The Last Transportation 2040 Post For A While, I Promise.

By Josh Cohen March 19, 2010

In response to my my last column on the Puget Sound Regional Council Transportation 2040, Rick Olson, PSRC director of government and communications, emailed me with two major points refuting some of the arguments made by Cascade Bicycle Club and Futurewise.

First, though, I need to start by making a quick correction. I wrote that David Hiller, Cascade Bicycle Club's advocacy director, said the latest draft of Transportation 2040 contains less investment in transit than in the Alternative 5 option of the original draft (the plan CBC supported). Hiller actually said that the PSRC  increased investments in roadways, not that they reduced investment in transit.

Okay, on to the PSRC response, which helps clarify some of the facts of this enormous, dense project, if nothing else. (Writing about transportation politics in Seattle is dizzying.)

Olson points out in his email that there was actually an increase in transit funding from Alternative Five to the current hybrid plan:
Alternative 5 included a $50.3 billion investment in local transit.  The current draft includes a total of $62.1 billion in local transit.  Alt 5 had $56.5 billion for Sound Transit.  The current draft has $58.5 billion.  Bottom line overall transit investment increase: roughly $14 billion.

Hiller stands by his argument, however, that the "ratio of roadway miles to transit service miles shows the plan is still more biased towards transit."

The second point Olson made was that tolling revenues will be used to fund all transportation projects, not just highway and road projects as Futurewise planning director Tim Trohimovich had said.

Olson writes me:

Policy language included in Transportation 2040 makes clear that toll revenues are not just intended for roadway uses, but for all types of transportation.  For planning purposes, the plan makes assumptions about future distribution of toll revenues for highways, transit, to cities and counties for various modes, ferries, non-motorized, intelligent transportation systems and demand management.

Trohimovich points to Amendment 11 adopted by the Transportation Policy Board which modifies the language on how tolling revenues can be distributed (the bolded part was added in the amendment). The amendment says, "Allow revenues to be used to support transit or other high occupancy vehicle services in the corridor or geography from which revenues are generated, provided road investments in the tolled corridor are planned to be completed as set forth in the Metropolitan Transportation Plan."

Trohimovich says that he and several other multi-modal transportation advocates take this to mean that that roads will get toll funding priority and transit cannot be funded until all of the roads in the corridor are funded.

The funding allocation is mostly out of the hands of the PSRC. The State Legislature is in charge of establishing which highways get tolled and what to use the toll revenues for. Olson says that their plan "assumes that tolls will be used for all sorts of things and, in fact, relies on that happening."

Transportation 2040 proposes using the tolling revenue as follows: highways 60%, transit 14%, cities and counties 8%, Ferries 4%, and other regional (which includes non-motorized transportation) 4%. The rest of the money is used to offset other taxes and implementing toll systems.

If all this Transportation 2040 talk has stirred your passions and you're dying to add your voice you've still got the chance. Olson says that the PSRC is still accepting public comments through the Transportation 2040 website and that nothing is set in stone. He says "the draft Transportation 2040 plan includes built in flexibility to make changes over time."
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