking of the overall effect on the corridor is travel between Seattle and the Kitsap Peninsula. The ferries collect passenger tolls only in the westbound direction while, at the same time, the Narrows Bridge collects tolls only in the eastbound direction. And the result is that both the narrows bridge and the ferries, by their toll collection schemes, encourage people to drive around in the westbound direction, but take the ferry in the eastbound direction.

    However, given that both the bridge and the ferry have exactly the same capacity both directions, this incentive is just plain silly. Had the two systems been working together the Narrows Bridge would have at least collected its toll in the westbound lanes instead of the eastbound lanes to partially offset the increased ferry costs for westbound travel. The fact that the new lanes the tolls pay for happen to be used for eastbound traffic makes absolutely no difference.

  12. Re: service workers, keep in mind that service workers make it to San Francisco despite staggering costs of living therein, despite a toll of several dollars to cross the bridges to the city by the bay (from the north and east). They use something called “mass transit.” Mercer Island service workers can, too. They’re fortunate enough to enjoy excellent bus service on the Sound Transit #550, not long away from being supplanted by even-more-frequent light rail. A shuttle bus(es) could provide coverage on the island.

    For the fairness argument, the folks in Gig Harbor don’t have the luxury of evading a toll, either. The folks who bought houses next to a freeway did so knowingly. Mercer Islanders aren’t exactly paupers. I’d say it’s about a decade before we’ll see more tolls, such as on I-5 and even charges for vehicle miles traveled.

    The argument that does have more validity is tolling I-90 to pay for the new SR-520. However, tolling on I-90 should be sufficient for maintenance and eventual replacement of the I-90 structures.

  13. If it’s no longer economic to commute there, wages will inevitably rise.

    Except our somewhat silly State law prohibits cost of living adjustments for teachers. Wages won’t rise, at least not enough to cover the cost of tolls. The only exception being highly paid employees because they are presumably valuable and employers don’t want to risk loosing them. A truism is, no matter what the tax it’s always going to impact the poor the most; often through the elimination of their job.

Comments are closed.