The organization of governance in Cascadia is one of those arcane but essential topics that only gets wonks excited and, consequently, rarely gets fixed. Like tax policy and insurance regulation, it’s awesomely important and powerful but very hard to move politically. (My earlier post on boring things that change the world is here.)
A few years ago, I served on a panel that advised the Puget Sound Regional Council on how to advance transportation pricing reforms. The main conclusion: the greater Seattle area needs a better system for governing its transportation. No one is in charge; no one is accountable; nothing gets done. This sets in motion a vicious circle of declining public trust in government, tax revolts, and further inaction.
Greater Portland has Metro, a uniquely powerful three-county, elected governing board for land-use planning, transit and transportation, parks, and solid waste. Greater Vancouver has the Greater Vancouver Regional District and its affiliated transportation agency TransLink, which have powers not too much weaker than Metro’s.
But greater Seattle has only the PSRC, a regional planning body with little power to implement its plans. So I’m encouraged that state senator Ed Murray (D-Seattle) is proposing a stepwise overhaul of transportation governance among the 86 local jurisdictions in the PSRC area. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer has the story.
P.S. The classic text on the importance of regional governance and, in particular, regional tax-base sharing to solving contemporary metropolitan problems is Myron Orfield’s Metropolitics. Some of Myron’s research on the Seattle and Portland areas is available here.