The votes are still being counted, but the early results of the 2014 election indicate good news for urbanists and transit advocates in the Puget Sound area. Here is a brief rundown on the key measures and races as of Tuesday evening. The Seattle Times is providing comprehensive coverage of all elections statewide. Analysis below the jump.
To the confusion of many, the King County Council backed down on its plans for further bus service cuts in 2015. Revenue projections are better than projected, but the bearable September 2014 cuts will remain. This measure is a Seattle-only version of the countywide proposition that failed last April, enabling a 0.1 percent sales tax increase and $60 car tab fee (raising $45 million/year) to boost funding for Metro routes that run at least 80 percent within city limits and low-income riders. Originally the measure would restore planned cuts, but with passage likely, now the funding can be used for increased service.
This is a major win for a rapidly growing city. City councilmember Kshama Sawant is proposing to increase bus funding even more with an $18/year employee head tax and 5 percent increase in the commercial parking tax, raising $20 million/year. With improved bus service, the region can focus more on investments in light rail and other intercity services. Sound Transit recently announced its intentions to place a $15 billion capital funding question on the 2016 ballot, when voter turnout will be greater and passage is likely.
Seattle Citizen Petition 1: Monorail Planning
Yes – 19.6%
No – 80.4%
This measure would have formed a citizen board to plan for a monorail line between Ballard and West Seattle, with funding through a $5 city-wide car tab fee that would raise $2 million/year. While transit funding is great, this measure was flawed from the start, going so far as to list specific people who would serve on the board even though some of them openly voiced their opposition. The voters have already decided on this issue: an effort to extend the monorail system last decade was voted down after over $120 million was spent on planning. Further, Sound Transit is already studying multiple light rail options to serve these important neighborhoods as part of a comprehensive high-capacity transit system. Seattle’s existing one-mile monorail line between Westlake and Seattle Center is a neat quirk, but this is an outdated technology that should not compete with regional transit planning.
Seattle Propositions 1A and 1B: Early learning funding
Whether either measure should be enacted
Yes – 65.1%
No – 34.9%
Which measure should be enacted
Prop. 1A – 32.8%
Prob. 1B – 67.2%
In a confusing matchup that only Seattle politics can foster, these two competing measures both aim to provide preschool service to toddlers in the city. 1A, pushed by local activists, sought to centralize training for child care workers, improve their pay, and limit child care costs to 10 percent of family income. Funding was not specified. 1B, initiated by Mayor Ed Murray and the City Council, establishes a four-year pilot program for a city-wide affordable pre-kindergarten program, funded with a property tax of 11 cents per $1,000 of assessed value. 1B’s likely prevalence is great for the city’s low-income children, and it’s emphasis on teacher certification and research methods probably make it a better choice for Seattle’s families. Regardless, the earlier that children are enrolled in school, the better they perform the rest of their academic years.
Next are the important Puget Sound legislative race as, mostly, identified by Seattle Transit Blog, which only endorses candidates who have outstanding stances on land use, transportation, and other urban issues.
District 34, Representative No. 2
Joe Fitzgibbon (D) – 81.9%
Brendan B. Kolding (D) – 18.1%
This district covers Vashon Island and West Seattle, both of which are relatively hard to reach without a car. Fortunately, incumbent and pro-transit Fitzgibbon is favored to retain his seat. On the governor’s climate task force he pushed for transportation be considered in carbon pricing and prefers that statewide mobility grants favor higher-rating projects, rather than be spread around evenly to rural counties that don’t need the money.
District 37, State Senator
Pramila Jayapal (D) – 66.7%
Louis Watanabe (D) – 33.3%
This district represents southeast Seattle, which is generally less affluent but more demographically diverse than the rest of the city. Critically, Jayapal supports upzoning around the area’s light rail stations in order to increase commercial space and housing supply. Though state legislators don’t directly impact local planning issues like this, support for transit-oriented-development in Olympia can benefit local jurisdictions through various funding programs and changes to policy.
District 43, Representative Position No. 2
Frank Chopp (D) – 83.6%
Jessica Spear (Socialist) – 16.4%
House speaker Chopp has a clear victory in the central Seattle area. The Stranger endorsed him over Spear, a leader of the $15 minimum wage fight, because of his leadership in affordable housing and seniority in the chamber. He also supports eliminating the state’s ban on rent control so that cities can find their own solutions for increasing housing costs.
District 45, State Senator
Andy Hill (R) – 52.9%
Matt Isenhower (D) – 47.1%
In its endorsements, Seattle Transit Blog specifically called out Isenhower’s support for Sound Transit’s 2016 funding measure. This is important, because the agency may ask the state to open up additional funding options or raise tax ceilings. This district’s suburban constituency, however, is currently learning toward the Republican incumbent.
District 46, Representative Position No. 2
Jessyn Farrell (D) – 80.6%
Branden Curtis (R) – 19.4%
Incumbent Farrell is set to keep her seat in northeast Seattle. She is a vice chair of the House Transportation Committee and is open to alternative transportation. According to Seattle Transit Blog, she also played a hand in selecting Scott Kubly as the city’s new transportation director, who is showing promise in his support for walking, biking, and transit.
District 48, State Senator
Cyrus Habib (D) – 63.8%
Michelle Darnell (R) – 36.2%
In this district covering much of Bellevue, Redmond, and Kirkland, the bus-riding Habib has a wide lead. He is one of the few state legislators who actively campaigned for the countywide version of Prop. 1 last spring. Politicians who understand the need for transit and use it themselves are a rare breed, so his likely win is great for riders.
District 48, Representative Position No. 1
Ross Hunter (D) – 68.6%
Bill Hirt (R) – 31.4%
Hunter will keep his seat, which is also great for transit users. Hunter understands the value of multi-modal mobility and even commented on the state’s surprising projection that traffic volumes will decline in the coming years, saying he’s open to new transportation funding methods as gas tax revenues decline. The prevalence of pro-transit legislators in suburban communities is positive, especially in areas where light rail is set to arrive within a few years. Hunter’s opponent is opposed to light rail.
District 48, Representative Position No. 2
Joan McBride (D) – 68.3%
Tim Turner (L) – 31.7%
McBride, who also supports transit and fighting climate change, looks set to make another win for the Eastside. Her favor for Sound Transit’s upcoming funding measure is another plus for advocates.