I first blogged about Washington SB6900 here and here, after which it was pointed out to me that this bill was killed during the 2008 legislative session. So at first I felt a little silly about that, but then I noticed that it was getting a lot of attention on local talk radio. After a little further research, I no longer feel silly about blogging on SB6900. While it didn’t pass muster in 2008, ESSHB2815 did, thus establishing a comprehensive framework to reduce greenhouse gas emissions statewide.
I, like many other Seattle area residents, have often contemplated the reasons for the terrible traffic congestion we endure. We half-jokingly attribute it to the the fact that government officials want to force us to use public transportation, but mostly believe it’s the result of simple incompetence. Now, after studying ESSHB2815 and subsequent documents outlining proposals as to how 2815 can be implemented, I don’t have any doubts and I’m no longer joking.
ESSHB2815 goes beyond the size of the car you drive and sets guidelines that are so stringent, Olympia will need to manipulate where and how you live, what kind of jobs will be available to you and how you’ll get from point A to point B in order to meet them. It is social engineering on steroids, based on questionable science.
As required in ESSHB2815, Section 1(b), an Implementation Work Group (IWG) was established; their recommendations were released in November, 2008. While a discussion of the entire document would be useful, it’s length of nearly 600 pages is prohibitive. Instead I’ll focus on some aspects of the report that were especially troubling.
From the Introduction of Leading the Way: Implementing Practical Solutions to the
Climate Change Challenge:
The ultimate goal is to build, operate and maintain a transportation infrastructure that is efficient and effective at moving people and goods. To achieve this vision, Washington must reexamine how investments in transportation infrastructure and services are made at all levels of government. Washington State should make funding decisions and pursue revenue generating strategies that stimulate behaviors that support climate change solutions and that discourage behaviors that contribute to the problem.
The added emphasis is mine. I point out this particular passage as it illustrates an interesting concept, which was hinted at in the working document from the transportation sub-committee. This is that decisions regarding revenue generation should be made, not based strictly on fairness to Washington residents, economic conditions, or even funding requirements, but instead should driven at least in part by the goal of reducing greenhouse gases through behavior modification.
Nor does the IWG feel that it’s necessary to actually pass legislation to implement some of their proposals.
Some of these recommendations may be ready to be implemented by the Executive Branch now while others may need authorization and/or funding from the Legislature.
The IWG’s recommendations also lays to rest once and for all the notion that Olympia has any intention of addressing gridlock in the Puget Sound region by adding road capacity. (Note: While many use-based taxes transportation pricing strategies were discussed in the working documents, it appears that the only one included in the recommendations is tolling.)
The Transportation IWG believes that state, regional, and local transportation investments and operations should be aligned with the achievement of the VMT and GHG reduction provisions of ESSHB2815. This will mean reexamining not just proposed new investments, but also existing investments to ensure that we can achieve GHG and VMT reductions through our transportation policies, as well as meeting traditional objectives of transportation spending.
And just in case anyone is still confused:
Toll revenues that fund transit operations or other alternative modes will likely have a greater impact on GHG emissions reduction than if they are used for new freeway capacity expansion. In addition, revenues should be used to fund increased mobility for freight throughout the state, as more efficient cargo movement leads to reduced GHG emissions. Pricing and how revenues are spent should be considered together to determine the GHG emissions reduction potential of pricing.
So remember this point: decreasing greenhouse gas emissions will the the primary purpose of any transportation legislation that comes out of Olympia as long as our State government is controlled by Democrats.
Not content to force citizens out of their cars, the State also wants to come after where you live…or to change where you live to be more accurate.
However, to significantly reduce VMT and GHG emissions in Washington State, the majority of people in Washington State will need to live and work in places that both support bicycling and walking for shorter trips and provide reliable and convenient public transportation that meets mobility needs for longer trips.
To achieve this goal, the IWG recommends more land use policies that channel increasing numbers of people into increasingly smaller areas.
Broadly, these various efforts share the goal of promoting denser development in urban areas. This can be accomplished by encouraging well-planned density/infill, providing housing in close proximity to jobs and services, establishing necessary infrastructure and essential public facilities for a high quality of life, and maximizing access to affordable public transportation and other mobility options.
Getting back to SB6900, it’s unclear whether or not any legislation proposing similar licensing fees will be introduced in this session but it is clear that legislation will likely be introduced to establish financial disincentives to single-occupancy driving. While tolling is the only use-based tax transportation pricing strategy included in the IWG’s final document, their recommendations are not binding on the legislature. Based on past experience, I expect them to try to implement as many taxes strategies as they can.
It is also clear from ESSHB2815 and the IWG recommendation that Cap and Trade legislation will be forthcoming; it will be required to reach the rather aggressive goals set forth in Executive Order 07-02.
It’s up to the citizens of Washington State to make their views on these issues known to their legislators now.
*You might also be interested in these thoughts from Stephen Kruiser.