We saw it in this year’s election cycle — ads crying that Senator X had cut funding for women’s health, or that challenger Y would do away with school music programs. But what such ads neglect to mention — even if their plain facts are true — is that budgets are finite, and in order to fund certain projects, government officials often face tough decisions in cutting others.
Now you can get a taste of that yourself, with a new online game that gives you control of the Spokane region’s transportation future.
The game, designed by a Portland consulting firm, is part of a months-long planning process by the Spokane Regional Transportation Council that is trying to build a comprehensive approach to Spokane’s transportation needs for the next several decades.
“We’re looking at every ongoing project that’s already in progress, or has even just been proposed,” says Tyler Tullis of Desautel-Hege, a local firm hired to get the word out. “This game was just launched to get some community feedback.”
A Thousand Visions, as the game is called, puts you in control of how much money to raise and what to use it on, then sends your priorities to the SRTC.
If you can get past the text-y, policy-wonk interface, it’s easy to see what the region would look like under the Your Name Here Administration.
I started by levying the highest possible rate for every tax available to me — citizens’ wails be damned. With the resulting $3.8 billion, I was able to fund nearly everything I wanted — the North Spokane Corridor, a high-performance transit network (including 39 miles of light rail and 136 miles of electric trolley service), a downtown streetcar, completion of the Fish Lake and Centennial Trails, construction work on certain state highways and continued maintenance of existing roads. And I still had $15 million left over! The only projects left out were a few highway connectors.
In the end, I was awarded 10 bright orange points out of 10 for bike connectivity and given high marks for health/wellness, safety and social equity.
Four more years! Four more years! Of course, when I went back and lowered tax rates to levels that wouldn’t bankrupt my entire community, things changed. With a combination of gas taxes, license plate fees, small impact fees and a sales tax aimed at high-capacity transit, I pulled in just over $1 billion. That was enough for a streetcar, some trail and bike lane work and maintenance for several smaller projects, but gone were the North-South Freeway and the light rail network. How was I going to tell Spokane Valley that they don’t get new bridges? Or the elderly that they don’t deserve paratransit service?
My scores reflected the changes — my bike connectivity fell to 4, and my social equity ranking dropped to an insipid, peach-colored 3.
I can already see the attack ads: “State senator hates old people, wishes Spokane Valley would fall into the sea.”