Transportation: an economic driver for a global city

We wanted to pass along two interesting columns that recently appeared in the Seattle Times. Both make the case for transportation investments as a driver for economic development.

The first piece by John Talton, reminds readers that infrastructure investments create jobs—both during construction as well as afterward by allowing private industries to leverage those assets for their own growth.

“Investing in 21st century infrastructure…would not only maintain our global economic edge…but also create jobs,” he writes. What’s interesting about these jobs is they are good paying, family-wage jobs that don't necessarily require advanced college degrees.  

“Infrastructure jobs, widely defined, account for 11 percent of national employment and the pay tends to be more equitable, including at the lower end of the earnings scale,” Talton writes.  “Most jobs don’t require college degrees. Long-term operating jobs outnumber shorter-term construction work.” 

Even as the American economy evolves into one where technology jobs requiring higher education become the norm, there will still be individuals who won’t go to college.  Infrastructure jobs offer them hope and opportunities.

The second piece by Bruce Katz talks about Seattle’s role in the international economy as a global city. While focused specifically on Seattle, one could probably argue this notion applies to the entire central Puget Sound.  

“In an increasingly international and interconnected economy, Seattle was global before global was cool,” writes Katz. “While Seattle is the 15th largest metro area in the United States, it has the sixth highest export total, sending more than $47 billion in goods and services abroad in 2012.”

He warns, however, that our region’s global status needs constant care and feeding.  Transportation investments are a critical piece of the equation. 

“In order to maintain its position in the global economy, Seattle needs to get serious about global engagement,” he writes. 

The region needs to invest in what matters, Katz argues, including “a regional approach to financing and delivering transportation solutions that not only reduce congestion at home, but also improve your connections abroad.”

Completing SR 167 is one way to help ensure these global connections. It's also an investment that helps create well-paying family wage jobs for a range of education levels.  Working waterfront jobs will be facilitated by a completed SR 167 and pay 40 percent more than the average salary in Pierce County. Many of those jobs also do not require a college degree.

The question is whether we chose to make that investment. 

Katz warns: “Simply put, in today’s economic landscape, every city is a global city. The success of regional economies hinges on their engagement throughout the global economy. Seattle has an enviable hand to play; but success is not inevitable.”