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.

Sunday, January 20th, 2019

King County residents want more transit, but there would be less under Tim Eyman’s I‑976

On the front page of this morn­ing’s Sun­day edi­tion of The Seat­tle Times, there’s a superb, must-read arti­cle by reporter David Gut­man detail­ing the results of a recent pub­lic opin­ion sur­vey the news­pa­per com­mis­sioned to ascer­tain vot­er atti­tudes towards expand­ing tran­sit ser­vice in our region. The sur­vey, con­duct­ed by long­time poll­ster Stu­art Elway, found strong majori­ties in sup­port of more tran­sit.

Most respon­dents said that they were affect­ed by traf­fic on a dai­ly basis and dri­ve alone to work, but aren’t inter­est­ed in mak­ing it eas­i­er to get around by car.

“[I]f it’s get­ting tougher out there for dri­vers, well, dri­vers can live with that — pro­vid­ed there are more options to get around with­out a car,” Gut­man wrote.

In a lat­er pas­sage, he unveils the num­bers from that par­tic­u­lar poll find­ing:

“A full two-thirds of Seat­tle res­i­dents said they would pre­fer to make it eas­i­er to trav­el with­out using a car, rather than make it eas­i­er to dri­ve. Even among all King Coun­ty res­i­dents, 73 per­cent of whom said they dri­ve alone to work, 57 per­cent would rather make it eas­i­er for non-dri­vers than for dri­vers.”

“The results hold true for both men and women, for all age groups and for all income lev­els,” Gut­man explains. “In both King Coun­ty and Seat­tle, no mat­ter the gen­der, age or income of respon­dents, a major­i­ty in all sub­groups would rather we work on mak­ing it eas­i­er to trav­el with­out a car than with a car.”

Our elect­ed rep­re­sen­ta­tives have been hear­ing this same sen­ti­ment for years, and have respond­ed by invest­ing in expand­ed tran­sit ser­vice at the state, region­al, and local lev­els — or pro­vid­ing vot­ers with oppor­tu­ni­ties to do so, like in 2016, when the Sound Tran­sit 3 sys­tem expan­sion plan was on the bal­lot.

But now these exist­ing invest­ments are under attack. Dis­graced ini­tia­tive pro­mot­er Tim Eyman is back (despite his legal trou­bles) with an ini­tia­tive that seeks to erase fund­ing for Amtrak Cas­cades and freight mobil­i­ty at the state lev­el, repeal one of the three rev­enue sources sup­port­ing Sound Tran­sit 3 at the region­al lev­el, and take away mon­ey for expand­ed King Coun­ty Metro ser­vice hours at the city lev­el.

Eyman’s I‑976 is the gravest threat tran­sit in Wash­ing­ton has faced in years. It’s  a short­sight­ed attempt to roll back more than a decade of bipar­ti­san progress in pre­cise­ly the invest­ments that vot­ers are demand­ing in one fell swoop.

Gut­man does­n’t men­tion I‑976 in his arti­cle, but last week, it offi­cial­ly qual­i­fied as an ini­tia­tive to the Leg­is­la­ture, hav­ing passed a ran­dom sam­ple check of its sig­na­tures. Although it goes before law­mak­ers first as an ini­tia­tive to the Leg­is­la­ture, it is des­tined to appear on the Novem­ber statewide bal­lot since there’s no chance that the Demo­c­ra­t­i­cal­ly-con­trolled Leg­is­la­ture will approve it.

NPI is work­ing hard to orga­nize oppo­si­tion to Eyman’s I‑976 to ensure that our vital vot­er-approved tran­sit invest­ments are pro­tect­ed.

It is essen­tial that every vot­er under­stands what will hap­pen if I‑976 is imple­ment­ed. Fund­ing for tran­sit at every lev­el would be repealed. Bus ser­vice hours in Seat­tle would be cut back. Neigh­bor­hoods in and out of the city would lose planned light rail sta­tions. Water taxi runs could be cur­tailed. Inter­ci­ty rail ser­vice to Portland/Eugene and Van­cou­ver, British Colum­bia would be gut­ted.

The list of impacts goes on… and on… and on.

Rur­al vot­ers should be aware that the impacts of I‑976 would not be con­fined to urban areas. Eyman wants to elim­i­nate vehi­cle fees in six­ty cities, and most of those cities are small towns that are using the mon­ey to pay for street repairs and long deferred road main­te­nance. You can see a list of affect­ed cities here.

I‑976 is a recipe for hor­rif­ic high­way grid­lock, derelict roads, and strand­ed trav­el­ers. Think traf­fic is bad now? If Eyman’s I‑976 goes into effect, it would get even worse. There would be few­er options for get­ting around with­out a car, not more.

Wors­en­ing traf­fic would make rush hour more of a day­long phe­nom­e­non, with no respite even for peo­ple who have flex­i­bil­i­ty in their work sched­ules.

Eyman has tried to brush off con­cerns about the impacts by sug­gest­ing the bil­lions of dol­lars in fund­ing his ini­tia­tive would wipe out over the next ten years could sim­ply be found else­where. As usu­al, Eyman is being dis­hon­est.

Where is replace­ment fund­ing sup­posed to come from?

Fuel tax­es? No. The state can­not use fuel tax­es to fund ser­vices like Amtrak Cas­cades because such funds are con­sti­tu­tion­al­ly restrict­ed to being spent on high­ways — as Tim Eyman is well aware.

