NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Monday, October 14th, 2013

LIVE from Seattle: Transportation “listening tour” comes to the Emerald City

Good evening from Seat­tle. I’m here at the First Pres­by­ter­ian Church on First Hill, where a dozen mem­bers of the state House and Sen­ate are hold­ing a pub­lic meet­ing to talk about Wash­ing­ton State’s trans­porta­tion needs. This is the lat­est stop on what’s been called a “lis­ten­ing tour” insti­gat­ed by Rod­ney Tom and Sen­ate Repub­li­cans fol­low­ing the Sen­ate’s fail­ure ear­li­er this year to take up the statewide trans­porta­tion pack­age passed by the House, or even pro­pose their own.

I’ll update this post as fre­quent­ly as I can. The hear­ing is sched­uled to run from 6 PM to 9 PM and there will be a lot of tes­ti­mo­ny.

UPDATE, 6:22 PM: We’re final­ly get­ting start­ed. It took twen­ty min­utes just for all of the leg­is­la­tors to intro­duce them­selves and for Sen­a­tor Cur­tis King (co-chair of the Sen­ate Trans­porta­tion Com­mit­tee) to go over the ground rules. The crowd here is a bit rest­less and we’ve heard calls from the audi­ence to get start­ed.

UPDATE, 6:24 PM: Our first speak­er notes that there have been too many cut­backs in fer­ry ser­vice, which has hurt fer­ry-depen­dent com­mu­ni­ties like Vashon Island, Bre­mer­ton, Whid­bey Island, and the San Juans.

UPDATE, 6:24 PM: King Coun­ty Exec­u­tive Dow Con­stan­tine is address­ing the pan­el. “We must invest in our trans­porta­tion needs. We must do it now,” he says. “Mobil­i­ty is essen­tial for the econ­o­my of this region and this state.” He notes that King Coun­ty Metro car­ries near­ly 400,000 peo­ple each week­day, and that Metro is prepar­ing to release details on what routes will have to be cut if the state Leg­is­la­ture does­n’t give the coun­ty the abil­i­ty to raise rev­enue for Metro.

UPDATE, 6:26 PM: Seat­tle City Coun­cilmem­ber Sal­ly Bagshaw is talk­ing about the con­nec­tion between grid­lock and port com­pet­i­tive­ness. If our ports can’t effi­cient­ly move car­go, it hurts our abil­i­ty to com­pete with Van­cou­ver and Prince Rupert. “I’ve heard from truck dri­vers in East­ern Wash­ing­ton who are so frus­trat­ed that the [I‑90 traf­fic] back­ups start in Issaquah,” she says.

UPDATE, 6:30 PM: Repub­li­can King Coun­ty Coun­cilmem­ber Kathy Lam­bert says we need a trans­porta­tion pack­age with a mix of roads and tran­sit. She says the time for dither­ing and pro­cras­ti­na­tion is over.  She remind­ed the leg­is­la­tors up at the tables in the front, “A stitch in time saves nine.”

UPDATE, 6:33 PM: King Coun­ty Coun­cilmem­ber Lar­ry Phillips got lots of applause for yield­ing his time and let­ting the cit­i­zens stand­ing behind him begin to address the pan­el. He joked that it might take “divine inter­ven­tion” to get a trans­porta­tion pack­age, but we real­ly, real­ly, real­ly need one.

UPDATE, 6:37 PM: Our first few speak­ers have done a very good job of explain­ing the con­se­quences of Metro bus ser­vice being cut. Metro is under­fund­ed as it is, and dra­con­ian ser­vice cuts will only make things much worse.

UPDATE, 6:40 PM: Our most pas­sion­ate cit­i­zen speak­er so far brought up an impor­tant point: Wash­ing­ton has the most regres­sive tax struc­ture in the state. “We have some of the rich­est peo­ple in this coun­try here in this state,” said the activist. “It’s about time you show you can serve the ordi­nary peo­ple instead of the cor­po­ra­tions you have served so far.”

UPDATE, 6:41 PM: Repub­li­can King Coun­ty Coun­cilmem­ber Rea­gan Dunn says there is bipar­ti­san sup­port for a com­pre­hen­sive trans­porta­tion pack­age that empow­ers cities and coun­ties to tack­le traf­fic con­ges­tion and improve tran­sit ser­vice. He urged the Leg­is­la­ture to act with­out delay.

