Friday Roundup: Autonomous vehicles, state insurance mandates, new boomtowns, fiscally distressed governments

There are always a few items we’ve read during the week that deserve more attention but don’t make it into our regular posts. So we bundle them for the Friday roundup.

Here’s this week’s bundle:

Seattle Times (Mistele, Alberg op-ed): Let technology take the wheel for safer, less-congested roads.

Autonomous vehicles will reduce accidents — estimates are that crashes will decrease up to 90 percent. That will be a real savings of human lives, health-care time and money, and insurance costs. Most experts agree that once we reach a tipping point of enough autonomous vehicles on the road (predicted in the 20 percent range), traffic will also improve. Autonomous cars can drive closer together and smooth traffic flows. And fewer accidents also mean fewer traffic snarls.

Autonomous cars are just one of four powerful trends coming together to change our travel experience as well as the layout and enjoyment of our cities. The four trends are: Autonomous, Connected, Electric and Shared vehicles (known as ACES). And the Greater Seattle region has the opportunity to be a leader in the adoption of these technologies.

Seattle Times (Collins op-ed): A future free of congestion thanks to driverless vans can be ours

To serve this maze and get these commuters out of their cars, we need literally thousands of routes, many of which will vary day to day as commuters’ schedules vary. Few of those routes will attract more than a handful of passengers at any one time. Traditional trains and buses are too big and too expensive to cope with a pickup-sticks commute. We need to reduce the vehicle size, cut the cost and explode the number of vehicles to literally tens of thousands…

The game changer is the rapidly approaching advent of driverless, autonomous vans, dispatched much like Uber with smartphones, linked to the enormous power of artificial intelligence. We will need 25,000 of them.

Wall Street Journal: States Look at Establishing Their Own Health Insurance Mandates

Congressional Republicans in December repealed the so-called individual mandate, a pillar of the ACA, as part of their tax overhaul. That cheered conservatives who say people shouldn’t be forced to buy insurance, but it has now energized liberals who say a mandate is needed to ensure coverage and keep premiums low.

Maryland lawmakers are pursuing a plan to replace the ACA mandate, which requires most people to pay a penalty if they don’t have coverage. California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Minnesota, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington, as well as the District of Columbia, are publicly considering similar ideas.

Chief Executive: The New Opportunity Boomtowns

The post-recession economy favored many dense urban centers like New York, Boston, San Francisco and Seattle, which just a quarter century ago seemed unable to grow jobs or population. Even less successful big metros, such as Chicago and Los Angeles, experienced something of a surge in the central core, despite substandard overall economic performance…

Virtually all the superstars, with the exception of Chicago, have seen a rapid ascent in housing prices, chasing people out of these metros. In the Bay Area, for example, 74 percent of millennials plan to leave, according to the Urban Land Institute. Even in Seattle, still a major lure for young people, many younger residents are now looking outside the city as they get ready to buy houses or raise families. 

Seattle Times: As cost of living soars, half of Seattle-area tax filers earn under $50k, IRS data show

Almost exactly half the tax returns filed in the Seattle area — 901,000 of them — reported an adjusted gross income of less than $50,000. In King County alone, half a million returns reported income under that threshold.

Remarkably, the majority of folks in the under-$50,000 income bracket are actually making less than $25,000.

Manhattan Institute: America’s States of (Fiscal) Siege

America’s states and municipalities should be awash in good budget news. Unemployment remains below 5%, inflation is tame, and the stock market rose more than 20% in 2017 — the ninth year of a bull market. Yet many local governments faced intense struggles last year to balance their books.

Localities have confronted unrelenting fiscal pressure since 2008, a result of the  weakest recovery since World War II of tax revenues combined with ever-escalating costs. Many states and localities have had to rewrite budget books in ways that leave taxpayers paying more — and receiving less.

“U.S. states have entered a new era characterized by chronic budget stress,” the financial analyst Gabriel Petek, a managing director in the U.S. Public Finance group at S&P Global Ratings, wrote last April.

Geek Wire: Average tech worker salary in Seattle hits $132k, making city the top spot for relocation

Tech workers in Seattle are making more and their salaries go further than those in competing markets, making the city the top relocation destination for workers elsewhere. Those are the key findings in the third annual State of Salaries report,released by the job search site Hired on Thursday.

According to Hired, the average tech worker in Seattle is now making $132,000 a year — just below the global average of $135,000.