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Thursday, January 31, 2013

"Why Should I Be Paying a Toll for Somebody Else's Bridge?" or Everything You Need to Know About What's Wrong With America

Posted by on Thu, Jan 31, 2013 at 1:43 PM

Opposing a proposal to toll the I-90 bridge as part of the funding package for the 520 bridge replacement, Mercer Island resident Denise Joffe resentfully asks: “Why should I be paying a toll for somebody else’s bridge?”

Huh. Good question Denise. And why should I pay taxes to pay for somebody else's freeway park lids, or to educate somebody else's children, or to put out somebody else's house fire, or to fight somebody else's war? Why should I pay taxes (or tolls or fees) to pay for anything that doesn't directly benefit me, or for any policy I disagree with?

Maybe, Denise, it's because we all live in the same community?

It's this narrowing of our sense of community that I think is one of the most destructive trends in American politics. The sense of national identity and purpose that once bound us together in the interest of a larger common good has gradually eroded into local squabbles over subarea equity and levy equalization and whether users of one bridge have an obligation to pay for another bridge just a few miles away. It makes for an every-man-for-himself free-for-all that might have thrilled Ayn Rand, but that threatens our ability to collectively invest in the public infrastructure and services necessary to assure our future welfare and prosperity.

Why should you have to pay for this bridge, Denise? Because you are a citizen of King County, of Washington State, and of the United States of America. And that makes the 520 bridge your fucking bridge just like the I-90 bridge belongs to the hundreds of millions of taxpayers who helped pay for it, but will never lay eyes on the damn thing.

Indeed, if there's anybody who should embrace a communitarian approach toward regional transportation infrastructure, it is Mercer Islanders.* Mercer Island, no matter how wealthy it is, could not have afforded to span Lake Washington on its own. Indeed, it is its largely federally-funded bridge that helps make Mercer Island real estate so valuable.

So yeah, that's why you should pay for somebody else's bridge, Denise. Because that's how the real world works.

*[Don't get me wrong. I feel Denise's pain. Literally. My ex lives on Mercer Island and that's where my daughter goes to school, so I often make two roundtrip I-90 crossings a day. A $3.50 peak toll each way could cost me a couple thousand dollars a year. And on alt-weekly wages, that's a couple thousand dollars I just don't have. So it sure would help me if the tolls don't start until after my daughter graduates high school.

But the I-90 bridge is part of an integrated regional transportation system, so it would be selfish and hypocritical of me to oppose tolling it simply in deference to my own pocketbook concerns. Not everybody who lives or works on (or otherwise commutes to and from) Mercer Island is wealthy. I understand that. But everything I know about transportation convinces me that congestion pricing is a necessary step forward.]


Comments (88) RSS

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Can we report the Misanthrope to the authorities while there is still time..or at least find out what his recent Amazon purchases from the Sporting Goods area have been? I'm getting worried...
Posted by Supreme Ruler Of The Universe http://_ on February 3, 2013 at 9:36 PM · Report this
Give Mercer Island back to the original owners.
Posted by Zenkichi95 on February 3, 2013 at 11:32 AM · Report this
undead ayn rand 86
@29: "To be fair, why shouldn't mercer island residents get a discounted rate since they have to use 90 multiple times a day to get anywhere?"

Ah yes, those that utilize the resource the most should pay the least. Good logic!
Posted by undead ayn rand on February 3, 2013 at 9:40 AM · Report this
TheMisanthrope 85
@79 Seattle has a SEVERE disdain for parking lots. And, the working poor. It continually pushes the lower class out of the city, into the suburbs, then votes against parking lots even on the edges of the city for fear that it encourages driving to the mass transit.

I'm curious about the survey about the Northgate Transit Center parking structure earlier last year which claimed that only 48% of the riders who park currently would prefer a parking structure. That seems suspiciously low. But, maybe the 52% who'd rather see increased transit live on an already established once per hour line. Or live somewhere which they think is ripe for a line.

That still leaves 35% of total NTC riders who depend on parking at a transit center who may be displaced. That's not insignificant. And, the majority of those people are ones who obviously can't afford to park downtown, and probably are in the lower classes. Assumption, but its an educated guess.

The lying liars of the Cascade Bicycle Club and Erica C "Wine Thief" Barnett have been spreading falsehoods and implausible projections in order to prevent new parking structures from being built. 92% of riders not driving by 2030 is hopeful...but the way transit has been going that's a fucked up projection. The poor and middle class are going to be increasingly pushed out to the deep suburbs like Shoreline, more people are going to drive to NTC instead of taking an hour to get there by bus, bike, or walking.

