Yesterday Governor Inslee released the transportation plan that he will ask the legislature to pass next session.

The twelve-year program would spend a total of $12.1 billion on the following:

  • $2.6 billion for “Maintenance, Operations, and Preservation,” most notably bringing all bridges and highways to “95% fair or better” condition. Almost half goes to the ferry system or the State Patrol.
  • $2.2 billion for “Clean Transportation and Multimodal,” including about $802m in various transit grants, $150m in bike and pedestrian grants, and lots of money for electric vehicle incentives and various water quality initiatives like culverts.
  • $5.9 billion in “New Construction,” over 99% of which will go to new highway capacity in places like SR520, I-405, SR509, SR167, and US 395 in Spokane.
  • $1.4 billion is miscellaneous “local distributions” and, mostly, debt service.

But that isn’t the interesting part. There is no gas tax in this proposal, replacing it instead with a “carbon pollution fee” among myriad smaller revenue sources. Avoiding gas taxes also avoids the putative constitutional restrictions on gas taxes, opening the door for more direct state spending on transit.

Unfortunately, the budget passes up that opportunity by proposing transit funding levels not out of line with historical levels. Despite the lack of funding, there is significant new revenue authorization for transit. Most importantly, the Inslee plan fulfills the Sound Transit Board’s request for more authority, clearing the path for Sound Transit 3 via some combination of property tax, sales tax, and MVET. There is also a renewal of Metro’s expired “Congestion Reduction Charge” ($20 license fee) authority, but only through 2018. Community Transit would get much-needed additional permanent sales tax authority, and the license fee that Transportation Benefit Districts can implement without a public vote would increase from $20 to $40.

How an environmental and transit advocate feels about this program probably depends on their relative assessment of the damage of new highway capacity vs. the merits of the transit authority and the directly pollution-attacking revenue source. Personally, I think this is miles ahead of the totally unacceptable House Democratic package from last year, which didn’t have ST3 and spent much more on new highways without fully funding maintenance.

My immediate reaction is that this would be a decent compromise to come out of the sausage machine next session. Unfortunately, it may be the opening bid, positioned as the “left wing” proposal with negligible state funding of transit, a persistent emphasis on more highways, and no permanent solution for Metro. The document seems to recognize this, labeling itself as a “good-faith compromise to spark action.” We can only hope that a majority of legislators view it in the same light.

88 Replies to “Gov. Inslee Unveils His Transportation Plan”

  1. No.

    It needs a fair amount of work if it’s to pass the legislature.

    As it’s proposed, I’m not supporting it.

    1. Why? What complaints do you have?

      I rather like the transit portion and the roads part isn’t egregiously bad like before. Repairs should be our priority.

  2. Is the 5.9 billion for “new constructions” specifically earmarked for lanes of SOV, or, is it to relieve congestion?

    If it’s for SOV lanes then this is awful.

    On the other hand, if the goal is to reduce the total number of congestion-person-hours, then it can be spent on:

    Providing viable, fast, frequent alternatives to get people out of their cars so they’re not stuck in traffic.
    Using congestion pricing universally (eg not just for 1 or 2 lanes), so that people who don’t want to take alternate modes can still move at 45mph or whatever the pricing target is.

    I do sencerly hope for a day when traffic moves smoothly on 405.

    1. I think it depends. The “new capacity” on 520 is an HOV lane. You’d have to look into the specific project proposals to say for sure.

      According to the Times, this package kills the idea of tolling on I-90, which is bad.

      1. As disappointing as nixing I-90 tolls for the sake of suburban legislators is, that amount of ST3 funding authority approved wold be wonderful, even if it emphasizes the sales tax significantly over the other sources.

      2. I am pretty sure we have not seen the last of I-90 tolling. You don’t want to have a tolling food fight with Mercer Island when you are trying to get a package like this passed. I would not be surprised to see it revived later as part if a larger tolling proposal.

      3. Martin,

        I think you know that “the idea of tolling I-90” is a fantasy. It is an important Interstate facility which was replaced almost entirely using Federal Funds twenty-some years ago. It cannot now be tolled using that improvement as justification for tolling it. It’s paid for.

        The Republican Congress-To-Be will certainly not do anything to promote “the war on cars” by lifting the injunction against tolling unimproved Interstate facilities. About the only possible hope the State might have (assuming of course WSDOT even wants to toll I-90 which is pretty unlikely) is that the Federal Gas Tax is repealed and with it the injunction.