UPDATE, 6:47 PM: Red­mond City Coun­cilmem­ber Hank Myers, who ran for state House last year against Cyrus Habib, just spoke about the lousy track record of the HOT lanes the state has cre­at­ed on high­ways like SR 167. (HOT lanes, pejo­ra­tive­ly called “Lexus lanes”, are HOV lanes that allow sin­gle occu­pan­cy vehi­cles to trav­el in the lane dur­ing con­gest­ed peri­ods if they pay a toll).

UPDATE, 6:48 PM: We just heard from Celeste Gilman, who stressed the impor­tance of qual­i­ty tran­sit ser­vice and explained how she and her daugh­ter depend on Sound Tran­sit and Metro to get around. “We need you to act to call a spe­cial ses­sion to pass a last­ing rev­enue pack­age that will pro­vide us with the tran­sit, walk­ing [oppor­tu­ni­ties], and bik­ing [oppor­tu­ni­ties] that we need,” she said. Loud cheers filled the church sanc­tu­ary as she walked away from the micro­phone.

UPDATE, 6:58 PM: Out­spo­ken activist Chris Mob­ley of the Tran­sit Rid­ers Union is speak­ing. He is pulling no punch­es, cas­ti­gat­ing the so-called “Major­i­ty Coali­tion cau­cus” for try­ing to pro­mul­gate a 1950s-era trans­porta­tion sys­tem where dri­ving is the only option. He con­demned Sen­ate Repub­li­cans (sev­er­al of whom are here) for fail­ing to get any­thing done dur­ing the ses­sion and for try­ing to advance a right wing agen­da. He con­clud­ed his remarks by rip­ping up a copy of the Sen­ate Repub­li­cans’ trans­porta­tion plan. The church sanc­tu­ary explod­ed in cheers and applause, and a sus­tained chant of “Save Our Metro” broke out.

UPDATE, 7:04 PM: A union car­pen­ter is speak­ing now. “I’d like to tell every­one here, you can either lis­ten to them and their bells and whis­tles, or you can fight,” he said, address­ing fel­low activists in the audi­ence. Like a cou­ple of speak­ers before him, he point­ed out that our state’s tax oblig­a­tions fall most heav­i­ly on low and mid­dle income fam­i­lies, not the wealthy, who can most afford to pay.

UPDATE, 7:11 PM: We con­tin­ue to hear from speak­ers who sup­port a trans­porta­tion pack­age. Our lat­est speak­er notes that we can’t con­tin­ue to build a sus­tain­able soci­ety around the inter­nal com­bus­tion engine. He’s recount­ing his vis­it to his child­hood home in Hous­ton, where he says there is now a four­teen lane high­way instead of a two-lane one and signs declar­ing that bicy­cles are not allowed.

UPDATE, 7:17 PM: Katie Wil­son of the Tran­sit Rid­ers Union just gave a barn­stormer of a speech, cas­ti­gat­ing Sen­ate Repub­li­cans for their fail­ure to pass a trans­porta­tion pack­age and call­ing the lis­ten­ing tour a sham. I’ll try to tran­scribe her remarks lat­er. She was pas­sion­ate and elo­quent.

UPDATE, 7:25 PM: M.C. Halver­son, who owns prop­er­ty in one of the city’s indus­tri­al zones, says the state of the roads in our indus­tri­al areas is a dis­grace and that we ought to be more con­cerned about road main­te­nance.

UPDATE, 7:29 PM: A lot of city coun­cilmem­bers have signed up to speak tonight. We’re hear­ing now from Pat Hul­cey of Fife, who’s talk­ing about the need for com­plet­ing SR 167 and oth­er projects. We’ve already heard from coun­cilmem­bers in Kent, Mount­lake Ter­race, Red­mond, and many oth­er cities in the greater Puget Sound region, who have offered some very cogent obser­va­tions.

UPDATE, 7:34 PM: A Google engi­neer is telling law­mak­ers he recent­ly had a bike acci­dent on a trail that was sup­posed to be improved, but has­n’t been yet. He stressed the need for peo­ple who walk and bike to work, school, or any­where else to be able to do so safe­ly. We need safe and com­plete streets.

