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.
- How Transit Benefits People Who Do Not Ride It: A Conservative Inquiry
- Does Transit Work? A Conservative Reappraisal
- Twelve Anti-Transit Myths: A Conservative Critique
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.