Initiative 1125 – Concerning state expenditures on transportation

As I do most years, I like to write up how I plan to vote in the upcoming election and why. Although people are welcome to comment, or counter-argue, or whatever, the point of posting these is not to debate. Neither is the reason for posting these explanations to convince anyone, particularly people who disagree with my positions. I’m simply stating my opinion.

520 traffic congestion
Photo by Oran Viriyincy (CC By-Sa)

Initiative 1125 – Concerning state expenditures on transportation.

This measure would prohibit the use of motor vehicle fund revenue and vehicle toll revenue for non-transportation purposes, and require that road and bridge tolls be set by the legislature and be project-specific.

That’s the ballot title and question. Which, unfortunately, is pretty bland and misleading. There are a grab bag of provisions in the initiative, most of which are bad:

Right now the legislature authorizes tolling on specific roads or bridges, and the state transportation commission sets the actual toll rates. I-1125 requires that the legislature set the tolls. That’s a guarantee for a political clusterfuck. Need to raise tolls to pay to repave or for structural fixes? A group of eastern washington legislators can hold it up. It also means every individual toll decision is subject to referendum.

It requires that tolls be uniform. That’s to remove what’s called congestion pricing. Want to cut down on people using the 520 bridge during rush hour? Charge a higher toll during rush hour. This provision would prevent that.

But the real reason behind the initiative is to prevent using I-90 for light rail. If this passes, there is no light rail to Bellevue. The main person bankrolling the initiative is the owner of Bellevue Square and a major investor in car culture related projects.

One of the effects of the initiative, though not explicitly part of it, is that it reduces the bonding capability for the 520 bridge replacement, which has already started. So to finish the bridge, the WSDOT will need to cancel about $500 million worth of other projects and shift the money to 520.

Really, all a person needs to do is look at who is sponsoring the initiative: Tim Eyman. He had one good initiative (performance audits) and a shit-ton of crappy ones. Including this one.

I’m voting NO.

Initiative 985 concerning transportation

This measure would open high-occupancy vehicle lanes to all traffic during specified hours, require traffic light synchronization, increase roadside assistance funding, and dedicate certain taxes, fines, tolls and other revenues to traffic-flow purposes.

Yet another Tim Eyman initiative. While an ad hominem attack is generally not a good way to convince people of the rightness of one’s position, there’s truth to the proposition that a leopard doesn’t change it’s spots. All but one of Tim Eyman’s initiatives have been crappy unconstitutional initiatives. So the likelihood of his current one being the same is pretty high. So I’m not going to devote a lot of time to this one.

The obvious answer on this initiative is NO.

Opening up HOV lanes except for really small narrow hours is just dumb. It will prevent our already slow bus system from arriving on time at all. Which I suppose is fine with Mr. Eyman since he prefers to drive. One thing I heartily believe is that adding new miles of road doesn’t alleviate congestion. It will just fill up with additional drivers. Simple economics. If there isn’t a marginal cost to driving (and there isn’t with free roads), people will use the roads until the congestion builds up so much that they pay the cost in time. To increase capacity in a transportation system overall, a region needs to add capacity at an order of magnitude above the population growth. That can’t be done with roads. It can be done with rail (particularly subway or elevated), and possibly with buses (though I’m skeptical of that one).

The second objection I have is similar to the backing argument for the first objection. The dedication of funds to traffic-flow means taking money from mass transit and using it on road miles. Not a solution.

I think traffic cameras have the potential to be abused, so I don’t have huge problems with the initiative diverting revenues from them elsewhere, or for traffic light synchronization. But neither of those would would make a noticeable difference overall.

So, no.