        But I doubt that the Republicans would repeal the ban on tolls for existing facilities even if no ongoing revenue were forthcoming. They don’t like tolls, InvisibleHand®-ish though they are.

    2. The 405 Renton-Bellevue project ($1.3B) would go towards express tool lanes, if I’m reading this correctly:

      “Through this project, WSDOT plans to add one northbound and southbound lane on I-405 between SR 167 in Renton and NE 6th Street in downtown Bellevue. This new lane will be paired with the existing carpool lane to create a two-lane express toll lane system. The completed lanes will connect to the express toll lane system under construction between Bellevue and Lynnwood, as well as the SR 167 HOT lanes.”

  3. Yes, theres highway capacity in this proposal, but it halves their budgets, which scales back their scope, while tolling them. This means that 167 and 509 are much more targeted as freight corridors and can’t as easily be used to expand sprawl.

    Pierce Transit doesn’t get a whole lot from this proposal, which is important to me, but the potential for ST3 authorization eclipses that desire.

    1. Chris, As you know, Pierce Transit has substantial existing unused authority. It’s on the electorate, not the legislature, to do something there.

      1. You’re right, PT does not need additional state authority from this package. From a Pierce perspective, ST3 authority is by far the bigger fish.

    2. Tolls? On 167 and 509? How about I-90? But I say “bring em on”.

      Per Hwy 395 in Spokane, do they really mean the N-S Freeway?

      1. @Paul,

        Actually, no. Us 395 goes up Division (as does hwy 2 until the Y). The N-S Freeway (or North Spokane Corridor as they prefer to call it now) is to the east of Hwy 395 and runs through Hillyard.

        Of course that doesn’t mean that Spokane couldn’t re-designate the N-S Freeway as Hwy 395 at some point, but they haven’t done that yet, and I would suspect they would go for an Interstate designation anyhow — if for no other reason than pride (“We’re a big city now, we have two freeways!”)

      2. Ah, I stand corrected. They still have US 395 on Division, but they are now referring to the N-S Corridor as US 395 too. Very strange, but we are talking about Spokane……

        Probably has something to do with funding — I wonder if it is easier for them to get Federal funding if they slap the “US” moniker on the project….

      3. Stupid. In the 40+ years that I have been following that project they have never called it that. It must be a fairly recent re-branding, probably to get access to Federal funding.

      4. I’ll take people’s belief in tolling seriously when I hear them clamoring for tolls on the crossings of the Ship Canal and Duwamish. Until then it sure looks like an attempted Seattle grab on other people’s money.

      5. @William A,

        I wouldn’t necessarily put I-5 tolls in place at those locations. I better location for an I-5 toll would probably be downtown somewhere. I certainly wouldn’t be opposed to tolling at that location, and it would make sense given the tolls on the adjacent DBT.

        Tolling I-5 in DT Seattle would be much like tolling I-90 to complement the tolls on SR-520. It makes sense.

      6. The Interstate program is over so I don’t think there will be any more Interstate highways. But there is the concept of two paired roads, a freeway and a business road with the same number, so that may be what’s happening here.

      7. I don’t believe the Feds have anything to do with the US highway system; it is (or at least was) a coordinated national numbering system but maintained wholly by the states or local governments. It’s unlikely that Federal funding would be at all contingent on designating the highway US 395. Otherwise, the state should have never made US 99 a “state” highway!

        There are still new Interstate highways under construction, and proposals for additional Interstates are under consideration in several areas.

      8. @William A, @lazurus,

        If DT Seattle on I-5 is to be tolled, it would make sense to have the toll point for SB vehicles in the vicinity of Roanoke so users of SR-520 aren’t tolled twice. Likewise, if I-90 is tolled, it would make sense to toll I-5 NB in the through lanes in the vicinity of the I-90 interchange.

      9. You could do it either way. The toll points on the new 405 HOT lanes will be smart enough to charge a different fee depending on your entry/exit point, not just summing up the segment tolls. So you could multiple toll checkpoints on I-5, and have the system cross-check to see whether the vehicle had crossed 520.

        So a car crossing 520 and proceeding north might only pay the bridge toll, and a car turning south to downtown could pay some higher aggregate toll.

      10. Neither I-5 nor I-90 can be tolled in the current legislative environment. Give it up; as long as the Republicans hold control of Congress they will not add to the “war on cars” by agreeing to allow Interstate facilities to be tolled for traffic management. THEY. WILL. NOT. AGREE.

