Sen. Curtis King
Sen. Curtis King
Sen. Bob Hasegawa
Sen. Bob Hasegawa

In contrast to the awesome Senate Bill 5128, on which Senator Marko Liias (D – Mukilteo) collected the signatures of 19 Democratic colleagues to support granting Sound Transit authority to take a new package to the voters (commonly referred to as “ST3”), Senator Bob Hasegawa (D – Beacon Hill) found a way to get a hearing for his Senate Bill 5343: Go ask the committee chair who decides which bills get hearings in that committee.

Indeed, Sen. Curtis King (R – Yakima, and Chair of the Senate Transportation Committee) is signatory #2 on SB 5343. Smart move.

This bill is textually identical to last year’s SB 6489, which STB covered extensively.

The bill would make Sound Transit pay for the cost of residents’ parking permits in Restricted Parking Zones, which are created by cities, at the request of area residents, within the general area (undefined) of Sound Transit facilities and construction sites. Residents would be privatizing the public asphalt in front of their houses, making Sound Transit pay the City for this privatization, and not having to pay a dime for storing their cars on the public right-of-way, while denying non-residents the ability to park in the neighborhood.

Seattle has a low-income rate for parking permits of $10 per vehicle (for two years), answering objections that RPZ fees hurt low-income residents. The legislation is incompatible with the City’s program that sabotages the feasibility of this bill because there is no limit on the number of vehicles for which a resident can get a permit.

Meanwhile, Sound Transit is taking a much larger step to improve affordability for residents living around light-rail stations by introducing a $1.50 low-income fare on Link Light Rail, starting March 1.

SB 5343 merely subsidizes car ownership in these neighborhoods, and does nothing for the poor. It is being heard in committee Tuesday afternoon (January 27) at 3:30.

We continue to reach out to Sen. Hasegawa’s office for comment on the issue, but all requests have been ignored for nearly a year. For the record, I am a constituent of Sen. Hasegawa’s, I donated to his first State House campaign, and I have voted for him every time his name has been on my ballot.

65 Replies to “How to Get a Bad Democratic Bill Through a Republican Committee”

  1. Pandering. And mainly by dems too. Even Jayapal signed on. I expected more from her, but I guess the car is still king. Err.

      1. If I lived in one of the affected areas I would get as many “free” parking passes as I could possibly get, then park on the street and sell my off street parking spots for a little added income. Net effect? Even less parking.

        Don’t these dems know what they are doing?

      2. In all fairness, the ones who really need to hear about the unlimited-decals loophole are the Mayor and Seattle City Council.

      3. I had an opportunity to speak with Jayapal in person last night on this subject and she steadfastly maintains that the bill is the right thing to do. She maintains that people who don’t have access to off street parking are being negatively impacted by their proximity to ST Light Rail stations and need some form of relief. Although she understands that it isn’t a perfect solution, she still believes it is at least a partial solution.

        I found her arguments to be uncompelling, but I was unable to sway her.

      4. “Who are these people?” More like “where do they live?” It’s said all politics is local, and you can’t more local than a politician’s “free” parking space out in front of their house.

        Quick public property search shows Rep. Hasegawa has owned a house near the beacon hill station for many years. RPZ that covers his block came recently which seems to mostly anger people who don’t use the train and (mistakenly) believe they own the parking in front of their houses.

        I suppose Hasegawa could have some public purpose in mind, but this one looks personal to me

      5. Well, that’s just disappointing about Sen. Jayapal’s comments. The “relief” for parking, such as that relief may be, around light rail stations is intended to be the RPZ but that’s a deal between a city and its residents. I’m “negatively affected” by events at a private establishment near my house but that business doesn’t pay for me to have an RPZ.

        (Then again, I’m biased against RPZs. 90% of that bias is because I think it’s dumb to let some people reserve public spaces on an ongoing, long-term basis. 10% is because an RPZ backs right up to my house but the city doesn’t include the street I face in the RPZ so I can’t get a permit and my street bars on-street parking. It’s kind of annoying.)

