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Monday, January 14, 2008

Roads vs. Transit. Again.

posted by on January 14 at 15:07 PM

It seems to me, the real environmental battle in Olympia this session is going to concern tolling.

It’s not that anyone is lining up against the idea—which landed on the front pages when Governor Christine Gregoire announced last week that she was going to fund a six-lane 520 bridge rebuild in part by tolling car trips.

The battle will be over this: What percentage of the money that’s generated from tolls should go to roads and what percentage should go to transit? The annoying negotiating starting point is a 90/10 split—90 for roads.

The transportation chairs in both the senate and the house—Senator Mary Margaret Haugen (D-10) and Representative Judy Clibborn (D-41), respectively—are reportedly leaning toward keeping the dollars funneled toward roads for now.

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That link is broken, I think that place closed last week.

Posted by Uh-oh! | January 14, 2008 3:08 PM

I thought the argument would be more along the lines of:

If the city/state/feds/whoever are going to tax usage of single occupancy vehicles the roads, they need to provide an alternative to using single occupancy vehicles on the roads. Tolling dollars should go toward providing those alternatives.

I mean, that the only way tolls are going to gain traction, right? If people can avoid paying $8 to cross Lake Washington by taking a bus with a dedicated lane (or light rail in the future). Or am I wrong? (Didn't London massively increase transportation alternatives right before they implemented their congestion charge?)

Posted by How to frame it. | January 14, 2008 3:13 PM

One inevitable (and intended) effect of rolling (or Congesting Pricing if you prefer) is that some travelers will switch from driving to transit. Huge problem right now, however, is that at rush hour, a high percentage of buses on 520 are full. Let me repeat, BUSES are FULL.

So where are these displaced travelers going to go?

It is imperative that, prior to implementation of tolls, additional buses be put on cross-lake routes, at least during rush hours. The cost of these buses should rightly come out of toll revenues. What percent of total revenues this would be, I couldn't guess.

Note, if I-90 is tolled also, to prevent displacement of congestion, then this same transit concern applies.

Bottom line is, if tolls are going to function as intended, additional transit service is a must.

Posted by Perfect Voter | January 14, 2008 3:17 PM

So the end result of prop 1 is that the roads are going to get funded and we get no transit or pennies for transit. Is anyone really surprised by this?

Also, Will in Seattle, where's that "ST 2.1" vote that was going to come in February of 08? You said you knew people and it was definitely going to happen. So where is it? I'm waiting.

Or maybe you were just full of shit. The polar bears ask: How could you?

Posted by Donolectic | January 14, 2008 3:23 PM

Heard someone earlier on KUOW saying that this was regressive and that the bridge should be funded by a progressive car tab tax.

We've gotta push the idea of tolls reducing use, or that argument is going to sound very reasonable.

Posted by Gitai | January 14, 2008 3:41 PM

Is that why you killed one of the polar bears, Dono?

As to funding roads - is it NEW highways or is it repairing the 30 year backlog of repair/replacement of existing roads and bridges that we have in this state? I'm all for repairing and replacing, just not new unfunded roads.

I'm just one person. And if they decide to do it in September or November, I'm fine with ST2.1 then too. In fact, during the high turnout November vote might be good.

Posted by Will in Seattle | January 14, 2008 3:42 PM

Tolls are not going to be a very easy sell, Josh...

For starters, they're not going to be very effective without concurrent tolling on I-90. And there will still be a number of folks who will simply displace to Lake City Way or I-405 around the ends of the Lake.

Plus, no one's mentioned that our congressional delegation will have to actually work together to get FEDERAL approval for tolling on I-90.

Posted by Mickymse | January 14, 2008 3:49 PM

@3, I've NEVER seen a full bus in Seattle.or anywhere near it. In fact, most of the time I've been able to sit down in buses, even during rush hour.

If you can fit in the bus, it's not full.

Also, in response to this post: >:-(, plus what @2 said.

@7, fortunately for once the damn governor agrees with you (or any sane opinion) so hopefully she'll work that out (inch allah).

Posted by John | January 14, 2008 3:55 PM

"John", you must live out in the boonies somewhere to suggest that the buses in Seattle aren't full during rush hours. Ride the 15 or 18 on 1st ave, the 545 on 4th ave, one of the buses going up Pike Street. No seats, hardly any standing room. Blame the state legislature for not placing a sufficient funding structure for public transit.

Federal approval for tolling on I-90 will be easy. Get Patty Murray's, and Dave Reichert's support, and you'll have tolling.

