King County Councilmember Claudia Balducci has started work on a potential countywide, dedicated transit funding package to augment or replace the Seattle Transportation Benefit District (STBD.) That tax package, which is comprised of a sales tax increase and car tab fee, is set to expire at the end of 2020.
Balducci says that the funding would be spent on implementing the ambitious Metro Connects program, the long-range plan that the agency and Council released in 2017.
“There’s a lot of stuff in Metro Connects that a lot of communities want, that will help with their transportation needs and their economic development and growth plans,” Balducci says. “But we haven’t identified the funding to serve all of that yet.”
Balducci is working with Metro and other elected officials to determine how much additional funding would be needed to fully implement Metro Connects.
with more concrete plans coming in May or June. According to the motion that started the planning process, “the King County executive [will] report on the status of the regional planning effort by May 31, 2019.”
Further planning and stakeholder input would come after the report, during the rest of 2019. Eventually, the Council would write and approve initiative language that would appear on the ballot in 2020. However, if the county wide process doesn’t bear fruit, Seattle could still prepare its own measure to replace the STBD.
“We’re going to have a discussion this year and early next, about whether there’s a way to make a regional bus service funding proposal. I don’t know what that looks like yet, whether it’s a TBD or something else,” Balducci says.
Balducci launched the countywide process with the intention of giving the Seattle City Council leeway and time to design an initiative that could supplement a countywide measure, or stand in for the lack of one.
“It’s complicated, we would have to figure out how we do this in a way that honors the fact that Seattle does have a renewal they have to do,” Balducci says. “We don’t want to get in the way of that. Ideally, it would all merge into one, but there’s timing and complexities around that.”
Voters approved the STBD in November 2014. In April of that year, a countywide transportation benefit district failed at the ballot box. But Balducci says that the STBD’s success has opened the way for the countywide measure.
“It’s been very successful for Seattle. It pays for a lot of service that Metro would not otherwise be able to afford to provide. These lines get great ridership. They’re in high demand.”
This post has been updated.