First Hill Streetcar (Image: Atomic Taco)

On Thursday morning, the Mayor will propose increasing taxes on rideshare trips that begin or end in the city of Seattle by 51 cents beginning in 2021. (see coverage from Seattle Times, Puget Sound Business Journal). Among the beneficiaries of the tax is the Center City Connector which would see $56 million over five years, closing the deficit in funding that project after the City Council recently approved another $9 million for a reworked project design.

If the tax increase and spending plan are approved, and the project otherwise stays on track, it would resolve the streetcar’s funding gap without a messy budget cycle duel over other priorities for general fund spending. The 51 cent levy adds to an existing 24 cent levy on rideshare trips that supports licencing and wheelchair access. That levy might be reduced, but the total levy proposed by the Mayor’s office would be 75 cents in any case to meet the spending goals.

The Mayor’s presentation reported about 24 million rideshare trips last year would have been eligible for the tax, a number expected to grow to 28 million this year. The math of the new levy clearly assumes continued rapid growth in these numbers. Tax revenues are projected at $24 million in 2021 and increase to $27 million by 2025 (implying some 50 million rideshare trips in the city by then).

Beyond the $56 million for the streetcar, other planned uses for the levy proceeds include $52 million for 500 affordable housing units near transit and $18 million for a center to arbitrate disputes between rideshare firms and drivers who have been deactivated from the service. After 2025, revenues would be dedicated to improving pedestrian, biking and transit infrastructure in the city.

The City continues to explore congestion fees on downtown. The calculus for those taxes is now a little more complex. By design, congestion fees will erode ridership. At least some congestion fee revenue would be used shoring up the spending priorities financed by the rideshare levy. Politically too, the city will have enacted the popular taxes on Uber and Lyft first, and would face a public vote with only the less popular fees on regular drivers to create a general congestion charge.

The tax will be formally proposed as part of the Mayor’s budget next week, and may change as it works its way through the Council budget process. Minimum income regulations for drivers are also expected soon. Details of those regulations remain under study, but they seem likely to take effect by the middle of next year.

61 Replies to “Rideshare tax increase will fund streetcar & other projects”

  1. 50 cents isn’t a huge amount (although, I would prefer the money go to general frequency/span improvements in bus routes, rather than the downtown streetcar).

    The bigger issue is what happens when it keeps increasing? Imagine it’s $5 tax each way per trip beginning or ending in the Seattle city limits, rather than $0.50. Also, related – how does the tax apply to the shared rides? Does every person have to pay the tax separately? And, does the city tax apply to people riding between, say, Lynnwood and SeaTac airport, who are stopping in Seattle only to pick up or drop off other passengers?

    It’s worth noting that much of the city still doesn’t have nearly as much transit options as downtown has. Pretty much every corner of the city has *some* transit, but many of the outer neighborhoods have only transit running north/south and nothing running east/west. For neighboring cities, bus routes over the 520 bridge generally drop to hourly service on weekend evenings (the 550 is the exception), and don’t run at all after midnight.

    A downtown-focused Uber/Lyft tax, I feel better about, since downtown has so many transit options in all directions, it’s easy to avoid for all but the very lazy. Even if there’s no good transit at the other end, you can always get yourself outside the congestion zone by riding Link a couple of stops, and picking up your Uber/Lyft car at the Link station, instead of downtown. Even downtown, though, one needs to be careful – a tax that encourages a behavior shift from Uber/Lyft to driving and parking isn’t particularly productive either. Uber/Lyft, at least people who ride rideshare one direction, may still end up taking transit the other direction.

    1. The slippery slope is a fallacy for a reason, just because the tax is $0.50 now doesn’t mean it’ll be $5 within a few years. People aren’t paying the full cost of their rides but personally I’d rather the drivers get paid more first.

      1. ^ This.

        So tired of arguing with people about how much something will cost when the first thing they do is pretend it costs 10x what was clearly stated.

        “What do you think of this thing costing $0.50?”
        “You mean that thing that will PROBABLY ACTUALLY cost $5.00?”
        “No, just this $0.50 thing.”
        “But I can’t afford $5.00.”
        “Right, but we’re just talking about this $0.50 thing…”
        “Your $5.00 tax will KILL ALL THE JERBZ….”

