Hasegawa: Clarifying My Record on Transit

by Bob Hasegawa 

I’ve spent my life fighting to make Seattle a city more accessible and equitable for all.  First, as a leader for the Teamster’s Union, second, as a state representative and, most recently, a state senator.  

I owe much of my passion to serve others to my parents, whose experience being detained in Camp Minidoka, an American concentration camp during World War II, taught me early on the importance of protecting those in our community that hold the least power.  I like to think that my mother and father would be proud to know that I am trying to do what I think is right in their memory.  

My passion to make Seattle more accessible directly informs my position on Seattle transit.  Let me say upfront: I support the expansion of transit in Seattle. It’s long past time to make Seattle easier to navigate for all. Our city has been ranked as one of the worst in the world for traffic and with over 1,000 people moving to Seattle each week, the strains on highways and public transportation will only continue to increase.

The average Seattle commuter spends 55 hours per year stuck in traffic.  That’s time spent away from family and loved ones, not to mention 55 hours of adding unnecessary carbon emissions to our environment – a point of heightened importance considering Trump’s recent decision to pull the U.S. out of the Paris climate accord.

I also support Sound Transit 3 (ST3), in part because the cross-county proposal aims to greatly increase transportation options for residents.  The $54 billion investment seeks to expand light rail access, bus and train programs, and improve highway infrastructure, while making it easier to travel between Pierce, King and Snohomish County. These are important and necessary goals in light of the current housing market.

Seattle’s rising housing and rent costs are forcing more and more working-class residents away from the city. This, in turn, leads to longer commutes, longer work weeks, less time with family, more expenses and more carbon emissions. I voted to support ST3 in the state legislature, as well as on my personal ballot.

While I am committed to transit expansion, I will also work to ensure that we execute in a way that’s both fair and equitable – that we protect those in our community most likely to be displaced by large scale infrastructure projects; that we safeguard working class and fixed income residents, already being pushed from the city due to high housing costs, from gentrification resulting from the new light rail stations and housing developments that sprout up around them. This is why I supported SB 5001– which would change the board of a Regional Transit Authority from appointed to elected.  Ensuring accountability through elections is how we reformed the Teamsters and is what we need to ensure responsible stewardship of taxpayer money.

Seattle’s history of zoning and pricing in neighborhoods has pushed low and fixed income residents away from the city. The city acknowledged such in its Seattle 2035 Equity Analysis report, which found that “[d]isplacement risk is greatest in neighborhoods that have historically been home to communities of color.”  This includes southeast Seattle and my own neighborhood of Beacon Hill, one of the most racially diverse neighborhoods, and one the report identified as having a “high risk” of displacement.  

The expansion of the light rail has brought many benefits to Beacon Hill – for example, access to the downtown Seattle has been greatly expanded, which in turn has made the neighborhood more attractive for residency, spurring investment – many long-time Beacon Hill residents have struggled with the additional costs, which include parking permits, rising property and utility taxes, and fees in lieu of taxes.  I hear these concerns from residents everyday and any questions that I’ve raised in relation to ST3 have reflected this sentiment, i.e., the desire to balance growth with fairness.  If I did not convey these equity concerns clearly, then I will work harder in the future to better articulate my message.

ST3 was voted in by the people.  Light rail is a large part of the future of transit in Seattle, and much like mega-project highways of the past, we must be intentional in our understanding of the impacts the projects can have on the most vulnerable, and ensure the process is transparent in its delivery.  I believe folks here would like to see that Seattle stays accessible to all, including to the working class, retirees, immigrants, communities of color and those that are low income living in historically marginalized and underserved communities.  If elected Mayor, I will continue my fight to ensure all families can afford to live and thrive, as well as move around safely and equitably in our world class city.

Bob Hasegawa is the State Senator for Washington’s 11th District and a Candidate for Seattle Mayor


2 thoughts on “Hasegawa: Clarifying My Record on Transit”

  1. Bob, you’ve made very clear in the past you think Sound Transit should have ignored feedback from constituents and placed a much smaller–perhaps 1/3 as small–package on the ballot for ST III. That would have meant much less for Seattle–maybe we could have still had a cheaper and lower quality version of light rail extension to either West Seattle or Ballard but certainly not both.

    WIth that in mind, I have two questions. First, are you changing your view? Are you now saying you support the version of ST III that actually exists, and retract your criticism of ST for putting together an ambitious package?

    If the answer is no, then you must think either Ballard or West Seattle shouldn’t have had their light rail extensions funded. If you had the power to “right-size” ST III to the size you thought it should be in the first place, would you strip light rail from West Seattle, or from Ballard?

    One more question. 5001 is written by Republicans with the goal of stripping power from Seattle voters. You told Erica Barnett you support this. Why should Seattle elect someone mayor when that person is enthusiastically supporting a bill designed to strip them of their power in regional governance?

  2. As the comment above says, the real goal of 5001 was to sabatoge Sound Transit and especially light rail. There’s an old saying “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”, and Sound Transit is now one of the premier US transit agencies and the mostly successful new agency.

    I also strongly disagree with you on the parking issue. Parking on city-owned right of way is not a God given right. It is a privilege, and when in high demand it should be paid for. In addition, that vast majority of the residents of Seattle neighborhoods do have off street parking that they could use, it’s just often easier for them to park on street.

    It’s not light rail that is bringing gentrification to southeast Seattle, it’s being driven by Amazon. Some people, who don’t understand these things, blame it on light rail because they can see light rail. They don’t see Amazon.

    I live near the Othello light rail staton and am very active in the development going on around the station. What’s become clear is that it is not gentrifying. Quite the opposite, we are getting primarily workforce and subsidized housing in these new buildings. And that’s exactly what the those of us in the Othello Station Community Action Team are supporting – wide variety of affordable housing around the station. Even the market rate housing here is far more affordable than up north.

    The so-called gentrification is happening more in the single family areas, as people with decent jobs have a lot more trouble finding anything even remotely affordable except in parts of southeast Seattle and the Central area. For example, my own house was just asessed upward by about 20% – but only to about the half the current median house price in Seattle as a whole. What would really help is to loosen the zoning restrictions in these single family areas, enabling a lot more rooms and apartments for rent in remodeled single family homes or backyard cottages. This would also be a real boon to homeowners of modest means, who could stay here as landlords in their own homes.