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Seattle’s bus funding ballot measure *could* resurrect the 47 with sales tax hike and car tab fee

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The 47 taking its final run. (Photo: CHS)

After months of warning, Metro’s funding woes finally came to Capitol Hill’s doorstep in September when the the 47 bus was discontinued along with 28 other routes around the regional bus system.

Seattle Transportation Benefit District Proposition 1 asks Seattle voters if they want to buy back some of those services in Seattle and improve existing routes with a $60 annual vehicle license fee and .1% sales tax hike. If enacted, the measure is expected generate around $45 million annually for the hamstrung bus system.

Some of those funds could be used to restore Rt. 47 and others that were among the lower performing routes in the system, though the plan does not spell out which routes would get funding. Those decisions would likely be left up to the City Council. The group Yes For Seattle Transit has identified several existing Capitol Hill-area routes that would likely be improved or expanded, including routes 2, 8, 9x, 10, 25, 43, 48, 49, and 60.

In addition to route improvements, around $3 million would be used to set up a Regional Partnership Fund to improve suburban routes and about $2 million would be used to support Metro’s reduced fare program. The funding measures would expire in 2020.

There are no proposed Metro fare hikes as part of the funding plan as Metro fares are scheduled to increase 25 cents across the board in March 2015. Metro fares have nearly doubled since 2008.

Given the loss of Rt. 47 and the robust Metro ridership around central Seattle, Prop 1 should draw lots on interest on Capitol Hill. Earlier this week, a non-scientific CHS survey on the November ballot showed transportation was the most important issue among those who live/work/go to school on Capitol Hill and plan to vote. It also showed the transit proposition doing well among respondents:

CHS Survey — Prop 1 results:

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So how did we get here? Mostly inaction, though the 2008 financial crisis didn’t help matters. Last year the state legislature failed to pass a transportation package, which included a revival of the motor vehicle excise tax that would’ve funded Metro services.

With the MVET off the table, King County Executive Dow Constantine proposed a $60 car tab fee and .1% sales tax hike (sound familiar?) to go before King County voters. The measure lost in the April election, despite garnering 66% of the vote in Seattle and 80% of the vote in Capitol Hill’s 43rd legislative district. The upside for Prop 1 supporters is that those numbers look good for a win on November 4th.

With a loss at the county level, Mayor Ed Murray announced in May that he would send the car tab fee and sales tax hike before Seattle voters and the City Council unanimously approved. At the time Murray said the proposed 8% boost to Metro’s budget was not a Seattle takeover of the regional transit authority.

There’s no formal opposition to Prop 1, although groups like the nonpartisan Municipal League have opposed it because it uses a regressive tax to generate funds that are not clearly tied to specific routes. Additionally, the King County Council recently voted to hold off on further rounds of dramatic bus cuts, leaving some to argue the Prop 1 stop gap is not longer necessary. Constantine, Murray, and city council members have said voters should use this opportunity to infuse Metro with much needed funding anyway.

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Adam
Adam
6 years ago

The problem with the 47 is it wasn’t frequent enough to be something you could just use without planning it out ahead of time. If it ran every 10 minutes, it’d be more valuable.

At this point there’s probably better places to invest.

David
David
6 years ago
Reply to  Adam

Not frequent enough? It ran every 20 minutes during rush hour times between the hill and downtown. That’s more frequent than the current 43 is running with all the delays…

Craig
Craig
6 years ago

I’m all for more busses but do we really need to spend more resources on another bus that goes from Capitol Hill downtown, especially when the 43 and 49 are only a couple block away. The 47 was the shortest route in the area, I can’t help but imagine a lot of this is just about nostalgia, maybe we could use those funds to add some more buses to a few of the overcrowded routes. Or maybe we could get an actually useful route like something that goes from downtown through Capitil Hill to Fremont, it’d still reduce the crowded 49 but would actually go somewhere useful.

Robert
Robert
6 years ago
Reply to  Craig

Amen to that! I really wish there were a Capitol Hill to Fremont/Ballard bus. It’s a pain hopping on Bus 8 the Chronically Late and trying to catch the 26 or 28 on Dexter. Your other option is getting down to 3rd ‘n’ Pike (or Pine) so you can get some crack rock while you wait for your ride. Ugh. Anyway, one can dream…

Tobin
Tobin
6 years ago
Reply to  Robert

AMEN to that. It completely boggles my mind how hard it is to get from Ballard to Capitol Hill; you would think the city would realize the importance of connecting what are arguably the city’s two strongest neighborhoods right now.

Steve
Steve
6 years ago
Reply to  Tobin

The last stop on the 49 has a transfer to the 44, which will take you down 45th through Market. A lot of times the 43 turns into the 44 in the U District, so you don’t even have to get off the bus. When I found that route, it made getting from Capitol Hill to Ballard ten times easier.

Eric
Eric
6 years ago
Reply to  Tobin

Lake Union get’s in the way.

Brad
Brad
6 years ago

The 47 was a useful route for a couple reasons: 1) Because of its short length, it was almost always on time and 2) For folks living on the north end of I5 shores, it meant avoiding a 7 block walk uphill. I think it should be considered for restoration as a peak only route.

dc
dc
6 years ago
Reply to  Brad

yep. no need for every 15 minute service or late night stuff. it’s a specialty route that people in this area rely on and can easily plan around if it’s limited to 10 or 12 stops a day.

Max
Max
6 years ago

I think the 47 would be a highly useful and beneficial route to reinstate for a large number of people for many reasons. Many past riders of the 47 do (if they have the ability to walk the distance), take the 43 and 49 now (both highly overcrowded buses already, and neither reliably on time). Many people can’t walk to get the 49 or the 43. For people at the north ends of Bellevue and Summit and on the north side of Belmont Ave E (where it angles down to Lakeview), it’s well more than a couple of blocks to the 43 for example.