How can I make the claim that Cascade Bicycle Club are lying liars? Because they claimed, in June, that 70% of NTC riders walked, biked, or used transit. However, in KC Metro said 70% of riders DROVE to NTC. This is the same Cascade Bicycle Club that paid for that fucking shitty ass study about people's beliefs on the War on Cars that Dominic made a full article about. Yeah. Trustworthy! P.S. KC Metro's survey surveyed 878 people of a supposed 5,000 ridership...whereas the CBC study was all of 400 people...and both had a 5% margin of error? Fuck CBC, and stop sucking the cocks of those lying liars. I find their goals to be noble, but their methods to be shitty, and their ideas to be founded in space.

The CBC and their ilk are working hard to eliminate parking structures in the name of environmentalism, and instead may end up driving people away from the city.

But, that's, like, my opinion, man.
Posted by TheMisanthrope on February 2, 2013 at 10:57 PM · Report this
TheMisanthrope 84
@83 did you get any traffic to your shitty blog?
Posted by TheMisanthrope on February 2, 2013 at 8:38 PM · Report this

I just wrote an essay about it at Patrick.Net.

Why Don't Liberals Want To Pay Their Property Tax?

Yeah, that's right.

I'm taking it outside!

Posted by Supreme Ruler Of The Universe http://_ on February 2, 2013 at 2:40 PM · Report this
Goldy if you really feel this way then why aren't you supporting my suggestions to raise property taxes?

Posted by Supreme Ruler Of The Universe http://_ on February 2, 2013 at 1:42 PM · Report this
@78: Wrong, wrong, wrong. Seattle pays out far more taxes than it takes in in services, and is generally pro new taxes.
Posted by tiktok on February 1, 2013 at 8:20 PM · Report this
@ Goldy

How much federal money that might otherwise go to other parts of the state goes to Seattle/King County because we have more political pull/influence? How much of that Seattle/King County tax revenue that goes to the state relies on the blue collar/service industry folks who commute in from Snohomish and Pierce counties? How many apples from Wenatchee does Seattle consume, and is it worth subsidizing highways to get them here?

Your point is well taken, but it's not quite as cut-and-dried as you make it out to be, and frankly the poster you're responding to had some quite valid points that you dismissed a bit too glibly (and unnecessarily nastily).

Posted by Blue collar Dem on February 1, 2013 at 8:15 PM · Report this
Goldy 79
Goldy's sentiment is very heartwarming. We must all pay for everything because we are all in this together. Kumbaya. But somehow that only ever cuts one way - nobody in Seattle wants to pay for anything outside Seattle.

That's bullshit: King County, with roughly 29 percent of the state population, produces 42 percent of state tax revenues, yet it receives back less than 26 percent of state benefits. That's a return of only 62 cents on every dollar we send to Olympia. We here in the Seattle metropolitan area carry the rest of the state, and we vote for nearly every tax increase that comes our way.

As for your lack of transit in Pierce County, twice in two years Pierce County voters rejected tax measures to prop up Pierce Transit. That's why your bus service has been slashed. And FYI, Sound Transit offers parking at all but one of its Pierce County Sounder heavy rail stations, as well at Link Light Rail's Tukwila station, just north of SeaTac (the terminus of the line).

