Sen. Bob Hasegawa

In a turn for the better, State Senator Bob Hasegawa (D – Renton) has chosen a new transportation cause: allowing commercial vehicles carrying wheelchairs to have access to high-occupancy vehicle lanes. The bill digest for Senate Bill 5018 states that the bill:

Authorizes the use of high occupancy vehicle lanes by private, for hire vehicles that have been specially manufactured, designed, or modified for the transportation of a person who is wheelchair-bound and has a physical or medical impairment.

The bill does not require that such vehicles be given access to HOV lanes. Rather, it authorizes the appropriate governing authorities to offer that access.

SB 5018 was pre-filed on December 30. The Senate Transportation Committee will have its first meeting of the 2017 regular session on January 11th. No bill hearings have been scheduled yet.

Committee Chair Curtis King (R – Yakima) was very supportive of Sen. Hasegawa’s unsuccessful bills to make Sound Transit pay the cost of parking permits for homeowners near light rail stations. Perhaps their friendship will put this simple little non-ideological bill on the fast track.

20 Replies to “Sen. Hasegawa Seeks to Put Commercial Wheelchair Vehicles in the Fast Lane”

  1. I’m not sure I see the point. Any vehicle with passenger and driver can already use any 2-person HOV lanes throughout the region. This would allow WSDOT to exempt these vehicles from the weekday peak tolls in the HOT lanes on I-405. Or, as it reads would seem to allow these vehicles to travel in the HOV lanes whether they have passengers or not. But, why?

    1. The point, I believe, is to encourage such vehicles to exist. Or for more such vehicles to exist.

    2. So they can economically exist, So they can carry more disabled passengers per day. Because HOV2 may become HOV3 sometime in the future.

      Does it include HOT lanes?

    3. If and when the bill gets a hearing, committee staff knowledgeable in the topic will write up a report on the legal effect of the bill. Stay tuned.

    4. Why focus on the capabilities of the vehicle and not on the actual passengers? Why exempt vehicles that have been modified to carry wheelchairs at all times rather than exempting vehicles that are actually carrying wheelchairs?

      Why wheelchairs specifically? What about other mobility limiting disabilities? What about vehicles with lifts for passengers who require walkers or crutches or vehicles that can carry passengers on stretchers?

      Why taxicabs or only commercial vehicles? What about Uber or other for-hire cars? What about non-profits that provide mobility transportation at no cost? What about private vehicles which have been modified to carry wheelchairs?

      1. The bill uses the “for hire” terminology.

        In response to your first paragraph, why should deadheading buses be allowed in HOV lanes?

      2. Many of the HOV lanes and associated access ramps were purpose built for transit using Sound Transit or Metro funding. In some cases transit may be seen as their primary use and HOV access as a secondary benefit. As a practical matter an “empty” bus could be deadheading or it could be in regular service just with no passengers. It’s easier to enforce the rules if transit vehicles are exempt at all times.

        Taxicabs are certainly part of our transit infrastructure, but are generally expected to follow the rules for general purpose vehicles rather than being allowed to use transit-only infrastructure. I think there should be a clear need and a clear expectation of benefit before we start adding loopholes to the rules.

      3. “Many of the HOV lanes and associated access ramps were purpose built for transit using Sound Transit or Metro funding. In some cases transit may be seen as their primary use and HOV access as a secondary benefit.”

        Could you tell WSDOT that? It seems to think the HOV lanes are primarily for cars.

  2. It could be that the vehicle is getting stuck in traffic on the way to picking up its passenger, while it is occupied by only the driver.

      1. Seattle manages its own lanes, but I think those are all bus lanes (Aurora, West Seattle freeway, downtown, etc.).

    1. I’ve been wondering that about who was involved in permitting any and all private vehicles to park for free in lanes that are sometimes bus-only lanes along a state highway.

  3. This question clearly defines the difference between regional light rail and anything called “Bus Rapid Transit” that doesn’t have its own barrier-reserved lanes, ramps and all.

    To me, any lane that can be blocked by a non-transit accident or mechanical failure for its entire length is a car lane, period. I-5 across the King-Snohomish County line good example. Rush hour, every lane runs 20 mph or under.

    Daily week-day ST bulletins report, 100%, freeway express buses half an hour behind schedule. But because I’ve always advocated working corridor service up to rail with buses wherever necessary and possible, I’ll meet Senator Hasegawa this far:

    Run freeway express lanes with both buses and licensed passenger vans. With no other vehicles at all in their way, no matter how many wheels. Or operable below 10,000 feet, with a human pilot and not purchased in a mall camera booth.

    With clearly posted – and electronically tagged license-tagged ID- van passenger count should cost more than it’s worth.

    But most solid load-enforcement would be for non-wheelchair vans to leave terminals either only when full – especially the private ones. Or when electronic counters at freeway stations register waiting loads. The Turks call service “Dolmush”. Rice or passengers, meaning “stuffed.”

    Have read that intercity buses in Turkey also carry stewardesses – stewards cool too. Which would give Bolt Bus the competition that the real world calls simply “business.”
    Regulated only for safety, should prove difference between rolling capitalists and rubber-tired parasites on the public transit treasury.

    BTW, I like the fact that Bob is a Republican. We wouldn’t have Sound Transit without at least four of them. Without Jim Ellis, lead founder of Metro, whole DSTT would still be in condemnation proceedings.

    Mark Dublin

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