Tuesday, January 09, 2007

RTC: Dead On Arrival?

Submitted by Paul Ellis

Although the group internally has differences of opinion, the Regional Transportation Commission is reportedly ready to release its final report with the recommendation that existing Puget Sound transportation agencies should be replaced by one regional board that would choose which highway and transit projects get built.

A bold recommendation, but is it necessary? While the report explores at length the problem of scattered decision-making, it doesn't cite any specific mistakes. Based on past unhappy experience, decision-makers outside King County can be expected to be gun shy about the term "regional"--it usually means "Seattle and the East Side" more than anything else.

State representative Dennis Flannigan, who sits on the House Transportation Committee, told RAMP participants last week that he believes the RTC recommendations will be "DOA" this Session. Senate Transportation Committee Chair Mary Margaret Haugen told The Seattle Times that she likes the suggestions and that Legislative leaders are already working on a bill. Who's right?

Maybe it's a moot point, anyway. Any reforms would likely come after November's expected Roads & Transit ballot measure, which would set in motion billions of dollars in projects picked by the Sound Transit and the Regional Transportation Investment District boards--agencies the RTC suggests replacing with the new regional body. Won't the likely result of this watershed opportunity be to "wait and see" until after November?

By the way, the report will not be released until later this month, but a copy has been posted online by John Niles, a Seattle supporter of bus rapid transit.

Paul Ellis is lead staff for RAMP; an employee of the Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber, Ellis led the Pierce County Transportation Advisory Committee (PCTAC), the community's largest transportation planning effort.

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