      6. If you oppose the very existence of RPZs, keep in mind what you are advocating for — the conversion of neighborhoods around light rail stations into park-and-ride lots. I thought good transit advocates were against park-and-ride at least in concept?

      7. Oh noes! They’re negatively impacted by their proximity to a rail station!

        Tell you what; I’ll trade my house in an in-city location that will NEVER see a rail station or RPZ straight up for one of theirs that will. I’ll even forgo an RPZ pass.

      8. I’m also in Jayapal’s district and am quite disappointed to see her sponsorship of this bill. While other areas of the city are trying to get a light rail station nearby, down here we’re trying to have our cake and eat it too.

  2. Senator Kohl-Wells, my senator, is one of the co-sponsors. I just emailed her with my objections.

    1. Same. I think if we even just get the regular readers of STB who live in the 36th to send her an e-mail, it will have an impact.

      1. I sent her an email as well. So it looks like there will be at least a few in her inbox which is better than 1 or 2.

    2. That’s extremely disappointing. This is the sort of nonsense I might be willing to go along with if it was actually being traded for something worthwhile. Just giving it away–a blank check for cities to define “vicinity” and set RPZ fees to transform as much money as they like from transit funding to paying free car storage for a lucky handful of citizens, in exchange for nothing–it utterly maddening.

    3. Well I’ll be damned…

      Ryan,

      Thank you for expressing your concerns over Senate Bill 5343 which looks to address parking issues around transit centers and light rail stations. I have reconsidered the bill after the amount of feedback I received, and have decided to remove my name from the list of sponsors of this bill.

      Thank you again for reaching out to me,

      Senator Jeanne Kohl-Welles
      36th Legislative District
      Washington State Senate

      1. Well that’s good to hear. I’ve yet to hear back from Jayapal, and her name is still on the list of sponsors.

        I also noticed that Rep Santos (37th) is sponsoring the same bill in the House as HB 1751:
        http://app.leg.wa.gov/billinfo/summary.aspx?bill=5343&year=2015

        This is quite disappointing, and I’ve commented on the House bill as well with said sentiment.

        For anyone else who lives in the 37th, please write Sen Jayapal and Rep Santos and let them know your position on this bill.

  3. This bill doesn’t change the fundamentals of the city’s Residential Parking Zones around Link light rail stations. It only says that ST should pay the cost for the annual permits now borne by the residents. The bill does not turn that parking front of your house into private property (“privatize” it)

    1. If the space in front of your house is taken up by your cars, the space is privatized.

      The larger impact of the bill, though, is to encourage car drivers to be the ones who rent or buy the limited residential units around rail stations, instead of opening them up, over time, for people moving there who want to specifically live next to transit.

      1. That space in front of your house can be occupied by anyone in the neighborhood with an RPZ sticker! That space does not belong to the homeowner (or tenant), and there’s nothing in this bill that says it does.

        Your argument appears to be against the entire RPZ program, so take that up with the City please.

      2. “If the space in front of your house is taken up by your cars, the space is privatized.”

        Privatized? That’s a little hyperbolic. I can’t make the leap from “used” to “privatized” unless RPZs had personally-assigned spaces, which they don’t. We use public spaces all the time and I don’t think that we would consider those “privatization.” Standing on the sidewalk, playing ball at the park, sitting in a chair reading a book at the library?

        Parking isn’t the best use of limited street capacity near transit stations. I think we can all agree on that.

      3. But if the park said, “All non-residents must leave the park after 1 hour or face civil fines,” would you feel differently?

      4. Sorry, I don’t follow. Maybe we have different notions of the meaning of privatization. In my mind, it is the change of ownership from public (owned by the government) to private (owned by a company or person).

        In the park example, the city would still own the park (theoretical random use rules aside) just as the city still owns every street, RPZ or not. But RPZs, like parking meters or the Car2Go permits, are at their core user fees for parking on city-owned streets.

        Are RPZs good, bad, or indifferent? I don’t know.

      5. If there’s a user fee, but some priviledged users get essentially free permits paid for by a public agency, it isn’t really an effective user fee.