    2. Whether to use that money on capital improvements or service level increases is a of opinion, and I’m of the opinion that we’ve got plenty of infrastructure we can spend money on that would improve service speed and effectiveness without increasing service hours, and we should focus on spending our money on these things since they will have a long-term impact and, ultimately, reduce operating costs. Building a streetcar with dedicated lanes (and removing parking), adding more transit lanes for existing buses and streetcars, investing in traffic signal improvements/queue jumps, and completing the off-board payment infrastructure… these are all examples of one-time improvements that can make the entire system work better and improve frequency without adding a single service hour. Plus, I think we’re at a point now where we’ve got pretty good coverage and frequency. Speed and congestion are the bigger issues.

      1. Sorry asdf2, I didn’t read your third paragraph before jumping to a reply. You make some good points there, and it’s really not an either/or thing. But the issue the tax is trying to solve is congestion from ride-hailing, and I do think that infrastructure improvements are a good use of this money.

  2. Awesome news! Rideshare taxing is a creative and progressive approach. I like it. This plus a congestion fee should provide lots of new revenue for transit priority projects city-wide!! For all the haters thinking this will result in a drop in rideshare and traffic downtown – well, that would be a side benefit. I welcome that.

    1. So, you’re saying that ride hailing taxes are progressive, but taxes related to car ownership (e.g. sales tax, car tabs) are regressive? With ride hailing being a cheaper substitute for car ownership if you don’t have to do it constantly, I’m not buying it.

      1. That was a different comment thread in a previous STB post.

        But the assumption of universal car ownership is a known blind spot on the political left. With rent and food untaxed, it is the sales tax on car purchases and car repair which results in a conventional wisdom claiming sales tax to be a regressive tax. It is these same people that object to higher prices for downtown parking meters or highway tolls, due to their perceived impact on the poor.

        When you dispense with the assumption of car ownership, however, sales tax on car purchases become irrelevant, while the cost of Uber and Lyft becomes very relevant, if you ever need to travel somewhere that transit doesn’t serve, or doesn’t serve at the time you need to travel from the direction you need to travel from.

        To be clear from my previous comment, a $0.50 city-wide surcharge is reasonable, and I am not opposed to it. I just don’t want a slippery slope where, every time the city needs money for something, the rideshare tax keeps going up another 25-50 cents, until 10 years down the road, nearly half the fare for short’ish trips becomes tax.

        Higher surcharges (e.g. in the $5-10 range, where it really bites), are reasonable in the name of congestion mitigation, provided that the time and place of such surcharges is carefully targeted. For example, if it were to include only the downtown areas, with varying rates depending on the time of day, no charge at all late at night, I could accept it. You don’t want to pay it, just ride Link one stop to get out of the congestion zone, and pick up your Uber/Lyft car there – it’s that easy.

        But, city-wide taxes (at least once they get higher than 50 cents) simply penalize people who live in the outer neighborhoods with poor or non-existent cross-town bus service, and don’t own cars.

    2. The studies I’ve seen say that rideshare trips come mostly out of transit use, not driving, and that rideshares have caused a net increase in congestion, and they’re most used in areas with the most transit alternatives, not the least transit alternatives. SOV drivers have more externalities but we have to start somewhere. I hope that the revenue from rideshare fees or general congestion taxes goes to transit alternatives like it does in other countries. I’m skeptical that the CCC is the best use of the revenue, but the city considers it a politically-important commitment it intends to finish, so it seems somewhat futile to protest it.

      1. I don’t know why you keep arguing it, it’s a forgone conclusion. Best get use to it and quit whining.

  3. Personally, I’d rather have the money spent on the homeless “emergency” (not that the city treats it as such) and not the streetcar, which is slow and pointless. I guess SDOT is going to make those streetcars work no matter how much money it takes!

    1. While I agree that the homeless emergency is a major issue, it makes sense to spend this money on mobility improvements from a political standpoint. If we’re going to have what amounts to a punitive tax on one transportation form, I think we should spend that money on another replacement form so the city isn’t accused of taking something away without offering an alternative.

      1. In my opinion, the streetcar is duplicate coverage and less efficient than the light rail and the bus. I’d rather have that money spent on enforcement of bus lanes and improving transit somewhere there isn’t a similar service. How about more Rapid Rides? I can see wanting to make lemonade out of lemons, but when do we stop the bleeding on this slow and inefficient streetcar?

