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Friday, August 25, 2006

To Play or Not to Play

Posted by on August 25 at 15:11 PM

Like some of the transit purists, I too have trouble swallowing the idea that Transportation Choices Coalition is making nice with RTID. (I’m a dues paying member!) In particular I don’t like TCC’s willingness to make lemonade out of the added auto capacity lemon. But TCC does deserve credit. Moderating their message (playing politics) has resulted in some good.

Check this out. Previous state legislation prevented RTID from funding transit programs. During the 2006 session, however, TCC was able to add language into the legislation (TCC executive director Jessyn Schor actually wrote the provision) that eliminated the prohibition and allowed RTID money to be spent on “mitigation”—meaning stuff like increased bus service hours, bus pass programs, and trip reduction incentives.

Amending the authorizing legislation set up TCC to make its first demand on any RTID package: Any investment in roads must be coupled with a “meaningful investment” in transit in the same corridor.

While I agree with people who say this demand is a bit squishy, at least TCC has reframed the debate so that RTID isn’t just about roads. That’s a push in the right direction, and one that didn’t happen previously because TCC was relegated to nay saying from the sidelines.

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As another member of TCC, I agree that was an improvement, even if it may not be enough to want to create a Regional Transportation Improvement District (RTID) which not only has taxing authority, but the ability to force cities to build what they say (e.g. the monorail-hating Seattle-hating suburbs who get a majority of the seats) instead of what we want (more buses, real transit like elevated monorail or elevated lightrail, not at-grade streetcars or at-grade lightrail).

But, yeah, it's an improvement. I'm trying not to complain at the roads-heavy stench that is the RTID as it would probably be implemented, but it's a difficult thing to be forced with my tax dollars to subsidize more roads.

Transit isn't "mitigation" for roads, Josh. Transit is where we need to put a rather large percentage of our transportation funds right now.

Real advancement would be developing the political and fundraising power to get politicians to consider really "radical" things -- like amending the constitution to allow gas taxes to be spent on transit.

We also might want to ensure that the recently sunset "Monorail MVET" capacity isn't simply tossed into the RTID package for more roads.

Better to refuse to collude and lose: in the long term at least it's visible to the public where the lines are drawn. I think I can say that from experience. In a region (ten, twenty years from now) overrun with roads and traffic, the incremental, puny amount of slow transit these folks spent their lives trying to tack onto roads bills will count for very little.

Good to hear from the defeatist wing.

Didn't Grant say he was leaving forever or something?

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