The City Council is in the midst of hearings and meetings to discuss which parts of Mayor McGinn’s proposed 2013-14 budget to keep and which parts to scrap. It’s possible that biking and walking projects could get a boost beyond the mayor’s proposed budget, but that could come in part at the expense of high capacity transit planning funds.
Among the council’s potential transportation cuts are about $5 million in high capacity transit projects, including studies for high capacity transit routes to the U-District (likely a streetcar extension) and Ballard as well as a Madison St bus rapid transit project between downtown and 23rd Ave.
According to a presentation to the Council’s Budget Committee Wednesday, here are the options under consideration for the mayor’s HCT planning funds:
The Council brief also noted that the mayor’s proposed funding for biking and walking projects is actually lower than the actual funding for 2012:
Among the options for additional biking and walking funding are boosts to Safe Routes to School, sidewalk improvements, the Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plans, and neighborhood greenways. Also specifically mentioned: A cycle track to connect the already-funded Westlake cycle track to the mostly-Amazon-funded 7th Ave cycle track. From the briefing:
The high capacity transit funds are not the only potential funding source for these biking and walking increases. The mayor’s budget also did not factor in the city’s real estate excise tax revenue from the recent sale of property in South Lake Union to Amazon. Some of that REET money could go to these boosts.
While increases to biking and walking project funding are always very welcome, many transit boosters are concerned about the loss of the planning funds. With plans completed, the city could be a better position to apply for grant funding for those projects to make rail to the U District and Fremont/Ballard a reality.
It is also worrying that any debate about this funding shift could divide the transit, biking and walking advocacy communities. Using the REET money seems like a great idea. But I’m not excited about using the HCT planning money and strongly urge people not to allow this to become a streetcar vs bike facility debate., which is a dead end argument. Seattle needs both, and is moving far too slowly on making them happen.
All the project plans on the chopping block are priority corridors identified in the city’s recently-completed Transit Master Plan. They are also interconnected with biking and walking safety. For example, the U District project would likely involve a redesign of Eastlake, which is a great chance to advocate for a safer Eastlake for all users. Think: Eastlake Ave cycle track and a safer south end of the University Bridge.
If the Council is going to cut the HCT funding no matter what, then I hope much of it goes to biking and walking projects. But I don’t think it’s a good idea to advocate against transit projects in order to make that biking and walking funding happen.
The Council is scheduled to start voting on budget-related items November 7, and the final budget will be adopted November 19. Thursday was the second of two public budget hearings, but you can still send your thoughts to firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can watch the Council’s Wednesday discussion about the funds below (the first section and the section starting around 45:00 discuss Madison):
Below is the presentation document that lays out the options: