Friday, Jan 9th, TCC hosted a brown bag preview of the 2015 legislation session as it relates to transit. While the session has already kicked off, the main points of the discussion are relevant going forward.

Most importantly, the two legislative champions on the panel, Marko Liias and Jessyn Farrell, were pretty upbeat about transportation package passage. Senator Liias said he was much more optimistic now than he was even a few months ago. Ironically, Governors Inslee’s strong support for a VMT/carbon tax has forced Republican’s to come out strongly in support for a “large” gas tax increase instead, something they have not done historically.

Senator Liias spent a lot of time explaining what it meant being in the minority. He went so far as to say that the initial bill he will likely vote out of the Senate will only be 70% acceptable. It will be up to the House to get it to something palatable. He made this point a couple times a couple different ways. This actually makes me pretty optimistic as I picked up a definite ‘Please don’t crucify me for my vote’  vibe, which he wouldn’t be worried about if he didn’t think a vote would happen.

On the House side, Representative Farrell assured the crowd that no package will make it out that doesn’t get the Puget Sound what it needs (more transit). She said she would not vote for a package that doesn’t help her district, where pedestrian safety in particular is a high-priority issue. Representative Farrell also stressed that she would like WSDOT to continue to evolve its practices, including a reexamination of traffic forecasting. She also believe that the State has a clear interest in transit, including capital and operating funds, especially along corridors like I-5 where transit improvements improve the efficiency of state facilities.

Overall, the sentiment seemed to be that a package will get done, it will have funding authority for Sound Transit and Community Transit, but it will not be the package that changes the trajectory of the state’s transportation spending.

23 Replies to “Transit Talks: Transportation and the 2015 Legislative Session – Notes”

  1. Anybody remember “inertia of rest” and “inertia of motion” terms from junior high science? It takes extra effort both to get something moving and to stop it.

    This is why either a engine driving a heavy duty gearbox or an electric motor to pull away from the stop halfway up James to Harborview.

    Also why it’s especially necessary to avoid hard brakes at two miles an hour: the change from moving at all to stopped dead requires enough energy to knock a passenger down.

    Same physics apply to legislation- and also including trajectory- direction of a moving object. From billiard balls to asteroids, with legislation in the middle, the faster it’s moving, a collision with a relatively small object will inevitably change its trajectory.

    So especially for transportation, first goal is to get something in motion- energy very well spent. Because from there on, it’s all about changing the direction- much less effort. If Reuben and Jessyn honestly see motion, direction is ours to change.


  2. I think it is probably too much to ask to change the “trajectory of the state’s transportation funding”, but I do think we can, and should, scale down the number and size of the projects. I think you can find bipartisan support for focusing on maintenance and improving what we have, rather than building new, expensive, and unnecessary projects. Looking at the line items of the Governor’s proposed transportation budget, I see:

    * SR520 Completion — This is maintenance related (the old bridge is deteriorating). Obviously it makes sense to finish what was started.
    * I-405 Renton to Bellevue corridor — I could go either way on this one. This is a heavily used freeway, and this would add to it, rather than create a new freeway. Much of the work could benefit transit as well.
    * SR 509 corridor — I think this is a waste of money. This freeway would be redundant, and simply add to sprawl.
    * SR 167 — At best this is a give away to the trucking industry (to the disappointment of the railroad industry). At worst it is a huge enticement to sprawl. We should look for other ways of helping the port.
    * I-90 Snoqualmie Pass — Like 520, it makes sense to finish what you started.
    * I-5 JBLM, US 395 North Spokane, Everett/Snohomish Co. freight improvement projects — I don’t know enough about these projects to comment, but unlike some of the other projects, these seem to be fairly cheap.
    * Unallocated funding for other high-priority projects across the state — I would like to see more details on the actual projects, but this sounds like a reasonable amount of money.

    In short, I would scrap 167 and 509. That would save a substantial amount of money. I could go either way on some of the other projects, but scrapping 167 and 509 are key.

    1. By tolerating 405 expansion, we may gain more leverage to resist expansions on other highways, both now and in future years. And we can emphasize the need for quality BRT infrastructure on 405. Eventually I-5 in Seattle will have to be rebuilt. If 405 has mega capacity then, it may be possible to prevent I-5 expansions or even put it on a road diet or “complete street” approach. E.g., converting lanes to transit lanes, mitigating its visual/pedestrian/noise impacts, reserving ROW for future high-speed rail, etc.

      1. Yeah, in my email to Representative Farrell, I said I thought the I-405 expansion was a good idea. On the other hand, the focus of my letter was my opposition to 167 and 509 expansion. Those projects are big losers, in my opinion. They will do nothing but contribute to sprawl, which in the long run will mean more congestion, not less. They will help freight traffic, but only truck freight traffic. There are lots of things we can do to help the port by helping the railroads. There is a summary of such projects here (

        In general I think focusing on maintenance is a winning political approach. If you scale the Governor’s proposal’s down considerably, I think you can get a lot of Republicans, and most Democrats on board. Give the Republicans the Spokane project, as well as the little stuff (JBLM, etc.) but throw away SR-509 and SR-167. 520 and I-90 get built because we need to finish what we started. 405 gets labeled “maintenance”, even though it is a stretch. I would be very happy with that compromise, and I think a lot of other people would be too.

        Of course I want more money for transit, as well as the opportunity to vote for more money for transit (that is a given).

      2. +1 RossB.

        I just think we need to do what we can, put your proposal + mandate bus lanes, and see what we can get.

        But we need ST3 & Community Transit’s local option. We also need to get more transit grants from the state.

  3. Thanks for the info about the “Transit Talk” Matt.

    Did Liias or Farrell provide any insight on why WSDOT seems to have stalled out on R8A Stage 3? We need those HOV lanes completed before Sound Transit can begin installing rail on I-90.

