A bill to give wheelchair-accessible taxis access to HOV lanes and a bill to give motorcycles access to some transit lanes are moving forward in the State Senate.
Committee Substitute Senate Bill 5018, by the Senate Transportation Committee, and originally by Sens. Bob Hasegawa (D – Renton) and Patty Kuderer (D – Clyde Hill), would grant WSDOT and appropriate local authorities the ability to allow wheelchair-accessible taxis access to high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes.
WSDOT and local authorities are currently allowed to grant HOV lane access to:
* public transportation vehicles;
* private motor vehicles carrying a minimum of a specified number of passengers; and
* certain private transportation provider vehicles with the capacity to carry eight or more passengers if such use does not interfere with the efficiency, reliability, and safety of public transportation operations.
There are currently 53 private wheelchair-accessible taxis operating in the state, and none of them can carry eight or more passengers.
At the request of Toby Olson from the Governor’s Committee on Disability Issues and Employment, the phrase “wheelchair-bound” was removed.
The committee substitute bill passed out of committee 12-0 January 31, and is now in the Senate Rules Committee, waiting to be placed on the second reading calendar.
We previously covered this bill back when it was introduced.
Committee Substitute Senate Bill 5378, by the Senate Transportation Committee, and originally sponsored by Sens. Tim Sheldon (D – Potlatch), Brian Dansel (R – Republic), Bob Hasegawa, Steve Conway (D – Tacoma), and Phil Fortunato (R – Auburn), would authorize a two year pilot program allowing motorcycles to pass a vehicle in the same lane as the vehicle being overtaken, subject to specific operational limitations. It would also open the shoulder of a limited access WSDOT facility for all motorcycles when that lane is opened for the operation of public transportation vehicles, under the same time periods and conditions.
For the duration of the pilot project, the operator of a motorcycle would be allowed to overtake and pass in the same lane as the vehicle being overtaken, but only on the left-hand side of the vehicle, on divided highways with at least two general lanes each way. The motorcyclist would only be allowed to pass on the left hand side when the motorcycle is traveling at a speed of 25 miles per hour or less and not more than 10 miles per hour over the speed of traffic flow. It would become a traffic infraction for an operator of a motor vehicle to intentionally impede or attempt to prevent a motorcyclist from passing on the left-hand side as allowed in the pilot project.
Both proponents and opponents came armed with non sequiturs. Proponents pointed to a UC Berkeley study showing lower motorcyclist fatality rates among those sharing lanes, which is already allowed here. In what seemed more like a rebuke of the status quo, representatives from the Washington State Patrol and the Traffic Safety Commission testified against the bill with statistics that (quite intuitively) pointed out that motorcyclists die at a higher rate than their percent of traffic, and (not helpfully) 75% of motorcycle fatalities are found to be the motorcyclist’s fault.
Proponents also touted the bill as a way to ease congestion.
The committee amendment removed the restriction of a motorcycle having to pass on the left-hand side of a vehicle traveling in the left-most lane of traffic, after testimony that this is the part of a highway with the most debris.
The committee substitute bill passed out of committee 9-2-1 February 8.
Voting Yes were:
Curtis King (R – Yakima, Committee Chair)
Sheldon (Vice Chair)
Brad Hawkins (R – East Wenatchee)
Steve O’Ban (R – Tacoma)
Dean Takko (D – Longview)
Kevin Van de Wege (D – Sequim)
Maureen Walsh (R – College Place)
Lynda Wilson (R – Vancouver)
Voting No were:
Marko Liias (D – Everett, Assistant Ranking Minority Member)
Annette Cleveland (D – Vancouver)
Steve Hobbs (D – Lake Stevens, Ranking Minority Member) voted for “no recommendation.”
The bill was moved out of the Senate Rules Committee by floor motion Tuesday, so it is now on the second reading floor calendar.