Now that House Transportation chair Judy Clibborn has proposed a statewide transportation package, much of the local reporting has been focused on the fact that it includes a tax on bicycle sales. And yes, a bicycle tax is a stupid idea. It would create a disincentive to use a transportation mode that does almost no damage to streets or our climate, and improves public health, for a measly million dollars in revenue in a ten billion dollar package.
It’s also a genius move – put something so incredibly stupid in a package that we talk about that instead of the real reason the package is insane.
At a time when the state needs money for maintenance across the state, we’re trying to address climate change, and we desperately need money for transit, this package spends $3.9 billion to start – and not finish – shiny new highway projects. It widens 405, 5, 167, and 90. It doesn’t solve the 520 or 99 funding problems the state has already started. And it puts hundreds of millions into the Columbia River Crossing project – throwing money into a boondoggle that our new transportation secretary has opposed for years.
There is a little bit for transit – but it wouldn’t come close to solving Metro’s shortfall, and it does nothing to build toward Sound Transit 3.
This would be a terrible place to start a debate. Urban legislators would be left fighting a bicycle tax, trying to fund I-5 preservation through downtown, and finishing 520 and 99, instead of asking for transit. While I can’t speak to Clibborn’s motivations, it would make sense for this to be intentional, to keep the debate focused on highway projects. Transit advocates would be left fighting it entirely or trying to get what they can (which wouldn’t be much).
In the short term, we don’t have much to worry about. House leadership isn’t interested in the bill. It was yanked from getting a hearing in today’s meeting, and I’ve heard from sources in Olympia that the House doesn’t want to deal with transportation at all until education is solved.
Unfortunately, this is what we’re going to have to look forward to. Without strong leadership from our representatives, we’ll end up starting the transportation debate with a package that would drive sprawl, accelerate climate change, and screw transit users all over Puget Sound. Remember – the legislature created our transit mess.
If we start with a package like this, we’d do best to kill it at the ballot box, and force the legislature to actually fund transit if they want our votes.