Earlier this year, the US House of Representatives—a body that has shut down the government over health care reform, taken a hatchet to food stamps, opposed regulating greenhouse gases, and held immigration legislation hostage—still managed to support a federal transportation bill that devoted roughly 20 percent of its funding to transit + bikes + walking and 80 percent to roads.
How much worse could the road-heavy transportation package being floated by the Republican-led Senate Majority Coalition Caucus in a state like Washington possibly be? The $12.3 billion package that surfaced this week would spend less than 2 percent of that on transit and improvements for cyclists and pedestrians.
Transit advocates have been so beaten down by the political environment in Olympia that it’s easy to forget just how messed up the transportation budget is. In a sane world, Olympia would be spending billions on transit. Up north, the provincial government of British Columbia is committing $4.75B to transit funding by 2020. Currently, though, transit funding in the state is either paid for by the localities themselves or comes running our way in tennis shoes from the other Washington.
Instead of just begging for the right to tax ourselves, any transportation bill ought to include, say, $2-3B for transit. As David Goldstien recently argued, we have more leverage here than we might think. So what projects? I’m familiar with the perennial pet project list of the roads lobby – the CRC, the Cross Base Highway, SR-167, what have you – but what would $2B in transit funding at the state level look like? What are our priorities? What are the capital needs of Ben Franklin Transit in the Tri-Cities? How about Okanogan or Grays Harbor?
In the comments, tell me what you’d build with $2-3B in state funds to improve transit mobility statewide. And you can’t blow it all on high-speed rail between Seattle and Portland. Too easy, and doesn’t spread the wealth enough. We need a thousand projects that span dozens of districts so they’re harder to kill. Both capital and operating revenue is fine. Source material might include the Seattle Transit Master Plan (total cost for all priority corridors: $1B), the House 2013-2015 Transportation Budget & Funding Proposals, the State Rail Plan, or the Statewide Transportation Improvement Program. Or suggest a framework like Transportation for Washington’s. Or if a list already exists, send it my way!
It’s our money, what do we want to spend it on?