        In the presence of a law such as this, the city could take two approaches. It could favor the current residents and accept the bribe from ST. Or, it could favor ST, not implement an RPZ in the station area and let the chips fall where they will. This might lead to a higher utililization of the available parking spaces. During the day, they could be used for Hide’n’Ride, at night they could be used for resident overnight parking.

      6. That space in front of your house can be occupied by anyone in the neighborhood with an RPZ sticker!

        That’s extremely nitpicky. Sure, if there are 10 houses on the block and each has a taxpayer provided (at whatever cost the city feels like removing from ST’s budget) exclusive permission to park there, it’s technically possible your neighbor will take the spot in front of your house instead of the spot in front of hers. But that’s not particularly likely, and it’s not the point: while the space may not be privatized by each individual resident relative to their neighbors, it is privatized by the residents collectively relative to the general public.

        Standing on the sidewalk, playing ball at the park, sitting in a chair reading a book at the library?

        To state the obvious, there is a relevant difference between using a public resource, and having near-exclusive access to that resource reserved for you. In none of those cases are you provided with legal privileged access. If there were 10 chairs in the library, and sitting in them required a permit only made available to the 10 people who lived on the same block as the library, it would obviously be a textbook example of a privatized public good.

      7. Are RPZs good, bad, or indifferent? I don’t know.

        If the cost were roughly aligned with the market value of privileged car storage rights given the relative scarcity of car storage in the neighborhood, I’d be open to arguments they are indifferent. But they are clearly a tiny fraction of that. Under current pricing models, they’re example #3,429 of how we subsidize cars in our society by ensuring people never, ever have to confront any inconvenience or cost for storing them, a practice that hides the costs of, and socializes, a private good. That’s obviously bad.

      8. And to second aw’s point, at least in a city like Seattle where ST is strongly supported, I suspect the council would prefer ST dollars are spent on actual transit projects in Seattle (thanks sub-area equity) and therefore would take the latter course.

    2. Being the recipient of a light rail station in your neighborhood should be worth well more than $35/year (annual cost of the pass I believe). Stop whining. Its progress.

  4. I’m sensitive to the concerns of residents who don’t want to see their streets become park and rides for light rail commuters who don’t live within walking distance of a stop (which, let’s not kid ourselves, is a lot of people, especially in the suburbs). But I fail to see why ST taxpayers as a whole should foot the bill, especially given the inevitable appreciation of property values they’ll be enjoying (thanks to the taxpayer investment) once a light rail stop opens nearby.

    1. Hutch, thanks for being reasonable about the park-and-ride phenom in residential neighborhoods.

      As to the issue of why should ST pay, keep in mind that ST is expected to pay some $112K+ per space for some park-and-ride facility in some distant suburb. If you are truly concerned about ST costs, then THAT should be your target.

      1. ST is paying elsewhere for people to park in order to ride transit. Under this bill, ST would be paying for parking spaces so that they can’t be used by people who want to ride transit. ST is being asked to invest in reducing ridership, and encourage people who don’t intend to become regular train riders to move next to stations, by giving car owners perks they can’t get elsewhere.

      2. Brent, the RPZs already exist! If they went away and the neighborhoods around Link stations turned into park-and-ride lots, the resulting mess could easily turn some voters against expanding light rail.

        I just don’t understand your eagerness to cater to motorists driving cars.

      3. RDPence, I don’t understand why you are distracting from the point. The RPZs already exist. This bill won’t change that. All it will do is increase the incentive for car owndership next to train stations.

        So, we don’t see eye to eye on RPZs. But what do you see in this bill that you like?

  5. Remember, due to the effects of I-695 most of a municipalities tax revenue (Sales tax) comes from high ticket items.

    That means Auto Dealers are the biggest tax contributors to any given municipality.

    Look it up (in the reference section of your local library, if you can’t make it to city hall)

      1. Which drives the decision process.

        Decisions will be made for 2 reasons:

        It make it look like things are getting done, and problems are being solved (small road projects)

        and

        They aren’t biting the hand that feeds them.

  6. Just noting to Lazarus that inbred, idiotic, overbearing idiocy are characteristics which cars and kings share in common.

