Congratulations to the opponents of Proposition 1, the effort to charge $60 to register a car in Seattle, in order to pay for transportation alternatives. Their message was simple to deliver: why pay more to drive? Still, I’m not saying they won because of a failure by supporters of Proposition 1 to deliver their message. The supporters did exactly what they set out to: soft peddle the increased price of driving Proposition 1 would bring, worried that they’d be seen as waging a "war on cars."
One thing that commended the passage of Proposition 1 was that it made it more expensive to drive. But Proposition 1 advocates refused to embrace that message, making them look suspicious and disingenuous.
Nobody likes to pay for something that should be free, and for most of us, driving would fall into the "free" category. Sure we have to pay for gas, taxes, insurance, and time for traffic. But once you get behind the wheel, it’s nothing but pavement and blue sky. All the costs of driving, like the massive expense of that pavement, carbon emissions damaging the climate and air, and the petroleum leaking out of cars that fouls our water and fish habitats, aren’t seen or felt.
My comments about Prop 1 making it hard to drive and easier to use alternative modes of transportation elicited the usual snarky comments about social engineering, and trying to force my lifestyle on a helpless public. The argument from the "no" side was simple: Why pay more for something that you won’t and don’t want to use — like transit — when the things you use the most — roads — are falling apart.
Meanwhile, the "yes" side refused to confront the car or its costs. Nor did they acknowledge the benefits of internalizing environmental and infrastructure driving costs. Instead the campaign tried to romance voters with the best of all worlds: faster and safer travel for cars, bikes, people, and transit. Such a message strains credulity.
But Seattle and King County voters overwhelmingly rejected Tim Eyman’s toll busting Initiative 1125. Seattle voters aren’t stupid. They realize the price of driving can and should go up. To beat the car, we'll need policies and taxes that make other modes of transit cheap or free in exchange for an increased cost of driving.