While some ballots are still arriving and being counted, so far an overwhelming majority of voters in the City of Seattle have approved Proposition 1: “Funding for Transit and Related Transportation Needs.” This proposition would replace a funding source that expires at the end of this year.
Revenues from the new measure would fund transit services benefiting Seattle residents through the Seattle Transportation Benefit District. Proposition 1 was placed on the ballot when Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan signed Council Bill 119833 on July 31. The proposition increases the current 0.1% sales tax to 0.15%, which is anticipated to generate roughly $39 million annually over the next six years to fund transit service, capital projects, and transit access programs.
“The Seattle Transportation Benefit District is a critical tool for providing equitable access to transit in our City,” said Durkan. “Seattle voters once again stepped up to support transit and transportation, especially to ensure reliable transit for essential workers during this pandemic. Our residents are the reason Seattle can claim one of the best transit networks in the nation. Seattle has had back to back wins for transportation with the Supreme Court overturning I-976 and the passage of STBD. We can build back from the pandemic better than we started and provide an important surge of investments to the West Seattle and Duwamish Valley neighborhoods as they deal with the impacts of the bridge closure.”
The proposed services under the new Seattle Transportation Benefit District include frequent transit network maintenance and associated capital improvements; low-income fare programs for Seattle seniors, students, workers, and residents; and transportation needs related to COVID-19 recovery and the West Seattle Bridge closure.
“So far in the vote count, we are seeing strong support for safe, reliable transit,” said King County Executive Dow Constantine. “Our transit network connects us to work and school and everything this region has to offer. The renewal of the Seattle Transportation Benefit District will provide funds to keep us moving now and during the recovery—with special attention given to our essential workers, underserved areas and lower-income communities, and helping our community get through the West Seattle Bridge closure.”
The new Seattle Transportation Benefit District, when fully ramped up, will fund an estimated 2,800 to 3,100 weekly trips on Metro buses. The City of Seattle described the proposed spending breakdown in a typical year, per dollar as:
- $0.63 on added bus trips across the city,
- $0.10 on ORCA Opportunity,
- $0.09 on emerging service needs,
- $0.08 on low-income access to transit,
- $0.08 on capital projects and spot improvements, and
- $0.02 on essential workers.
“King County Metro thanks voters in Seattle for standing up for safe, equitable, and sustainable transit,” said King County Metro Interim General Manager Terry White. “We’re excited to renew the highly successful Seattle Transportation Benefit District partnership. Working with the City of Seattle, this funding will help provide more frequent service to more customers and locations, and for longer hours as we see a move away from traditional commuting times. We’re prioritizing service to communities of color, customers with lower incomes, and essential workers, while continuing to reduce congestion and pollution by providing an alternative to single-occupancy vehicles.”
“King County voters recognize that people need fast, frequent and reliable transit that seamlessly connects them to employment, education, community and more,” said King County Council Chair Claudia Balducci. “(Tuesday’s) vote by Seattle voters affirms that they get it: better transit service equals opportunity. And that’s why in the coming years I look forward to building on (this) momentum to grow our transit network countywide.”
“I am grateful that Seattle voters overwhelmingly chose to continue enhanced local investment in Metro transit service,” said King County Councilmember Rod Dembowski. “As we open more light rail capacity next year, I will work to ensure that we protect our frequent, all-day network to make transit convenient and reliable. These funds are essential to that vision, and are more important than ever during these challenging times.”
“Seattle voters support of Proposition 1 to fund transit coupled with the Supreme Court’s recent decision to reject I-976 preserves the important work we’ve done together to create a robust, connected transit system,” said Seattle Transportation Department Director Sam Zimbabwe. “Over the last six years, Seattle has been a national leader in transit ridership. We built it and people came. That has not stopped, even in the midst of a global pandemic. One in three essential workers rely on transit to get to their job. Our bus service is central to our efforts to build a more livable and accessible city, and to position us for a strong, inclusive recovery. Today, voters chose to keep this momentum going, keeping a frequent transit system in place, and reducing costs for low-income riders. We look forward to working with our partners at King County Metro and providing safe, efficient, and frequent transit for working people—including essential workers while building a more inclusive city.”
King County will certify election results on November 24.
- “Seattle sales tax to fund transit wins overwhelmingly in 2020 election results.” (The Seattle Times, Nov. 4, 2020.)
- “Seattle and King County Applaud Voter Approval of Proposition 1.” (Joint media release, Nov. 4. 2020.)
- “Ballot measures: November 3, 2020 General and Special Election.” (King County Elections.)
- “Seattle Transportation Benefit District.” (City of Seattle.)