This Washington

Coalition Unveils Scaled-Back Alt-Transportation Agenda

By Erica C. Barnett December 3, 2010

The Transportation Choices Coalition, which advocates for alternatives to driving alone, unveiled a modest state legislative agenda at a lunchtime forum this afternoon that reflects the sour economic forecast for the state next year. TCC director Rob Johnson launched a lunchtime meeting today by saying, "It's going to be a really terrible session next year," a preface to the news that the group will focus its efforts on local transportation funding rather than funding from the state.

In addition to lobbying to preserve language in state law that encourages people to drive less (I wrote about efforts to repeal that legislation here), TCC is seeking, among other things, emergency short-term funding for transit (without which transit agencies like King County Metro face cuts of up to 40 percent); tolling policies that allow tolls to pay for transit, not just road expansion and improvements; a requirement that tolls in high-occupancy transit lanes apply to all cars with fewer than three occupants; new local tax options to pay for transit; and state investments in transit "where appropriate."

Additionally, TCC's agenda calls for several proposals that are probably years in the future, including pay-as-you-drive insurance, mandated health-impact assessments on big transportation projects; financial incentives for transit-oriented communities (a tiny nod to the TOC bill that went down in flames last year) and a statewide Complete Streets policy (requiring local jurisdictions to consider all road users, not just drivers, when making road improvements).

The group also discussed the implications of I-1053, the Tim Eyman initiative that requires a two-thirds vote of the state legislature to raise any taxes, including transportation taxes. TCC field director Andrew Austin said 1053 could have a silver lining, because---by making it essentially impossible to raise transportation taxes in the legislature---the measure will force all such taxes to a vote of the people. "The voters want transit, and the voters want safe streets," Austin said. "We feel that in order to pass a [transportation] revenue package in Washington, the voters in central Puget Sound have to pass it and the voters in central Puget Sound tend to listen to us and our allies on transportation."

TCC members also discussed the possibility of passing a $50 to $60 vehicle license fee in King County to help keep Metro operating at current levels. Of that total, King County could pass $20 without voter approval; the rest would have to go on a countywide ballot.
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