Politics Re: Transportation Standards
As one of the below-mentioned transit purists, I find plenty not to like about Transportation Choices’ standards for supporting the roads-heavy Regional Transportation Investment District. First, the list is a line in the sand, not written in stone. As such, it’s a pretty weak starting place for a group that’s dedicated to promoting transportation alternatives. Here’s why.
1) Mitigation. TCC says any RTID ballot measure must include “significant” investments in transit along any corridor where road capacity is expanded. In theory, adding transit serves as mitigation for expanding car capacity. In practice, unless TCC defines what those transit investments should be and what percentage of road money should be devoted to them, this provision is toothless. It also gives road proponents tacit permission to expand freeways like 520 and 405—something TCC itself opposed without reservation in the not-so-distant past.
2) “Fix-it First”. TCC says maintenance and repairs must come before roads expansion, which is actually a great idea, as long as the “maintenance” isn’t actually deferred construction (i.e. road expansion).
3) No Cuts to Sound Transit Phase 2. I’m 100 percent in favor of keeping Sound Transit’s (still-unreleased) proposal intact. This needs to be an absolute, however, not a starting point. If TCC sticks to this one, great. But why not fight instead to de-link RTID and Sound Transit in the next legislative session, so that transit proponents aren’t forced to bite the bullet and vote for a massive road-building measure that will only lead to more pollution and suburban sprawl?
4) All Capacity Expansion Must Be HOV, HOT or tolled. This is where TCC’s proposal goes off the rails for me. A group that says it’s for “transportation choices” should be opposing all road expansion,* not capitulating to road developers as long as any new lanes of pavement come with toll booths. (HOT lanes allow solo drivers to buy their way onto high-occupancy vehicle lanes). Whether drivers pay for access or not, more lanes and more cars mean more greenhouse-gas emissions, more traffic, more freeway runoff and more sprawl. TCC should be advocating for real solutions to the region’s environmental and transportation problems, not compromising on environmental disasters in the making, like 405 expansion. (In fairness, TCC does a great job on other fronts, and is no different than other mainstream environmental groups in its “greater-good” position on road expansion. Overall, I think TCC is a great group that’s doing good work. Hell, I’m a member. But still.)
Instead of tacitly endorsing roads expansion, transit proponents ought to be opposing RTID and campaigning like hell for Sound Transit. True: Even if Sound Transit wins decisively, RTID must pass too for it to take effect. Nonetheless, a decisive win by Sound Transit, coupled with a decisive defeat for RTID, would create momentum for Sound Transit to go back to the ballot in 2008. Currently, Ron Sims’s “Transit Now” bus proposal is reportedly polling at 70%. So people like transit. They shouldn’t have to accept road expansion in order to get it.
* Then again, I think cars should be banned from cities. So, grain of salt.