Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon
Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon

The State Environmental Protection Policy Act (SEPA) requires the Washington State Department of Transportation to consider the effects on traffic and parking in its impact statements before construction projects. Impacts to transit operations have not been something WSDOT is required to look at, but House Bill 2757, by Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon (D – Burien), would fix that oversight.

Three of the eight co-sponsors are Republicans (Dick Muri – Steilacoom, Drew Stokesbary – Auburn, and Teri Hickel – Federal Way).

The bill is scheduled for a hearing at 1:30 Tuesday afternoon in the House Committee on Environment.

20 Replies to “HB 2757 Would Make WSDOT Consider Transit Impacts”

    1. I can only speak about one candidate: Drew Stokesberry. He’s a young republican from south King County, and actually did door-to-door campaigning, something that I’ve only read about in story books and heard of small-time politicians (i.e. small town school boards and town councils) doing. When we met, he mentioned that he had used Sounder pretty extensively to get to work, and actually sounded more liberal/democratic on this single issue. (He’s probably more conservative on many other issues.) I suspect that what we are beginning to see is transit as a priority approaching the same level as roads, especially for conservative suburban voters who are trapped in traffic. Even my neighbor, a cranky old Republican (VERY VERY nice guy by the way, just cranky, old, and Republican), is pro-transit, as he and his wife have no logical choice other than to take the Sounder to and from work. For south Sound commuters who have successfully used Sounder, it is really difficult not to be pro-transit, regardless of your political affiliation, especially if you look at roads as a public subsidy. Seeing this bill get bipartisan sponsorship is very encouraging. I wish our politicians could work together on other issues in the same way.

      1. That’s an expected change, and shows that the Seattle area is maturing into a more transit-oriented region. Chicago and many large, old East Coast metro areas have a generalized support for transit, across the political spectrum, for just the very reason that many conservative voters use transit and see it as just another government service comparable to government roads, not a creeping socialist plot to destroy America.

      2. Yes, there’s a cultural tipping point. At the end of WWII, northeastern cities had a large enough community of dense housing and metro/regional trains that it was obviously necessary to maintain them, because constituency for non-car mobility was so large and the city would grind to halt if everybody drove. But the western cities were generally too small to withstand the “everyone will drive” siren song. Seattle had 200,000 people and ended at 65th Street, so it was easy to think of it as a small town that doesn’t need streetcars or interurbans or frequent buses, the roads are uncongested and it only takes a short time to drive from one end of the city to the other, and cars and gas are cheap. In the 50s some people did realize how much road space “everybody driving” would need and they proposed several freeways that were never built. But our legacy coming into the 50s was “everyone will drive”; in the early 60s the city council was giddy about the planned I-5 and 520, and it remained in that ghetto through the 70s. Only in the 80s did a vision of reacquiring a northeastern level of transit begin to coalesce, and even then it took ten, twenty, thirty years to begin to see signs of it on the ground that people could use.

  1. I would like to know of a major WSDOT project from the last 10 years or so that did not consider impacts to transit operations.

      1. It has been awhile since I read either, but I am pretty sure that both the SR 520 and AWV EIS documents addressed transit impacts. Have you looked, William?

      2. Yes, the EISes consider transit. The issue is that the state doesn’t really understand what its transit features mean for non-drivers; that it still takes all day or a half day to make typical trips with two or more destinations. And the EIS doesn’t require a particular quality of outcome, it just requires disclosing the impacts of the project. So the 520 Montlake interchange and 405 interchange are not so much about the state being oblivious to transit, as not understanding it very well and not prioritizing it enough to look deeper and spend more. And the public pressure is often lacking, with most people complaining about the impact on single-family houses or the need for a park or bike trail rather than about a good transfer station and speedy buses.

        The DBT is more about separating automobile traffic from transit, with the expectation that a 1st Avenue streetcar and more RapidRide E service would take care of the transit needs (along with Sound Transit’s general projects). But the city was expected to pay for those, since funding transit is not the state’s job. And it didn’t prohibit buses in the tunnel; it’s just that the lack of downtown exits makes buses unfeasable because they’d miss the largest destinations and transfers.

      3. Montlake is pretty much a no-win scenario given the politics, regulatory environment, and the lay of the land. Examples of WSDOT shortchanging transit through lack of understanding or making it a low priority probably are not difficult to find, but I do not think this is one of them.

        The DBT is about maintaining the continuity of SR 99 as a through route while trying to minimize the negative externalities of having a four lane limited access highway across the heart of the city. SR 99 has always been a way to get transit to downtown, not through it, and the DBT does the same thing. From the south, it just drops the buses into downtown farther from the core.

    1. If it is already happening, then WSDOT has nothing to fear from this bill.

      If WSDOT was already paying attention to future transit plans, though, I find it hard to see how it was able to justify construction of the Highway 99 tunnel under downtown. That tunnel is poorly-routed to serve freight mobility, and the SOVs it will serve are mostly in competition with future Link lines. Nor is it actually opening up the waterfront to more uses. What is the purpose of that tunnel?

      If WSDOT considered transit operations on all freeways, wouldn’t we have more transit lanes, or at least HOV 3+ lanes?

      If WSDOT had to consider transit operations in ferry fares, it would make sense that Washington State Ferries would accept the PugetPass, to incentivize more walk-on passengers and make more room for the generally full car stowage area.

      To consider transit operations in WSDOT decisions is to consider the impact on human beings, rather than the impact on vehicle volume. If that had happened, we would have had a transit lane operating on Aurora during the next two months of construction. This bill won’t necessarily stop poorly-thought-out decisions like that, as I don’t think SEPA covers such fine details, but it will hopefully shift the mindset at WSDOT from moving cars to moving people, as well as to take into consideration the cost to taxpayers to have buses siting unnecessarily in SOV traffic.

    2. I’ll start with the new exit ramp from westbound 520 to Montlake Blvd. During rush hour, getting through that intersection involves several lights cycles adding up to anywhere from 5-15 minutes, depending on how the traffic gods are feeling that particular day. There is plenty of open space to the right of the exit ramp to allow for a bus lane, but they didn’t add one.

      Fortunately, Montlake Freeway Station still exists, providing a bypass (with the tradeoff of having to stand on the 545 vs. getting a seat on the 542).

    3. The I-5 construction in Tacoma happening right now does not include a direct-HOV ramp to Tacoma Dome station, a place where pretty much every express bus in Pierce County stops. Resulting in an HOV lane that busses have to do a 4-lane weave to actually use.

      1. Donde, excellent point regarding the Puyallup River Crossing project. This is prime example of where HOV direct access ramps could have been added for a marginal cost. But, sadly, this thing was designed probably a decade ago (this is the tortoise speed that WSDOT moves at), before Tacoma was even considering transit as an everyday commute option for the average person. Now, it’s going to be too late. Very unfortunate. Hopefully this bill prevents this type of failure in the future.

  2. The P in SEPA stands for Policy, not Protection. It prescribes a process, not an outcome.

    This bill would simply add transit operations to the list of required topics covered in a SEPA analysis. It would not require WSDOT to modify a project to make it more transit-friendly.

    WSDOT already looks at transit operations. It was covered in the Viaduct EIS. It was covered in the 520 analysis. You may or may not like their anslysis, but they covered it and would be compliant with this proposed legislation as far as I can tell.

  3. I do not understand why this is not already the law. This is just basic common sense. Someone please tell me why not?

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