    But that the reason that the Founding Fathers would never dreamed of having to forbid future demand for royal treatment by cars was because their own source of transportation had too many brains to ask for it.

    Therefore, the clause in the Constitutional clause forbidding titles of nobility already supersedes any local grant of special private entitlement by cars and their owners to public pavement.

    Unfortunately, a car does not possess a structure equivalent to a human head, so the French Revolution would have been powerless to save us. Public officials, however….

    C’mon, Brent. Cars, officials, and interrelating idiocy are always on topic! Especially when they’re so blatantly in the way of transit.

    Mark

  7. I’m rather neutral about it. I can see how this would make it easier for city’s to create more residential parking zones near stations, giving their councils more leverage to implement them. Still, I feel like if a city is fortunate enough to get a rail station, they should pony up their own local resources to manage the local impacts of what is actually a huge gift from the region to them; other agencies should not be on the hook for that. Even a half-way decent station area plan can enhance local investment and local cities will reap the benefit in increased revenue.

    1. I am also largely neutral. While I principally oppose the idea of subsidizing public parking, I also suspect that the direct cost of such of program would be relatively small, and even that direct cost would only represent a government to government transfer, which isn’t that egregious. Moreover, if the counterfactual is that residents demand big parking lots be built at stations in order to assuage their fears of losing ample street parking near their homes, then the alternative proposed in this bill seems preferable. Indeed, this “privatization” reminds me of Matthew Yglesias’ proposal for getting more development built without building tons more parking [STB’s coverage of that idea linked below].

      https://seattletransitblog.com/2013/10/05/parking-permits/

      1. The cost would be “relatively small?” Those are tax dollars that could be used to actually serve transit riders rather than residents of neighborhoods like Roosevelt that have expensive homes in addition to getting a multibillion-dollar asset dropped at their doorstep.

      2. “‘Relatively small?’ Those are tax dollars that could be used to actual serve transit riders” Right, that is why I said “relatively small” as opposed to “zero” or “non-existent.” It’s a matter of trade-offs, and I don’t think this trade-off is as awful as some here have made it out to be. For example, as I stated before, I’d be basically indifferent on spending money on this over a free park & ride (which ST already spends money on at expense of transit riders).

        Now I don’t have numbers on hand, nor do I have good sense of how local city governments will react to this, but I still suspect the opportunity cost is “relatively small.” Indeed, if sub-area equity holds on this and the costs of the RPZ subsidy are that high, some cities [Seattle especially] might choose to not to implement zoned parking at all around the station, so they can get more transit built.

      3. ” I’d be basically indifferent on spending money on this over a free park & ride (which ST already spends money on at expense of transit riders).”

        That’s an incorrect assertion. ST spends money on free Park & Rides to the benefit of transit riders (at least some of them).

      4. Obviously Park and Rides are intended to benefit riders, and I only meant to say that they are at the “expense of riders” in terms of opportunity cost (as the RPZ payments would be). But P&R’s also have a meaningful opportunity cost that the RPZ proposal doesn’t have, namely the opportunity cost that the land could be used for TOD. In particular, without TOD (or existing density of uses) a station is unlikely to generate substantial all-day demand. So while P&R’s benefit some riders I think the net effect is close to zero, although it obviously depends on the specifics at hand. And even if P&R’s have a net positive benefit, I don’t see how they are valuable enough to be that much better than this RPZ proposal.

      5. We don’t know how much this bill will cost Sound Transit because (1) it doesn’t cap the cost of a decal; (2) it doesn’t cap ST’s subsidy of any decal; and (3) it doesn’t cap the number of decals any resident can ask for. There is no cost control in this bill.

        The bill doesn’t just apply to the City of Seattle. The City of Tukwila could declare the area near TIBS to be an RPZ, set the price for a decal in that zone at $1 million, and then encourage every resident to apply for a couple thoudand decals, with the bill going to ST.

        These problems were pointed out last year. Not only has Hasegawa’s office refused to respond to constituents opposed to the bill, but he has also made no effort to fix the problems in the bill.

