In the lead up to next week’s vote, the Let’s Move Seattle campaign has been focused on the exciting and new elements of the nine-year transportation levy proposal: Seven new rapid bus lines to all parts of town, Safe Routes to School projects at every single public school, up to 250 blocks of new sidewalks and replacing our city’s final timber-supported bridge on Fairview Ave N before an earthquake takes it down for us.
The expanded levy will also grow exciting work to provide more transportation options for everyone, like dramatically expanding the city’s ability to implement transit-efficiency projects, connecting our scattered bicycle route network, replacing old street corners with ADA accessible curb ramps and much more.
As we wrote recently, the brilliance of Move Seattle is that it makes thousands of relatively small investments that add up to create a multimodal city. It doesn’t rely on questionable megaprojects like Bertha or even the massive remake of Mercer Street. Instead, it goes all in on expanding transportation choices in every neighborhood, maintaining the roads we have and improving safety and transportation access for everyone.
Seattle needs more smart transportation investments if we have any hope of helping more people and goods get around our city. We have a lot of catching up to do.
But even if you aren’t convinced by all this, voting “no” on Seattle’s Prop 1 is also a vote to slaughter the city’s current transportation budget, including the kinds of work we have simply come to consider basic maintenance. Because the Bridging the Gap levy (“BTG”) expires in December whether we replace it or not.
To give you the doomsday version of what your “no” vote would mean (not even counting the 16 seismic upgrades for earthquake-vulnerable bridges included in Move Seattle), let’s look at some of the big stuff we lose without a levy in place:
- Destroyed streets won’t get repaved. Yes, our streets are still in bad shape, but BTG has been paving about 30 lane miles of street every year. We can’t stop paving our streets.
- Lane lines and crosswalks won’t get repainted. You know how hard it is to see faded lane lines, especially at night or in the rain? BTG has repainted about 1,150 lane miles and 650 crosswalks every year.
- Bumpy sidewalks won’t get fixed. BTG has repaired about 24 blocks of sidewalk every year. That’s in addition to the 13 blocks of new sidewalks installed each year.
- Problem intersections won’t get new traffic signals. It costs a lot to put in a signal, but BTG has funded more than three new signals every year on average.
- Street trees won’t get planted or pruned. BTG has planted more than 750 trees every year and pruned a whopping 3,280 annually. Those trees are going to make our streets much more pleasant and will save a lot of contaminated storm water from polluting our waterways. And pruning trees is the best way to prevent all kinds of worse problems, like huge power outages during windstorms or damage to private property.
- Bus lines stuck in traffic won’t get fixed. BTG has been funding nearly four bus corridor improvement projects every year, a combination of speed and reliability improvements to save bus riders time and make the bus more appealing to more people.
- Bike routes won’t get improved or connected. This might appeal to some people who don’t care about bike lanes, but our scattered stretches of high quality bike routes are not good enough. The only people who can rely on bikes for transportation today are people who feel comfortable enough biking mixed with busy traffic. A connected network of quality bike routes will reach so many more people.
And that stuff is just the tip of the stuff that won’t happen if you vote no. Here’s a look at what the levy has funded in its first eight years (PDF):
Now, is a levy the best way to fund work that should really be considered basic transportation system work? That’s a great question. In a perfect world (or even just a state with a more fair taxing structure), we would be paying for basic transportation work with a variety of gas/vehicle excise taxes, wealth/income taxes, property taxes, employer taxes, etc. A property tax is not entirely regressive (and most the levy will be paid by commercial properties, so the bill doesn’t just fall on homeowners), but it’s also not as progressive as some other methods available to other cities.
Or at the very least, our city’s property taxes could be allowed to grow beyond the arbitrary state-mandated 1 percent annual limit so we don’t have to craft special levy packages like this to pay for maintenance work (thanks, Tim Eyman!). The idea that we need to ask voters whether to fund seismic upgrades to vulnerable bridges is crazy.
But we don’t live in that perfect world. We have transportation needs right now in Seattle, and we can’t wait for the state to get its shit together and create more fair and reasonable revenue options. That’s why passing Move Seattle is so important. Those bridges will not seismically upgrade themselves.
We cannot count on getting a better deal if Move Seattle fails. This is a pivotal moment in our city’s history. Seattle is booming and growing. Do we face the challenge and invest heavily in creating a truly multimodal city?
Do we throw down and make the most comprehensive attempt in the whole country at ending traffic deaths and serious injuries?
Do we stop talking about the safety of our children and actually put down cash to make every single public school safer for students walking and biking?
We can do this all, but you have to vote YES on Move Seattle. And you have to tell all your friends, family members and co-workers to do the same. You can also sign up online to volunteer for the campaign’s final push. Ballots are due Tuesday. Don’t stop yet.
Here’s a look at the nine-year Move Seattle spending plan the city released recently (PDF). There is not a lot to oppose here. Don’t be fooled by the same old anti-tax rhetoric, Move Seattle is a very good investment in our city: