1. King County council member Joe McDermott won the sole endorsement of the 34th District Democrats last night in the race to replace retiring longtime U.S. representative Jim McDermott (D-WA, 7).
The vote wasn’t surprising—McDermott (no relation) has represented the West Seattle turf either as a state legislator or as a county council member since the early 2000s; after serving as a state representative and then state senator in Olympia since 2001, McDermott was elected to the King County council from West Seattle in 2010.
Candidates need 60 percent to get the sole endorsement and McDermott got 44 votes out of the 70 district members eligible to vote, a little more than 60 percent.
State senator Pramila Jayapal (D-37, Southeast Seattle) got 22 votes. And state representative Brady Walkinshaw (D-43, Capitol Hill) got three votes.
Speaking of the race to fill Jim McDermott’s seat, Walkinshaw is rolling out some sole endorsements later today, including Jayapal’s own district colleague, state representative Eric Pettigrew (D-37, Southeast Seattle), the lone African American in the state legislature.
2. Republicans in Olympia are hailing a study about I-405 tolling that shows “post-toll speeds in the general purpose lanes have generally gotten worse for the majority of drivers.”
Editorializing here, but the whole point of user fees like fast lanes is to discourage single occupancy commuting by making it less convenient.
And this is not necessarily a point the embattled Washington State Department of Transportation disputes. WSDOT’s data shows both that travel times have gotten faster in the new tolling lanes (where commuters can pay to join the fast lanes for carpoolers) and, yes, have slowed in general purpose lanes.
In a letter WSDOT sent to Democrats who were antsy about commuter complaints (and had signed off on a GOP push to do away with tolling in nonpeak hours), WSDOT deputy secretary (or maybe acting secretary now) Roger Millar began slyly: “Our observations coincide with those in your letter that, since opening the express toll lanes, travel times have improved for drivers traveling the entire corridor and have provided an immediate benefit of a reliable trip for transit,” and then added: “At the same time, we acknowledge that drivers making shorter trips, or traveling on weekends, have seen increased congestion and longer travel times in the general purpose lanes.”
For wonks only, but asked to elaborate, WSDOT toll division spokesperson Ethan Bergerson explained (bold and asterisk mine):
When we say shorter trips, we’re referring to trips made between SR 522 and I-5 where there is less capacity. The Bellevue to Lynnwood Project added capacity south of SR 522 and made improvements at the SR 522 interchange. Those drivers previously stuck in traffic in Kirkland are traveling faster until they reach a new bottleneck where five lanes reduce to three lanes north of SR 522. This problem would exist with or without express toll lanes because capacity north of SR 522 is unfunded.* WSDOT is considering interim options to help improve traffic in the north end including adjusting access points and looking at ways to strategically add capacity in certain locations.
To find out why [traffic volumes in the toll lanes have decreased under the new programs and speed in regular lanes have slowed], we recently conducted a survey of over 600 weekend I-405 drivers. The majority of survey respondents reported that the biggest barriers to weekend use were that they did not have a Flex Pass or the perception of high costs. However, 66 percent of the respondents didn’t know tolls are usually 75 cents on the weekends, only 29 percent knew carpoolers qualify for a free Good to Go! Flex Pass, and 59 percent of respondents didn’t know you can buy a Flex Pass in person at a retailer or at a customer service center. We’ve always said that it takes 6 months to a year for drivers to adjust to the changes, and this is especially true for weekend drivers who may travel or carpool on I-405 less frequently and have had fewer trips then daily commuters to adjust to the changes.
*With gas tax revenue in decline, user fees such as tolling seem like a smart way to pay for an upgrade.