KUOW’s Weekday today discussed the city’s changing focus on more inviting bicycle infrastructure, such as cycle tracks and neighborhood greenways. The segment was excellent (listen online here), and it demonstrated even further how the conversation about biking in Seattle is shifting.
The Bicycle Alliance of Washington’s Blake Trask did an excellent job explaining cycle tracks and neighborhood greenways and making the case for funding the kind of bike infrastructure that even cities like Chicago are embracing.
Meanwhile, conservative think-tank Washington Policy Center’s Michael Ennis did not seem all that opposed to the style of projects Trask was talking about. He said there is certainly demand for it and that Seattle should be investing in bike facilities. He just said that the projects should not be paid by drivers.
But that tired argument had a rough time on the show. Moderator Steve Scher called him out by pointing out that most of Seattle’s road work is paid by taxes everyone pays. Publicola found that only 4 percent of the SDOT budget comes from gas taxes:
The Seattle Department of Transportation’s 2009 annual report breaks down the agency’s $340.8 million budget by funding source. The gas tax accounts for $13.4 million, or 4 percent of that total. The full budget breakdown (in millions):
Grants & Other: $96.9 (29 percent)
Debt: $77.4 (23 percent)
Bridging the Gap (a property-tax levy passed by voters in 2007): $60.9 (18 percent)
General Fund: $42.3 (12 percent)
Reimbursables: $42 (12 percent)
Gas Tax: $13.4 (4 percent)
Cumulative Reserve Fund: $7.6 (2 percent)
Ennis also suggested that the city is investing too much in biking and walking, and that investments should be tied to use. Trask was quick to point out that only 2 percent of the SDOT budget currently goes to biking projects, but the commute share of biking and walking is more like 15 percent (not to mention that EVERY driver is also a pedestrian).
Think about that. If Seattle invested according to primary commute mode share (which is the lowest possible measure of biking and walking rates), our walking and biking budget would be nearly seven times what it is today. If we even increased our budget half of that, Seattle would quickly become a competitor for the most livable big city in the country.