It is a highly dense part of Capitol Hill and only getting more dense. Walking home at night from the 47 is safer than walking from the 43 or the 49 depending where you are. Many riders who would normally take the 43 or 49 will take the 47 if returning back up to Capitol Hill from downtown and it helps those people out too. Buses don’t exist in isolation.

I do think they should think carefully about the timing of the bus. Perhaps more buses during rush hours and less during off times. It also could potentially be one of those smaller shuttle type buses like the 50 or some of those on the Eastside.

It was highly reliable in terms of schedule due to their being a layover right before the start. And it was crowded in the mornings and evenings. Not having it can add 20 minutes or more each way to commuting. That’s 40 minutes a day. When you add up walking, waiting and the greater traffic for buses on Broadway.

It’s also a connecting route to the 8 and 43 for people with limited abilities.

Vote Yes this proposition. It sounds like Metro is being more strategic this time around. I do hope this isn’t just a bait and switch to get votes but I would have voted for this anyway. It’s not just about the routes each of us want. We’re a community.

Bubba
Bubba
6 years ago

Unless it’s a guaranteed restoration of the 47, It’s still a FUCK NO vote for me and hopefully anybody else with a brain. Handing the City millions of dollars that WON’T benefit most neighborhoods is foolish, but to attempt to slip any of it to our friends at Metro who have squandered money for years just makes it worse.

Yes, I’m still angry about Metro wasting $4million bucks a mile on supposed rapid ride buses that are no faster than the express routes they replaced.

When Metro gets its act together and they and/or our Mayor presents something intelligent, I’ll start voting yes again.

Maybe it’s time for the City to eliminate Metro participation and have its own bus line again?

Joseph Singer
Joseph Singer
6 years ago
Reply to  Bubba

I may be wrong on this but it’s my understanding that there’s a bunch of federal money as a contribution towards RapidRide which is not there for regular numbered routes.

Max
Max
6 years ago
Reply to  Bubba

What’s your exact, verified financial analysis to claim Metro has “squandered” and “wasted” money? Perhaps you’re conflating some unreliable, crowded and cancelled service with wasting of money. You’re judging Metro which has been underfunded for not turning a dollar into ten. Doesn’t work that way. If I allow that there have been some inefficiencies, I still will vote for this initiative, even knowing some of it may be used inefficiently, as the majority won’t be. And we need as good a public transport system as we can get. Unless you’re personally starting a competing system? Called, um, “Bubba Transit” after your screen name?

Joseph Singer
Joseph Singer
6 years ago

Let’s also be realistic here. Even though there’s lot of benefit from added sales tax revenue people get really tired of pols always going to the sales tax for just that “little bit” but each “little bit” eventually adds up and gives residents of Seattle one of the highest sales taxes in the US when you figure in city and county taxes. Sales tax is *regressive* and a pol needs to get off their arses bite the bullet put in a state income tax. Yes, no one likes to pay taxes but always chipping in percentage point or part of one here and there is no solution and will always be a problem in years where the economy is not strong and people aren’t spending as much money on goods. The sales tax is not a limitless fountain from which you can fund your stuff.

Max
Max
6 years ago
Reply to  Joseph Singer

As you may know, Kshama Sawant (and one other Seattle CIty Councilperson), were trying to have a tax on parking lot owners instead of the regressive sales tax. If they had succeeded, the proposition would be for the car tab increase only. I hate regressive taxes. While they disproportionately hurt the poor (and the middle class trying to stay middle class), so does not having adequately funded public transportation. Without a major revolution (8 Kshama Sawants?! on the Council), corporate interests will win. Yet I am still voting for the propostion. It is how to fund public transit at this exact time. I’m still repulsed that it even has to be up for a public vote. But it is and I will vote for it.

Eric
Eric
6 years ago
Reply to  Joseph Singer

Hasn’t a State income tax been voted down by the voters at least once? It is pretty hard to blame the pols if there isn’t enough public support for it.

Joseph Singer
Joseph Singer
6 years ago
Reply to  Eric

Sure, but when pols don’t even say the words because they think it’s political suicide to even mention the “state I” word it’s hard to get public support.

Eric
Eric
6 years ago
Reply to  Eric

Yep too many idiot voters fooled by the fear mongering lies the GOP start airing when an income tax is up for a vote.

Eric
Eric
6 years ago

I voted yes on Prop 1 fully thinking that it would fund the 47 aka the 14 again. With the trolly wires being there and that part of the hill lacking bus service without a walk of several blocks up hill and then the 25 was cancelled which runs close to the end and start of the 47 here on the hill it seems it should be guaranteed funding. I used to work downtown and the 47 was always full when it came to my stop on Bellevue Ave and Pine ST so I am guessing those riders have started taking the 43 or 49 making those two routes crowded as well. It’s pathetic to cut bus service in such a densely populated area like the hill, Pathetic!!

Richard C. DeArmond
Richard C. DeArmond
6 years ago

I( certainly hope so.

trackback

[…] passage of Prop 1’s transit tax should also be good news for Central Seattle. CHS wrote about the plan here to implement a $60 annual vehicle license fee and .1% sales tax hike to fund transportation in the city. The measure is expected generate around $45 million annually […]

Rob
Rob
6 years ago

Any word on this? I’m still hoping it returns to our street.

Ian
Ian
5 years ago

Wow, the 47 is coming back as of June 6th. Never thought I’d see the day! Sounds like it won’t be running after 7 PM, which is a little disappointing, but I’ll take service during daylight hours only over nothing any day.