As expected, the Seattle City Council put a 10-year, $60 vehicle license fee on the November ballot yesterday. I broke out the resolution in detail on Monday.

As far as I can tell, there was no change to the original text in yesterday’s proceedings, so my previous analysis stands.

In general, the stated plan assigns low priority to BRT or Rapid Streetcar corridors on Madison, Eastlake, or to Fremont and Ballard. However, the spending plan can be adjusted by a majority vote of the Council, and there’s still another $7m/year of authority on the table. So ultimately, it’s about electing good Councilmembers that will direct the money to the right kinds of projects. I hope you voted yesterday.

Streets For All Seattle had good things to say about the measure in a press release. The Mayor’s Office praised the resolution as a positive step, although it lamented not having “more flexibility to use vehicle license money to implement the Transit Master Plan, including the potential to connect more of our neighborhoods by rail.”

16 Replies to “Seattle Sends $60 License Fee to Voters”

  1. Is there any word on how the cost will be mitigated for low-income car drivers? I don’t think the city can just hand out lots of paper tickets, since they aren’t Metro. Since the county has been pushing human services agencies to hand out ORCA instead of paper tickets, maybe the city could do an ORCA handout, and then the county would be pressured into rolling the two handouts together so Seattle drivers don’t receive an ORCA with $55 in value loaded *and* eight paper tickets.

    1. Sorry – but car drivers (low income or not) have had “mitigation” of car tab fees for years thanks to Eyman’s ridiculous $30.00 crusade.

    2. From the minutes

      Agenda Item No. 3 – Resolution No. 31315, Guiding Seattle City Council to work with the Seattle Department of Transportation, the Seattle Human Services Department and the Seattle Office of Civil Rights to explore mechanisms for reducing the impact of a potential increase in the vehicle license fee on low- income residents of Seattle.

  2. There was an interesting article on crosscut about the general street infrastructure deficit.

    It seems to me we as a city need to separate maintenance from new infrastructure and get a handle on both. As long as we severely underfund maintenance, building out new new systems will pit various constituencies against each other i.e “Why another downtown line when all the arteries I take to get there are falling apart”. Or put another way “If the non arteries are essentially budgeted no serious maintenance dollars how am I going to be able to bike through them to get high capacity transit over the long run (This is not hypothetical – several of the streets I take to get to work are half decayed into gravel)”

    What’s depressing is that this license fee doesn’t really get us in front of either issue. Even if we increased license fees to the level that would generate necessary income is that really the most efficient/fair way to raise the sums needed? We really need to be more honest about what this all costs and figure out a way to pay for it rather than limping along.


    1. “Maintenance first” makes sense to an extent, but if it funnels all money to existing arterials and highways, it further entrenches the automobile bias made in previous capital projects. At some point you have to say, “We’ve waited too long for light rail and rapid-streetcars, we need to build some of it now or we’ll end up like Atlanta or Bellevue.”

      1. How about declaring that “maintenance first” means restoring all the old streetcar lines which were somehow not maintained to the point that they are now completely missing. :-)

        Only sort of kidding. In both Boston and Philly there are streetcar and railroad lines which were killed by stealth action, and are still “on the books”, so to speak. Seattle probably wasn’t quite so absurd, though.

  3. So from the attachment it does look like they took out the exact amounts ($5m and $1m) for the downtown connector and aloha streetcar extensions, and increased the total amount for those projects to $18m. They did NOT add the “Other HCT corridors as funding is available” line, so that $18m is only for those two projects (unless changed by council of course).

    And from those amounts it sounds like Seattle could fund the Aloha planning and make a nice down payment on the approximately $20m construction price:

    The downtown connector would cost about $74m though it has a higher payoff:

  4. Rather than “Transit first”, “Maintenance first”, “Bikes first”, “Roads first”, or anything else people are likely to suggest should be priorities when we have money, I think I might like to see demolition first.

    While biking very hard from Lynnwood to downtown Seattle yesterday because the bike rack on the bus was full, after having already biked pretty hard from Canyon Park to Lynnwood, I remembered that one of the main enemies of biking, walking, and transit is distance. Commutes that cover long distances are hard to serve by transit and really crappy on bike or on foot. If we build roads that allow people to cover long distances in a region really fast the region will develop around that capacity — what we think of as “the region” will expand out to limits that can’t be served well by anything but private cars.

    The only good 25-mile bike trip is an unnecessary 25-mile bike trip. Blow up all lanes on fast roads beyond what’s necessary for freight mobility or whatever. Save on maintenance, save on energy, save my time and my legs.

    1. Seattle is hemmed in on two sides by the Sound and Lake Washington. This has forced development into a long narrow north-south axis, and secondarily on the Eastside via the bridges. Most cities have flat land on all sides, or at most a narrow river to cross, so they can fit the same number of people in a smaller square. That’s how Chicago and Los Angeles are built. It’s just not feasable to say Lynnwood and Bellevue should not exist, unless you rebuild Seattle like Manhattan and expect everybody to move there.

      Jarrett Walker has said that Seattle is actually the most geographically-challenged city in North America, because three “penninsulas” almost meet but not quite. (North Seattle, Central Seattle, and West Seattle) The Ship Canal forces everybody onto six bridges, and the Duwamish Waterway forces them onto three bridges or to go around. Additionally, downtown is at the narrowest part of the city, which forces everybody on to downtown streets or I-5 or the AWV, or a few streets in the Central District. Plus the hills, which can turn a short trip into a long trip. So for all these reasons, Pugetopolis can’t be as compact as most cities, and thus commutes have to be longer distances.

      I have always thought it’s ridiculous to expect two or three bike racks per bus to be adequate. One of the reasons I never took my bike on the bus is I didn’t want to depend on a space being free.

  5. What percentage vote does the $60 require? 50%? 60%?

    I spent a half hour reading articles, the council resolution, the STDB website, other city websites, etc., and found no answer. Also no answer from emailing the agency and its chair and cochair yesterday morning. The Seatrans receptionist hadn’t heard about the ballot proposal at all and though I meant the County bus thing, then after consulting others offered to take a message with an answer. News articles of course said nothing about the percentage. This is like a Twilight Zone episode.

    Anybody know?

  6. I finally got it…50%. Finally got a person.

    This is great news. This should easily get 50%.

Comments are closed.