BTW, it's Insh'allah.

Posted by Mr. Bradford | January 14, 2008 4:03 PM

@3 - metro will add more buses once there is a demand (via tolling).

tolls are regressive, somewhat, but what else is new in this ridiculous place. tolling isn't exactly a new concept (even out here, and even on the 520 bridge) so life will have to go on.

i'm still waiting to see the transit bill go on the ballot this year that we've been promised will show up. i'm leaving this area in 2009/2010 and i'd be willing to bet i won't get to vote on transit before i leave. thanks no on prop 1!

Posted by kinkos | January 14, 2008 4:04 PM

I actually thought buried somewhere in WA's constitution was something to the effect that all toll proceeds are to be used specifically for the projects to which they are attached, and are only to be collected for the duration until the project is paid for.

In other words, isn't it against the rules to collect tolls for a general fund? At least that's how it was explained to be when 520's toll booths were originally removed in the late 70's.

Posted by Dougsf | January 14, 2008 4:05 PM

This is such an odd split. I mean, I know people only want to pay for things they use, so they want their road user fees to go exclusively to the roads they use. But polling also shows that your average Joe and Jane only support roads pricing if there are alternative transportation methods like trains available the minute user fees are imposed.

Putting aside 520 for the moment... if we establish roads pricing anywhere else in the region, we're going to spend all the revevue on roads projects, and not provide the alternative transportation that voters will demand before roads pricing goes into effect.

Posted by mao | January 14, 2008 4:08 PM

Any tolling should stay 90/10 in favor of adding lane miles to our roads.

To benefit the people who pay the tolls who cross that bridge, they want their money going towards increasing capacity on the roads they travel to commute.

It's a pipe dream for you to think that anyone living in the burbs is going to use a bus to travel. Thier lives are too spread out and buses are seriously inconvenient.

I don't think most of you posting here fit the demographic of someone who uses the bridges and commutes to work in a car everyday.

If MY money is spent on a toll on a bridge you DAMN well better use it to give me more lanes across Lake Washington! I don't want my money going to fund more buses downtown in Seattle so that you don't have to stand on a bus in your crowded city.

Posted by Reality Check | January 14, 2008 4:09 PM

John @8 - then you're on drugs or you live in a neighborhood without many bus lines.

I see lots of full buses - and ride them sometimes.

Posted by Will in Seattle | January 14, 2008 4:10 PM

With the toll in place, one would think that the transit authorities would add buses because they would, er, make money. If they can't make money with full buses and a high tax on the competition, then what the hell is wrong with the transit authorities?

Posted by Fritz | January 14, 2008 4:10 PM

@8: yeah, where do you live? I take the 545 bus across 520 everyday, and it's standing-room only from 7:30 to 8:30, 16:50-17:30 everyday.

Posted by mao | January 14, 2008 4:12 PM

2 & 3 have it right. We need to fund alternatives by using a portion of the collected tolls, and sell that as a service for drivers who don't want to pay tolls. Unfortunately, with buses seen as public transportation for the unwashed masses, most people will need a rail alternative before they consider making the switch.

I think a metro-wide tolling system is what's needed. Every state highway in the Seattle metro area should be tolled, along with the interstates. Getting federal approval for interstate tolling is going to be tough, though.

Posted by Cascadian | January 14, 2008 4:18 PM

Transit is at capacity from where I stand, and I am frequently standing. I regularly take the 545 going to work (yes I work at MS). But the 7, 11, 43, 48, 49, 174 and 590 are all standing room only come 8AM or 5PM on a weekday. An HOV lane in the 520 is desperately needed (not to mention a light rail to the eastside.) According to statistics collected by the state public transit in WA state has an average of just over 22 riders per hour which is higher than any other bus centered system in the US.

Posted by artslover | January 14, 2008 4:21 PM

@8 and @9

It's "in sha' allah." Three words, with a glottal stop after the "a" in "sha."

But 9 is way way closer.

Posted by ugh | January 14, 2008 4:22 PM

The battle will be over this: What percentage of the money that’s generated from tolls should go to roads and what percentage should go to transit? The annoying negotiating starting point is a 90/10 split—90 for roads.

The transportation chairs in both the senate and the house—Senator Mary Margaret Haugen (D-10) and Representative Judy Clibborn (D-41), respectively—are reportedly leaning toward keeping the dollars funneled toward roads for now.

Fucking duh. Tolls on 520, used to pay for the 520 replacement? What is counter-intuitive about this? That's the whole point. It has always been the whole point. Trying to siphon away money from this for rail - and I am very, very pro-rail - is a really bad idea.

