PubliCola’s detailed, insightful writeup of last week’s Mayoral forum is worth your time if you’re interested in this race. A few transportation-related answers stood out:

Q: Do you support tolling on I-90?

Yes: Burgess, Martin, Murray, and Steinbrueck

No: Harrell and Staadecker.

Maybe: McGinn.

McGinn’s equivocation here is less surprising than it seems.  McGinn spokesman Aaron Pickus says “The mayor supports tolling on I-90 only if some portion is dedicated to supporting transit.  We need to support options for those that cannot afford tolls.”

Q: The city of London charges a congestion fee for cars to enter downtown. Do you support a similar charge or fee for downtown Seattle?

No: Burgess, Harrell, Martin, McGinn, Murray, and Staadecker.

Maybe: Steinbrueck.

Afterwards Peter Steinbrueck told me that by “maybe,” he meant “we should have access to all the available transportation demand management tools, and  leave the door open for possible use of a congestion pricing mechanism or user fee in the future, should SOV-related traffic congestion downtown worsen to  the point of total gridlock.”

Whatever you think of its immediate political feasibility, good for Mr. Steinbrueck for speaking well of a solution that reduces congestion, encourages alternative transportation, and raises useful revenue in the process.

More after the jump.

Q: Do you support zoning changes for microapartments (which are currently treated differently than studio apartments under city law because they have shared kitchens)?

The council is considering new regulations that would classify each living space in a microhousing building as an individual unit, triggering neighborhood notification and design review.

Yes: Burgess, Harrell, Martin, and McGinn.

Maybe: Murray, Staadecker, and Steinbrueck.

As Josh and Erica point out, it’s interesting that Steinbrueck, who has generally expressed enthusiasm about controls on density, answered this way. He didn’t respond to my question on this subject.

Q: Do you support expanding the city’s streetcar network?

Q: Do you support light rail expansion?

Q: Will you relax restrictions on sidewalk food vendors?

All three of these were unanimous “yes” answers. Although this doesn’t eliminate the capacity for hair-splitting about specific proposals*, this at least indicates we won’t have to endure generic anti-streetcar boilerplate coming out of City Hall for the next four years.

*And sometimes hair-splitting is justified! Streetcars are usually not a slam dunk, and ought to be scrutinized on a case-by-case basis.

10 Replies to “News from the Mayoral Debate”

  1. When Steinbrueck came to give his pitch to the 37th District Dems he talked a big urbanist game as well. About how tens of thousands of people were coming to the city and we had to make room for them, and build the kind of transit system that means they don’t all drive cars.

    However, his actions have been about as anti-urban as they could be so I have wonder about the sincerity.

    1. From the book of Matthew (Johnson) Chapter 12, verses 31 and 32:
      31 And so I tell you, every kind of sin and slander can be forgiven, but blasphemy against the Spirit CAP will not be forgiven. 32 Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit supported CAP will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.

  2. How come of all the highways around, there are no GoodToGo HOT lanes on I-5 or tolls for travelling through Seattle (say on the University and Fremont Bridges).

    Seems like that’s the biggest bottleneck around and if tolls were imposed at the source of the congestion it would be the fairest pricing.

    1. Tolls to drive I-5 through downtown Seatle are an idea whose time will come. But first people will have to get used to the DBT, and realize that in fact they (or at least enough of them that surface traffic won’t come to a complete stop) would rather pay $2.50 to drive through the DBT than slog all the way through downtown on 4th Ave S, 4th Ave, and Denny or Battery. Until that happens, everyone will freak out over the surface gridlock that will happen because no one will supposedly be willing to pay the toll.

      As for HOT lanes… I’m sure DOT would be happy to build them if you magically found two lanes’ worth of extra space through the middle of downtown.

      1. We already have those lanes. They’re called the express lanes. :)

        Converting the I-5 express lanes to 2-way operation would undoubtedly be a very expensive project, and especially with Link coming soon, it’s not how I would choose to spend my money. But as far as possible highway projects go, I think we could do much worse.

  3. Actually, if we toll I-90, SR 520, and all the roads coming into Seattle through the northern and southern city limits, that would send the ultimate message to non-Seattleites not to come here, and perfect Doing Density Not.

    1. How about we toll roads at the Urban Growth Boundary? Call it a sprawl tax.

      (actually, a property tax would be easier)

    2. I question what you mean by “message”.

      Certainly, with any toll, there will be people loudly proclaiming the death of Seattle. The same thing happens with any increase in parking rates.

      But generally, what actually happens is that the “silent majority” realizes that it’s still worth their money to come to the city, especially because they spend less time stuck in traffic or looking for parking. Traffic decreases, but that was the *goal*.

      Some people might claim that charging a penny toll to cross Seattle via I-5/I-90 would cripple us. I disagree. I think there’s a toll rate at which peak congestion would reach an acceptable level, which means that the road is full but free-flowing. And I think that rate is high enough to pay for the tolling infrastructure and then some.

      As far as tolling local roads, I don’t think anyone is proposing that. A congestion fee would only affect the downtown core, which really is gridlocked for a notable portion of most weekdays. I don’t see how reducing that gridlock would leave Seattle worse off, even if it meant that slightly fewer people came to the city.

    3. It’s not just incorporated Seattle — 405 could use a congestion tax, too, and every inch of further sprawl is more traffic dumped on it.

      Overall we need a carbon tax. Not in Seattle, Puget Sound, Washington, or the US. Across the world.

      1. (That is… I think if we didn’t needlessly shelter drivers from more general external and public costs of driving there wouldn’t be all that many places that needed to further charge for congestion. London, perhaps. Certainly not tiny little Seattle.)

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