Budget season is underway at the City of Seattle and King County. Transportation Choices’ policy priorities include health and safety, equity, and the environment and are rooted in a vision for a fast, frequent, and reliable transit network that provides good jobs and connects people to opportunity. Based on our review, we are sharing some highlights and considerations regarding the executives’ budgets in both Seattle and King County.
Direct Bus Service Restoration and Increases: This budget provides resources to support an additional 191,000 service hours above 2022 projected service levels.
Engagement and Research to Build Back Ridership: This budget includes funding to rebuild system ridership with investments to facilitate customer engagement and research with a focus on building community partnerships where needs are greatest. This work will address community feedback on the Mobility Framework and goals, outcomes, and strategies from the Strategic Plan. Transportation Choices supports efforts to understand and reduce barriers for current and future riders.
$5.1 million for Metro SaFE Reform Initiatives: King County Metro is looking to reform its transit safety, security, and fare enforcement policies and practices through the Safety, Security, and Fare Enforcement (SaFE) reform initiative as a step on its journey to becoming an anti-racist mobility agency. Transportation Choices has been a strong advocate for the SaFE effort, which aligns with our efforts to reduce policing and enforcement harm in transportation.
Increased investment in zero-emissions fleet: The Executive’s budget includes $180 million to purchase battery-electric buses and $43 million in zero-emissions infrastructure to ensure that Metro’s 1,400 coach bus fleet is zero emissions by 2035. Transportation Choices supports reducing GHG emissions through electrification but is concerned that prioritizing this electrification instead of RapidRide service and maintenance could reduce the system’s overall efficiency.
Mixed investment in RapidRide: While some RapidRide projects are getting funding to move ahead, others seem to be stalled. Transportation Choices wants to ensure that King County allocate their resources in order to meet interim Metro Connects goals for RapidRide.
Bus Operations Training Capacity and Employee Support: This budget includes investments to help stabilize the workforce through recruitment and training to support bus operators and better position Metro to fill vacancies. National partners have identified the workforce shortage as a huge barrier to delivering the services we all count on and Transportation Choices appreciates the County directly addressing this issue.
Metro Youth Mobility Program: Metro is funded to implement an outreach and education program focused on youth riders. These resources will assist in the implementation of the new free youth fare policy and will promote ridership and lifelong adoption of transit. Transportation Choices is thrilled to see resources supporting the implementation of the “Youth Ride Free” policy; a key part of the historic Move Ahead WA transportation package which Transportation Choices championed in the 2022 Legislative Session.
ORCA LIFT Fare Reduction Pilot: Resources are identified to lower the ORCA LIFT low-income fare from $1.50 to $1.00 on transit services provided by King County Metro Transit for a twelve-month pilot. Transportation Choices is glad to see an alignment in policy and fares between Sound Transit and Metro on this issue and in reducing financial barriers for low-income riders.
You can learn more about opportunities for public comment on the King County budget here.
Safety, Equity, and Planning: We are glad to see an investment in Vision Zero projects that make it safer to walk, roll, and bike to school. This is a critical funding priority for the City, which continues to see record-high fatalities and serious injuries for people walking and rolling. We also appreciate the investments in the Transportation Equity Program, the Move Seattle Levy projects, and the commitment to public engagement for the Seattle Transportation Plan.
Streetcar: The Center City Connecter streetcar is a long-overview capital investment in a sustainable, efficient, and prosperous mobility future for downtown Seattle that needs to be prioritized and completed swiftly. We want to see urgent action towards real solutions for the design, engineering, and construction challenges facing this project. The budget as currently proposed stymies this vital project in further unnecessary studies and does not accelerate project delivery in line with a 2026 World Cup revenue service deadline.
Fare Share: Transportation Choices Coalition was part of a 65-member Fare Share Seattle coalition who fought for the nation-leading Fare Share tax on Transportation Network Company trips. That tax was supported and adopted for the explicit purposes of supporting gig workers, completing the Center City Connector Streetcar project, and investing in affordable housing near transit. We stand with our partners in opposing the repurposing of these funds to SDOT general fund.
Parking Enforcement: We are disappointed to see the proposal to move parking enforcement officers from Seattle Department of Transportation back into the Seattle Police Department. This move was intended to reduce the harms of policing and enforcement in transportation and to provide an opportunity for transportation professionals on the ground to deal with transportation-related issues; encouraging them to rethink and reimagine the role and impacts of enforcement in these spaces. We will continue to ask leadership to use budgets to solve safety issues with systemic safety solutions that focus on design rather than punitive measures.
Third Avenue. We support funding to improve the experience of those walking, biking, and taking transit downtown. A critical transit corridor, any proposed vision for Third Avenue should center land use and design solutions that work for pedestrians and transit riders. The City should also address broad social issues with the humanity, support and safety net we all deserve.
You can learn more about opportunities for public comment on the City of Seattle budget here.