Legislators found creative ways to keep transit funding whole for next year, and we started a big discussion about how to better achieve Transportation for All
The 2020 legislative session closed Thursday, March 12, ending a 60-day sprint to pass a transportation budget that addressed revenue cuts from Initiative 976 and other transportation issues.
Here’s a wrap-up of the transportation priorities we worked on this year:
Block the Box Passed — Following years of advocacy, legislative leaders including Senator Marko Liias and Representative Joe Fitzgibbon worked together to pass ESHB 1793, the “Don’t Block the Box” legislation on Monday, March 9. This bill, which expands the allowable uses of automated traffic cameras to include enforcement of blocked intersections, crosswalks, and bus lanes, will make a meaningful difference in creating people-oriented streets in downtown Seattle. We expect that the bill will be signed into law as soon as March 17, and implementation to begin by January 2021.
We are proud to have worked on this bill alongside a broad coalition of partners, including Rooted in Rights, the City of Seattle, neighborhood leaders and businesses, environmental and labor representatives. If you haven’t had a chance, please write your representatives a quick note of thanks for standing up for safe streets and reliable transit.
Sound Transit Funds Protected – Once again, TCC and transit supporters around the Puget Sound stood up to defend voter-approved Light Rail and Bus Rapid Transit projects from cuts. Collectively we sent hundreds of messages asking that legislative leaders not put project delivery at risk, and no action was taken.
Transportation for All Bill – Our most ambitious bill this year didn’t move out of committee, but did make waves in the public dialogue. A collaboration by the Climate Alliance for Jobs and Clean Energy, the Transportation for All bill threatened the status quo of how we spend our transportation dollars, enough to warrant an editorial from the Seattle Times (plus other coverage and attention from its newsdesk, The Stranger, and an op-ed co-authored by TCC’s Executive Director). Our advocacy got the attention of the Governor as well as legislative leaders, resulting in the budget provisos outlined below. We look forward to continuing the conversation about how to ensure transportation spending is accountable, predictable and helps us achieve goals that benefit the people and environment of Washington!
Transportation Budget — In the final weeks of session, we collectively sent hundreds of letters asking legislators to keep transit projects fully funded — and our representatives responded! The Conference Transportation Budget (the version agreed to by both the House and Senate) passed this week with full funding for all Regional Mobility Grants. Here’s a rundown of the budget highlights transit supporters can celebrate:
- Transit Projects Fully Funded – Though initial budget proposals had cut millions from the Regional Mobility Grant Program, legislators heard from advocates and produced a final budget that preserves all transit funding. These grants, which support important projects like RapidRide, will be funded through anticipated cost savings due to delayed projects (delays can for a multitude of reasons such as waiting for federal funds, change in project need, or unforeseen circumstances). In addition, this budget fully funds special needs transportation, vanpool and rural mobility grants. This strategy works in the short term, but we anticipate the legislature will be looking to find new revenue sources next year and in the future.
- Funds shifted to preserve the Multimodal Account – More than $100 million in expenditures from the Multimodal Account (which funds transit, walking and biking projects) were transferred over to the Motor Vehicle Account. This means that Ferries and the Washington State Patrol are now being funded by gas tax revenue, and the flexible funds in the Multimodal Account can stay focused on transit, walking and biking.
- Transportation for All Proviso – This budget proviso aligns with the intent of our Transportation for All bill and directs the Washington State Department of Transportation to determine the feasibility of conducting performance-based evaluations for projects.
- Transportation Policy Goals Review – Also in line with the Transportation for All Bill, this proviso directs the Joint Transportation Committee to review whether the existing policy goals should be updated. We believe this opens an opportunity to add priorities such as equity, health and environmental justice, while minimizing the emphasis on congestion relief via highway construction.
- Road Usage Charge (RUC) Equity Impacts and Implementation Study – These provisos allow for $150,000 in funding to assess the equity impacts of a RUC and direct the Transportation Commission to study how such a policy could be implemented at scale, including options for how to allocate revenue.
- Automated HOV Enforcement Pilot – Similar to Don’t Block the Box, this proviso authorizes a test on the feasibility and accuracy of the use of automated enforcement technology for high occupancy vehicle (HOV) lane compliance.
Thank you to all who engaged in this year’s session. With your help, we accomplished a lot in just 60 days; and of course, there’s a lot still to do. If you’re on board for safer streets, transportation funding reform, and a cleaner and more equitable transportation system for all, please consider making a donation to support our work!