West Seattle Transportation Coalition: Why they’re backing potential ballot measure ‘with caveats’; other hot topics

(Metro bus yard last November, the day we covered a media briefing on potential Metro cuts/changes)
By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

Though the King County Council hasn’t finalized what it’s likely sending to voters in April, asking for bus and road funding, the West Seattle Transportation Coalition has endorsed it.

As we tweeted during the WSTC’s wide-ranging meeting Tuesday night at Neighborhood House’s High Point Center:

Here’s how they got there – and what else was discussed that you should know about what’s happening on the roads and paths around West Seattle:

The discussion started during committee reports. The Research and Solutions Committee chaired by WSTC interim-board member Kevin Broveleit presented a draft of a document they had prepared looking at the looming bus cuts – including the number cited that every displaced bus rider would put .62 cars back on the road. As part of it, “Plan B” – going to local voters, if no solution emerged from Olympia, facilitated by this week’s County Council vote to create a Transportation Benefit District – was discussed/analyzed. “The focus of it was (looking at) the pros and cons … to look at this relatively objectively,” said Broveleit. He noted that commuting out and in of West Seattle “is already challenging.” He cited stats on cars, Metro bus use by public-school students, and more. “This is intended to be a launching point for a conversation.”

WSTC is meant to be somewhat apolitical, so they were discussing the pros and cons of the “Plan B” version County Executive Dow Constantine has proposed ($60 on car tabs – $20 of that replacing one expiring this year – and 1/10th of a percent sales tax), and what the answers might be. Broveleit’s committee analysis also looked at how opponents might react, and looked at the fine points of the proposal – how the road money it raises would be split up, mostly going to Seattle, so the measure could face a bumpy path in other parts of the county. He also noted that voters “are fatigued” – they turned down a $60 fee in a different vote a few years ago, and current car-tab bills already show several different add-on charges.

Lively discussion ensued, involving past votes in which voters might have expected a service increase would result from a vote but instead ended up with a “small decrease,” as interim-board member Michael Taylor-Judd put it.

Interim-board member Amanda Kay Helmick wondered if there are really any pros to see in “Plan B” – “there’s nothing positive in having to vote to tax yourselves again.”

Broveleit pointed out there’s no conclusion in the document.

The discussion proceeded in a way that could certainly be seen as a preview of how voters might deliberate before marking their ballots. Ultimately, it was suggested, while “Plan B” is not perfect, it beats the alternative – Metro bus cuts that would hit West Seattle and vicinity harder than anywhere else because of the state Highway 99 project “mitigation money” (this first round could take effect in June). And one attendee noted that transit is still so much better here compared to where he came from, Colorado, which he described as “a transit wasteland.”

Taylor-Judd opined that other “more progressive” options for funding could have been explored instead of the car-tab tax and sales-tax increase that the County Council is expected to send to voters.

Interim-board member Deb Barker added that “we have to start getting money out of developers (via) transportation-impact fees.”

Other discussion turned to whether the plan should be shorter, in case baseline funding like sales tax recovers, or the Legislature changes its mind about pitching in. Interim-board member Tod Rodman proposed even suggesting a deadline to “get out of Plan B as soon as we can.”

Asked if the county would have an option to “blow (Plan B) up” if things got better, Chris Arkills, King County Executive Dow Constantine‘s transportation adviser, and a West Seattle resident, said yes, the Transportation Benefit District could be dissolved at any time.

“We need a holistic solution, for all the effects that development is having on our community,” Broveleit observed.

Helmick: “So we’re going to say, here’s this plan but we also are going to press for … development fees, for accountability on the plan.”

This all continued as they discussed whether they even should endorse it. Eventually, there first was a vote on whether to have an endorsement vote – support it, don’t support it, or don’t make a recommendation.

That passed. Then, they voted to endorse it.