      6. Brent, the lack of accountability or watchdog systems generally pervades ST3 discussions as well. What power do other transit operators or cities have under ST3? ST would appear to hold all the cards, except whatever is identified in the legislation.

        In several transit funding efforts around the country, the anti-transit (like Koch) interests are questioning this approach. In some cases, they have even asked that minimum farebox recovery ratios be required, for example. I’m just providing this cautionary note that a “swing” voter is going to be swayed by the lack-of-accountability argument unless the legislators take notable precautions now.

  8. Let’s not fall into the trap we’re waging war on cars. If we do that, we alienate folks who might find our opponents partisan, petty, and patriarchal.

    Let’s instead just say – why not work this into authorization for ST3? Dammit, that’s the goal here – ST3 to voters.

    1. Let’s not fall into the trap we’re waging war on cars.

      Let’s not conflate opposing some public subsidies for car owners as a “war on cars.”

      1. Well I’m not exactly for “free” parking either but I don’t want to hear we’re waging a “war on cars” at a sensitive time.

        We need ST3 or Central Link is going to be from Lynnwood to some SeaTac suburb with some service across Lake Washington. Not to mention less service for all…

      2. Besides, this isn’t really about cars or parking policy at all. If the cities in question want to give RPZ passes to residents of these neighborhoods for a dollar a year or whatever, they’re absolutely within their rights to do so. This law enables the cities to treat Sound Transit like an ATM machine, reducing their capacity to pursue their core mission. Anyone who complains about ST’s cost:accomplishment ratio should be furious about this.

      3. djw that’s exactly right. ST taxpayer dollars to provide free on-street parking for residents and pay a fee to the city in order to provide that parking… Mr. Conservative Joe seems to be a little ahead of himself supporting this horrible policy if it is a bargaining chip for ST3, even though it creates financial risks for the rail agency.

      4. DJW: I am not a lawyer or expert in legalese but upon rereading the relevant provision I don’t think it allows cities to treat ST like an ATM Machine:

        “(b) Provide appropriate parking impact mitigation for residents, as determined by the authority in collaboration with the local government of the area in which the parking impacts occur. Parking impact mitigation may include, but is not limited to, subsidizing zoned residential parking permits in the vicinity of the facility; and
        (c) Pay for the costs of the parking permits in the vicinity of the facility, if a local government implements zoned residential parking permits as a direct result of the parking impacts of the facility.”

        Note that the law treats “subsidizing zoned residential parking permits” as distinct from “paying the costs of the parking permits.” I suspect that the legal reading is that the city can expect ST to pay the administrative costs of an RPZ in the vicinity of a station, but not set an arbitrary price [like $1,000] for a parking permit then make ST pay them that price for each one requested. The city may then ask ST to subsidize the cost if the city wants permits to have a cost [so that their isn’t an oversupply of passes], but section (b) notes that this subsidy can be determined by “the authority.” So ST would be under no obligation to provide additional subsidy.

      5. Alex, the problem is that the administrative costs are the same as the cost of the permits since the fees are based on programme costs. The programme is not meant to make a profit but merely recoup the cost of it. So, that legal differentiation is not meaningfully significant for the case at hand.

      6. Alex, I’m not a lawyer either, though I have experience with zoning (and building) codes.

        I read this as saying two things: first, in (b), the potential “subsidizing of zoned residential parking permits in the vicinity of the facility.” This implies the zones already exist, particularly when compared with (c). Subsidies of course could vary from $0 to the full cost of the permit…whatever the local jurisdiction and ST agree to but not limited to that. Who determines that in case of a dispute between the local jurisdiction and ST is unclear, but it at least sets up the idea of collaboration and potential arbitration.

        Secondly, (c) to me clearly says both that the costs are to be paid for–and this reads as the actual cost to the resident from the jurisdiction, since the phrase “administrative costs” does not appear anywhere in this section–and that section (c) refers to NEW zones (zones implemented “as a direct result of the parking impacts of the facility”).