Posted by Greg | January 14, 2008 4:24 PM

i agree, the tolls should only pay for 520. nothing more, nothing less.

Posted by Bellevue Ave | January 14, 2008 4:32 PM

#13/Reality Check is a case in point. He wants more lanes for the tolls he'll pay, because he won't ride the bus. That's an emotional reaction to the idea of a bus more than a rational cost-benefit analysis. Trains would win both emotionally and in number of trips funded per dollar of tolls collected (a train carries more trips at full capacity than an equivalent number of lanes).

The hard part is getting the roads-only crowd to understand that they'll personally benefit from rail transit, or to otherwise get them to sign on for rail in exchange for road funding. The tactic of combining roads and transit failed with ST2/RTID, so I'm not sure what to do next. I'm not voting for a single cent of non-toll taxes for the purposes of roads. Roads-dominated tolls I can accept, particularly if they are so extensive that roads supporters start clamoring for alternatives.

Posted by Cascadian | January 14, 2008 4:32 PM

Will, I'm not out to kill polar bears, I just want some real transit in this city. The roads are still going to get built and we still get no transit and your lying bullshit along the way pissed me off.

That's all.

Posted by Donolectic | January 14, 2008 4:50 PM

It doesn't sound like the idea of living closer to one's workplace has occurred to anyone...

Posted by Orin | January 14, 2008 5:00 PM

Right, @23.

Look, we have a 30 year backlog on repairing and replacing existing bridges and roads in this state.

First, fix those.

Then (hah!) we can talk about new roads.

Until then, nuh uh.

Posted by Will in Seattle | January 14, 2008 5:12 PM

Reality Check @13: As one who rides the bus daily across the 520 bridge I can assure you that you have no idea what you're talking about. Tens of thousands ride the bus daily from the 'burbs, and almost as many in the other direction.

Even more people would ride if there were dedicated bus lanes across the bridges and on the freeways. As it is there are far too many places where the buses are caught in the same bottlenecks as single-occupancy vehicles.

Posted by DUH | January 14, 2008 5:25 PM

"It doesn't sound like the idea of living closer to one's workplace has occurred to anyone..."

Orin, it's a good idea, but in the real world it doesn't always work well. For example, we bought a house that was close to both of our workplaces. Then I lost that job, and got another nearby. And my spouse's company was sold, and moved about 20 miles away. Do we sell the house then? Now my job is in Seattle and his would be out in BFE. Which job do we live closer to? And do you pack up your whole life and move to be close to a job that could disappear tomorrow?

As it turned out, he got another job, right next door to mine.

But the thing is, when you need a job, you need a job -- and if the job you find isn't near your house, it isn't always feasible to move closer to it. If it's possible to live near work, you should, but it's not always as possible as it could be. Especially with the urban sprawl we have going on now.

Posted by litlnemo | January 14, 2008 5:59 PM

For the record, I'm very pro commuter train. However I've yet to see a plan for a train transit system that benefits Bellevue, Redmond, Issaquah, Kirkland, Duvall, North Bend. How about the "powers that be" start looking at the commuting issue by taking our concerns into consideration? Give us out here in Eastern King county an option to have an entirely seperate stand alone plan that runs rail from the suburbs into Bellevue/Redmond/Kirkland. Have a Bellevue Transit station be the central train station, and everything goes out from there?

What pisses people off is that everything is so Seattle-centric, that the politicians pander to the idea. There are TONS of people who never go into Seattle for weeks at a time.

Yet Seattle is treated as the epicenter. Heads up folks. Seattle isn't where the taxpayers with money are. They aren't going to vote for your Seattle-centric proposals (let's take the SeaTac to Seattle Train folly) and instead will vote down anything that doesn't support their commuting lifestyle.

If you really want to fund your transit ideas, how about bumping up the cost of a bus ride? They are so damn god awful cheap, simply doubling the fares is still cheap, yet would go a long way towards adding a few busses along the busier routes.

Or should just the rich subsidize your cheap ride? I'm sure you'll tell me that by those self righteous riders taking the bus it is reducing congestion. I think maybe it begs the question that if we made people have to foot the cost of a car/gas/insurance or 2, maybe they'd not be able to afford to live in King county, would need to move out, and thereby lessen the population some? There are always different ways of looking at an issue.