Also during the meeting, Arkills said the county was continuing to lobby the state on the mitigation-money issue, and Helmick said she would like to visit the governor to lobby in person. (Logistics were subsequently being worked out.)

Here are toplines on other issues/projects/etc. brought up at Tuesday’s WSTC meeting:

DELRIDGE/BRIDGE TIE-IN REDESIGN: Taylor-Judd mentioned the Delridge/Andover/bridge project that is in the design phase. We followed up with SDOT, which pointed us to a new webpage for the project including this map:

(Click that map to go to a page with a larger view.) SDOT also reminded us that “the pedestrian improvements at Delridge Way SW and 23rd Avenue SW were requested by members of the neighborhood. The Neighborhood District Council chose to fund the project’s 60% design phase using the City’s Neighborhood Park and Street Fund.” Work is expected to start before the year’s out.

ROAD SAFETY PROJECTS: Interim board member Amanda Kay Helmick reminded all of the SW Roxbury project that’s launching with two meetings – first one in White Center’s Greenbridge neighborhood tonight (Thursday 2/13). Interim board member Joe Szilagyi pointed out the city announcement earlier in the day (reported here) of the long-requested safety project for 35th SW.

BOARD ELECTIONS AHEAD: Szilagyi recapped the plan for upcoming board elections in May – anyone interested in running needs to be attending the meetings this quarter. (More details are on the WSTC website.)

MORE FORUMS: Last month’s WSTC forum (WSB coverage here), with about 80 in attendance, was pronounced a success, especially with all the questions that came back after they passed blank cards around the room, so, said Helmick, there WILL be more forums.

BRIDGE TROUBLE: Szilagyi said the mayor’s office has promised some answers within two weeks to questions asked after the big bridge problems in the past few months.

SURVEY ON THE WAY: WSTC plans a survey that will help shape the coalition’s priorities and agenda – asking you questions about your priorities. They hope to get at least a thousand responses.

The West Seattle Transportation Coalition is taking on one of our area’s biggest headaches – the transportation challenges – and the volunteers who are part of it now could use all the help they can get. Find out more at westseattletc.org and come to the next meeting, March 11th, 6:30 pm, Neighborhood House’s High Point Center, 6400 Sylvan Way SW.

2 Replies to "West Seattle Transportation Coalition: Why they're backing potential ballot measure 'with caveats'; other hot topics"

  • redblack February 13, 2014 (8:56 pm)

    how about an MVET that taxes vehicles based on curb weight and fuel consumption? in other words, “from those with means to those without.”
    the $30 car tab initiative was suicidal and short-sighted, and it has contributed to our county and state’s bankruptcy.
    the simple fact is that single-occupancy cars are the most destructive force on our pavement. licensing fees contribute very little to maintenance of roads, let alone transit improvements.
    it’s high time that the people who benefit the most from our roads start contributing respectively to their maintenance – and to funding alternate transportation modes that are far less destructive to roads and far more contributory to the relief of traffic congestion.

  • Colin Ware February 14, 2014 (1:05 pm)

    The problem in a nutshell is that if we, as a society, are truly committed to more bikers and transit riders and fewer car drivers, then we have not made driving expensive or painful enough to make drivers think rationally about quitting.

    Instead, we have adopted the politically expedient, and in the end doubling damaging policy of increasing the pain of driving (more traffic) without offering a realistic alternative (reduced public transit service).

    Like Amsterdam’s bike culture? It didn’t just happen. The country in the 1950s and 60s, in the face of rising affluence and gridlock, decided that to make driving so painfully expensive that people would welcome other forms of transportation. BUT, what they did as part of that deal, was invest heavilly in biking infrastructure and public transit. And it worked.

    We refuse to act with courage and instead, just play around the periphery without ever addressing the real issue – we subsidize driving way too much and invest in alternatives far too little. This is a policy that is destructive and ends up hurting everyone. (And, I would be one of those impacted – I need my car for work – and I fully support greater taxes on driving…)

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