In Seattle, Transit Supporters Get Ready to Flex Political Muscle

Right now, legislators in Washington state are facing the possibility of gridlock over proposals for new transportation revenue and spending, in which case they could put the transportation package on the ballot.

At the ballot box, votes from transit supporters can make all the difference in Washington state. Photo: ## Reconnecting America##

The key question legislators should consider, says Adam Bejan Parast Seattle Transit Blog, is whether their proposal would win over pro-transit voters. And the current highway-heavy spending plan might not pass if it comes up for a referendum:

History has shown that when transit supporters are not happy with a transportation package, an odd coalition of environmentalists and fiscal conservatives (i.e. Tim Eyman) emerges to soundly reject it. This is as true now as it has ever been.

The 2007 Roads and Transit package and 2008 Sound Transit 2 measures clearly illustrate this trend. Full of controversial projects (such as the Cross Base Highway) and with strong institutional and financial backing, Roads and Transit was nevertheless rejected by 56% of the voters in King, Snohomish and Pierce counties. In contrast, Sound Transit 2 passed just a year later with 57% approval despite a shoestring campaign budget and the looming economic crisis (see map above).

As currently proposed, the House transportation package looks to repeat the history of R-51 and Road and Transit, with transit supporters opposed to the package despite the dire funding needs of transit agencies. What transit supporters want is important, but what they don’t want is equally important, and their ‘yes’ vote cannot be assured simply by including their needs in an otherwise unacceptable package.

What do you think: Would your state’s transportation plans survive a bout with direct democracy?

Elsewhere on the Network today: New Jersey Future explains a new bill that would allow Garden State communities to strategically “cluster” development. And The League of American Bicyclists offers an overview of safe passing laws in place around the United States.

  • Bolwerk

    Credible “fiscal conservatives” are obligated to be transit advocates. The problem with the label is it mainly refers to borrow-and-spend Republikan Party cogs, who do anything but conserve anything other than their own power. 

  • Anonymous

    People still listen to that blubbering boohoo Tim Eyman? Wow.

    Putting anything transit on the ballot in Washington State is always a mixed bag. Many people up there still equate anything transit as something that will bring “undesirables” into their neighborhood. Sad, but true.

  • Bolwerk

    @njudah:disqus: the attitude probably permeates most of the USA. As if someone stealing your TV wouldn’t want a car to transport it!

  • Right now, legislators in Washington state are facing the possibility of gridlock…

    Kind of like what Seattle drivers are forced to deal with every day?  After decades of horrible traffic jams, you’d think people would come to their senses.  Guess they just like being stuck in traffic and inhaling a ton of exhaust.

  • oiseaux

    Ha! From a lifelong Seattleite, currently living in San Francisco: Seattle’s traffic is magnificent! I miss it. You know how the I-90 bridge was after the state started tolling 520 (and thus people who didn’t actually want to pay for the roads that they are using started taking the “free” bridge)? That’s just San Francisco traffic in general. Seattle’s traffic is actually relatively great. With the new rapid streetcars, more subways, and better biking infrastructure coming down the pipe, Seattle is going to be one of the better places to get around in the country – even if you drive.

    Feel blessed by those horrible traffic jams, because they aren’t really too horrible.


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