One Question for Sen. Marko Liias About Whether Sound Transit Should Subsidize Parking
One question for state Sen. Marko Liias about a proposal to link Sound Transit funding to subsidies for parking in neighborhoods near light-rail stations.
Yesterday's high profile fight over a pair of senate transportation budget amendments got resolved when the Democrats went along with the Republicans and agreed to strip out the initial offending amendment—Sen. Jamie Pedersen's (D-43, Capitol Hill) provision to make Medina cover cost overruns for 520. Get it?
Conversely, a less ostentatious amendment—but, in fact, more significant one—sponsored by Sen. Bob Hasegawa (D-11, Southeast Seattle, Tukwila) made it into the bill when the Republicans (and not the Democrats so much) got behind it.
Sen. Hasegawa's amendment would prohibit Sound Transit from spending any regional mobility grant money (the grant funds local transit-related projects) unless the agency subsidized residential parking zone permits for neighborhoods near transit stations.
Currently, Sound Transit is scheduled to receive mobility grant money for two projects: The completion of the South 200th St. station in the city of SeaTac, and the expansion of its bus fleet to include larger buses, reducing bus overcrowding in areas like North Seattle.
Sound Transit could, under the amendment, also be required to outright "Pay for the cost of the parking permits in the vicinity of the facility, if a local government implements zoned residential parking permits as a direct result of the parking impacts of the facility."
Currently, an RPZ permit costs $65 for two years ($10 for low-income residents) and allows a resident to park for free anywhere in the parking zone.
The proposal comes in response to South Seattle residents who've complained that they have trouble finding parking in their neighborhoods because of nearby light rail stations. Additionally, Hasegawa said on the senate floor yesterday, working-class people who don't qualify for the low-income rate have called the current fee too expensive. However, under the language of the amendment, the subsidies or free parking permits would not be limited to lower-income residents.
Hasegawa has not returned a call for comment. But his fellow Seattle-area Democrat, Sen. Marko Liias (D-21, Edmonds), who represents several cities north of Seattle including Edmonds and Lynnwood, did get back to us to tell us why he opposed the amendment (and spoke against it on the senate floor yesterday).
Here's what Liias had to say:
This prohibits any of the state's regional mobility funds from going to Sound Transit until they pay for parking. I don't have a dog in this [RPZ] fight, but conditioning the replacement of my [district's] buses with higher-capacity, cleaner, diesel hybrid buses, for my northern routes that are jammed with folks, holding those passengers hostage to get this parking thing resolved, is not a fair way to deal with this issue.
There's an existing parking mitigation process that Sound Transit already goes through with every new facility it builds. If we want Sound Transit to mitigate parking in a different way, there’s existing law to deal with parking issues. I don’t think conditioning grants on a particular outcome is tha way to solve the problem. There’s an existing mechanism to deal with those concerns and mitigate them.
Bob, in his remarks on the floor and in his testimony, has focused on the working poor folks. But again, the amendment is broader than that. We should use the existing channels of mitigation and addressing impacts. This is far too complex an issue to deal with as a condition to a completely unrelated grant program.
State Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon (D-34, Burien), who sits on the house transportation committee, says he thinks Hasegawa's amendment doesn't stand a chance in the Democratic-dominated house. "I would be surprised to see that language make it," he says.
Fitzgibbon also points out that RPZs aren't imposed on neighborhoods by governments; they're implemented only when neighbors request them and go through a long approval process with the city. "I guess I just don’t share the concern that having an RPZ is a huge burden for neighborhoods," he says.