Subarea equity assured that the money Sound Transit raised in South King/Pierce was spent in South King/Pierce. That your transit service is insufficient is due to the fact that your tax base is insufficient, and that the state does not subsidy local transit. You can't blame tax-and-spend Seattle for that.
Posted by Goldy on February 1, 2013 at 6:12 PM · Report this
Goldy's sentiment is very heartwarming. We must all pay for everything because we are all in this together. Kumbaya. But somehow that only ever cuts one way - nobody in Seattle wants to pay for anything outside Seattle. And yes, from where I sit, Mercer Island IS Seattle. So is Bellevue. I used to live on Capitol Hill, back when Seattle still remembered that it was once a blue-collar town. I got gentrified out - couldn't afford it any more. I still work in Seattle. I live in Pierce County, an hour from Seattle, and there is not any public transportation of any kind within 15 miles of my house. Not a bus not a train not a skateboard, and yet I pay for all kinds of improvements that benefit only Seattle residents. Everything from water taxis to light rail. I literally have no choice but to drive when I want to go into Seattle. And here's the really hilarious part - you'd think they would want people to drive in and use the light rail. NO, NO PARKING LOTS allowed around light rail stations. LIGHT RAIL is not for people who want to come into Seattle, it's for people who ALREADY live in Seattle. And now they say they are going to start charging people by the mile they drive, that's the next ungodly plan. Great. Make Seattle too expensive for working class people to live in, export them to the countryside with no public transportation (yet they continue to pay for "regional" improvements), then start charging them to drive on roads they already paid to build. If you want something to complain about, Denise, try working retail in Seattle and commuting from outside the city. The sadness and the sorrow that I feel for the overtaxed downtrodden residents of Mercer Island is the only thing cheering me up.
Posted by mwalsh on February 1, 2013 at 4:10 PM · Report this
i'm pro-science and i vote 77
HOWEVER I think getting tolled is stupid. Why can't our taxes cover the cost instead? Is that more difficult because of the same mindset of 'it's not mine so I don't want to pay for it', therefore keeping the cost local-only? Sorry, I'm ignorant about some of this, just trying to use some common sense. The fact that anyone has to know that they are literally paying a price anytime they drive to Seattle from the east is discomforting. It's as stupid as charging people to visit a national par each time they go. Needs to be taken out of our taxes
Posted by i'm pro-science and i vote on February 1, 2013 at 1:44 PM · Report this
curtisp 76
70-Seattle sits on a major fault line. Should everyone here pay out more to FEMA? Such arguments are backwards. There are problems with where everyone lives. And EVERYONE benefits from our freeway system. I-90 was not diverted around the lake because crossing the lake was the most direct route to the Port of Seattle. If there was no one living on Mercer Island the freeway would still be there. Your argument is absurd. It is a lame excuse to get someone else to pay for what we all benefit from. 72-And who gives a crap what Denise does for a living. She has a good point even if she did not present it well. So people who are pointing fingers at the fuck are you going to pay for what you benefit from? Why are people who use I-90 the most supposed to pay for 520? Seattle would not have a healthy economy without either bridge and the people who cross them.
Posted by curtisp on February 1, 2013 at 1:24 PM · Report this
porter_esq 75
FREEDOM ISN'T FREE, these people yell when it's war billions. But taxes and tolls, WHAT'S IN IT FOR ME?
Posted by porter_esq on February 1, 2013 at 10:53 AM · Report this
TheMisanthrope 74
@73 One is a necessity, one is a luxury. Can you figure out which is which?
Posted by TheMisanthrope on February 1, 2013 at 6:37 AM · Report this
Big Sven 73
I'm sure Godly would be totally cool if we taxed Sounders tickets to pay for a NHL rink in Bellevue, right? Because we're all in this together?
Posted by Big Sven on February 1, 2013 at 6:12 AM · Report this
I looked Denise Joffe. She's a doctor at Seattle Childrens. Maybe somebody needs to tell Denise Joffe, why should I pay for medicaid which pays for at least a good chunk of your salary Denise? Call the waahambulance Denise.
Posted by warren terrah on February 1, 2013 at 2:35 AM · Report this
How do y'all think those gardeners and maids get to work on Mercer Island?
Posted by clashfan on January 31, 2013 at 10:18 PM · Report this
I don't care how rich they are -- on principle, you should incur extra costs for LIVING ON AN ISLAND. These people have a convenient route off - good for them. They should pay for it.
Posted by it's a island. on January 31, 2013 at 6:22 PM · Report this
TheMisanthrope 69
While our study improves on prior work in some significant ways, it also has several important limitations. These limitations call for caution in interpreting the findings and drawing policy conclusions from them.
First, because the sample of poor households in the HAS is small, the estimates based on this data set in Table 2 are imprecise.

From Plotnick's own report.
Posted by TheMisanthrope on January 31, 2013 at 6:10 PM · Report this
TheMisanthrope 68
@67 Did you actually read this idiot's study, or are you just parroting?

P.S. Hi, Baconcat! Hey? Did average rents go down around the area to match average income? I remember when you argued they were starting to plummet in 2011. That was hilarious.
Posted by TheMisanthrope on January 31, 2013 at 6:00 PM · Report this
Baconcat 67
I wish tolling feasibility studies took into account the relative income of areas and current users Oh! And they should look at current options and access issues that might arise!


What will the Environmental Assessment include?
The EA will describe:

Why tolling on I-90 is being considered (purpose and need).
How tolling would be implemented and how the proposed approach was developed.
How tolling would affect traffic on I-90, adjacent roadways and parallel routes.
How tolling would affect those who use I-90 and surrounding communities, including low-income populations.
Other possible environmental effects such as land use, economics, energy and climate change.
Where potential environment impacts are identified, the EA will describe what can be done to avoid, minimize or mitigate those impacts.

An actual study! Instead of "I know some people that might have an issue".

What about 520?


Oh oh!

The University of Washington professor added, "If we didn't have tolls, we'd probably be paying for this with sales tax, and sales taxes take more from all low income households in the region compared to middle and high income households."

Posted by Baconcat on January 31, 2013 at 5:25 PM · Report this
curtisp 66
And Will adapt or die is a nice concept but it is usually spoken by people who are not being asked to adapt. So how are people who don't use either one of these bridges going to pay for that which benefits all of us again?
Posted by curtisp on January 31, 2013 at 5:07 PM · Report this
curtisp 65
#54 that is exactly what I'm talking about. The "rich" folks on Mercer Island should not be the focus here. Everyone should pay so the burden does not unduly fall on people who are trying to stay in the middle class by taking whatever jobs they can where they can. Regressive taxes hurts these folks somtimes worse than the poor.
Posted by curtisp on January 31, 2013 at 5:02 PM · Report this
tainte 64
great. working in the fucking city isn't bad i have to pay 2 grand a year for the privilege.