      11. Not true. The Feds have been significantly relaxing the original 1956 prohibition on tolling (actually goes back to 1916), and today there are several ways that tolls can be imposed on Interstate highways. In fact, in 2012 Prz Obama signed yet another relaxing of the prohibition. There is a general realization that the thinking of 1916 doesn’t necessarily apply to 2014.

        Tolls could specifically be applied to the I-90 floating bridge because of the addition of full time, two way HOV lanes and the increased capacity of LR on the bridge.

        More relaxing is expected in the future, led by republicans who see a way to pay for expensive urban freeways without impacting rural areas.

  4. I think I-90 tolling is shelved, not killed.

    I-405 funding would probably build out the express toll infrastructure. That could be useful to transit in the corridor.

  5. Just to be clear, the State Patrol would recieve ~10% of the “Maintenance” bucket. Ferries get 34% of that bucket. This isn’t a huge police funding bill.

    1. Oh that it were a “huge police funding bill”! Stern and predictable enforcement of speed limits and erratic driving from any source would save more lives and improve congestion in Washington better than any other act the State can undertake in the transportation sector of the economy.

  6. The cover page on the ‘Plan’ seems ironic.
    One guy exerting maybe 100 pounds of force on a 100 ton beam anchored down.
    Is that Gov. Inslee in the hard hat, pushing for 12B in new taxes, on top of the existing ones? If I remember correctly, about 1/2 the gas tax now goes to pay bonds, and that doesn’t go away, plus I don’t see any mention of new ‘Pay by the Mile’ charges the TC is asking to pilot project in the next couple of years.

    1. that beam isn’t anchored. It’s being set in place, and that guy is guiding it into the right spot. You see that there’s a gap, right?

      So, he’s got this 10 ton beam that he’s trying to make sure lands exactly in the right spot. Seems an apt symbol of what Inslee is trying to do with this compromise budget.

  7. Somehow I just don’t see the State Senate Republicans agreeing to a “Carbon Pollution Fee”…….. aka Carbon Tax.

    Of course Mary Lane Strow just made very clear this is a nonstarter through her Ed Orcutt:

    Guys, look…. is Jay Inslee willing to put this on the ballot without legislative interference? Otherwise, look for a pared down version of this.

    I want the local options for transit. I also want a serious conversation about road maintenance. I also want ST3.

    But a carbon tax? How’s that gonna work? At some point voters will vote on all of this……..

    Sorry I’m just skeptical. Okay?

    1. This proposal seems to have blind-sided the Republicans. I hear several of them this morning yakking about how a carbon tax would raise the price of gas for regular working people etc. As if a gas tax wouldn’t.

      It puts them in a tough spot. Everybody understands we need a transportation package and the package needs revenue. This is a much less visible (i.e. more politically palatable) tax than the 10-12c gas tax everybody else was assuming. Republicans will be annoyed that a carbon tax gives the Governor a climate change policy victory, but will they really want to vote for a gas tax instead?

      As for I-90 tolling, it’s bad policy to take this off the table, but politically it was an incredibly steep climb as long as Judy Clibburn controlled a key veto point. It’ll be back when the politics changes. Let’s see how the politics looks after people get used to the HOT lanes all over the Eastside and then wonder why I-90 is the one place they can’t buy their way out of congestion.

      In the meantime, more GP lane congestion on I-90 is good for transit.

      1. Dan;

        Somehow I think unless the alternative is another gas tax increase that’ll one way or another face voters, this Inslee proposal is going nowhere. Gas taxes really are a user fee for using roads anyway.

        Republicans supporting a carbon tax? There’s a part of the base that denies any global warming, a part of the base that hates any taxation except at a local level for first responders & nationally for a military, and frankly we’ll see Republicans just-say-no.

        If Inslee wants one so bad, go face the voters.

      2. As to I-90 tolling, I think it’s best to take it off the table if we get something in return. Perhaps if grassroots realize the virtue of tolling we might get it in in later years.

  8. Is ST3 funding authority “approved”, as in ST can start levying those taxes, or “approved”, as in ST can consider them as part of the package it takes to district voters?

    Does the road package require state voters’ approval?

    1. It just gives ST permission to request up to a certain tax rate from voters (a rate chosen to yield $15 billion). There’s no second vote for roads or grants because the state funds them directly (and the ferries are considered state highways), while transit taxes are local entities. This may be related to why ST can’t have a regional measure with different rates in different subareas, if it’s based on the legal doctrine of equal taxation rather than a specific restriction on ST.

