Seattle has a Transportation Benefit District (TBD) that allows it to levy a vehicle license fee of up to $100 per year. $20 has already been enacted but not spent. Some portion of the remaining $80 may go to the ballot this fall. The Seattle City Council controls both revenue and expenditure, minus the ballot approval.
The expert committee recommended going for the full $80 to help backlogs in street repairs and the three master plans: bicycle, pedestrian, and transit. The combined $100 would generate $34m a year; the committee recommended that $10.7m of that go to Transit Master Plan projects, and another $4m on other transit access efforts. Depending on how long the tax is levied, it could support bonds to help construct relatively capital-intensive BRT or Streetcar lines. Constructing all five high-capacity lines to the fullest extent would cost about $700m, clearly requiring private or federal contributions regardless of the taxing level.
The Council is all over the map on this, and PubliCola has an excellent rundown. Briefly, Jean Godden, who is in an interesting reelection race, wants to add $40 and emphasize road maintenance projects; Mike O’Brien wants the full $80 in accordance with the committee’s priorities; and Tom Rasmussen splits the difference at $60, maintaining the recommended proportions but leaving some authority in reserve. There are also splits on whether to do more rail engineering for the money, or not.
Mayor McGinn, who has no formal role in TBD legislation, has come out for the full $80 as a permanent funding source to enable serious progress on the high-capacity projects.
As promised, there is action you can take. Tomorrow, there is a public hearing on the license fee at City Hall, Wednesday, August 10th, at 5:30pm.