Posted by tainte on January 31, 2013 at 4:52 PM · Report this
curtisp 63
#56 - both Chicago and San Francisco have other effecient and affordable transport options from their cities to their major suburbs. Metro does not come close to a comparison. When there is a long range eastbound train or bus system that runs frequently into the early mornings we can make comparisions. Seattle is nice but not a world class city.
Posted by curtisp on January 31, 2013 at 4:50 PM · Report this
TheMisanthrope 62
@60 Goldy thinks he's progressive by demanding tolls and fees, ignoring the regressive nature of the tolls and fees.
Posted by TheMisanthrope on January 31, 2013 at 4:44 PM · Report this
Will in Seattle 61
@55 exactly. Which is that we can't afford to build a SR-99 Tolled Tunnel and that's what's sucking all the money out of SR-520.

Only so much gas tax revenue to go around, and projections are up to half the users of the SR-99 Deep Borrowed Tunnel will be half full with tax exempt vehicles for non-profit foundations and electric-only limos for rich people to get to the stadiums and their private jets, while the rest of us stew on the surface. Unless you think dropping $10 in tolls each way for SR-99 is viable (which it ain't unless you're well off).

Look, adapt or die.

Mercer Island and Medina and Montlake could kill the SR-99 fiasco quickly if they put their backs to it, and *poof* tolls go bye bye on I-90.
Posted by Will in Seattle on January 31, 2013 at 4:43 PM · Report this
I think it is more that you do not understand the "larger issue".
If there is an additional fee for using a particular service, then should someone be allowed to NOT use that particular service and NOT pay that additional fee?

If it is about roads, then add a tax on something that is road-associated. Like fuel or registration or whatever. Now everyone who drives pays for the roads whether they use those particular roads or not.

But do not complain afterwards when people try to use less fuel because they want to manage their own expenses and the funding does not match projections.
Posted by fairly.unbalanced on January 31, 2013 at 4:37 PM · Report this
T 59
Never should have taken tolls off 520 in the first place (and I-90, if it ever had them). Bridges cost money, floating bridges moreso. Not just to build, but to inspect and maintain. We could have been collecting nominal tolls (relatively speaking) on 520 for the last 40 years and have enough in the bank to pay for a new bridge already.

But what's done is done. I say cut the 520 tolls by half, charge the other half to cross I-90, and split that between the spans east and west of Mercer Island. Better yet, charge tolls on all routes to get across Lake Washington - 522, 520, I-90, and I-5/405 - and set it up as the Lake Washington Highway Association or some shit like that.
Posted by T on January 31, 2013 at 4:36 PM · Report this
TheMisanthrope 58
@55 It's a shame you didn't start with the larger issue of tolls and fees as a regressive tax, especially in light of yesterday's post.
Posted by TheMisanthrope on January 31, 2013 at 4:35 PM · Report this
TheMisanthrope 57
@56 It should be noted that the Ambassador bridge is a for profit bridge owned by a single man.
Posted by TheMisanthrope on January 31, 2013 at 4:34 PM · Report this
Goldy 56
It's kind of a shame that this thread has devolved into a debate over the relative merits of tolling rather than a discussion of the larger issue.
Posted by Goldy on January 31, 2013 at 4:28 PM · Report this

The 520 and 90 tolls are the going rate for bridges.

Every toll over the San Francisco Bay is $4-6 (one way only). The 520 and 90 tolls are practically identical.

The Chicago Skyway is $4. The Ambassador Bridge is $4.75. Comparing toll bridges to toll roads makes no sense.
Posted by F on January 31, 2013 at 4:28 PM · Report this
TheMisanthrope 54
@51 Or, if you're like me, and you live in the city in the hopes of one day working in the city, but, for right now, working in the netherlands of the east side where there is but one bus that runs hourly and doesn't start until after you have to be at work, making it impossible to use.

I have friends who were also living on the hill, but working at much lower paying jobs in the weird areas of the east side. This would have hurt them as well.
Posted by TheMisanthrope on January 31, 2013 at 4:13 PM · Report this
PS...Denise is a way-0ff-the-chart extremist. Too bad you take an extremist's comment and focus on that instead of the real issue at hand.
Posted by PhantomPhantom on January 31, 2013 at 4:06 PM · Report this
Do what they do on the East Coast. Toll 405, Toll 5, Toll 90, Toll 520.....Toll 99, Toll 148th, Toll Bellevue Way, Toll 522, Toll 516, Toll Broadway, Toll Madison, Toll 509...