      Of course that raises two follow-up issues. If the transit taxes are fundamentally different from the other taxes because they require a second vote in a local jurisdiction, then why are bundled in the same statewide measure rather than a separate one? And why can’t ST have a separate vote in each subarea with its own tax rate and projects? The conventional assumption is that highways won’t pass without transit, and suburban light rail won’t pass without Seattle votes, so they make the higher-yes projects dependent on the lower-yes projects. (Because those who want transit care more about transit than high taxes, while those who want highways care more about low taxes than highways.) However, it could be more compex than that.

    2. And the third question: why doesn’t the state support transit directly the way it does roads. If, for instance, the state took the position that all residents should have local transit as well as schools and roads, then it would naturally fund at least some level of transit.

      1. Or, at least have an expanded fund for paying for some of the routes that are important to multiple counties. That whole tangle of routes between Everett and Bellingham with connectors going west that attempt to connect to Oak Harbor and Anacortes (and thus also sort of serve San Juan County) could probably work a whole lot better if it were viewed as a network between counties.

        With the amount of money that goes into the ferry system, which is capacity limited mostly due to the number of autos it is able to carry, anything that the state can do to add transit services that are synchronized with the ferries and thus help encourage walk-on passengers would help there.

      2. Mike, I think you answered your own question. Since it is the ‘state’, many cities and towns in this state believe any amount of spending on public transit is taking money away from their precious cars and trucks. No matter what you say, no matter what proof you show them, they will always believe what they believe. That is why there will never be across-the-state funding for public transit. I can only hope the state legislature basically says, “Whatever you cities want to do on your own, go ahead and do it. If you want to raise taxes, then go ahead. We won’t stop you.”

      3. Cinesea,

        The Republicans will never agree to free the cities, because they need to city “Yes” votes on transportation project to counter the “I got my screw you” attitude in the rural areas of the state.

      4. Currently rural areas think they can get new highways for free. I don’t think that’s a stable position in the long term, that “Republicans” will be able to stick to it. Eventually they’ll have to side one way or the other, either highways or low taxes. The trend seems to be toward low taxes. But when they are finally separated, I think the libertarian streak will become more prominent; i.e., allowing other jurisdictions to do what they want (i.e., raising taxes for transit). People who are die-hard opposed to taxes are already moving out of King County and Pugetopolis anyway, and their main concern is that taxes don’t come to them.

  9. “most notably bringing all bridges and highways to “95% fair or better” condition.”

    To me, adding public transit capacity should be a critical part of the improvement of any major highway. A 90-minute trip from Everett to Seattle certainly doesn’t indicate a highway in good condition- whether it’s from pot-holes or, as is the case, from more automobiles than any number of extra lanes could handle.

    But remembering a certain fleet of buses I had to drive part of, “95 percent fair or better condition” is a description to be remedied, rather than a goal to be proud of.

    Any leader belonging to the Democratic party- or the Republican party that helped start Metro Transit- should be well aware of the results of going into a fight with the offer of a compromise as your first move.

    Mark Dublin

    1. Well put, I can see certain things dropping off of the list…………………. and not just the carbon tax scheme.

  10. There’s only one thing in here I hate. See if you can guess what it is before reading further. OK, let’s break it down:

    Maintenance — Fine, sounds good.
    Clean Transportation and Multimodal — Looks good as well.
    Local Distribution — OK
    520 Completion — Sounds good. You have to finish what you started.
    I-405 Corridor Completion — Maybe. This could improve the transit/carpool experience.
    395 — If this is what the east side of the state wants, I’m OK with it.
    509/167 — Terrible idea. Another huge amount of money with very little to show for it.
    Other, much smaller projects — If handled correctly, these are good. We can spend a little at get great results if we pick the projects properly. Of course the devil is in the details, but in general this is a reasonably amount of money to spend.

    The 509/167 project is a terrible idea, and reminds me of the Columbia Crossing project. If Republicans want to shrink this thing — if they are serious about small government — then this is where you shrink it. That’s about a third of the capitol project money. Kill that and we have a decent budget.

    1. I live close to SR 509, and I approve of limiting its funding to maintenance. That highway, and the arterial it becomes, are nowhere close to using up their capacity.

      The 1st Ave Bridge is a bottleneck during peak, but luring more traffic onto SR 509 would only worsen that situation, and send more traffic through the South Park neighborhood to use the new 14th Ave S Bridge. Moreover, those using that route to get under downtown Seattle have a big problem: The capacity of SR 99 is only going to shrink when the tunnel opens for service.

      This is why legislators shouldn’t be designing transportation projects.

      BTW, Is there continuing funding for SR 99 bus mitigation in Inslee’s proposal?