      2. “the streetcar is duplicate coverage and less efficient than the light rail and the bus”

        Exactly! When Seattle first started considering long-term intracity transit in the late 90s or early 00s, it asked in an open house, “Should we focus our resources on light rail, streetcars, or buses?” I said light rail and buses but not streetcars. Grade-separated rail provides a high level of service we don’t otherwise have and is most competitive with driving. Buses are inexpensive so they can cover the most area. Streetcars are the worst of both worlds: more expensive than buses but not faster than them, and less coverage.

        That’s assuming the Seattle/Portland definition of streetcar. Streetcars/trams and light rail are the same technology, just different design standards. Link on MLK and in SODO, and parts of Eastside and Westside MAX in medians or former railroad rights of way — are streetcars by the basic definition. But most US cities, Sound Transit, and Seattle distinguish between light rail which is mostly exclusive-lane or grade separated, vs streetcar which is mostly in mixed-traffic lanes. By that definition streetcars are substandard transit and shouldn’t be considered. It may be necessary to share a lane for a short segment in a historic area or constrained area, but these should be short exceptions rather than most of the route.

      3. And Mike this makes total sense if we can tunnel subways to every neighborhood to meet demand. We can’t. We need surface rail as you mentioned, but the ROW isn’t always available like it was on MLK for Link.

        The “promise” of the first ave streetcar has always been a dedicated 24×7 transit only lane on first. That’s why the feds gave us so much grant money for the line. With a dedicated lane on first ave (and maybe maybe some signal timing from SDOT please please please), the streetcar on first ave starts to look more like Link on MLK.

        With that promise fulfilled there would then be a very frequent cross-downtown surface subway with level boarding, off-board payment, and integration with bus and link. Plus the streetcar route is a rockstar, I can make so many trips on a first ave streetcar that I can’t make on rail today and are not great on a bus, like Pioneer Square to SLU, ID to Pike Place, etc.

      4. A very frequent surface subway for 1/2 mile is not very useful. That’s even shorter than the monorail, which is minimally useful as transit. We need to get away from thinking very-short improvements will solve our transit problems because 99.999% of trips go beyond the end of such segments.

        I have warmed up to the CCC route, which I initially found redundant. A lot of people will want to go from Pike Place to Intl Dist or SLU, especially tourists, and they’ll appreciate the one-seat ride, and not walking up the steep hill around the art museum and further south. Whether that’s enough to justify the CCC investment is debatable. Mayor Durkan says it is and ridership will be high. We’ll see. I expect fewer people will take it from Pike Place to Broadway once Madison RapidRide starts.

      5. I don’t normally work downtown. But, Monday and Tuesday, I ended up spending the day in Pioneer Square for jury duty. Both days, I walked to lunch destinations which the streetcar connector could have theoretically taken me to (one in SLU, one in First Hill).

        The thing is, though, the streetcar connector, even if it were there, wouldn’t have actually saved me any time. First Hill, the entire walk was about 20 minutes, and the walking route is much more direct than the streetcar route would have been. South Lake Union was further (40 minute walk), but if I were really pressed for time, I could have ridden the #40 bus. Last I checked, the streetcar with the CCC won’t get you from Pioneer Square to South Lake Union any faster than you can already do with the #40 bus.

        In the meantime, the mere construction of the streetcar connector means adding more tracks along and across Stewart, sending yet more cyclists to the hospital, when their wheels get caught. I am all for more transit – I’m just not for the downtown streetcar form of transit. Not only does the streetcar provide no measurable travel-time improvement over existing buses (or, for many trips, plain old walking). But, the downtown transit market is already served extremely well, and we don’t need yet another transit option to get between Westlake and Pioneer Square.

        In the meantime, there are other parts of the city that are still under-served. Last I checked, there is still no bus running down Boren, connecting First Hill to South Lake Union. There is still no bus that goes from West Seattle to South Lake Union the fast way (the highway 99 tunnel). The 8 is still running only every 20 minutes on Sundays. The 3/4 from Queen Anne to downtown is still every 30 minutes on Sundays. Lake City still has no way to get pretty much anywhere on the other side of I-5 in under 45 minutes. Green Lake to Ballard is still no faster by bus than by jogging. Fremont->U-district is still only every 30 minutes on Sunday. Yes, we are definitely making progress in expanding the times and places where the bus service is running and at useful frequencies, but we still have so much further to go. The downtown streetcar contributes nothing to this, and is merely a distraction.

