Pedestrians near Westlake Plaza in Seattle, by SDOT, used with a creative commons license.

On Monday, July 27, the Seattle City Council voted to renew the Seattle Transportation Benefit District. We must work together to pass the 0.15% sales tax measure in November to keep people moving.

STBD Background

The Seattle Transportation Benefit District (STBD) passed in 2014 and generated over $50 million annually through a $60 vehicle license fee and 0.1% sales tax increase. The STBD funds transit service, transit spot improvements and affordability programs like ORCA Opportunity, which provides free transit passes for students, seniors, and income-eligible adults. It funds 8% of King County Metro’s bus service, and has helped create an even more robust transit network in Seattle. Thanks to the STBD, 70% of Seattle households now are within a 10-minute walk to 10-minute bus service. You can read more about the STBD’s success here.

The Renewal Package

TCC worked closely with partners to advocate for a package that centers equity, invests in transit service hours, and points us toward a just recovery. The final six-year 0.15% sales tax measure would replace the existing 0.1% sales tax and $60 car tab fee,  and would:

  • Generate over 150,000 transit service hours a year for six years. 
  • Support improvements on transit corridors to maximize trip efficiency and reliability.
  • Support low-income transit programs, including free transit passes for public high school students and access programs for seniors, public housing residents, and essential workers.
  • Ensure racial equity is at the center of performance evaluation and service investments. Transit service should ensure racial equity is at the center of performance evaluation, and that transit meets the needs of the most dependent riders and communities.
  • Support the West Seattle bridge closure with more transit options.

Transportation Choices Coalition is in full support of the renewal of the Seattle Transportation Benefit District. Now more than ever, we must keep transit moving. Transit provides critical access to essential jobs, services, and destinations and as a sector, provides good family-wage jobs. Since the pandemic, more than one hundred thousand people have continued to rely on transit service in Seattle and King County every single day, and 33 percent of transit riders in Seattle are essential workers. The continuation of these vital transit investments is critical for the health and future of Seattle, as well as for creating affordability during this challenging economic climate. Approximately 19% of Seattleites don’t own a vehicle, and AAA estimates the cost of car ownership is nearly $10,000 a year. Transportation is the second-highest household cost, and public transit creates a much-needed and affordable alternative to driving. Transit service is a must-have for a functional, equitable economy, to address the climate crisis, and to advancing social justice and public safety. 

The STBD is necessary to bolster transit service during this difficult time and is a bridge toward the ultimate goal of re-regionalizing transit funding in King County, which is critical to build a frequent and reliable regional transit network with equitable service delivery and that aligns with light rail openings. If we disinvest in transit now, the consequences will be devastating for generations to come. Transit is an essential service to our society. Building and maintaining a transit system that delivers fast, frequent, affordable, and reliable service that equitably connects people to opportunity is and always should be a priority. 

Next Steps

The policy process for Seattle’s Transportation Benefit District is now over. We will keep you updated with ways to get involved in the campaign and continue to advocate for transit for all! November, here we come.

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