      1. To answer your question: I don’t know, but maybe. The link just gives a general overview of the plan, which includes 162 million for transit operations support, another 300 million for transit projects, etc. So maybe that is included.

        But I agree with your other point. I think you can make a decent case for the 167 phase one plan shown here:
        I don’t like it, and think it is a give away for suburban drivers and truckers and will increase sprawl. But I can see how this will help the port. I just don’t think it is worth the money (I’m sure we could find other ways of spending that kind of money to help the port). But again, I can see a reasonable case for this.

        But the 509 project shown here:
        just looks like a big waste of money. I just don’t think that will help things that much. There are dozens of better projects scattered around. I know some people think we should spend as little as possible on roads, but buses ride on roads. Besides, if we spent money on roads, then we should get as much value out of our money as possible. The 509 project is simply a terrible value (while the 167 piece is merely bad).

      2. Also, check this line out from the main project website (

        Converts the existing I-5 HOV lanes to express toll lanes between I-90 and SR 16

        Got that? Right after we finally complete I-5 HOV lanes from Seattle to Tacoma, the state wants to convert them to express toll lanes. WTF.

      3. If converting the 2+ HOV lanes into Express Toll lanes results in the HOV (free) restriction going to 3+, it could be a net win.

      4. I have a question for you folks who know how the HOT lanes work. Let’s assume that the HOV minimum is two-plus; how does a car with no transponder but two people in it use the HOT lane? Wouldn’t the driver get a bill?

      5. @Anandakos. The HOT lanes use transponders only, no plate-reading. So if you are in a HOV, you can drive in the HOT lane without a transponder. If you have a transponder and are in a HOV, you have to switch the transponder off (there’s a switchable windshield-mountable version of the transponder for this purpose).

        On 520, there has to be a way to charge everybody, hence the plate readers. On the HOT lanes, there are free GP lanes alongside, so non-transponder, non-HOT vehicles have that alternative. Hence no need for the plate reader.

        If somebody who is not a HOV enters the lane without a transponder, she would not be charged a fee by the system. It would be up to the observant local law enforcement to show her the error of her ways.

      6. Whats with the 167 hate? I realize this is Seattle Transit Blog, but I’d make the point that the people who live out from the core do a lot to support the metro area. In my case my job requires me to commute around the sound to clients. It is terrible _EVERYWHERE_ but the “35 minute” trip from seattle to Puyallup (we’ll say south hill mall, so inside the city limits) is routinely 2+ hours no matter the direction you go – I-5 south or over to 167 via 520/90/405 or I5->405

    2. I’m not for 509 and 167, but upgrading inner-suburban highways sounds better than new exurban highways. (The Cross-Base highway and 18/605 are conspicuously missing.) At least there’s more density there, and more industrial facilities that directly affect the economy.

      509 is about people using the DBT, so they can breeze through downtown and breeze onto I-5 rather than ending up in Burien.

      HOT lanes don’t bother me as long as the SOV rate is high enough to maintain express-bus speeds. It’s pretty clear that the “carpool” concept failed and is not realistic for people going from diverse houses to diverse businesses. So it’s worth rethinking the privileged lane and what kinds of use it should handle, and HOT lanes sound like a reasonable alternative. The main issue is the quality of the lane for buses, not which cars can use it.

      1. I wouldn’t mind if they finished upgrading SR-18 between Issaquah-Hobart Road and I-90. SR-18 over the Tiger Mountain pass is just plain dangerous. It needs to stop at I-90 though.

      2. HOT lanes right now are either/or ( You can pay your fee as a single driver, or ride in the lane (for free) if you have two or more people in the car. Changing a HOV 2+ to HOV 2+ or toll will only add to the congestion. Those that think this will be changed to HOV 3+ or toll are fantasizing, and even if it did happen, it could easily get congested (there are a lot of people who will simply pay). Besides, why would that be more politically palatable. Right now there are lots and lots of people in 3 person (or more) carpools, vanpools or buses slogging through traffic. From a vehicle standpoint, there are also a lot of two person carpools (although way fewer people altogether). Removing the two person carpools will piss those people off. Telling them they can pay extra won’t make them much happier, and gives them a great talking point (“they are taking away my carpool lane and giving it to rich people”). It won’t make the bus riders much happier either, knowing that congestion could easily come back.