Goldy, your logic applies to all of the above AND all roads ever built. Let's toll them all!

Wait, there is a reasonable way to do that: GAS TAX!

By extension, that's the correct thing, right?
Posted by PhantomPhantom on January 31, 2013 at 4:04 PM · Report this
curtisp 51
#48 Thanks for those numbers. People don't stop to think about how bad these kinds of regressive taxes will hurt lower AND middle income folks, which does not stretch that far in the Seattle area. It is also important to note how limited our public transport is. If someone is working two jobs that go late into the evening good luck getting back to the eastside in time to get some sleep.
Posted by curtisp on January 31, 2013 at 4:02 PM · Report this
Bowling alone.
Posted by JLDR on January 31, 2013 at 4:01 PM · Report this
curtisp 49
By the way I am a Seattlilte who does not rely on the bridge for work. I am within walking distance of my job. Some of you are holding the people who commute over I-90 to a much different standard than you are yourselves. Talk about how YOU can pay not "those elitists on Mercer Island with their gardners". You benefit from both bridges YOU pay up just like that "awful" Denise who sounds so much like a "Denise".
Posted by curtisp on January 31, 2013 at 3:55 PM · Report this
TheMisanthrope 48
@38 and @46, Jim's comments mainly refer to the NY/NJ border.

If he thought about all other midwestern tolls, he'd realize that they're a fraction of the $3.50 each way we are pushing. For instance, the Ohio Turnpike toll is $1 for 7 miles. And, the toll stops every 5 miles or so of the Illinois Tollway are $1.50 at most, and range down to $0.55.

And, Chicago freaked the fuck out over a 10% increase on those tolls last year.

P.S. Goldy, this is another example of where you could have hit the regressive tax situation hard, but didn't. Thanks for your failure to live up to your own ideals.
Posted by TheMisanthrope on January 31, 2013 at 3:54 PM · Report this
TheMisanthrope 47
@45 That bus ticket would cost $90/mth, or $1080/yr.

Contrast that to $7/day, or $35/wk, or $1750/yr.

BTW, for those counting, that $1080/yr is over 5% of the pre-tax income of the lowest 20%.
Posted by TheMisanthrope on January 31, 2013 at 3:49 PM · Report this
curtisp 46
Holy crap! This does not just effect people on Mercer Island and to assume that they are all wealthy is assinine. It is wrong to expect anyone who uses the I-90 bridge to pay these tolls when the public transport system is so awful. If we all benefit we should all pay. Perhaps a tax on food is the way to go because food is often transported on 1-90. (Just joking. That proposal is about as ass backwards as another regressive tax/toll). And too bad for Seattlelites who are priveledged enough to work in the city where they live and never use the bridge. They should pay a toll (tax) for the same reason the woman who never uses 520 should pay.

Also Jim, considering one can go from Phylly to New York to Boston, and many places between, effeciently by train that region cannot be compared to this one.

Regardless of the reasons another regressive tax is wrong.
Posted by curtisp on January 31, 2013 at 3:46 PM · Report this
@22: And how much would that bus/rail ticket cost?
Posted by tiktok on January 31, 2013 at 3:41 PM · Report this
Will in Seattle 44
@40 or we could offer reduced tolls for residents, but only when it is NOT rush hour. That way, residents, who tend to work late, would be fine. Kids use school bus, so already exempt. Full freight during rush hour, unless you're on a bike or a bus or light rail, of course. Cause congestion is bad and they should have used one of those alternatives instead.
Posted by Will in Seattle on January 31, 2013 at 3:40 PM · Report this
Wandergeist 43
My friends on Mercer Island WANT a toll on I-90. Why? Because ever since the toll on 520 started, the traffic on I-90 has been *much* worse. Especially in the evening (apparently some people are willing to pay the toll when they're rushing to work in the morning, but will take the long way around to save a few bucks after work). The only way to get traffic back to the way it was is to toll both the bridges equally. They'd prefer to have it work the way @40 suggests, so that the businesses on Mercer Island aren't too badly affected, but whatever the details they definitely don't want there to be a financial incentive to choose I-90 over 520.
Posted by Wandergeist on January 31, 2013 at 3:36 PM · Report this
@40. Nah. Not workable. Neither the East Side nor Seattle will stand for a tolling on one part of the bridge but not the other. Would cause a hit to businesses on one side or the other. What would be fair would be to split the toll into 2 parts (east and west). MIs would theoretically pay 1/2 the toll while through traffic/east-west business commuters would pay full amount.

