Sound Transit Light Rail

What happened last week:

After a week of snow delay, the Senate and House transportation committees heard the“block-the-box” legislationHB 1793/SB 5789) last Monday. We testified with our partners Rooted in Rights, Feet First, and Transit Riders Union in support of the bill, which would allow automated enforcement of crosswalks, intersections, and transit lanes. Due to several questions from members, we expect amendments to the bill. Supporters of this legislation should call or email senators and representatives now to ask them to please vote the bill out of committee.

Senate Transportation Chair Steve Hobbs introduced SB 5971 and SB 5972, his new transportation funding package proposal. TCC is pleased to see that the package includes several new ideas for revenue sources that provide for greater flexibility to fund needed programs. However, this initial proposal for funding transit, walking, and biking in the “multimodal” account remains lower than the need. We will strongly advocate with our partners to use the new flexible revenue options to increase the level of investment into transit, walking, and biking.

Last Friday was the first policy cutoff of session. Any policy bills without a fiscal component that were not introduced by Friday are likely dead for the remainder of this session. We are not aware of any priority bills that did not make the cutoff. The next cutoff is March 1, for bills with a fiscal component.

What’s happening this week:

On Monday, the House Transportation Committee will hear HB 2042, Chair Jake Fey’s “green transportation bill.” The legislation focuses heavily on supporting vehicle electrification, for personal vehicles, business fleets as well as transit. TCC is generally supportive of these efforts, and we have been working with partners including Climate Solutions to offer amendments to make EV incentives available to low- and middle-income buyers over wealthy buyers. However we remain fully opposed to using funding from the multimodal account to help fund sales and use tax refunds for the purchase of private electric vehicles. We will be testifying Monday to defend against this.

Tuesday is “Sound Transit Day,” where both the House and Senate will hear a lineup of Sound Transit-related legislation, including Tim Eyman’s I-976. Here is a list of bills up for hearing on Tuesday:

  1.   SI 976 – Limiting state and local taxes, fees, and other charges relating to vehicles.
  2.   SB 5042 – Establishing a vehicle valuation method for a regional transit authority collecting a motor vehicle excise tax that is based on Kelley blue book or national automobile dealers association values.
  3.   SB 5075 – Creating a motor vehicle excise tax low-income market value adjustment program.
  4.   SB 5220 – Modifying the election and authority of regional transit authority board members.
  5.   SB 5018 – Replacing the Interstate 405 express toll lanes with a general purpose lane and a high occupancy vehicle lane.
  6.   SB 5856 – Providing for a one hundred twenty day study of traffic flow on Interstate 405 and state route number 167 by temporarily suspending express toll lanes and high occupancy toll lanes.
  7.  HB 2123 – Concerning the collection of a motor vehicle excise tax approved by voters of a regional transit authority in 2016.

We have seen several iterations of these bills before. Some are targeting the Motor Vehicle Excise Tax (MVET) schedule, which would likely impact the scope and schedule of light rail and BRT delivery. Others look at changing how the Sound Transit board is selected, which could have negative impacts on regional coordination. TCC is organizing stakeholders from along the Sound Transit project line, from Pierce to Snohomish, to come testify against cuts to voter-approved projects.

Please take a moment to let your legislators know that you support transit and want to see Sound Transit projects delivered on time. Send our action alert here.

Tim Eyman’s I-976 would devastate transportation projects and improvements for all Washingtonians. As we told the Seattle Times, “This would affect communities all across the state. The revenue that would be cut funds everything from bus service to park and ride to pretty much any transit, walk or bike project.” Keep Washington Rolling, Washington State Transit Association, No on I-976 and other transit agencies will be testifying against on Tuesday. TCC is coordinating with other allies to sign in “no” and show our support for defeating this measure.

Also scheduled this week for both public hearing and executive session in the House Committee on Transportation is a bill to provide discounted toll rates on certain facilities for low-income individuals (HB 2068). We are so glad that the legislature is taking the important step to ensure that the benefits of tolled facilities are open to all and to recognize the disproportionate financial impact tolls can have on lower-income individuals and families. We want to ensure that a discount program applies to low-income drivers across the state, regardless of which facility they use, and that the program is carefully created to ensure agency coordination, smooth customer experience, and address any additional barriers that underrepresented groups may face in using the toll system.

Feb 25 Scheduled for public hearing in the House Committee on Transportation at 1:30 PM (Subject to change). (Committee Materials).

Feb 27 Scheduled for executive session in the House Committee on Transportation at 1:30 PM (Subject to change).

For a snapshot at all the legislation we’re tracking, check out our 2019 Bill Tracker.

Action Alert: Don't Delay Our Transit

House Bill 2123 would dismantle voter-approved projects under Sound Transit 3, cutting billions of dollars from light rail, commuter rail, and bus rapid transit projects throughout Pierce, Snohomish, and King counties. The bill is scheduled for a public hearing in the House Transportation Committee tomorrow, Tuesday, February 26.

This bill must be blocked. Transportation Choices Coalition has been working hard in Olympia to keep transit investments on time and on track, but we need your help. Please take a moment today to remind your legislators that 54% of voters in the Puget Sound region approved Sound Transit 3 and want to see our communities connected with high-capacity transit without delay.

Let your legislators know that you support transit and want to see Sound Transit projects delivered on time.

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