If you really want to reduce congestion, you can toll roads for certain hours of the day, forbid commercial vehicles from 7:30-9AM, mandate that commercial vehicles only use the right hand lane (like Kalifornistan), have mandatory variable speed lanes (60,65,70) on the highways/interstates, mandate that if you are in the far left lane you have to be actively passing the car on your right or face a $1000 fine, and toughen drivers license standards to include a rigorous difficult to pass road test.

All of that is for another day, but much of our congestion has to do with needing to have laws that pander to the lowest common denominator (driver) who can't drive for conditions, and has shitty skillz in general.

@13 I'm sorry you are wrong. The statistics don't bear it out. Yes there are thousands who use a bus to get into Seattle. Tens of thousands though? Sorry not true. Just because you do doesn't make you the majority. Yes some do, I'll grant you that. However there are 10X as many who use a car living in the 'burbs. That's why we choose to pay more to live where the density is less and you can actually have a private life.

And just like you mentioned.... If I'm going to be stuck on a bus in "bottlenecks" with the rest of traffic.. do I want to be in my own environment, listening to my music, having a private conversation on my phone, and not having to smell all of you bus drivers... hmmm wonder which option I'm gonna choose?

Reality Check

Posted by Reality Check | January 14, 2008 6:00 PM

Note to everyone @13.. I specifically talking about commuting in from the Eastside into Seattle via bus... only that direction. I'm not insinuating that many more people commute into Seattle from the north and south. That I'm not denying.

The proble we have is that we have "two" King counties in many ways seperated by Lake Washington. For those that live out in the far parts of the county, (encompassing Bellevue, Kirkland, Issaquah and points east to the line), we are more affluent and suburban/rural. We don't want to fund your high density social engineering projects. THAT is why you lost Prop 1.

Think about it.

Posted by Reality Check | January 14, 2008 6:20 PM

Orin @24 says: "It doesn't sound like the idea of living closer to one's workplace has occurred to anyone..."

Lucky for you there's a Taco Bell in just about every neighborhood these days.

Posted by DUH | January 14, 2008 7:00 PM

RC @29: You can't change the argument and then tell me I'm wrong. I was referring to tens of thousands of people from the suburbs commuting to Seattle. Now you're changing it to people from the Eastside.

You specifically said, "It's a pipe dream for you to think that anyone living in the burbs is going to use a bus to travel." Not "anyone on the Eastside."

There are plenty of suburbs besides your "affluent" Eastside.

Posted by DUH | January 14, 2008 7:06 PM

@31 I didn't change my argument. You read into my words, as did I about you. However it is logical that if you are "commuting across 520" into Seattle you are coming from one of the locations I mentioned. Believing that to be the case, I stated you are wrong to believe that people commuting from the Eastside (and needing 520 to do it) are not coming in the numbers you propose. If they (and you) are coming from the north or south into Seattle you aren't going to need 520.

I think you made my point. Thanks.

Posted by Reality Check | January 14, 2008 7:17 PM

Will, you just remind me of someone who'll say anything it takes to get the outcome they want, which reminds me of the Red Bushies that we both despise. Plus your "fuck tacoma" attitude didn't play well and I think a lot of your ideas are not only pipe dreams, but delusional as well. I'm not as confident of a blue wave as you are and feel that not being able to recognize the political climate as it actually is rather than what we want it to be hurts us all. Then again, I'm a pragmatist.

With all that said, your heart is definitely in the right place and I've gotten my rant off my chest and feel so much better now. Thank you.

Posted by Donolectic | January 14, 2008 7:43 PM

RC, you're such a fucking tool I don't even know where to begin.

For starters, can you tell me how connecting the state's largest airport with the state's largest city is folly?

Posted by Donolectic | January 14, 2008 7:45 PM

That 90/10 split for roads probably has something to do with the fact that the vast majority of Democrats don't have to run for re-election on Capitol Hill.

Lexus lanes, anyone?

Posted by Mr. X | January 14, 2008 7:56 PM

Orin @24: You are probably the same fucking douchebag who called me a whiner a couple months ago when I had the actual audacity to suggest that more bus options are needed for the Seattle to Eastside route. I live on Capitol Hill because I like living on Capitol Hill. I don't owe you or anyone else an explanation of why. And I work on the Eastside because that's where my job is. I like my job (most days) and have been there for ten years. I'm not about to quit just to please assholes like you.

