State legislators seemed determined to pass a major transportation funding bill during the 2021 session, but the focus on highway spending and backwards ideas like a tax on bicycles ultimately helped stall the effort until the session ran out of time. There was even talk of a special session to get the effort passed, but that fortunately never happened.
Governor Jay Inslee picked Steve Hobbs, the previous Senate Transportation Committee Chair, to serve as Secretary of State after Kim Wyman joined the Biden administration. Hobbs was a major force pulling the funding talks backwards, proposing a new bicycle tax, cutting the House’s proposed multimodal investments and adding millions for highway expansion projects.
Marko Liias is the new Senate Transportation Chair, setting off a surge of hope that a quality transportation funding package, along with other needed transportation policies, will be possible this year. Liias has long received glowing endorsements from safe streets, bicycling and transit advocacy organizations. But it’s a short session, so legislators and advocates will need to move quickly to get it done in time.
“With a new Senate Transportation Committee Chair, and momentum from work started in 2021 on a state transportation revenue bill, there’s opportunity abound,” wrote WA Bikes State Policy Director Alex Alston in an email to supporters.
Washington Bikes has published their goals for the session, which include increasing the funding for biking, walking and transit, addressing inequities in transportation (including inequitably dangerous streets), e-bike incentives (if electric cars get them, why not electric bikes?), and updating the Growth Management Act to include climate resiliency. That’s ambitious but achievable list for the short session. You can help the effort by signing up for the WA Bikes Legislative Week of Action February 1–5.
The 2022 legislative session begins Monday, January 10. With just 60 days to complete the legislative session, and last minute format adjustments due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it will be a sprint to get bills through both chambers and to the Governor’s desk. We are excited to work with our legislative champions, including state Sen. Marko Liias as the newly appointed Senate Transportation Committee Chair, to grow investments and enact policies to increase access to safe biking for transportation and recreation across the state of Washington.
Grow bike and pedestrian funding in the multimodal account
- Ask: Protect and grow investments for bike and pedestrian grant funding in the state transportation budget or through new revenue investments. The multimodal account dedicates funds for modes of transportation other than motor vehicles, such as rail, ferries, transit, biking and walking. These investments include the Safe Routes to School grant program and the Bicycle and Pedestrian grant program and project list. By protecting and growing funds for these projects, we can improve safety and accessibility for people of all ages who bike, walk and roll.
Prioritize funding to address inequities in transportation
- Ask: Leverage Washington’s Active Transportation Plan equity analysis to prioritize active transportation investments that will improve safety and access in low-income communities, communities of color, and areas of historic under-investment. Prioritizing these communities will help address inequities in Washington’s transportation system, which has led to disproportionate incidents of crashes, according to traffic injury and fatality data.
Support measures that will incentivize e-bike ownership
- Support: Establish measures that will incentivize or lower barriers to e-bike ownership. E-bikes provide an efficient way to bike due to the pedal-assist that allows for longer rides, ease of traversing hills, navigating busy intersections, and carrying groceries or children. 76% of trips taken by e-bike owners would have been car trips prior to owning an e-bike. More people e-biking means less people in cars, which helps meet Washington’s transportation congestion and climate goals.
Support modernizing the Growth Management Act (GMA)
- Support: Pass House Bill 1099, which updates GMA requirements to include climate resiliency strategies as well as plans for people in communities across Washington state to have safe, seamless, and affordable transportation options. Ensuring counties and cities are planning to reduce vehicle miles traveled in their comprehensive planning equates to investing in active transportation networks. When more people bike, walk, and roll, not only are Green House Gas emission reduction benefits clear, but there are also significant health, mode-shift, and economic benefits. Read more about this bill, and it’s impacts.
UPDATE: Transportation Choices Coalition has also released their legislative agenda. Here’s an excerpt:
TCC has a robust legislative agenda of priorities we want to see happen this session. Here are some of the most important parts:
- A transformative transportation package — Washington state legislators are long overdue to pass a transportation package — but we don’t need just any kind of investment. We need a transformative approach to transportation that meets people’s needs for health, safety, and affordability, and addresses climate, social, and economic justice. You can learn more about our campaign and join us in telling legislators that a better future #TakesTransportation.
- Transit service — The pandemic has laid bare that a baseline level of transit service is a critical lifeline for people, and is essential to keeping Washington’s economy running. For the good of the economy, for the ~20% of Washingtonians who do not or cannot drive, and the third of transit riders who are essential workers, the state has an obligation to ensure a baseline level of transit service by directly funding operations.
- Road Usage Charge — We urge the legislature to design and implement any new Road Usage Charge (RUC) policy not as a narrow replacement for the gas tax, but as a means to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution while building an equitable transportation system that benefits health, safety, mobility, and access to opportunity for all.
- Jaywalking law changes — Policing in transportation leads to injury and death for Black and Brown community members, Black and Brown folks disproportionately receive transportation related tickets, and people of color are charged with more punitive fines, fees, and other consequences at a higher rate, causing lasting economic harm and mobility impacts for individuals and their households. We can increase racial equity by eliminating jaywalking laws statewide.
- Local options — Current transportation funding options for local jurisdictions are volatile, limited, time-bound, and regressive. We must give local leaders better options to provide and maintain safe and equitable transportation networks, in a way that reduces greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution, improves multimodal transportation choices, and ensures fair and equitable outcomes.
- Labor support — Driver, operator, and mechanic shortages in transportation affect everyone. We are working with labor allies to build and strengthen a resilient workforce.