    1. According to WSDOT’s website the project was awarded on Nov. 13, 2014 and work is getting underway this month with the project scheduled to be complete in mid-2017. Sound Transit’s still working on designing their I-90 segment for East Link. They had 60 percent design open houses this summer so there’s still a lot of work to be done before the I-90 East Link contract can be put to bid.

    2. Not that I remember. There was a WSDOT rep there that I’ve written asking for clarification on some of his comments. When he gets back to me I’ll follow up with that.

  4. 1) Either we want transit or not. We need that funding authority to take the next step of transit funding and if that means other areas want to blow their fair share on highway expansion instead of transit investments & better land use to protect farmland from sprawl (aka encouraging density) – fine. We can’t have it all and I for one would like more transit funding grants, but without ST3 and Community Transit funding authority – transit stalls in this megalopolis if not this state.

    2a) To the antagonists if not trolls like aaaaawwwwwww, deepee and the like who want to screw folks stuck in outlying areas for more Seattle subways, let me take my remarks down to your level: GET OVER POLITICAL REALITY OR QUIT.

    2b) That said, Anaknodokis (sp?) and a few others raise really good points. I hope they keep coming. But at least make some attempt to be supportive and use a respectable name.

    1. “… if that means other areas want to blow their fair share on highway expansion instead of transit investments “

      How do you know that?

      There has never been an explicit up/down vote on a road package (i.e. defined projects with associated costs and benefits presented), regional or otherwise.

      There have been “Roads & Transit” packages, which have failed, but when a Transit Only package was presented (ST2), it passed.

      I’m still waiting for a Regional Road Expansion package, which would answer the question.

      1. Whatever the answer is, Jim, the problem is that every pollutionary, freedom-denying linear parking lot with highway signs was a road expansion not very long ago.

        Forget gasoline prices- except that record low prices raise the real danger of a 1970’s polyester leisure suit revival that will leave another whole generation of men spending the rest of their lives trying to find every image of them looking like the ghost of Sonny Bono.

        But the fact is that 70 years after the end of World War II, we’re discovering that the living patterns resulting from automobile-only transportation have now left our very spacious country in a condition where nobody can move.

        And no small part of this outcome was the unforeseen death of the transit industry. Whatever conspiracies the car-related industries hatched to kill street rail had a whole nation of accomplices.

        But neither car, gas, and tire industries, nor the people restless as only former soldiers can be, ever imagined how much of the relatively orderly beginning of the car culture owed to the number of people still being carried by very robust existing transit systems.

        Early on, widely-owned cars and endless flat land for new homes really did promise both freedom and fun. And also the end of company stores and the erasure of subarea boundaries- note to a certain region close by.

        But seventy years of anything pouring into a given space finally leaves it stuffed. Where only freedom is to legally smoke cigarettes and select mp3’s- including Sonny and Cher, whom current music makes really sound under-appreciated. While continuing to enrich same car-related industries who no offer freedom for the money they take.

        So that’s the problem, Jim. But example of one good answer: hundred mile an hour trains at short headway would definitely increase carrying capacity of SR 2 over Stevens for a reasonable highway repair price, while finally putting hundreds of travelers per weekend in motion as well.

        Next question?


      2. Jim,
        I think it would only be fair if the state transportation tax package was put to a vote since ST3 & Community Transit will also face the voters.
        But at the end of the day… ST3 & Community Transit Local Option are worth compromising over.

      3. Are you going to write the “Statement FOR:” on the next Regional Roads (Only) Expansion ballot measure?

      4. Jim,
        I think the advocates for roads can proselytize their love of sprawl on their own.

      5. “And also the end of company stores and the erasure of subarea boundaries- …”

        I was told that there was a lot of “sub-area equity” (on a county level) discussion on the last Roads & Transit proposition.

      6. You’re missing the point.

        If you believe in a transit alternative, then you need to help the highway proponents get their numbers out there, and make their argument to the people.

        The numbers are there. I just never see them in the media.

    2. 2a) To the antagonists if not trolls like aaaaawwwwwww, deepee and the like who want to screw folks stuck in outlying areas for more Seattle subways, let me take my remarks down to your level: GET OVER POLITICAL REALITY OR QUIT.

      You’re embarrassing yourself with this crap, Joe. You are capable of being better than this.

      1. A few with your cheap names have really torqued me off for some time. I decided to deflate a little hot air…. while going “Angry Doug Baldwin”. Not necessarily saying you DJW and your kind words are much appreciated.

  5. What about Metro? Are we going to not ask for a local-tax option for Metro option this year, or for the other counties or the rural connectors? That would leave Seattle sitting pretty with its Prop 1 supplement, but that has a worse-than-average tax structure and expires in 2020, and it would leave the rest of the county with nothing unless they do what Seattle did.

    Meanwhile, we mustn’t stand still on incremental transit improvements in the other counties, most of which have identified transit needs and are being held back by the state’s cap on local-option transit taxes. And the inter-county connectors, which need ongoing improvements over time if they’re ever going to make non-driving a more viable way to get around the state.

    Maybe we have to leave them out this year to focus on ST3 and CT, and Seattle has a cushion for the time being. But if so, we should do it intentionally rather than just forgetting about them, and also think about what we want to do about them next year or next biennium, or they might end up remaining neglected for years.

    1. Mike;

      a) I don’t think another kick at the can for Metro is in the cards this year.
      b) I think the solution is to allow local communities & transit agencies to go to the polls for more transit. Backed up by state transit grants instead of direct operating support.
      c) We really need to focus on ST3 & CT at all costs. I appreciate your comments on inter-county connectors… 2016, perhaps?

    2. Not trying to sound flippant, but ‘what about Metro’? Aren’t they currently looking at adding back service?

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