        Section (b) is tenable because, though it’s subject to dispute between the local authority and ST, it does say the appropriate mitigation to the residents is determined in collaboration between the two. Section (c) is the scary part because it specifically differentiates between existing zones (noted in b) and new zones (noted in c). The new zone section is where a loophole that is big enough to allow a jurisdiction to charge whatever it wants (“cost” to the resident) and then bill ST. Section (c) should not exist and all zones–new and existing–should be covered under the provisions of section (b). There is no clear reason not to do this unless the intent was, indeed, to provide an ATM-worthy loophole for the creation of new RPZs.

        All that said, I’m opposed to any of this simply because the region’s taxpayers, through ST, have provided these neighborhoods with an expensive public amenity that has driven and will continue to drive up their property values in excess of areas that were not provided this amenity. ST should be under no obligation to further provide value to them taken from the rest of us; the neighborhoods can work that out with the city. Frankly, without fairly drastic upzoning around stations, the neighborhoods are limiting the overall value of the very expensive public good they have been provided. Perhaps they should be paying the rest of us who would like to live near a station but can’t due to anti-upzoning sentiment, rather than vice-versa.

      7. I do think the distinction would still be meaningful because it would mean that a municipality couldn’t charge ST willy nilly, even if it could charge ST for thousands of permits at $60 a pop or so (the going rate in Seattle). There is a huge difference between 60*1000 and 1000*1000.

        However, I had wrongly assumed that this policy was being traded for something that would be gained from this bill worth supporting, which I now see as being a faulty assumption. So section (c) is just terrible.

  9. And, of course, to your desire to focus exclusively on ST III: at the end of the day, one factor in future public support for ST will likely be past efficiency. Turning the agency into an ATM for local governments is not good for efficiency.

  10. Seriously, the zealotry tone is what could cost you ST3 votes to the detriment of all.

    Anyone who thinks we’ll get ST3 free and clear without perhaps generous or ideological onerous concessions given current political realities in Olympia is absolutely delusional. If you refuse that or refuse to accept that, please quit writing for this site, commenting on it, or participating in the public sphere before you do active harm to the ST3 cause and screw the rest of us over.

    Politics is not religion. I want my damn rail or BRT and if some enclave in Wherever wants one RPZ sticker per house or Spokane or whatever wants another linear mile of highway, just do the damn deal.

    1. But this isn’t “trading” anything for anything. It lets car owners siphon off public money for an essentially private benefit. This is a lot different than someone in Everett paying tax dollars to build a light rail track in Bellevue. The Everett person has just as much right of access to the train through Bellevue or the bus to Seattle or wherever. RPZ passes can only be given to people who own or rent in the RPZ, their guests, and no one else. Forcing Sound Transit to pay for RPZ passes creates the wrong incentives, especially around light rail stations, and means that some residents get the exclusive benefit of taxes paid by others.

      I’m willing to horse trade for highway miles or even additional taxes (put to the same vote that transit taxes would face) to pay for roads in order to get ST3 but this giveaway to private property owners–many of whom already bitch and moan about light rail infrastructure even though it provides a direct financial and quality-of-life benefit to them and their neighborhood–is madness.

    2. Anyone who thinks we’ll get ST3 free and clear without perhaps generous or ideological onerous concessions given current political realities in Olympia is absolutely delusional. I understand politics, I’m not a purist.

      Like I said, I have no problem trading this stupid policy for something worthwhile. That’s all the more reason to be outraged at this effort to give it away for nothing.

    3. Your logic,

      Read the bill again. It says nothing about the number of decals per household (or per resident).

      Pointing out that some arguments against the bill are zealous doesn’t magically make the bill suddenly legally sound.

  11. I’m kind of surprised that the discussion has been about the specifics of this bill, but the overarching issues around “parity” in mode of access has not arisen. For example, wouldn’t it make sense to also require ST to fund bus stops that are reachable to the stations without having pedestrians cross traffic, or fund nearby bus layover areas, or designate a kiss-ride or Uber waiting areas and bicycle access/ storage if ST is required to do this? Perhaps the best way to kill this bill is to add requirements that ST provide funds for all mode of access issues and not just park-and-ride.

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