Afternoon Jolt

Monday Jolt: Bikes and Transit

The day's winners and losers.

By Afternoon Jolt May 19, 2014

Afternoon Jolt

Today's win(ning idea): A proposal, courtesy of city council members Kshama Sawant and Nick Licata, to make up King County Metro's funding shortfall by passing an employee hours tax (AKA the reviled "head tax," repealed in 2009 under then-mayor Greg Nickels) and an increase in the current tax on commercial parking.

It's unclear what the duration of the tax is—would it kick in pronto as a stopgap before Mayor Ed Murray separate $45 million proposal to fend off Metro cuts takes effect?— and how if works (or doesn't work) with Murray's proposal overall; we have calls out to the council spokeswoman, and Licata.

The head tax would be as much as $18 per employee a year, and the commercial parking tax would increase by five percent, to 17.5 cents per dollar. The council could pass both taxes without voter approval and would not interfere with the $60 annual vehicle license fee portion of Murray's plan, although it would eliminate a 0.1-cent sales tax that's included in the mayor's proposal. 

In a statement, which was signed by the Socialist Alternative Party, of which Sawant is a member, Licata and Sawant said their proposal would "shift the burden of long-term [Metro] funding off Seattle’s working people, elderly, disabled, students, and people of color who need service to be maintained."

Given the controversy that surrounded the head tax and the commercial parking tax on their first passes around, we're skeptical that this double-whammy will go through without some similar difficulties, but we love Metro, so we're hoping Kshama and Nick make that magic happen. 

Today's loser (in the making): Bicyclists who use Westlake Avenue, where a handful of business owners have long been arguing that the city should drop its plans to build a dedicated cycletrack beause it will result in the removal of about 100 parking spaces for cars. 

The organization, which calls itself the Westlake Stakeholders Group, is trying to turn out opposition to the 1.2-mile Westlake bike lane extension at an open house planned by the Seattle Department of Transportation this Wednesday night. On their web site, the group says it's concerned about preserving "Westlake's working waterfront," but its yellow-highlighted "CALL FOR ACTION" only talks about the loss of parking.

Previously, the group sued the city to stop the entire Bike Master Plan update, a project in the works for two years, because they opposed the Westlake project. Earlier this year, the group dropped its lawsuit and settled with the city, creating the sense that the bike community and the business folks were both on board with the bike plan. 

Now, in an email to supporters, the group claims the city is "going back to the drawing board" on the Westlake cycle track—a claim SDOT spokesman Rick Sheridan says is not true. 

Sheridan says SDOT is moving ahead with its plans to build a cycle track, but wants "to have a conversation with the community to make sure that we understand both the concerns and the opportunities for building a bike facility on Westlake while we are moving forward with addressing the clear safety issue that exists in that corridor."


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