If you agree with the information below, please contact your elected officials in Olympia asap and share with neighbors, colleagues, friends and family. These Bills will be moving out of committees this week.
If you would like electronic copies of the referenced pages, please contact Maggie Fimia email@example.com – otherwise they are easily accessed on line in the documents listed. Lastly, every effort has been made to review this Post for errors or omissions. Please contact m.fimia if you come across any. Thank you.
Sound Transit & Puget Sound Regional Council Plans & the 3 “C’s”…Rhetoric vs Reality, the Housing Bills Now Before the State Legislature
The 2023 Washington State Legislature is considering a number of bills that would require all cities over 25,000 in population to increase density ¼ and ½ mile around transit stations.The argument made by supporters is that this will provide more affordable homes, create more walkable cities and serve people who want or need to use transit. =City leaders and citizens could and should demand that Sound Transit (ST) and Puget Sound Regional Council (PSRC) and the Legislature display evidence about how these up-zoning Bills will do what they intend: Increase transit ridership significantly, provide more affordable housing near frequent, fast transit, and mitigate traffic congestion. But there is no evidence showing that. Here we cover what the evidence does actually show
A little history. Both ST and PSRC have assumed an increase in density in designated centers and cities in their plans since 1990. There are also Washington State Government requirements through the Growth Management Act that require cities to zone for more housing. Most have complied and have absorbed additional growth in the last 30 years. This legislation, however, is different. It dictates where cities must zone for more growth.
In other words, these public agencies and “livable community” activists are now trying to re-design cities to support transit instead of the other way around.
The reality is that even assuming this growth around stations occurs, the latest sophisticated computer-based modeling in the PSRC 2050 Transportation Plan shows that this makes little difference in increasing the regional percentage of trips on rail, and buses would see a modest increase. Meanwhile, according to government plans, traffic congestion worsens, and we fall further behind in addressing climate change in meaningful ways. Private sector innovations, public private partnerships, and public projects that would address climate change, traffic congestion, transit access and affordable housing needs remain largely ignored.
The following sections show the gap between agency rhetoric and the reality on the ground now and in 2050 plans.
All the other pages from this plan can be accessed by this same link.
PSRC will track progress toward both the 2030 and 2050 greenhouse gas reduction goals. Following plan adoption, PSRC will work with its partners to develop a 2030 transportation network and inputs corresponding to the Four-Part Greenhouse Gas Strategy and conduct a 2030 analysis in alignment with the region’s 2030 and 2050 climate goals.
2050 PSRC Transportation Plan Appendix H Pg. 7 Figure #1
Reality: They don’t have a plan.
According to this bar chart, the climate reduction GOAL is 80% below 1990. However, Vision 2050 and corresponding Transportation Plan 2050 only gets us 6% below the 1990 figure, not 83% which is the actual target.
2050 Transportation Plan Appendix H Pg. 26 figure 6
Although the overall amount of delay for all vehicle modes increases between 2018 and 2050, growth in congestion per household (bold is mine) is estimated to be approximately 7% lower in 2050 than it was in 2018, indicating progress in maintaining mobility despite 40% growth in population and 48% growth in jobs in this period.
PSRC 2050 Transportation Plan Appendix H Pg. 17 Figure 5
Using PSRC’s numbers, the region goes from 6% to only 13% of work trips by transit in 2050 and from 5% to only 7% of all non-work trips by transit.
PSRC 2050 Transportation Plan Appendix H pg. 24 Table 24
Most households are concerned about traffic. Yet measurements of “Annual Hours of Delay,” show a bleak future. The annual hours of delay for the region increase by 54%, from 403,000 in 2018 to 619,000 in 2050.
3. COMPREHENSIVE PLANS
PSRC Vision 2020 from 1990 Plan Pg. 20
Rhetoric from 2020 Vision 2020 adopted October 1990 (please download as this document may be taken off at some point)
The crux of this strategy is to encourage future growth to take place in a more concentrated manner within designated urban growth areas. Concentrating growth will encourage transit usage, ridesharing and pedestrian trips reducing the growth in traffic congestion, air pollution and fuel consumption.
2050 PSRC Transportation Plan Pg. 14 (no number on page but it’s between 13 and 15)
Rhetoric from PSRC
Imagine the year 2050 in the central Puget Sound region. More people than ever before will have convenient options for traveling around the region, whether it’s jumping on light rail or walking safely to a bus stop. Instead of driving alone on congested highways, more residents will have the choice to walk, bike or take transit to get to work, school and all the places they want to go. This Regional Transportation Plan describes the investments and policies needed to create that safe, clean and efficient transportation system essential to the region’s quality of life, health and economy. As the region continues to grow, this plan will improve mobility and ensure that all people equitably benefit rom the region’s transportation system.