      6. The best thing about the CCC is it makes possible — even likely a line through Belltown on First Avenue. Another extension down Rainier to Mt. Baker would make possible the re-development of a less-expensive Belltown through an under-utilized strip of land. And finally a line on the west side of SoDo as far as Starbucks (between First South and the railroad yard mostly on Utah South) is also possible. There’s width enough on Jackson between Boren and 23rd for a line there.

        This makes taking a pair of lanes on Jackson practical, because the frequent ETB lines using the street could be removed, simplifying the overhead.

        The successor to the 7 running south of Mt. Baker would either become the 23rd Avenue RapidRide or continue on Boren to SLU. There’s a long term plan to do that anyway.

      7. Tom, you make some good points there, and I’ve thought about creating a full streetcar network as well – particularly the belltown and SODO extensions. There’s also been talk at times about extending the SLU line across the U Bridge and/or out to Ballard via westlake and the Fremont bridge. If these could be done the right way (i.e. with dedicated center-running transit lanes) we could have a really great local rail network to augment the regional light rail system. Having spent some time in Europe, I can say that a well-designed tram system is a pleasure to ride compared to a bus. Unfortunately, our existing streetcar lines don’t fit that description, but they can be fixed with enough willpower.

      8. A quick summary of streetcars in Seattle:

        City: The First Hill streetcar will be great — lots of people will ride it.
        Reality: Not that many people ride it.
        ST: Here you go First Hill, we promised you a light rail stop, but now you have a streetcar. Lots of people will ride it.
        Reality: Not that many people ride it, because it is a terrible route.
        City: We need to connect the streetcars. We will have transit lanes on (part) of First, which will make all the difference.
        Reality: It will still struggle with the stupid button hook. It won’t be reliable, so the effective headways won’t be five minutes. Ridership will once again lag expectations, as folks on First Avenue will simply walk a couple blocks up the street and take a far more frequent bus (or go into the tunnel and take a fast train).
        Tom: Just wait until it gets to Belltown, then it will be great.
        Reality: See above.

        Sigh. Look, we’ve been over this before. Streetcars have their advantages and disadvantages. You can find a breakdown of this in numerous articles, including ones on this very website. But my favorite summary was written by Jarrett Walker. In short, streetcars only make sense if you are using an existing rail line (like Artubus in Vancouver) or you need the capacity. We simply don’t need that kind of capacity. In downtown, the buses converge, dwarfing whatever could be provided by a single route. Meanwhile, to provide a meaningful increase in capacity over our buses, you would need much larger trains (similar to our light rail system). That means much bigger stops. That costs a lot of money and it would come at the expense of what we really need, which is better bus service.

      9. “Another extension down Rainier to Mt. Baker would make possible the re-development of a less-expensive Belltown through an under-utilized strip of land.”

        North Rainier is not being held up by the lack of a streetcar, any more than Ballard or the West Seattle Triangle are being held up. Ballard was expecting a monorail when the construction started, but it wasn’t monorail-dependent because it continued even after the monorail failed and it’s functioning now. It’s just that all those buildings have a lot of parking as a fallback. North Rainier is already getting development, as you can see at Rainier & Dearborn. It’s slower than central/north Seattle because it’s the poorer, less-white side of the city so the market is less active, but when Columbia City fills up they’ll be looking further north. The result may be cheaper than Belltown but it won’t be affordable. And Belltown is 20th-century construction — yesterday’s news — so it won’t be the most expensive.

      10. Tom, I would agree that a Center City streetcar has a system benefit. The problem I have is the choice of First Avenue. It’s not adding service to a neighborhood. We’d get more value out of pedestrian tunnels connecting to Third Avenue.

        I’ve long presented that the streetcar should be part of a project to make Pike and Pine one-way pairs instead of on First Avenue. One line from Belltown to Pike-Pine to Capitol Hill Link (maybe extended to 15th). One line from SLU to Pike-Pine to First Hill to ID (maybe extended by the stadiums).

