News Roundup: Seattle Style

Downtown Auburn – Wikimedia
Downtown Auburn – Wikimedia
  • 126 “Seattle style” apartments open near Auburn Station. Would you live in Auburn for $1,300/month? (DJC)
  • Most of the Montlake Triangle/Rainier Vista has reopened, including the Burke-Gilman rebuild, and Seattle Bike Blog loves it. (Thanks to this week’s transportation package, the Burke will also get $16m to fully rebuild the trail through campus.)
  • South Tacoma Way (e.g. Auto Row hell) is getting an upgrade near South Tacoma Station, with bike lanes, ADA compliant ramps, and a connection to the Water Flume Line Trail (Tacoma Weekly).
  • In a belated move that shows how auto centric digital mapping services have been, Google announced this week that it will finally add rail crossings to its map products, but only after a request from the FRA. (The Hill)
  • The Times ($) profiles 6 commuters – including a Lake Union Kayaker.
  • County Councilmember  (and ST board member) Dave Upthegrove proposes legislation to decriminalize fare evasion, make it harder to impose rider suspensions, and to eliminate the “Shoreline Rule” for adjudicating citations. Hmm, I wonder where he got the term “Shoreline Rule“? Props, Erica. (KC Press Release)
  • A transit evangelist with a pragmatic streak“, from the Times ($) endorsement of Rob Johnson for City Council District 4.

This is an open thread. Happy 4th, everyone!

Farrell Turns $518 Million Ransom Into Benefit for ST District

Rep. Jessyn Farrell
Rep. Jessyn Farrell

Shortly after STB’s editorial board issued a screed denouncing the $518 million ransom payment to the state to be allowed to spend money on ST3, Rep. Jessyn Farrell (D – 46th District – North Seattle) made lemonade out of the lemon.

Via an amendment to SB 5987 that was proposed by Rep. Farrell on the House floor, got adopted by the House late Tuesday night, and was concurred with in the Senate early Wednesday morning, that $518 million that would come out of taxes on Sound Transit 3 projects would stay within a new Puget Sound Taxpayer Accountability account, to fund educational programs for the most vulnerable students within King, Pierce, and Snohomish Counties.

While far from an ideal precedent, it does mean that more voters will have a reason to vote for ST3. Even if their neighborhood does not see new transit investments from ST3, their schools will be in line for some extra funding.

The net losers in this transaction are taxpayers from other counties, who just took a hit on their share of education funding, thanks to a related $518 million transfer from the state’s general fund to the Connecting Washington Account (See (9) in Effects at the bottom.), which is for WSDOT, and a lot of which will be spent in the ST District. It remains to be seen whether this net transfer of $518 million out of the state’s general fund will run afoul of the McCleary decision (Seattle Times $).

In Defense of the Transportation Package

Photo by Zach Shaner
The path to the future isn’t always as straight as we’d like. Photo by Zach Shaner

Early yesterday morning both houses of the legislature passed a transportation package that among many things included the full $15 billion in funding authority Sound Transit requested. While I agree with many of the complaints with the package, overall I think it is a win for the region.

  1. Sound Transit wanted $15 billion in authority, Sound Transit got $15 billion in authority. This is the last bad deal we’ll have to take to build High Capacity Transit.
  2. Transit investments are needed today. Every year we wait to build more rail is another year stuck in traffic. Plus, expansion is most efficient when Sound Transit has a stream of projects so that it doesn’t need to waste time and money on short term increases in staffing. Sound Transit 2 planning is finishing up, meaning that putting off the next measure to 2020 would force Sound Transit to downsize, and then rebuild, their planning department. That means that delaying a vote four years would delay project completion by six or seven.
  3. The worst parts of the compromise are policies that can be corrected when we obtain a more supportive legislature in the future. The best parts of the compromise are rails that will be permanent. Some of our green friends are saying that we should have waited until we had the votes to pass a clean transportation bill, without things like the carbon-standard poison pill or all the highway money. But by the time we have the progressive majority needed to pass an ideologically pure bill, that majority can instead correct the poison pill and other flaws in the compromise. Either way, there is no need to delay the transit investments the region so desperately needs.
  4. Even without a carbon standard, the gas tax increase is GOOD for the environment. Washington will now be tied for the 3rd highest gas tax in the country. In a recent poll, rising fuel costs were the largest motivator to increased transit use apart from HCT access. Even if the tax revenue were just collected and set on fire, that would still help shift drivers onto transit. As it is, we get a couple decent projects such as south 405 HOV lanes and 520 west out of it.
  5. Increasing the number of people who can commute by rail, today, is the best way to increase support for rail in the future. We can’t obtain more progressive outcomes by halting transit expansion (as rejecting the compromise would do). To get a more progressive legislature we need to increase the number of dense, walkable legislative districts with voters that demand more transit. Dense populations are progressive populations. To create a more progressive future, we need to start building transit now.  Each expansion of our rail system will have more supporters than the last. Once we shift the balance of power back to the urban core, then we can push an ideologically pure progressive agenda. Until then we will have to compromise. That’s the reality we live in. If we wait until we have a progressive majority before we agree to expand transit, then we’ll get neither.

