Edi­tor’s Note: On Wednes­day, I trav­eled down in Olympia to tes­ti­fy before the House Trans­porta­tion Com­mit­tee on HB 1180, which would give Sound Tran­sit the author­i­ty it needs to pro­pose an ST3 pack­age to vot­ers in urban King, Sno­homish, and Pierce coun­ties in 2016. The fol­low­ing is the text of my pre­pared testimony.

Good after­noon, Madam Chair and mem­bers of the committee:

For the record, my name is Andrew Vil­leneuve. I’m the founder and exec­u­tive direc­tor of the North­west Pro­gres­sive Insti­tute, a net­roots pow­ered strat­e­gy cen­ter work­ing to raise Amer­i­ca’s qual­i­ty of life through inno­v­a­tive research and imag­i­na­tive advo­ca­cy, and I’m pleased to be here today to speak in favor of HB 1180, prime spon­sored by Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Jake Fey. 

Since the found­ing of NPI’s Per­ma­nent Defense near­ly thir­teen years ago, we have been emphat­ic sup­port­ers of Sound Tran­sit and its mis­sion. As Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Fey said in his remarks ear­li­er, a strong region­al tran­sit sys­tem is the key to fight­ing traf­fic con­ges­tion and pro­mot­ing broad pros­per­i­ty for Washingtonians.

We were proud to stand with Sound Tran­sit as it reor­ga­nized itself into a mod­el pub­lic agency more than a decade ago, and we’re incred­i­bly pleased that ST now has a track record of deliv­er­ing projects on time and under budget.

Although we have sev­er­al Link exten­sions already under con­struc­tion or in final design, we need to set the stage for the next phase of projects so that our region’s rail spine con­tin­ues to be built out. There are many neigh­bor­hoods that are eager­ly await­ing to be con­nect­ed to Link, from Fed­er­al Way to Bal­lard to Everett.

Polling con­duct­ed for Sound Tran­sit just last month by EMC Research shows that the peo­ple of Wash­ing­ton’s most pop­u­lat­ed region are very hun­gry for more tran­sit. When asked if they would sup­port a hypo­theth­i­cal Sound Tran­sit 3 bal­lot mea­sure, sev­en­ty per­cent of respon­dents said they would be in favor, while only twen­ty-eight per­cent said they would be opposed.

That’s a ratio of more than two to one!

Sep­a­rate­ly, respon­dents were asked if the Leg­is­la­ture should “def­i­nite­ly, prob­a­bly, prob­a­bly not, or def­i­nite­ly not give Sound Tran­sit new tax­ing author­i­ty so they can put a tran­sit expan­sion mea­sure on the bal­lot some­time in the future?”

Again, by a two-to-one ratio, respon­dents said yes. Six­ty-eight per­cent said the Leg­is­la­ture should def­i­nite­ly or prob­a­bly give ST the author­i­ty it is seek­ing, while only thir­ty per­cent said it should not.

These are com­pelling num­bers. This data backs up what my staff and I hear when we talk to urban Wash­ing­to­ni­ans: a size­able major­i­ty want more tran­sit. Giv­en the oppor­tu­ni­ty to vote for more tran­sit, they will, in a heartbeat.

We know there is still some skep­ti­cism about how effec­tive light rail is at reduc­ing con­ges­tion. It is impor­tant to under­stand that light rail and bus­es com­ple­ment each oth­er. They are dif­fer­ent modes. We need both a strong rail spine and a well-designed net­work of bus routes to have a tru­ly great tran­sit system.

Cru­cial­ly, the expe­ri­ence of oth­er cities shows us that rail appeals to peo­ple who own cars and have a choice between dri­ving and riding.

Tran­sit-depen­dent indi­vid­u­als will use what­ev­er tran­sit is avail­able, because they don’t have a choice. But those who do own cars are much more like­ly to choose not to dri­ve if they can get where they need or want to go via train. This has been repeat­ed­ly doc­u­ment­ed through research.

For those mem­bers of the com­mit­tee who are Repub­li­cans, I’d like to call your atten­tion to sev­er­al excel­lent papers writ­ten by well known con­ser­v­a­tives Paul Weyrich and Bill Lind that have thor­ough­ly exam­ined the val­ue of light rail and high capac­i­ty tran­sit. These are all avail­able from the Amer­i­can Pub­lic Trans­porta­tion Asso­ci­a­tion in PDF. They are good reads, and they do a good job of dis­pelling the myths so fre­quent­ly prop­a­gat­ed by tran­sit bash­ers and tran­sit skeptics.

Sound Tran­sit is ready to move for­ward, but before it can offer the vot­ers of its juris­dic­tion an oppor­tu­ni­ty to fur­ther invest in an effec­tive tran­sit sys­tem that relieves con­ges­tion in our crowd­ed cor­ri­dors, it needs to have the author­i­ty to raise addi­tion­al rev­enue. House Bill 1180 would pro­vide this much-need­ed author­i­ty. We urge you to report HB 1180 out of com­mit­tee with an enthu­si­as­tic do pass rec­om­men­da­tion next week. Thank you very much for your time.

About the author

Andrew Villeneuve is the founder and executive director of the Northwest Progressive Institute, as well as the founder of NPI's sibling, the Northwest Progressive Foundation. He has worked to advance progressive causes for over two decades as a strategist, speaker, author, and organizer. Andrew is also a cybersecurity expert, a veteran facilitator, a delegate to the Washington State Democratic Central Committee, and a member of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps.

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