I am completely against any break for MI unless it is a very small discount for a big buy of bulk passes. We don't do it for the peninsula or for Bainbridge. MI is a huge contributor to I90 traffic. They don't want to pay tolls? Bus or carpool like the rest of us. Or move. (And their snotty, self-absorbed whining isn't going to win them friends on either side of Lake Washington.)
Posted by gator bait on January 31, 2013 at 3:35 PM · Report this
Bauhaus I 41

Here's the line:

Posted by Bauhaus I on January 31, 2013 at 3:29 PM · Report this
How about: If your vehicle is scanned on both the East Channel and the Floating Bridge, that's a billable trip. If you're a resident of Mercer Island going over to Seattle or Bellevue, you only get scanned on one portal, and don't pay; likewise for someone who is visiting Mercer Island for business or personal reasons. The aim is to make a trip over I-90 equivalent to a trip over SR-520, and tolling full trips only would do that. Mercer Island residents or people with business there are a separate case, since they don't have the option of using 520 for that purpose, and therefore should be given a pass on the half-trip to & from the Island.
Posted by RexKatWa on January 31, 2013 at 3:25 PM · Report this
Rotten666 39
@34 good point.
Posted by Rotten666 on January 31, 2013 at 3:23 PM · Report this
Obviously Denise and most of the commenters have never been to the East Coast, or the peninsula known as New Jersey. Crossing the Delaware or Hudson River to anywhere costs every time, unless you're willing to drive miles and miles out of your way (which would end up costing more in gas and time than the toll). Lots of bridges, state highways, and even interstates are tolled, east of the Mississippi.
Thanks, Goldy, for a good post explaining the concept of The Commons for Denise.

Posted by Jin Seattle on January 31, 2013 at 3:21 PM · Report this
Catalina Vel-DuRay 37
People named Denise are always like that.

I know a lovely couple who are an awful lot of fun, except for the fact they are Republican (everybody has a flaw) and they live right next to 520 in Clyde Hill. They were aggressively pro-toll, as they thought the people who use the bridge should be the ones to pay the toll. And they've stood by their word, taking the 520 to work in Seattle and back every day.

And, of course, the original 520 was tolled. As was the bridge between Omaha and Council Bluffs before the highway came through (although if you took the bus across or walked across, you didn't have to pay the toll, because the bus company - which was previously the street railway company - owned the bridge!) .

I have no problem with tolls.
Posted by Catalina Vel-DuRay on January 31, 2013 at 3:20 PM · Report this
Will in Seattle 36
@34 is correct.

They're just griping because their gardeners and house cleaners and valets will charge more, since they have to pay tolls to get to work there.
Posted by Will in Seattle on January 31, 2013 at 3:16 PM · Report this
curtisp 35
And Cato the Young....your point is silly. The criticism of this woman is dumb. She is part of a demographic that is being singled out to pay for a bridge that benefits "EVERYBODY" yet everybody is not epected to pay their share. So how do you propose people pay for 520 if they don't commute to Seattle on 1-90 or 520? My suggestion to people who can't come up with a good idea is to not trash the people who are going to be subjected to such a regressive tax.
Posted by curtisp on January 31, 2013 at 3:15 PM · Report this
Goldy 34
@29 Why give a break to Mercer Island residents, but not to people who work on Mercer Island but can't afford to live there? Where do you draw the line?
Posted by Goldy on January 31, 2013 at 3:08 PM · Report this
Foggen 33
Denise's question is sound. User tolls on paid-for roads designed to pay for other projects are abominable. If your answer is "well, we all have to pay" then raise collectively paid taxes instead of burdening a specific group because geography makes them vulnerable.
Posted by Foggen on January 31, 2013 at 3:08 PM · Report this
chimsquared 32
goldy, after all the times i've pointed out how wrong you are ... only fair to say when you're right.
Posted by chimsquared on January 31, 2013 at 3:04 PM · Report this
Dougsf 31
#30 I was about the type nearly the exact same thing.
Posted by Dougsf on January 31, 2013 at 3:03 PM · Report this
Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn 30
They should charge an extra toll to use the Mercer Island exits and on ramps, just to make it more exclusive, and drive up property values. And increase property tax revenue. Win win.
Posted by Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn on January 31, 2013 at 2:57 PM · Report this
Rotten666 29
To be fair, why shouldn't mercer island residents get a discounted rate since they have to use 90 multiple times a day to get anywhere?
Posted by Rotten666 on January 31, 2013 at 2:53 PM · Report this
curtisp 28
#23 Thank you! The people who are robbing Peter to pay Paul through regressive taxes should do shit like block the damn bridge if they have to pay a huge tax (regular tolls) to use what they are already being taxed for. Fees are taxes.
Posted by curtisp on January 31, 2013 at 2:52 PM · Report this
27 Comment Pulled (No) Comment Policy
Will in Seattle 26
Hey, we could provide a free commute bike service to any Island residents who don't want to pay the toll.