As for the tolls on 520, tolls are actually more progressive than our astronomical sales tax (another of my soapbox topics, but I will save that for another day). The low income person who doesn't own a car isn't paying a dime to upgrade or repair a road he or she never uses. If tolls were imposed I would likely suck it up and pay if I had evening plans and needed to get home quickly. Otherwise I would probably take 90 or Lake City Way. If taking the bus was a realistic option, I would do that (I will likely be an old man in a nursing home before a single inch of light rail track is laid for a route across Lake Washington). I support public transportation for all the good environmental reasons even if it does mean occasionally sitting next to someone who smells like a dead goat and has insightful conversations with lampposts. But more options are seriously needed for the Seattle to Eastside route.

Posted by RainMan | January 14, 2008 8:28 PM

@29: I'd prefer if you stay on the Eastside and let us city folk stay in the city. That would solve everything!

In reality, most of the truly affluent have need to come into Seattle on a regular basis, be it for work, play, catching a football game... So lets do it this way. I'm more than willing to pay for the once or twice a month I get over to the eastside if those on the eastside are willing to pay each time they come into Seattle by car.

I live and work in West Seattle and my commute by car takes 4 minutes. I want to be able to go downtown occasionally and I generally cringe when I think about having to deal with the Bellevue Blonds maneuvering their way with their SUV's to a Nordstrom sale at Bel Square. Eastsiders wanna turn their suburbia into pavement? Absolutely. I will never live over there because it's filled with people like minded with @29. You wanna drive on the streets paid for with my tax dollars @ 29 and not contribute to the rest of society? Fine. We can tax your SUV for the privilege of driving in our fine city. After all, it's me and the other 500,000 that LIVE here that pay for paving Mercer, 4th Avenue and the other local streets you drive on when you come over here. Thanks for the contribution.

That's my reality check.

Hugs and kisses.

Posted by Dave Coffman | January 14, 2008 9:25 PM

@37: I'm definitely not defending Reality Check, but the fact is a LOT of you Seattle folks cross the bridges to earn a living on the Eastside, getting there on the streets we paid for with our tax dollars.

It really does go both ways these days.

Posted by DUH | January 14, 2008 10:00 PM

@38: My commute from Seattle to the eastside is mainly on State Route 520, paid for by ALL the residents of our fair state, and Interstate 405, part of the FEDERALLY funded interstate highway system. DUH!

OK, you're right, about half a mile of my commute includes the distance from the 405 off ramp to the parking lot of my workplace. Send me your address and I'll send you a refund check for the 63 cents of your taxes that went into the wear and tear on your roads caused by my vehicle.

Posted by RainMan | January 14, 2008 11:16 PM

Hey Reality Check--your suburban voters don't vote for anything involving taxes. Seattle provides the votes.

And Josh--no shit sherlock, roads will be built with the revenues from tolling. I think that is what those of us who supported Prop. 1 were saying--there is a powerful roads lobby. The question is how do we fund more transit. Metro is tapped out trying to deal with 50% more riders in the last five years.

Pay attention to someone else than starry eyed Sierra Clubbers please if you want to move transit forward.

Posted by tiptoe tommy | January 14, 2008 11:31 PM

Hey Reality Check--your suburban voters don't vote for anything involving taxes. Seattle provides the votes.

And Josh--no shit sherlock, roads will be built with the revenues from tolling. I think that is what those of us who supported Prop. 1 were saying--there is a powerful roads lobby. The question is how do we fund more transit. Metro is tapped out trying to deal with 50% more riders in the last five years.

Pay attention to someone else than starry eyed Sierra Clubbers please if you want to move transit forward.

Posted by tiptoe tommy | January 14, 2008 11:31 PM

@37 -- I absolutely agree. I live and work on the Eastside. In a typical month, I come across a bridge maybe once -- I would be fine with paying a toll that once per month if it keeps my gas taxes lower.

Posted by Fritz | January 15, 2008 10:21 AM

@ 42

Reality 101 - once a new tax is added by your friendly local government, its rate pretty much always goes up over time, and the old taxes it was supposed to supplant pretty much never go down (and no, I'm not a Rethug or an Eymanite, just another working stiff who would rather keep this particular camel's nose out of the tent, thank you very much)

Posted by Mr. X | January 15, 2008 11:10 AM

@33 - I didn't say fxxx Tacoma. I said DROP the ST2 extension of light rail from Sea-Tac to Tacoma to a later date, when it actually would have more than the 1/10th ridership of the Northgate-UW extension.

At this point the systems aren't big enough to justify the WASTE.

After you build the line to Everett and Issaquah is when the Sea-Tac to Tacoma link would get the ridership - not now.

Which part of cost effectiveness don't you GET?

Posted by Will in Seattle | January 15, 2008 11:54 AM

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