        1. That better accesses First Hill from SLU, providing a “Boren” service.

        2. It links Belltown and the Convention Center and Pike-Pine. That’s great for restaurants and night life.

        3. It sets up some better Link connections. Note that the current CCC will still be several hundred feet from Link at a Westlake.

  4. 18 million seems like a lot to pay for city led arbitration – how big of a staff are they planning? I suppose at least it creates jobs?

    1. Yeah I’m shocked at the cost. Is it per-year or is much of it just initial investment? There are plenty of other ways the city could use $18m to create jobs – pay more workers to clean up garbage on the street, have more cops enforce traffic laws (especially bus lanes), etc.

  5. Here is another comment in full support of this tax but lamenting spending the dollars on the streetcar rather than increased bus service / bike lanes / sidewalks / anything else.

  6. Happy they’re doing this but IMO the real enemy here is Seattle’s massive number of parking lots all over the city. Surface parking lots and garages not only allow more people to drive into the center and store their car (causing congestion), they also are major contributors to urban blight and would best be taxed out of existence.

    1. First put in the streetcars to make it easy to get around the city (like Portland and other cities) and then start removing the parking lots.

    2. The kind of streetcars in Seattle and Portland don’t make it easy to get around the city. They’re as slow as a bus in mixed traffic and sometimes even slower. The SLU streetcar stops every single block at a stoplight between Westlake and Denny. The First Hill streetcar often waits thirty seconds or more before making some of its turns around Yesler and 14th. The 40,. 62, 70, 9, and 60 don’t do that.

    3. CCC has dedicated lanes.

      Also, like Portland, which has been removing low volume streetcar and Max stations and speeding up service, Seattle is implementing plans to do the same.

      1. I hope they are including traffic light priority. Even in dedicated lanes, if they stop for every light it will be slow.

      2. Dedicated lanes on First Avenue is a short distance that doesn’t make up for the mixed traffic on the rest of the route. People are making a big deal about the 1st Avenue lanes and 5-minute double-frequency of the CCC, but it will only be from around Stewart Street to Cherry Street. That’s not very far and is only part of most streetcar trips.

      3. I’ve heard Seattle is looking into improving the right of way on Broadway. I’ll believe it when I see it. And what about Jackson?

      4. Jackson can be a sh#tshow, especially between occidental and 5th. I sometimes walk to the 5th and Jackson station just to get some exercise instead of sitting on the streetcar in traffic. I think this could be solved with signal timing and red paint.

      1. The problem is, green time at signals is a zero sum game, and less waiting for the streetcar means more waiting for buses and pedestrians trying to cross the streetcar.

        At some intersections, such as Westlake and Denny, a single cycle has more people crossing on foot than on board the streetcar.

        In any sensible city, pedestrians need to come first.

    4. 24 hour public transportation would help if you want to remove the parking lots and garages. If one wants to go to a concert at night and have the ability to get home at a decent hour, or get home period, driving is pretty much the only option. Plus, there are more people living in the city with cars, so all the street parking is pretty much used up as a result; Parking lots and garages become the only other option in the absence of round the clock public transportation (without potentially very long headways) for people who come into the city at late hours for entertainment or work.

      1. There are loads of office buildings with underground parking lots that are largely empty on nights and weekends (hence why some of the Amazon garages are even offered up for free on nights and weekends).

        I’m not saying eliminate underground parking garages, I’m saying we shouldn’t have buildings dedicated to nothing but parking.

  7. I am in support of this plan, but the assumption that rideshare trips will more than double in the next 6 years is dubious (I hope). If they do not grow so fast, funding will not match the projected values, and which projects won’t get fully funded? Is there a prescribed split in the revenue stream, or does one project get a guaranteed level of funding?

    My concern would be that this tax is sold as the “solution” to streetcar funding, and if it falls short, leads to further delays and more opposition to fully funding the streetcar.

    1. I’d be more concerned whether these “rideshare” companies will even exist in 6 years.

      Between hemorrhaging investor money and the inevitable spread of California’s recent law that requires Uber/Lyft/etc to treat their employees like, well employees, rather than piecework contractors, they are going to be insolvent very soon.