        I really don’t get this. People are so weak, when it comes to this stuff. We think we can spend billions and billions on suburban light rail or new freeways, but somehow kicking out the two person carpool riders (who are obviously a minority on the road) is somehow impossible. That’s nuts. It reminds of the first monorail discussion. Go back and read it if you want. I started asking questions, and one of the first things people said was “you can’t do it”. It is too far along, it is a private agency, you don’t want to mess with a profitable system, blah, blah, blah. Well, it looks like it is happening. It is pretty much a done deal. I really don’t see why we can’t change some (not all) of the 2+ HOV lanes to 3+. Some people will complain. Others will cheer. If the 2+ carpool drivers really want that lane, then they can ask the state to build it.

      3. 2-person carpool lanes are especially important for parents. Small children are notoriously impatient, and every time a kid rides in a car, it’s automatically a 2-person carpool. (At least until autonomous cars hit the road, or the driving age is lowered to a age 2).

    3. Looks like 509/167 are shrunk quite a bit in Inslee’s proposal. Compare the “unfunded” portions on WSDOT’s website with the plan’s allocations to them. Both corridors are also tolled for parts of their funding, which helps to put a damper on their contribution to sprawl. I-395 isn’t tolled though.

      WSDOT 509 $1.2 Bn, Inslee: $957m (
      WSDOT 167 $2.4 Bn, Inslee: $856m (
      WSDOT I-395 $1.3 Bn, Inslee: $432m (

      1. A shrunken turkey is still a turkey. A turkey that serves “inner-suburbs” (to use Mike’s term) is still a turkey (and that is assuming Puyallup is an inner suburb — say what?).

        509 is about people using the DBT, so they can breeze through downtown and breeze onto I-5 rather than ending up in Burien.

        Gobble, gobble, gobble.

        Seriously, I can see the argument for 167 (freight and all) but that 509 extension is stupid. A nice little shortcut to 99 is about all it gets you. Other than that, it simply means you avoid 518 (a freeway). You still go through Burien. Yeah, I’m sure it saves a few miles off your trip — big deal. You could say that about plenty of places in the region. Besides, as mentioned earlier, 99 is going to be two lanes and not include any downtown exits (or an exit on Western). There simply won’t be that much traffic there, and very little of it will be headed towards Tacoma. It’s a stupid, wasteful, expensive project that will get us very little in terms of mobility.

  11. One thing about hitting the big boys and girls with pollution taxes is that it lets the rest of the state workinmg class off the hook.

    This is not a good investment for democracy or democratic ideas. We are all in this together. So if the big boys and girls have the investment then the public is traveling on corporate roads not public road.

    Every interest group must be included.

    However, I am glad to see there are no funds SR 423. Until the Millineum is run out of here no money should be made available to this project.

    1. We need to move to a price on carbon emissions so that users can’t externalizing the cost of their pollution onto everybody. Part of the money is needed just to clean up the damage of those emissions, part to fund lower-pollution alternatives (like transit), and the rest to raise the price to a “proper” level (based on other factors, which is a whole debate in itself). The third part could be refunded to residents, or even all of it could be refunded to residents, which would make it revenue-neutral and not a net tax increse. In such a system the cost of carbon-intensive activities would be higher, but the cost of finding non-carbon-intensive alternatives would be lower. That would lead to a new equilibrium in prices and activities. It may not be a difficult adjustment, and there are ways to mitigate it (credits, subsidies, and sponsoring research). The alternative is to continue with the current system, meaning the cost of polluting is zero and non-users suffer the costs of living with it.

  12. Regarding all that ferry funding, can they consider foot ferries instead of giant car ferries, at least for the Seattle lines? That’s what Kitsap Transit is trying to do, but it has nowhere near the funding it would take.

    1. The new ferry (“4th ferry vessel”) is to replace an old ferry, and it wouldn’t necessarily be assigned to one of the Seattle runs. Besides, the car ferries hold 10 times more passengers than cars.

      The Olympic class ferries cost ~$125 million each, the Seattle/Colman Dock/Pier 52 project is another ~$250 million, and the Mukilteo terminal replacement is ~$130 million. That leaves less than $100 million (of the $600 million total shown on page 4), not enough for another car ferry. WSF has some pretty significant deferred maintenance which would suck some of that up; the rebuild of the Hyak, for example, is pegged at $22 million. However some of the $100 million would probably be left over for other ferry capital expenses like new fast passenger-only ferries and docks for Kitsap Transit to implement their plans.

      It looks like Kitsap Transit needs 3-4 new ferries to run the service it outlined, and passenger-only ferries aren’t terribly expensive. For example, King County is getting two new 250-pax ferries for $12 million combined, although I’m not clear on how fast they are. Rich Passage 1, designed to operate at speed through Rich Passage, cost $12.7 million by itself but it was a demonstration project to figure out how to minimize wake.

