Earlier this month, the Washington State Transportation Commission (WSTC), a seven-member body appointed by the Governor to develop statewide transportation policy, released a draft of its updated transportation plan.
The Washington Transportation Plan – 2040 and Beyond lays out the framework to ensure that transportation investments for local streets, state highways, transit, ferries, sidewalks, bike lanes, air, barge, and rail work together to keep Washingtonians moving. It seeks to address six transportation goals: economic vitality, mobility, safety, preservation, environmental health, and stewardship. Ultimately, this plan will help shape transportation policy, from rural to urban Washington.
Centering equity, mobility, and health throughout the plan will ensure safe, efficient, and accessible transportation options for all. Focusing on these three key issues acknowledges the disparate outcomes that Washingtonians experience as a result of the built environment, which will continue unless policy is intentional about closing these gaps.
We are thrilled the plan highlights transportation equity as a stewardship concern and recognizes that transportation equity must be better defined. Explicitly mentioning racial equity can sharpen the focus of this work, given that transportation outcomes (such as vehicular injuries and impacts from air pollution) disproportionately impact communities of color. We also support the proposal to develop a Transportation Equity Analysis toolkit that can help evaluate these impacts on historically marginalized communities. Using an equity lens on our current statewide transportation funding can identify strategies to move away from regressive taxation, which also disproportionately impacts low-income people.
Transportation and the built environment are key social determinants that influence health; yet data show huge disproportionate outcomes for low-income communities and communities of color. The plan can strengthen the connection between transportation investments and healthy communities by adding a section on health equity that highlights demographic disparities. In addition to the plan mentioning streamlining healthcare access through better transportation options, it can broaden the definition of access to include schools, jobs, and social services to provide a comprehensive look at health and access.
Improving predictable and reliable transportation choices relieves congestion, closes gaps in access, and helps build a connected, efficient, and equitable transportation system.
Housing and transportation
One piece of creating a connected system is transportation-efficient land use policies. We support the plan’s notion that transportation and land use should be considered holistically and in the context of statewide growth. The plan could go further by explicitly mentioning housing, transit-oriented development, and displacement as it relates to transportation needs, congestion, and the impact on access to jobs, services, and education.
There is a new era of mobility with the introduction of autonomous vehicles and widely adopted rideshare apps. Within the plan’s analysis of emerging technology, we would like to see more information around technology’s impact on health, safety, congestion, pollution and access to mobility; the tradeoffs of directing funding to new technology versus investing in maintenance and expansion of current systems; and the potential downsides of privatization of public transportation services.
The public now has the opportunity to review the draft plan and provide comments by September 20, 2018. Submit your comments here, email to firstname.lastname@example.org, or mail to the Transportation Commission at PO Box 47308, Olympia, WA, 98504. Drop by an open house in Yakima, Richland, Vancouver, Spokane, Mt. Vernon, or Seattle to learn more. The Commission will take feedback and submit an updated plan to the State Legislature and Governor Inslee by January 2019.