UPDATE, 7:36 PM: A dis­abled speak­er says that he often has to wheel him­self a mile to get to a bus that is capa­ble of allow­ing him to board. He called on leg­is­la­tors to fund pub­lic trans­porta­tion and stop cre­at­ing new megapro­jects.

UPDATE, 7:49 PM: Our last speak­er, a blind man, not­ed the dev­as­tat­ing impact that the imple­men­ta­tion of Tim Eyman’s 695 has had since the turn of the cen­tu­ry. 695 wiped out bil­lions of dol­lars in fund­ing for fer­ries, roads, and tran­sit. It’s the first name Eyman’s name has been men­tioned tonight. Eyman is sit­ting not far away from the micro­phone, qui­et­ly lis­ten­ing to the tes­ti­mo­ny.

UPDATE, 8 PM: One more hour to go. We con­tin­ue to hear noth­ing but sup­port for a statewide trans­porta­tion pack­age and, in par­tic­u­lar, a local options bill that would allow King Coun­ty to raise mon­ey for Metro to stave off dra­con­ian cuts. Sen­a­tor Andy Hill, who rep­re­sents the 45th Dis­trict, has excused him­self and appar­ent­ly left, but the oth­er leg­is­la­tors are still here.

UPDATE, 8:18 PM: It’s always reas­sur­ing to see so many peo­ple take time out of their busy sched­ules to par­tic­i­pate in a pub­lic meet­ing like this. We have heard from tran­sit activists, union car­pen­ters, vet­er­ans, busi­ness own­ers, elect­ed lead­ers, and con­cerned cit­i­zens tonight. The peo­ple have done most of the talk­ing for a change, and the law­mak­ers who are here seem to be pay­ing atten­tion.

UPDATE, 8:20 PM: Some of the issues that speak­ers have touched on tonight:

  • Port com­pet­i­tive­ness. We need to improve freight mobil­i­ty so we can get goods to mar­ket through our ports, chiefly the Port of Seat­tle and the Port of Taco­ma. Wash­ing­ton is the most trade depen­dent state in the nation.
  • Wash­ing­ton’s tax struc­ture is regres­sive. We have the most regres­sive tax sys­tem in the coun­try, which means low and mid­dle income fam­i­lies have high­er tax oblig­a­tions as a per­cent­age of their income than the wealthy. That’s not right, and we need tax reform in addi­tion to stronger pub­lic ser­vices.
  • Tran­sit ser­vice cuts fall hard­est on peo­ple who don’t dri­ve. Many speak­ers have point­ed out that when bus routes and ser­vice hours are cut, those cuts dis­pro­por­tion­ate­ly affect the dis­abled, the poor, and peo­ple who choose not to own or lease an auto­mo­bile.
  • Home rule. Cities and coun­ties stand ready to make invest­ments in local roads and bet­ter tran­sit, but they need the author­i­ty to raise rev­enue from the state before they can make those invest­ments.
  • Megapro­jects are eat­ing up too many tax dol­lars. Sev­er­al speak­ers have argued that WSDOT should scale back megapro­jects like the Ever­green Point Float­ing Bridge replace­ment and redi­rect the funds to oth­er needs.
  • Invest­ing in tran­sit for all is good for our eco­nom­ic secu­ri­ty. Tran­sit expan­sion projects cre­ate good union con­struc­tion jobs and improve liv­abil­i­ty in urban and sub­ur­ban neigh­bor­hoods.

UPDATE, 8:32 PM: Sen­a­tor Cur­tis King has called Tim Eyman’s name. Guess Eyman is plan­ning to tes­ti­fy. We’ll see how well behaved he is.

UPDATE, 8:34 PM: Our most recent speak­er, from the Tran­sit Rid­ers Union, brought up Rod­ney Tom and Tim Shel­don’s coup in the state Sen­ate last year and told Tom “You should be ashamed of your­self.”

More updates to come.…

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One Comment

  1. Thanks for the live cov­er­age. Much appre­ci­at­ed. Some of us can’t get off work to go to these things.

    # by Arielle D. :: October 22nd, 2013 at 8:57 PM

One Ping

  1. […] chant­ed. Katie Wil­son, co-founder of the Seat­tle Tran­sit Rid­ers Union, called the tour “a …LIVE from Seat­tle: Trans­porta­tion “lis­ten­ing tour” comes to the Emer­ald CityNorth­west Pro­gres­sive Insti­tute Offi­cial Blog […]