Investing in Growing Communities: The Regional Transportation Plan is closely integrated with the VISION 2050 Regional Growth Strategy and its goals of 65% of population and 75% of employment growth near high-capacity transit. It lays out a vision for a multimodal transportation system that serves both existing communities and areas where we expect significant population and employment growth.
… by 2050 around 36% of all households will live within ¼-mile of the high-capacity transit system (up from 9% in 2018) and 59% of households will live within ½-mile of high-capacity transit in the region (up from 25% in 2018)
PSRC 2050 Transportation Plan Pg. 30 Figure 5
Today, after almost 30 years after Vision 2020 was adopted, only about 8% of households live within 1/4 mile of high-capacity transit and less than 25% live with 1/2 mile. And in 2050, even assuming this mandated density around transit legislation is implemented, transit ridership accounts for only 13% of work trips and 7% of non-work trips. Today those numbers are 6% for work trips and 5% for non-work.
Buried deep in their 2013 “Centers Report, Regional Centers Monitoring Report covering 1990–2010”, (PDF) Pg. 46 Figure 18 shows how after 20 years, little growth has gone to Centers. In jurisdictions with regional growth centers, an average of 7.3 percent of a jurisdiction’s population lives within each center.
They will not be issuing another report until 2025.
- For thirty years, the Puget Sound Regional Council and its predecessor along with those wanting a rail system (back to Forward Thrust in the 1970s) and “Livable Communities” advocates have designed our transit around the notion of a light rail spine, with buses feeding the rail. The planners have tried with policy pronouncements to make population and employment growth locate near train stations and major transit stops, but even though cities have planned for more growth through upzoning, the State is trying to mandate that increased densities must be allowed more comprehensively near transit as a sole criterion. This new legal requirement would strip away the traditional role of cities to oversee where their growth will go based on a variety of considerations.
2. Even though the 2050 plan does expect to motivate more density near rail stations and bus stops, PSRC forecasts transit ridership, especially rail, to be abysmal in comparison to mobility demand. Tens of billions of dollars spent, hundreds of homes and business displaced, and many acres of trees removed will not yield significant ridership increases at all according to professional government analysis. Meanwhile, the region will not have met our legislated greenhouse gas emissions goals, affordable housing is by no means guaranteed, and hundreds of other necessary transit, transportation, economic development, and affordable housing priorities would go unfunded. Not surprisingly, more taxes will need to be raised.
3. The sweeping up-zone of single-family neighborhoods would result in many smaller, older homes being demolished for townhouses and four-unit apartments. Older single-family homes constitute a large share of the region’s affordable housing for both renters and first-time home buyers. Demolition of thousands of those homes will result in a wave of displacement, which is in direct conflict with a housing policy goal.
4. Cities along the light rail line have already gone through an extensive planning process that has up-zoned areas where it makes sense. Those plans, adopted after lengthy public involvement, also include the infrastructure needed to support new development. For example, the City of Seattle adopted a station area overlay zoning ordinance in 2001. The cities of Lynnwood and Everett incorporated zoning changes to accommodate high-capacity transit in prior comprehensive plan updates, as have many other cities in the region. There is no reason to believe the ham-fisted approach in HB 1110 would produce better land use plans than the extensive process already used by cities and their planning commissions.
5.The bill isn’t a solution to the State’s housing affordability problem. Even though HB 1110 does require some units of affordable housing in new development, it will also cause the demolition of many existing affordable homes and rental houses. Up-zoning property will increase property values and result in new construction that is more expensive. Any developer will confirm that land value drives housing prices, and this bill will make prices go up, not down.
6. Massive up-zoning won’t solve Sound Transit’s problems. In particular:
- The Sound Transit plan is tens of billions of dollars over budget. HB 1110 doesn’t change that. It might even make ROW acquisition for Link extensions more expensive.
- Construction of the light rail system is a decade behind schedule, but up-zoning residential property won’t speed up construction, and more likely will make it harder to hire carpenters and electricians.
- Transit ridership is far below PSRC projections, but tearing down single-family houses and putting up apartments and condos won’t lure back the former riders who now work from home or are reluctant to ride due to crime and safety concerns.
There are other steps the legislature could take to expedite home construction and to make more land available for development, but the approach taken by HB 1110 & others like it, won’t produce the desired result by tossing aside the careful planning that cities (and neighborhoods) have done over the last thirty years to comply with the Growth Management Act.