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A People’s Transportation Package

Here we go again...

Doing the same thing and expecting different results. That may be Albert Einstein’s witticism about insanity, but we’re seriously headed down that road here in Washington State when the governor and the legislature send signals that they once again aim to assemble a transportation package raising dollars for projects and programs across the state without addressing climate and environmental justice implications.

Last year the House and the Senate each proposed massive, multi-year packages that failed to pass and failed even harder at closing the justice deficit in our transportation system. Funded in large part by increases in the gas tax – which is barred by a Jim Crow-era constitutional amendment from funding transit, sidewalks, and accessible infrastructure for people with disabilities – while the House package invested $1B more in transit than the Senate, both packages doubled down on auto-dependency, sticking regular people with the bill and letting the rich and corporations skate.

So while the legislature is contemplating another run at a status quo transportation package, it is worth remembering that we really do need different results:

  • 45% of Washington’s greenhouse gases come from roads and highways.
  • People of color have been largely left out of the benefits of the billions spent on transportation and bear a disproportionate share of the burdens.1
  • Blacks and Latinos breathe 56/63% more pollution than they create.2
  • Over 25% of Washingtonians don’t drive because of a disability, are not old enough, or simply because they can’t afford a car.

Our transportation system hurts people of color and other marginalized communities first and worst. But as June’s heat dome emergency should make clear, the price of our addiction to cars and fossil fuels will be paid by all of us. And the bill might be coming due much sooner than we thought.

It is time that we call out the game.

Washington’s transportation funding process is broken. There is too much pork-barrel politics and too little democracy. Last year the Senate transportation committee unveiled a 16-year and nearly $16B plan the afternoon of January 27th and public comments were up the next day where each speaker only got 30 seconds.

Projects like the US 2 Trestle Bridge near Everett getting fast-tracked while basic bus service in the same county and across the state withers. In our post “heat dome” reality, no transportation project, much less a decade-and-a-half spending plan should even be put up for a vote without a thorough understanding of how they will redress past harms to people and the environment, reduce pollution and greenhouse gases, and increase mobility for all.

This is why Front and Centered is joining with Disability Rights Washington, 350 Seattle, and others to demand a new approach and vision to funding, planning, building, and maintaining Washington’s transportation system anchored in justice and in ending climate pollution.

We start by claiming a fundamental right to the basic mobility we all need to thrive. In Washington, no one should be denied the right to thrive for lack of an automobile. Owning a car can’t be the price of admission for participating in society. Regardless of your race, language, age, income, or physical ability you should be able to get to school or work, meet others, and travel to a grocery store. You have the right to clean air and clean water no matter where you live in our state. You have the right to live without a freeway dividing your neighborhood and to travel safely without fear of injury or death from crashes or intimidation at the hands of the police.

In the coming weeks, Front and Centered will announce our Mobility Bill of Rights for everyone in Washington. We’ll share opportunities for you to join us in calling on legislators to stop the business as usual and join us to create a Just Transition away from fossil fuels and transform transportation in Washington from a dirty engine of inequality to a catalyst for good, greenjobs and opportunity. When any transportation proposals are made public in advance of the November Committee Assembly Days, we will analyze them and update you.

It’s time to create a new path forward for transportation equity in Washington. We hope you’ll join us.

In solidarity,

Paulo Nunes-Ueno
Transportation and Landuse Policy Lead