Citizens to city council: Fund transportation!

If you had $34 million kicking around, what would you do?  Give it to those in need?  Create more sustainable communities?  Paint miles of bike lanes?

That’s precisely what a citizen transportation advisory committee (CTAC) had to decide last night  and, while it wasn’t an easy decision, that’s exactly the answer we came up with.

Appointed by the mayor and council and charged with recommending ways to both fund and develop improvements to Seattle’s transportation system, we heard from citizens in surveys, polls, open houses and public testimony.  Taking that and excellent briefings from city staff into account, we recommended that a bucket of money from an $80 per vehicle license fee (VLF) should go to preserving what we have (roughly $11.1 million), another to investing in transit (about $14.1 million) and a third dedicated to bicycle and pedestrian improvements (around $8.3 million).

It was a two-step process, as the first $6.8 million recommendation was given to council and they’ve already decided on how to spend it—it’s the $27.2 million that was being discussed last night.

Are we happy with the recommendations?

Well, the easy answer is, sort of.  While it could be easily argued that further increasing the investments in bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure would be an efficient and smart way to reduce the strain on our roadways and create a healthier community, we can only be slightly disappointed. The bike and pedestrian recommendation was over 20%—and was integrated in other categories.  All modes are connected, so many of the well-needed transit investments support biking and walking; transit got about 50% of the funding.  And while “system preservation” is sometimes code for pavement, much of this funding may go to traffic safety and complete streets, supporting all modes.

Are we done yet?

Well, the easy answer is, not in the least bit.  While it’s fun to imagine that we just decided how millions of dollars will be spent each year, it’s up to the Seattle City Council, really.  While the majority of the council has expressed support for the idea of a local transportation ballot measure, the horse-trading between categories will now commence.  Make no mistake: these are all categories we need to invest in so we can have a safe, equitable, sustainable and livable transportation system (and city!).  But some categories are more promising for bikes.  And so we’ll be working with the council to ensure we have safe places for all of us to ride.  We could use your voice—so stay tuned.

What’s next?

Well, the easy answer is, a huge campaign!  The council, most likely, will vote on August 16 to put this on the November ballot.  Interestingly, the King County Council is also deciding on a $20 congestion reduction charge that would help stave off massive transit cuts—so we're talking complementary campaigns, perhaps.

Between about now and November, we’ll need to tell the story of why this $34 million investment matters for bicyclists, for pedestrians, for transit and for our future.  Again, stay tuned—we’ll need your voice as we galvanize public support through the Streets for All Seattle campaign.  To gain is millions of dollars in dedicated funding not just for bicycle infrastructure, but for healthier, more livable, more sustainable places to live, work and play.  And that’s something that we could all be happy with.