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Proposal for November sales-tax renewal vote includes plan for smaller Seattle transit district spend, with focus on ‘working people and communities of color’

(Image: SounderBruce via Wikimedia Commons)

Seattle’s budget crunching from the COVID-19 economic crisis will include asking voters to spend less on bus service in the city.

Mayor Jenny Durkan this week released her proposal for a new six-year Seattle Transportation Benefit District package to replace the project and spending plan approved by voters in 2014.

The 2020 version of the package will be a downgrade in total service but will focus the city’s transit spending, Durkan says, on serving communities of color.

“Over the last decade, Seattle has been one of the fastest growing cities in America, and we have the most consistent increase in transit ridership of any city in the country. That incredible ridership growth – which sets Seattle apart from other major American cities – is thanks in large part to our STBD investments,” Durkan said in a statement on the proposal.

“To aid in recovery for residents disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, this STBD proposal will focus resources on investing in routes that serve working people and communities of color,” the mayor’s statement reads.

The Seattle Transit Blog reports that Durkan’s proposal would fund about 50,000 service hours in years 1-4, rising to 80,000 in years 5 and 6, “presumably as the economy improves.”

“That’s far less than the 350,000 hours the TBD currently purchases, but SDOT hopes that it’s enough to maintain the baseline 15-minute network throughout the city,” STB reports.

The proposal also includes increased spending over the first four years on increased transit service to West Seattle as the city sorts out how best to deal with the failing West Seattle Bridge.

The set of priorities in the 2014 benefits district plan seem downright quaint in retrospect: increasing frequency on crowded routes, improving scheduling on 48 routes identified as “unreliable,” and adding frequency to 28 high-demand routes.

The 2020 plan to maintain 0.1% sales tax that will generate between $20 and $30 million annually over the next six years “to fund essential transit service, capital projects, and transit access programs like ORCA Opportunity.” in the Durkan proposal must first pass through the Seattle City Council before being considered by voters on the November ballot.

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10 months ago

So we are all paying more sales tax to run empty buses that have big don’t travel signs on the front of them ? Only in Seattle…

10 months ago
Reply to  Mrchop

The buses are not necessarily empty. Remember each bus carries fewer passengers under the new COVID policies keeping drivers and passengers safe. I do question why the Madison BRT project with its hybrid diesel and no real value in adding service is set to continue as many other projects were cut in the current budget.