  8. Good job! I’m generally pretty critical of the mayor, but this seems like a politically feasible way to raise a lot more money for transit.

    Tolling downtown will take years, even if a vote would pass, which it probably wouldn’t. Waiting for that would only delay the streetcar and other transit projects by years. This on the other hand can be spun up very quickly.

    Even if you aren’t a fan of the streetcar project, keep in mind this revenue stream is actually quite a bit bigger than we need for the streetcar, and will help a lot of transit and housing projects in the long term.

  9. How are we going to pay for the streetcar operations? A revenue stream like this is better spent in funding transit operations and street maintenance (including maintaining loading zones and bicycle lanes and crosswalks) than funding capital projects. It also would deal better with the geographic inequity here — non-Downtown trips (many ridersharing trips occur because transit isn’t convenient) paying for Downtown projects rather than have Downtown developers pay development fees for the capital project that directly benefits them.

    1. Haha! It’s crazy. Maybe have bus and light rail riders pay more of their fair share too? No, let’s just create a new tax on those already subsidizing the whe system. But it is only a matter of time before this ride sharing tax is exepted for “low income.”

      The way people think is crazy. No thinking ahead or rational thought exhibited.

      1. Um, er, ah, GK. This is not the “Seattle Anti-Transit Blog”. That’s the Seattle Times comment board.

    2. “Rideshare” is not transit. It’s a hipster interweb version of “Taxi.” Taxis aren’t transit. They are an overpriced single occupancy vehicle service, akin to “town car services.”
      Tell ya what, let’s also start calling restaurants grocery stores, since, after all, they both sell food.

  10. why is the CCC Streetcar capital deficit cited in the story as $56 million; has it not been cited as $65 million? Is this breaking news or a typo?

    as asdf2 states, whatever the new revenue, using it on the CCC Streetcar capital will have opportunity cost; it could be used on better projects (e.g., sidewalks on frequent transit arterials that lack them, key segments of electric trolley bus overhead, or earlier implementation of RR capital that speeds service). the service subsidy needed for the CCC Streetcar could be used on other routes outside downtown that have longer waits.

    it should be a network question; capital and operating funds and 1st Avenue right of way could be used to help the network more than the CCC Streetcar would help. CBD circulation trips are and could be provide more efficiently by the Link and bus network than by the CCC Streetcar.

    Due to past decisions and mode choices, the so-called streetcar network would be unreliable even with exclusive lanes on 1st Avenue. the SLU line will cross Mercer Street interchange traffic forever; the First Hill line will use a single lane on Broadway, deviate to 14th Avenue South, and get stuck South Jackson Street forever.

  11. Transit is provided in vehicles, open to all fare paying members of the public, that can carry multiple passengers. Trains, buses, ferries, funiculars, gondolas are transit. Airplanes are sort of a borderline case because they cover such long sistances.

    Uber and Lyft aren’t transit, they are app-dispatched taxis. Taxis aren’t transit either. Worthy as they may be, bicycles aren’t transit, they’re single occupant vehicles. If there was anything that richly deserved to be taxed it’s Uber and Lyft.

    1. That takes the definition of transit a little too far, don’t you think? By that logic pedestrians aren’t a mode of transit, because people are single occupancy modes of transportation.

    2. Taxis are a kind of transit, especially in exurban and rural areas where fixed-route transit may not be feasable or is weekday-only.

    3. They are transit, because transit has a very loose definition. They are not MASS transit, and thus, should not be prioritized in dense cities.

      1. Shouldn’t we in our present meteorological climate forward more carbon neutral forms of transit as opposed to focusing on people traveling together? A large internal combustion vehicle carrying dozens of people still belches diesel fumes into the air. Pedestrians don’t and bicycles do far less than cars (aluminum is very energy intensive).

        If a city becomes truly dense, the need for pedestrian preference intensifies. You want people to live in a city, yes? It reduces sprawl and has myriad other benefits. But if you still need to take a bus just to grocery shop, you haven’t solved much.

        Dense cities realize the needs of pedestrians, as actual living people, top those of inanimate objects, like cars and busses.

