Bellevue residents are green by our very nature – people don’t call us a city in a park for nothing!
And in the voting booth, we put our money where our mouth is to prove it. In 2016, Bellevue residents voted for twenty year property tax increases largely to improve bicycling and pedestrian facilities. In 2018, our city voted in support of I-1631, a statewide initiative that would have implemented a reasonable carbon tax to help our state reach its emissions reduction targets. Although the initiative ultimately failed (in large part because of the millions of dollars spent by petroleum companies), Bellevue residents stood on the right side of history in acknowledging that we need both market and policy pressures to stop climate change.
The City Council understands this desire for a greener, more equitable Bellevue, and in response is revising the city’s Environmental Stewardship Initiative to set more ambitious protection targets. In addition to larger greenhouse gas reductions, councilmembers approved new goals of 50% fewer vehicle miles traveled (VMT) per capita. Additionally, Council adopted bold Vision Zero targets that aim to have no person seriously injured or killed on Bellevue streets by 2030. And these are noble, laudable, attainable goals that city residents should be proud of! However, these targets must be backed up with concrete action, and that action must start today.
Although cars can provide improved access to opportunity, we must remember the burdens and costs that come with car ownership. Commuters must spend thousands of dollars a year on gas, maintenance, and upkeep – costs that our lower income residents cannot afford. Residents in our densest neighborhoods must live with the toxic fumes that negatively impact their health. Car crashes in our city killed or severely injured 30 people last year alone, the most in more than a decade. There are real, tangible human and social costs to our city’s car usage, and the way to combat them isn’t to double down on car ownership and infrastructure – it’s to build a transportation system that gives people greener and safer choices to get around.
So do we want a city that on the one hand will urge the importance of climate action while simultaneously constructing new sprawl-supporting interstate interchanges? Do we want more car traffic immediately next to new transit-oriented development that will support our new light rail network? Do we want another car bridge just south of a visionary new park that will create acres of greenspace near the heart of Downtown?
Bellevue residents have shown with their actions that the answer to these questions is “No!” – but we must make sure City Council hears us.
Header photo from City of Bellevue