Tolls? Eyman would be opposed to that. So would his pals on right wing talk radio. We’ve his­tor­i­cal­ly used toll rev­enues to finance new bridges. More recent­ly, express toll lanes were intro­duced on I‑405 between Belle­vue and Lyn­nwood. It isn’t nec­es­sary to pay a toll to use I‑405, only to dri­ve in the far left lane or lanes, but the right wing hates the express toll lanes nonethe­less, and wants them gone.

Sales tax­es? No. The over-relied upon sales tax is the sin­gle largest rev­enue source for the state’s gen­er­al fund. A major­i­ty of the gen­er­al fund sup­ports K‑12 schools or high­er edu­ca­tion. The sales tax rate is already at ten per­cent. Right wing talk show host John Carl­son, who fre­quent­ly brings Eyman in-stu­dio, recent­ly pro­posed cut­ting the state sales tax with­out replac­ing the lost rev­enue.

Prop­er­ty tax­es? No. Prop­er­ty tax­es have already been increased sig­nif­i­cant­ly in urban areas to fund vot­er-approved levies and the McCleary levy swipe scheme that the Sen­ate Repub­li­cans insist­ed on back in 2017 to adjust how schools are fund­ed.

B&O tax­es? No. There would be strong oppo­si­tion to that. The busi­ness com­mu­ni­ty is actu­al­ly lob­by­ing the Leg­is­la­ture right now to cut the state busi­ness and occu­pa­tion tax (a wide­ly dis­liked tax on gross receipts) to help man­u­fac­tur­ers.

You’ll nev­er hear Tim Eyman iden­ti­fy a replace­ment fund­ing source because he does­n’t actu­al­ly sup­port replac­ing the fund­ing. Eyman hates, absolute­ly hates, the idea of spend­ing mon­ey to build new light rail sta­tions like this one in Roo­sevelt:

Most peo­ple would like­ly agree that emp­ty­ing their retire­ment account to finance a polit­i­cal cru­sade against Sound Tran­sit (which Eyman claims to have done) would be an absolute­ly absurd, utter­ly fool­ish thing to do.

But not Eyman. Trains of any sort seem to offend him.

Last year, when he held a press con­fer­ence at Seat­tle’s King Street Sta­tion, the largest pas­sen­ger rail hub in the entire Pacif­ic North­west, I offered to buy him a tick­et so he could expe­ri­ence Link light rail with­out hav­ing to pay a cent.

He refused.

Unlike the major­i­ty of the respon­dents in the Elway Poll that the Seat­tle Times com­mis­sioned, Eyman wants any tax­es col­lect­ed for trans­porta­tion pur­pos­es to go exclu­sive­ly to high­ways and roads that he, Tim Eyman, can dri­ve his car on.

Repeal­ing vehi­cle fees to stick it to tran­sit isn’t the only bad idea Eyman has come up with over the years that would result in worse traf­fic.

In 2000, he pro­posed an ini­tia­tive that attempt­ed to forcibly redi­rect tran­sit fund­ing to roads (I‑745). Vot­ers reject­ed it. Eight years lat­er, Eyman tried to open high occu­pan­cy vehi­cle lanes to solo dri­vers with I‑985 (which we dubbed the More Traf­fic Mea­sure). Vot­ers said no. Three years after that, Eyman tried to ban vari­able tolling and block Link light rail from com­ing across I‑90 with I‑1125. He failed.

Now, an increas­ing­ly des­per­ate and nos­tal­gic Eyman is try­ing to recre­ate his break­out cam­paign from twen­ty years ago… Ini­tia­tive 695.

Wash­ing­ton still has­n’t recov­ered from the incred­i­ble dam­age inflict­ed by imple­men­ta­tion of I‑695. No mat­ter; Eyman does­n’t care and has repeat­ed­ly sneered that “the sky did­n’t fall” when I‑695 was imple­ment­ed. He may love make-believe, but our com­mu­ni­ties can’t afford any more of his destruc­tive ini­tia­tives.

It is reas­sur­ing to hear that the Seat­tle Times and Elway Research found that vot­ers in King Coun­ty are so sup­port­ive of invest­ing in free­dom of mobil­i­ty and want to make it even eas­i­er to get around with­out a car. I‑976, how­ev­er, would do just the oppo­site. It’s imper­a­tive that this ini­tia­tive be defeat­ed. We urge you to learn more about the impacts of I‑976 and join our oppo­si­tion coali­tion at no976.org.

Adjacent posts

  • Enjoyed what you just read? Make a donation


    Thank you for read­ing The Cas­ca­dia Advo­cate, the North­west Pro­gres­sive Insti­tute’s jour­nal of world, nation­al, and local pol­i­tics.

    Found­ed in March of 2004, The Cas­ca­dia Advo­cate has been help­ing peo­ple through­out the Pacif­ic North­west and beyond make sense of cur­rent events with rig­or­ous analy­sis and thought-pro­vok­ing com­men­tary for more than fif­teen years. The Cas­ca­dia Advo­cate is fund­ed by read­ers like you and trust­ed spon­sors. We don’t run ads or pub­lish con­tent in exchange for mon­ey.

    Help us keep The Cas­ca­dia Advo­cate edi­to­ri­al­ly inde­pen­dent and freely avail­able to all by becom­ing a mem­ber of the North­west Pro­gres­sive Insti­tute today. Or make a dona­tion to sus­tain our essen­tial research and advo­ca­cy jour­nal­ism.

    Your con­tri­bu­tion will allow us to con­tin­ue bring­ing you fea­tures like Last Week In Con­gress, live cov­er­age of events like Net­roots Nation or the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Nation­al Con­ven­tion, and reviews of books and doc­u­men­tary films.

    Become an NPI mem­ber Make a one-time dona­tion