As we discussed last month, April 24 marked the end of another legislative session in Washington state. While some priority bills didn’t pass this year, we’re proud of our progress, especially in building the first statewide effort to repeal jaywalking to end disproportionate enforcement and harassment of black and unhoused pedestrians while fundamentally reshaping the narrative of road safety. We also helped pass a transportation budget that advances the Road Usage Charge, sidewalk data collection, and Traffic Safety For All, and takes steps to address the transit operator shortage and safety on transit.
Now that session has wrapped, we’re diving further into some of the most significant issues facing our transportation system. Transportation Choices is excited to focus on the following five major policy efforts this year and beyond. Read on to learn more about each of these efforts.
- Addressing the transit operator shortage
- Advancing mobility justice by passing Free to Walk, the jaywalking repeal bill
- Addressing transit rider and operator safety
- Securing multimodal funding by passing an equitable Road Usage Charge
- Encourage equitable and efficient project delivery at Sound Transit
Addressing the transit operator shortage. The operator shortage is one of the biggest threats to transit right now. According to an American Public Transportation Association survey conducted in February, more than nine in 10 public transit agencies are having difficulty hiring new employees. A shortage of transit workers is leaving agencies unable to deliver needed service or use available funding. This leads to less transit and less reliable transit, and therefore people may be less likely to take transit or vote to fund transit.
We’ll be learning from existing research from national leaders on this issue and soliciting ideas from drivers, agencies, and advocates about what are some of the biggest-impact solutions we can advance.
Passing Free to Walk, the jaywalking repeal bill. The transportation system should be safe for all users. However, Black and unhoused community members are disproportionately targeted with hostile stops when walking. Jaywalking laws are not only outdated, but they are also ineffective at keeping people who walk and roll safe. Repealing jaywalking laws will also help preserve limited public resources. We think it’s time for Washington to join places like Virginia, Kansas City, Nevada, and California in addressing jaywalking laws. Washingtonians deserve to be “Free to Walk.”
Despite the Free to Walk bill not passing this year, it made it farther than many expected and allowed us to do significant member education. Expect to see this again next year! Learn more about the impacts of jaywalking and how to get involved in our campaign here: https://freetowalkwa.org/
Addressing transit rider and operator safety. Everyone deserves to feel safe on transit, but right now, many people are having a degraded experience. This is leading to reduced ridership and increasingly hostile narratives about transit. We know that we need to take a holistic approach to the definition of safety – since safety looks and feels different for everyone – and that we must use the right tool for the job to address the range of safety issues. In particular, we want to reduce the use of enforcement and policing where possible by implementing upstream and holistic programs that connect people with the services they need. At the same time, investing in a fast and frequent transit system with great rider amenities will go a long way toward providing a safe and comfortable rider experience.
We seek to identify messaging and solutions to improve rider experience and transit’s reputation by engaging with riders, drivers, and other stakeholders to advance equitable safety policies.
Passing an equitable Road Usage Charge (RUC). Washington currently funds its transportation system through federal funds, state gas tax, and local taxes. Gas tax revenues are projected to decline over time due to increased fuel efficiency and the use of electric vehicles. A RUC is an innovative way to capture the cost of driving and generate transportation revenue that charges people by the miles they drive rather than by gallons of gas purchased. We urge legislators to design and implement any new Road Usage Charge (RUC) policy not as a narrow replacement for the gas tax, but as a means to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution while building an equitable transportation system that benefits health, safety, mobility, and access to opportunity for all.
We will be building a robust coalition and campaign around passing a RUC that funds the transportation system we need rather than restricts spending to highways only. We’ll also push to create a more equitable funding system by setting a progressive rate structure and ensuring implementation considers the needs of overburdened communities and vulnerable populations. Read more here.
Encourage equitable and efficient project delivery at Sound Transit. Voters approved a historic investment in high-capacity infrastructure that will connect the region. Sound Transit’s timely delivery of capital projects both impacts and sets an example for transportation infrastructure across the state. Therefore the agency must be good stewards of the public’s funds and confidence and deliver excellent projects, leading with equity, rider experience, and good governance. Our work will include supporting the implementation of technical expert recommendations on governance, process, and trust building; working with Sound Transit to apply the robust policy frameworks they have developed in their decision-making, and supporting as needed during emergent issues.
And more! Transportation Choices will also continue to support various transportation funding measures, working to keep transit fares affordable, and ensuring equitable statewide transportation planning.
Want to stay up to date on our work and hear about ways you can play a role? Join our mailing list here: https://transportationchoices.org/signup/