    2. What is the business case for building foot ferries? More importantly, how would foot ferries not become a drag on WSF finances? We’re not seeing car ferries with empty car decks. There is a demand, like it or not.

      The farebox recovery that Kitsap Transit is showing in its passenger ferry projections is terrible (29% for 1-vessel service Bremerton-Seattle) compared to WSF, which is getting ~65% systemwide. WSF could probably raise fares for cars as well.

      1. If I were in the private sector, I’d build a 149 passenger fast ferry without a full sprinkler system as per US Coast Guard regs. I’d make it to be a premium service with an ornate interior, good views, WiFi and a good restaurant so I made enough profit to make the hassles of permitting, lobbying legishitters, dealing with umpteen regulations and the like worthwhile.

        I would also make real damn clear: We. do. not. cut. corners. on. safety.

    3. Given that:
      1) The car ferries have to run, whether a foot ferry exists or not
      2) The car ferries have lots of passenger capacity for people arriving without cars. Unless there’s a Seahawks championship parade, such capacity almost never fills up.
      3) Boats, in general, are expensive vehicles to operate.

      A foot ferry that simply duplicates the routes of the car ferry would seem to be to be a very inefficient use of funds. I would rather see the money spent on getting more buses to connect with the car ferry during more hours of the day.

      1. +1

        Connect with buses, not build new ferries. Passenger-Only Fast Ferries were an ecological wake wash disaster and a $19 million dollar WSF boondoggle meant to help induce Kitsap suburbia & exurbia growth of the late 1990s.

        On the other hand, if the private sector could bring in passenger-only ferries using WSF terminals and compete with ecologically sound ferries – okay with that. Perhaps if a 149-passenger ferry with premium services like WiFi, restaurant, leather seating, & the like could be tested? There’s enough rich investors in the region…

        See our mass transit tax revenue comes after the educational industrial complex gets their giant cut, incarceration gets their cut and roads get their cut. Get my logic?

      2. I’m amazed to see transit blog folks in favor of dumping cars into downtown Seattle. Every time I drive my car on the ferry I’m struck with the stupidity of transporting thousand-pound private vehicles from one land mass to another by boat, and I’m pissed off that we lack the pedestrian friendly infrastructure that would allow me to leave it behind.
        Buses are not faster than cars. Passenger ferries ARE faster than car ferries. They are also much cheaper to operate and more energy efficient to boot and they don’t get stuck in traffic. Passenger ferries are one of few mass transit options that offer a superior commuting option to driving alone. They encourage people to live low-car lifestyles. Passenger ferry-oriented development is transit-oriented-development.

        The passenger ferry to Vashon fills to capacity on a regular basis, forcing commuters to take the slower, more expensive and less direct WSF-run car ferries. This is why King County is building newer, larger passenger ferries for the Vashon and West Seattle water taxi routes.

        Our unique geography makes it a pain in the ass to build functional land-based transit systems. We should use our situation to our advantage and pursue low-car water based transit systems rather than hauling private vehicles around from one road to another.

      3. “WSF boondoggle meant to help induce Kitsap suburbia & exurbia growth of the late 1990s”

        Why would WSF want to induce Kitsap growth? Especially when Kitsap is so anti-growth. They refused all attempts at a bridge in order to keep it difficult to get there. An evil private company might say, “Bwahaha, we’ll encourage Kitsap County to grow to increase the number of fare-paying passengers, and who cares if everything else goes to hell, HAHAHA!” But WSF is not a for-profit company, is heavily subsidized, its boats are already full, and adding boats would be a huge expense. So I doubt that WSF “encouraged’ Kitsap’s growth or had that much effect on it. It was more the region’s overall growth and exurbanization at the time, plus the real-estate bubble. The ferries actually put a brake on that by preventing Kitsap from turning into Mercer Island. (“Fifteen minutes to Bellevue Square, more reliability and less waiting, and no tolls or fares for us!”)

      4. Les, as asdf says, the car ferries have to run. How do you think groceries get to the island stores and restaurants? There needs to be a basic car service. And given that the full ferries are only full for cars (not walk-ons), and essential vehicles have reservations, and transit fans don’t care if other cars have to wait for the next ferry, then it’s cheaper to just run the car ferry than to add another passenger boat. It’s an extension of the principle that if you have a car in your garage, it’s cheaper to take it for short trips than to take the bus. Except in this case the ferry itself is public transportation so it’s more justified.