I'm sure they'd use it ... right?
Posted by Will in Seattle on January 31, 2013 at 2:51 PM · Report this
curtisp 25
Tolling I-90 is a very bad idea. It makes it too difficult for low income and middle income people to get out of the city. It also makes it too difficult for low income and middle income people to get into the city. We don't have a long range Eastside bound train system where the fare makes up for gas money. (Other states with road tolls have more transport options than the cluster fuck know as Washington state). This kind of tax unfairly targets a particular demographic and does not assure that everyone pays their fair share. You don't divert people ten miles one way or the other because they cannot afford a few thousand dollars every year to pay for a bridge that EVERYONE in the region should be paying for. 520 diverts traffic off of I-90. Trucks and the people who facilitate them need access to the port. Never mind this cluster fucker’s proposal probably violates federal law. (How much do the dumbasses who are proposing this think a lawsuit is going to cost?). We already pay taxes for 1-90 and have every right to use it.
Too bad if the planning committee for 520 could not figure out any other way to pay. If they current lead players in this mess are too dumb to figure out this proposal is a really bad on several levels then perhaps they should seek employment elsewhere. The wussies of Washington need to stop coming up with regressive tax systems to pay for things because they cannot muster the courage or energy to do things in a more just manner.
Posted by curtisp on January 31, 2013 at 2:49 PM · Report this
bleedingheartlibertarian 24
"It's this narrowing of our sense of community that I think is one of the most destructive trends in American politics."

If there is an entitled class in this country, it surely upper-middle and up.

True story: I was riding with my boss (who does rather well), as he was driving his car through downtown one weekday afternoon, and he was bitching about the buses in front of him "taking up the road".

I pointed out to him that if everyone in the buses were driving their own car at the moment (like he was), that traffic would be much, much worse.

He looked at me as though I'd just grown a second head. It had literally never occurred to him why we have things like public transit.
Posted by bleedingheartlibertarian on January 31, 2013 at 2:41 PM · Report this
This logic seems to apply to taxes more than tolls and user fees. Our political system is now so dysfunctional that people who want adequate funding for state services feel compelled to go along with whatever regressive funding options are offered, because nobody dare mention the word "tax."

Here's a thought: What if we stopped playing along? What if enough people insisted that taxes be raised to pay for things we all use? What if we all rejected the regressive nickel-and-diming "user fees" that ratchet up the daily cost of commuting and working and living in Washington until working class people can't afford to live here?

Posted by Proteus on January 31, 2013 at 2:32 PM · Report this
Goldy - you could take the bus (or eventually light rail) to Mercer Island, and arrange with your ex (or daughter, when she drives) to pick you up/drop you off at a bus stop or park-and-ride, thereby avoiding the tolls.
Posted by TJ on January 31, 2013 at 2:31 PM · Report this
I think what Denise meant to say was "Enough of this inefficient piecemeal taxation. Why single out I-90 bridge users? Give us a state income tax, already!"
Posted by BhamBrad on January 31, 2013 at 2:31 PM · Report this
TheMisanthrope 20
@6 Actually, they took that into account. And, the diversion rates were actually slightly less than anticipated. So, they're already getting slightly more money than planned.

However, there was still a significant portion of the bridge that was unfunded, left to be funded by...Magic? I dunno.

As a reverse-Park & Ride commuter, this will effect me $7+ a week (or $28+ a month, or $364/yr). But, its not as if SR-520 has been clear and breezy either. Even from the bus, I can tell its at least at 60-80% of the before toll traffic.

Who this is going to affect the most are the poor people who both don't live near transit and don't work near transit and/or need their car both ways. This is majorly going to affect the working poor who works on the other side of the water. The ones living on Beacon Hill or south.

The morons here in Seattle voted down a statewide gas tax multiple times for the 520 bridge. So, we're left sticking it to the workers who believe in density, but have to work elsewhere. You know, instead of spreading it out to the whole state. Thanks Seattle.
Posted by TheMisanthrope on January 31, 2013 at 2:30 PM · Report this
Most people on Mercer Island aren't bothered by the prospect of tolling. The article covered a hearing at which only cranks showed up. Denise Joffe is an anesthesiologist at Children's who owns a house two fucking blocks from the I-90 bridge onramp at 76th. IT IS THE BRIDGE SHE USES EVERY GODDAM DAY.
Posted by gloomy gus on January 31, 2013 at 2:27 PM · Report this
@12 you're not being double taxed because you're not paying the full freight of the costs of maintaining roads and bridges.