The vote is over. Overall I think the compromise was worth it, but even if you disagree, let’s agree to work for more progressive outcomes in future sessions. It is critical that we all work together to make sure that the 2016 Sound Transit ballot measure is the best it can possibly be. Our local politicians made the deals necessary to put ST3 on the ballot next year, and for that I am thankful. Let’s work to make sure the compromises are worth it.

Central Issaquah becomes a Regional Growth Center

Central Issaquah Plan Area (Orange), Regional Growth Center (White)
Central Issaquah Plan Area (Orange), Regional Growth Center (White)

On June 25th, the Puget Sound Regional Council (PSRC) designated the Central Issaquah Urban Core as a Regional Growth Center (RGC). Issaquah is the 29th center to receive this designation, which is a major criterion in the distribution of federal transportation funds. Issaquah’s designation follows University Place, in 2014, and South Lake Union in 2007.

The new RGC is about two miles northwest of the historic downtown of Issaquah, centered around the intersection of I-90 and SR-900. It comprises 461 acres within the larger area of the Central Issaquah Plan. The Central Issaquah Plan, approved in 2012, relaxed parking requirements, height and FAR regulations over 1,100 acres of the Issaquah valley floor. Central Issaquah has 89% of the commercially zoned land, 13,000 employees, and many large employers including Costco. Central Issaquah is, however, thinly populated with just 730 residential units, none of which are in the newly designated RGC. Continue reading “Central Issaquah becomes a Regional Growth Center”

Announcing Our First Fundraising Drive

Link 155 at SODO Station
Photo by SounderBruce on Flickr

For over 8 years, Seattle Transit Blog has been an independent, award-winning resource for helping tens of thousands of people in our region understand and take action on local transportation issues.

In addition to providing a top-notch community for enthusiasts, we’ve helped push real policy changes around the region, including ST2, expanding ORCA access, transit-oriented re-zoning, and operational improvements to bus service. Now it’s time to take our work to the next level. Today we’re announcing a fundraising drive to hire a paid part-time reporter to augment our all-volunteer staff, and we need your help.

Between now and the end of 2016, our region will face a series of critical choices – how to expand bus service, where to build light rail, and what role the city should play in funding capital and operations. There will be public votes on Move Seattle Forward, a housing levy and, as of this week, Sound Transit expansion.

We want to give our readers a view into the coming months and years like only STB can. We want to help you make informed decisions about where to live, what to ride, and how to participate in the public debate. You’ll be on the front lines with us as we look at infrastructure projects, talk to elected officials, weigh the pros and cons of new transit service, and think about how our growing region should move over the next 20 years.

Our reporter will:

  • Cover public hearings and events that we all can’t get to, keeping you up to date with what’s happening and how to take action.
  • Provide in-depth coverage of the maze of new transit spending coming up, from Move Seattle to Sound Transit 3 to expanded Seattle bus service.
  • Interview top officials to get more of your questions and ideas in front of key decision makers
  • Cover the transformational changes coming to the suburbs along with light rail, from Federal Way to Lynnwood to Bellevue

Our current volunteer staff isn’t going away. This new reporter will amp up our current efforts. It’s STB, but more.

Please consider giving to our campaign using the donate button below. All donors will receive a monthly insider newsletter, letting you know what we’re working on and what’s coming in the future.

It’s an exciting time to be thinking and talking about Seattle’s transit future, and we hope you’ll support us for the ride.

Continue reading “Announcing Our First Fundraising Drive”