  13. Question: Why does ST3 authority have to be tied to tax increases at the legislative level? It seems unlikely that Republicans will vote for any new taxes/fees/etc., so grouping in ST3 (which is NOT a tax increase from the legislature) kills ST3.

    1. DrewJ, it’s my perception this may be a starting point… but there is NO Republican support for this carbon tax proposal. NONE.

      Republicans will note up in British Columbia, the BCLiberal free enterprise party almost lost the 2009 election in part due to the carbon tax. Only tax cuts/offsets in other areas to make it revenue neutral plus a bad BCNDP socialist party campaign saved the BCLiberals. So I would be shocked if any Republicans supported the Governor’s revenue proposal.

    2. It’s not a novel idea, it’s the status quo and the default path. The novel idea would be if it’s separated.

  14. Crazy budget proposed by leftie-Governor. Check.

    GOP controlled legislature. Check.

    Nothing happening? Check.

    L00t! L00t! Check.

  15. Don’t have time to read others comments, so not sure if this was already brought up, but…this proposal may have just killed ST3 for the current session. By lumping Sound Transit funding into the conversation around a comprehensive transportation package, I don’t see how it has any traction as a standalone bill. This would be the same fate that befell local options in the last round.

    1. Joe has a pep talk for this. Don’t give up until it’s really over. I learned that in wrestling too. It looks like one person’s the underdog and has no chance, and a few minutes later it turns around. The ST3 request is small and simple and easily separated. If the transportation package goes down, there will be calls to pass it standalone. One lost transporation bill (aka. one legislative session) takes everyone by surprise and leaves the status quo, but two lost transportation bills (aka. two legislative sessions) becomes a pattern and starts people thinking about alternatives.

      There’s two kinds of opposition to taxes: the NIMBY kind (don’t tax my county) and the BANANA kind (don’t allow any county to tax itself anywhere). When pressed, many anti-tax legislators and voters will reveal themselves to be the NIMBY kind and only a small fringe will be BANANA, especially as the years go by and the latter becomes more obviously seen as anti-freedom and unfair and impractical. (What happens when roads fall apart due to lack of maintenance?) The reason Metro’s $20 congestion fee expired is not because it was an egregious affront to democracy or a thoroughly wasteful agency (the legislature had said the opposite two years before when it granted the fee), but because it was small part of a failed transportation package. But that provision is not equivalent to ST3. The legislature is more directly involved in ST because it created it fairly recently, and ST3 is more of an expected strategic plan with multi-county impacts (i.e., the state created ST so that the state wouldn’t have to deal with Pugetopolis’ regional transit issues itself). And legislators would be especially interested in, “It doesn’t tax my county, and it requires a public vote.” ST has also given itself two years to lobby the legislature if it fails the first year. Also, we don’t even know if a transportation bill (whether similar or not to Inslee’s) might actually pass because the legislators haven’t started deliberating yet.

  16. I would be interested to see a poll of people’s positions on this. It appears to range from “Strongly opposed” to “Mild support” in the comments above. Is there a way for this blog to run a poll in conjunction with the post?

  17. I would be very surprised to see any kind of carbon tax get past the state Republicans, but I have to admit that this does sound like a much more balanced proposal than what we were seeing last year.

    As much as we would like to see a complete moratorium on new highways, considering the way the rest of the world moves around, I don’t think that is a reasonable expectation. Nor do I think it’s reasonable to expect this proposal to provide any direct funding for transit beyond the pittance that exists today, as it would merely reduce the chance of Republican by-off from exteremely slim to even slimmer.

    While I would personally be inclined to offer cautious support for Inslee’s proposal, as stated, it does seem somewhat inevitable for things to shift way to the right during negotiations with Republicans. My realistic expectation is that the package will end up being funded by gas tax after all, that the $2.2 billion multi-modal fund will be cut in half, with the $5.9 billion “new construction” fund remaining mostly intact, with only minor cuts.

    1. ASDF2, buddy, on this I concur. But I hope the transit gets funded, or at least the local options & w/ conditions ST3.

    2. That’s the tendency, but it may be possible to whittle down the highway projects more than that. It all depends on how much people want those particular highways vs how much they hate taxes, and how far they can keep the “somebody else will pay for my highways” denial fairy going.

  18. I didn’t see any money in there for the Bertha emergency rescue bore when it gets stuck again under one of the many buildings it will pass under.
    As long as the Bigger Digger is stalled, all these funding schemes from the Gov, TC, and others will remain stalled too.

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