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Seattle mayoral candidates skirt question about congestion pricing

Jenny Durkan and Cary Moon on Seattle's Morning News. (File, MyNorthwest)

Maybe it got lost in the heat of the debate. Maybe they didn’t think it was important enough to have an opinion on at the time. Whatever the reason, Seattle mayoral candidates Jenny Durkan and Cary Moon didn’t directly weigh in on the idea of congestion pricing in the city Friday morning.

RELATED: Tolls or not, Seattle tunnel will push vehicles onto surface streets

KIRO Radio traffic reporter Chris Sullivan brought up congestion pricing — pitched by Councilmember Mike O’Brien — as well as the idea of having the bike community pay for bike lanes. Why not have those who use the bike lanes pay for them, through bicycle licensing? he asked.

Cary Moon responded first.

Most bikers are also car owners and they’re also property taxpayers. They are paying for all the infrastructure that we are all using together.

Licensing bikes isn’t a bad idea, I would definitely look at that.

I think it is our responsibility as city leadership, as mayor, to watch out for all the commuters who are coming into work in our city. So, absolutely, I would like to be putting in better bus service for folks coming in from outside of town to work in Seattle. I was part of the One Center City Advisory Board, which really looked at this issue of the congestion in downtown and how do we make sure we’re moving enough people. It’s about investing in bus priority, investing in bus services, making sure the buses that come into downtown come all the way to your workplace. It’s about making sure we’re using the limited street space we have as efficiently as possible to move people and goods.

And the solutions we came up with through that are a similar set of solutions we came up in 2007 with the Urban Mobility Plan. This is an issue I’ve been working on for 10 years. It’s time for courageous implementation of bold solutions.

Durkan followed.

Some people have to bring their car in. But we also want to make it easier for people coming from outside the city not to have to bring a car. So I’m going to look at more park and ride facilities, for example; adding those to the terminuses at the ends of the city so people can have a one-seat ride. They come in, park their car. Make some agreements with people so it doesn’t increase the cost that much. We’ve got to look at every way we can to get cars off the road. Because it’s just math, we have more cars than street space and so I think we’re going to have to use a whole range of tools to do that.

The idea of congestion pricing came up as the city looks ahead a few years and prepares for the opening of the new tunnel. There is concern that the tunnel will push more drivers onto surface streets due to tolls and the lack of mid-town exits. Congestion pricing would charge drivers for using Seattle’s roads, especially during peak times.

“To maintain the bus service, what we need to do is make sure that there aren’t more cars on our streets downtown,” Councilmember Mike O’Brien told KIRO 7.

The two mayoral candidates have said the city should at least explore the idea. The Seattle Times reports the two finally addressed the issue in mid-October. Durkan said the city will need “a range of innovative solutions to deal” with the traffic problem. Moon said the city should consider congestion pricing, “but make sure we can offer sufficient transit, biking and walking alternatives before we leap.”

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