For years, Tom Rasmussen has been the most influential member of the City Council when it comes to transportation issues. Through several Council committee shakeups, he has remained the Chair of the Transportation Committee, and nearly all big city transportation decisions have long been routed through his office.
For example, he played a big role in developing the most recent Bicycle Master Plan update, often taking a hands-on role as a sometimes West Seattle bike commuter. He has been a proponent of giving the city’s Bicycle Advisory Board more influence over city projects, as seen over the summer when he showed his teeth after SDOT delayed in getting the Board and the Council a promised Bike Master Plan Implementation Plan.
He joins Nick Licata as a longtime Councilmember who will not seek reelection under the new district election system. Many had considered Rasmussen a lock for West Seattle’s District 1, so that race now seems wide open (see West Seattle Blog for more).
— Blake Trask (@BlakeTrask) January 23, 2015
Rasmussen is a master of political tiptoeing, somehow managing to avoid a lot of personal scrutiny and controversy even while being in the middle of controversial transportation decisions. For example, many of the McGinn-era bike lane and paid parking changes that drew so much “War on Cars” media attention in those years went through Rasmussen, but McGinn consistently took all the heat. Rasmussen’s style is for a more consistent and patient path toward transportation progress rather than a radical shift, and that relative timidity has drawn criticism from people like former Stranger Editor Dominic Holden. (And, of course, his legacy has a lot resting on the troubled Hwy 99 tunnel project that he supported)
Rasmussen also seemed caught off guard by the new faster pace of change preferred by Mayor Ed Murray. In April 2014, Rasmussen told Seattle Bike Blog it was “very optimistic” to think that there would be a protected bike lane on a downtown street before 2016. Less than a month later, Mayor Murray announced a 2nd Ave protected bike lane, which was designed and installed four months later.
But Rasmussen has played a vital role in laying the ground work for the huge number of bike projects finally hitting the streets all across the city in recent years. 2015 is going to be a big year for biking, and Rasmussen has been working to make it happen.
And he has his eyes on the big prize before his term ends: A transportation funding measure to replace the expiring Bridging the Gap property tax levy. This is the best opportunity to fully fund the Bike Master Plan, which he played such a big role in crafting. If he can help steer the city toward passing an ambitious transportation package focused on basic maintenance, better transit and safer streets, he will leave office with a legacy that revolutionizes the face of transportation in Seattle.