In 2014, Seattle voters approved a $60 annual vehicle license fee and 0.1% sales tax increase to fund bus service in the city, using the framework of a “Seattle Transportation Benefit District” (STBD). Originally intended to avoid deep service cuts, by election day the revenue picture had improved enough that the package instead improved service on crowded routes. This measure, dedicated to operating funds, is not to be confused with the 2015 “Move Seattle” measure that funded capital improvements in roadways to create more transit priority, among other things. Late last month SDOT released its “Year Two Performance Report“* to promote all the things this money had accomplished.
The measure generates about $50m per year, funding over 300,000 annual service hours, the Youth ORCA program, and greater outreach on low-income ORCA LIFT. Those hours revised the night owl network, and raised the percentage of households a 10-minute walk away from a frequent (< 10 minute headway) bus from 25% to 64%. However, this is a somewhat peculiar definition of 10-minute headways, as SDOT Transit Director Andrew Glass-Hastings explains:
Our definition (for this metric) is an average of at least 10-minute service over a span of 13 hours (6:00am to 7:00pm). .. While some runs may have slightly more than 10 minutes the average is 10 minutes or better, which is a very high level of frequent service.
So the C and D lines, with 12-minute headways mid-day, have enough 6-minute spacing during the peak to allow each to average 6 buses per hour over 13 hours. Hastings added that SDOT could reach its 2025 goal of 72% of households as early as next year, using “about 30,000 hours in the Routes 41, 45, 49, 70 and 120.”
Another part of the STBD was “regional partnership” funds to allow other jurisdictions to combine with Seattle to fund mutually beneficial service. As one might expect, suburban cities have been a little less excited about finding tax dollars for this. However, Mercer Island has partnered with Seattle to fund Route 630. King County Metro has helped fund 11 routes that aren’t sufficiently contained in Seattle to be solely funded by the STBD.
See the report for tons more detail on exactly which routes got what, what routes have improvements still to come, and other statistics (like ridership) that are clearly related, but cannot be directly attributed to STBD improvements.
The STBD concludes in 2020. It will be up to Mayor Durkan’s administration (and voters) to determine what replaces it, if anything.
* Written by many people, including STB alum Adam Parast.