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Originally published October 5, 2008 at 12:00 AM | Page modified October 8, 2008 at 4:37 PM

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Get smart: Say no to Initiative 985

Vote not on Initiative 985. It makes no sense to design a functioning, complicated traffic system by initiative.

At first glance, the voter looks at Initiative 985, the so-called Reduce Traffic Congestion Initiative, and says, "Of course I want to improve traffic congestion." The correct response, however, is a resounding NO.

I-985 is a poorly-packaged jumble of different agendas that will — please, listen carefully — wor-sen traffic in certain areas. It makes no sense to design a functioning, complicated traffic system by initiative.

This measure is an attempt to put a list of things that irk motorists — underused HOV lanes, unsynchro-nized traffic lights and maddening red-light cameras — into a 12-page initiative few voters will have time to read. But the knee bone is not connected to the thighbone.

The most popular item is a plan to open HOV lanes during nonpeak hours — peak defined as 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. to 6 p.m., weekdays. The Puget Sound commute begins earlier and lasts longer. But vote for this and the bus and carpool lanes will become slower as more cars flood the HOV lanes at 9:05 a.m. and 6:05 p.m.

Within a few weeks of this measure's effective date, fewer commuters will ride the bus because they lose the time advantage. The result will be more cars on the roads and more congestion by mid-December. Happy Holidays to you.

Consider westbound Highway 520 approaching the bridge across Lake Washington. The three-occupant HOV lane is a narrow shoulder not designed to handle a crowded lane of traffic. It works today because fewer cars and buses use it. Put more cars in the skinny lane and it becomes dangerous and backs traffic up to Interstate 405 as cars jostle to fit three lanes into two.

Initiative sponsor Tim Eyman says he wants to remove the profit motive from red-light cameras and put the money into a new congestion-relief fund.

In reality, many cities may dismantle these devices because they will not bother paying operation costs out of their general fund. Neighborhood groups and public-safety advocates love the cameras because scofflaws stop running lights. It's common-sense public safety.

This initiative is a jumble, a one-size-fits-all measure that reduces local flexibility. Voters should get smart and say no.

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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