Pedestrians near Westlake Plaza in Seattle, by SDOT, used with a creative commons license.

Legislative session is in full swing! Many of our priority bills are up for hearings this week, and we’re ready to bring out support for the Transportation for All bill, block the box bill, and parking cash out bill.

What happened last week:

The House Transportation Committee heard our Transportation for All bill, HB 2688, on Wednesday. TCC Advocacy Director Kelsey Mesher testified in support of the bill, along with Climate Alliance members Front and Centered, Climate Solutions, and Washington Environmental Council. Transportation for All is our top priority this session; the bill would update the State’s transportation goals to reflect Washington’s shared values of safety, health, equity, access, and more. Transportation for All would also develop an evaluation process of selected transportation projects based on the above goals, providing information to legislators so they can make strategic and transparent decisions about projects. We were excited to see WSDOT testify in support of HB 2688, highlighting the need for a performance-based approach to transportation project selection.

The House Transportation Committee had concerns about giving up project selection authority to WSDOT, while WSDOT expressed concerns with selecting metrics. We are working to address these and will continue working with legislators and partners to move this bill forward.

In addition, several interesting bills were introduced this week that we are now tracking: 

Vehicle Valuation billSB 6606, introduced by Senator Liias, would change the vehicle valuation methodology that Sound Transit uses to calculate current Motor Vehicle Excise Taxes. The MVET being collected today uses a depreciation schedule that has been in place since the 1990s. A newer depreciation schedule – with lower vehicle values and therefore generates lower taxes, especially for owners of newer cars – was adopted by the Legislature in 2006. This schedule is intended to go into effect after the 1999 bonds are retired in 2028, but this bill would accelerate that transition. The lower valuation and subsequent revenue generation means that this bill would create a funding gap for Sound Transit in the range of $2.9 billion (including the loss of bonding capacity). TCC would only support this bill with an amendment to keep projects fully funded and on track.

Road Usage Charge billSB 6586, introduced by Sen. Saldana, would implement a per mile charge on electric and hybrid vehicles to ensure that the greater adoption of efficient vehicles does not reduce funds to maintain and improve transportation infrastructure and to allow further evaluation of the feasibility of transitioning from a revenue collection system based on fuel taxes to a per mile funding system. 

We believe that a road usage charge could be an innovative way to generate transportation revenue provided that revenue generated can fund multimodal projects and programs; includes a progressive rate structure that is set to cover infrastructure costs as well as social and environmental externalities; and addresses the climate crisis by incentivizing less driving and cleaner vehicles. Concerns regarding privacy and the potential for disproportionate impacts must also be addressed. The bill is currently scheduled for public hearing in the Senate Committee on Transportation on Jan 29 at 3:30 PM.

Parking Cash Out ProgramHB 2748, introduced by Rep. Ramel, would mandate that every employer in the state (with fifty or more employees) that provides a parking subsidy must offer a “parking cash out program” to its employees as well. This means if you take the bus, ride your bike or walk to work, your employer would be required to provide a cash benefit that is equal to the value of any parking benefits enjoyed by your driving coworkers. We think this is an innovative bill that can help incentivize mode shift! It is currently scheduled for public hearing in the House Committee on Labor & Workplace Standards on Jan 27 at 1:30 PM, with an executive session in the same committee on Jan 30 at 8:00 AM.

What’s happening this week: 

This week is busy for our TCC team. We are heading to Olympia to testify at four hearings. You can check the TVW schedule and watch all the hearings live. 

On Monday, the House Labor and Workforce Standards Committee will hear HB 2748, the parking cashout bill, which will allow employer-funded programs to cash allowance equivalent to a parking subsidy. We will testify in support of HB 2748.

There is a hearing for the Transportation for All bill, SB 6398, in the Senate Transportation Committee on Tuesday, January 28. The Senate Transportation Committee will also hear SB 5789 (HB 1793), the “don’t block the box” and “don’t block the bus” bill, which will enforce bus lanes and intersections in downtown Seattle to keep people and buses moving and pedestrians safe. We will be in Olympia on Tuesday, along with partners like Rooted in Rights and activists like the Red Flag demonstrators, who took bus lane enforcement into their own hands last summer, to testify in support.

The Road Usage Charge bill, SB 6586, is also up for a hearing on Wednesday, January 29. Although we have some concerns with the bill, we will testify and highlight our overarching RUC principles and goals. You can check out our RUC priorities and one pager here.

For a snapshot of all the legislation we’re tracking, check out our 2020 Bill Tracker.

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