When the citizens of this state in all their wisdom got tired of high license tab fees and decided to believe the Eyeman lie that dropping tabs to $30 would have no impact at all if the state would do better at "spending priorities" we all signed up for tolls, sooner or later. And now they are here.
Posted by Westside forever on January 31, 2013 at 2:26 PM · Report this
Reutte 17
@14 I imagine that must have been pretty frustrating to have to deal with. I wasn't alive back when they did the tolling in the 70s(?) but my mom told me that back then, they tolled both bridges to pay for the new Mercer island bridge and people didn't really flip out over it. Of course the tolls were much lower too and they were immediately removed once the money was collected for the bridge. But it did work out.
Posted by Reutte on January 31, 2013 at 2:19 PM · Report this
Looking For a Better Read 16
@11: It is actually cheaper to engage a private sector partner to run the tolling operation (presumed on the idea that they have competencies that have been developed elsewhere and thus can leverage scale and expertise) than it is for the state to organically develop a new skill set that has limited application.

If the state ever decided to toll a larger portion of the transportation network, then a case could be made that they could be cost-competitive with a private enterprise.
Posted by Looking For a Better Read on January 31, 2013 at 2:19 PM · Report this
Tolls are class warfare, plain and simple. Tax the rich.
Posted by till their eyes bleed on January 31, 2013 at 2:15 PM · Report this
Looking For a Better Read 14
@6: I worked, as a consultant, on the 520 Finance Plan. We looked at tolling 1-90 with 520 right off the bat, and showed that it was really the only way you could pay for the 520 program; however, from a political perspective, it was a non-starter. It had to be proved in practice that only tolling 520 1.) diverted a shit-ton of traffic to I-90, and 2.) did not generate enough proceeds to pay for the project. Everyone at WSDOT and in the Legislature knew five years ago that this is where we would eventually end up, but these were the iterative steps that needed to be taken.
Posted by Looking For a Better Read on January 31, 2013 at 2:13 PM · Report this
My answer: Because the largest corporations, like Boeing and Microsoft, are too special to pay their fair share of taxes even as they disproportionally burden the infrastructure. In two words, corporate welfare.

A toll is just another regressive tax layered on top of the already most regressive tax system in the country. A better solution would be to tax the richest individuals and corporations appropriately.
Posted by sarge on January 31, 2013 at 2:11 PM · Report this
Geocrackr 12
The real question is, why are we being double-taxed (since that's what being charged a toll or fee for government services that we are already being taxed to pay for is) instead of Boeing/Microsoft/Amazon/et al being forced to pay their fair share?
Posted by Geocrackr on January 31, 2013 at 2:10 PM · Report this
I have no problem paying for something that benefits the public generally. I do have an issue with freeway tolling as implemented in Washington, however. First, the tolls are a regressive tax and are disproportionately expensive for people with lower incomes. Second, they are run by for-profit partners, which siphons off money into private hands instead of returning it fully for public benefit. A better approach would be for important transportation initiatives to be funded out of the general fund, which in turn would be fed by a fair, progressive tax structure.
Posted by RVPMB on January 31, 2013 at 2:08 PM · Report this
Mercer Island has poor people, I have yet to see them?
Posted by Seattle14 on January 31, 2013 at 2:07 PM · Report this
Will in Seattle 9
Also, why doesn't she just use her yacht or speedboat to commute from her $2 million home?
Posted by Will in Seattle on January 31, 2013 at 2:06 PM · Report this
The anger and blaaarrrrrgh on the Seattle Times story on this is palpable and delicious
Posted by Reader01 on January 31, 2013 at 2:04 PM · Report this
pfffter 7
Oh God, Denise, why do I have to pay for the clean water that keeps you alive? Please tell me, because right now, I wish I didn't.
Posted by pfffter on January 31, 2013 at 2:01 PM · Report this
Reutte 6
They should have put tolls on both bridges from the start. They must have known that people would divert from the toll bridge to the other if they didn't. Personally, I hate tolls and I hate that we have to do this to pay for stuff but as a person who blew a tire on the 520 once with no emergency lane, I full support renovating that bridge.
Posted by Reutte on January 31, 2013 at 2:01 PM · Report this
GlibReaper 5
Right now I am imagining Mercer Island burn to it's overpriced waterline.
Posted by GlibReaper on January 31, 2013 at 2:01 PM · Report this
@3: Also, back when taxes were much higher.
Posted by tiktok on January 31, 2013 at 2:01 PM · Report this
i'm pro-science and i vote 3
I think it used to be a common understanding in this country many decades ago amongst everyone, even republicans, that taxes are necessary to keep this country together. Back when this country was more united against nazis, communists, fascist powers, etc.

Then the Rush Limbaugh wave of republicans came along
Posted by i'm pro-science and i vote on January 31, 2013 at 1:58 PM · Report this
Everyone wants stuff and no one wants to pay. It's the American way.
Posted by xina on January 31, 2013 at 1:55 PM · Report this
Will in Seattle 1
Just cancel the unfunded SR-99 Tunnel of Doom and we'll call it even.
Posted by Will in Seattle on January 31, 2013 at 1:49 PM · Report this

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