      2. Buses use much less energy per passenger than cars, just as a commercial airplane uses much less energy than if everybody used private jets. A baseline of shared mobility is a reasonable expectation of modern civilization. Even if all the buses are diesel, we’d be in a much better position if all non-rural transportation switched from cars to buses, like it was in the early 1900s when cars were uncommon. Of course we should aim higher, but let’s keep things in perspective.

        Density is good but it’s not exactly raw density we need, it’s a more walkable design so people don’t have to use vehicles to get to the store. This is what you’re recommending but it’s worth making it explicit. Among urbanists it’s implicit in density advocacy but among non-urbanists it may be unrecognized.

  12. 50 cents isn’t going to reduce ride hailing trips much. Minuscule impact, if any.

    Guaranteed minimum hourly wage plus per mile vehicle expenses might reduce rideshare trips a little more, but still not much. Lyft/Uber already occasionally do guaranteed earnings, this would just become a standard. They may need to tweak the algorithm to discourage deadheading and may need to weed out a few drivers, but they are so saturated in Seattle that there are drivers to spare. Overall, a good thing for most of the drivers, though riders might see ETAs a few minutes longer.

    Ultimately, the same kinds of structural changes that make alternatives to driving more attractive would make ride hailing less attractive. Namely, improving walk/bike/transit plus congestion impact fees.

  13. B: the law of demand cannot be repealed. the higher prices will result in fewer trips being taken. a minuscule impact would imply that the demand is inelastic. we may find out. some trips are paid for by employers (Amazon?); most are probably paid for by the riders themselves.

  14. This is a relatively popular tax for an unpopular project. This is why dedicated taxes are bad public policy. Transit projects that are far more worthy will sit unfunded. Little will be done for those who are homeless; we will continue to lack police officers; huge swaths of the city remain without sidewalks. In all cases the city will simply throw up their hands and say “we don’t have the money”, while we fund this debacle.

    The streetcar project is a bad mode for a bad route. Put aside the mode for a second. Imagine this was just a bus project. Now compare it to the other “RapidRide+” projects: This is clearly the worst of the projects. Yet those projects aren’t funded. (Like the streetcars, the previous administration failed to allocate enough money for them.) Why would we prioritize this bus project over the other ones?

    It is not only the worst of the projects, but it is worse than most bus routes. It is, as Jarrett Walker put it, short, squiggly and looping. This dramatically reduces the potential trips. I can’t emphasize this enough. Buses that are extremely slow all day — like the 44 — manage good ridership. That is because every trip combination makes sense. The streetcar route is the opposite. Even when there is no traffic, you can beat the streetcar by walking. I could get off at 12th and Yesler, walk down the street, peel an orange, and get right back on the exact same vehicle. If the two routes are connected, I could get off at the same stop, walk to First, and peel another orange before the same streetcar got to me. Again, this is in the middle of the day. Traffic isn’t the biggest issue — it just seems like it because streetcars are bad at handling even minor traffic problems. The biggest weakness is the poor route.

    That is what is crazy about this proposal. It would be one thing if they proposed a real streetcar line (with capacity two or three times that of a bus) as a replacement for the 40. That was one of the ST proposals for serving Ballard (although they called it “light rail”). In this case, though, defenders can only point to the mode as their justification, not the route.

    Yet the mode adds nothing. We get a minuscule amount of extra capacity. Does anyone think we will need it? Is this saving us a lot of money in the long run, because we can run these every five minutes, instead of every 4 minutes and 45 seconds?

    The strongest argument that people make for this is that they want service on First Avenue. Great. So do I. So just run a bus there! Run a truncated version of the 27, from MLK and Yesler to South Lake Union. Add BRT lanes on First and you are done (paint is cheap). The bus would be more reliable than the streetcars and provide riders in Yesler Terrace with a fast, frequent trip downtown. Run this bus every five minutes and it would carry way more riders than the proposed streetcar. Use the money you saved on other, more important projects.

    1. Great comment. The city clearly isn’t using metrics to make these decisions – my guess would be it’s just to save face after building two underperforming lines and hoping this will somehow make it better. Politics as usual.

      One upside I thought for this project – it will be good for those with physical disabilities, because ST downtown stations are not exactly reliable when it comes to elevators and escalators. It will provide redundancy there.

  15. IF this tax passes Seattle, I would support Public Transit Benefit Areas/PTBAs having this taxing authority. I would think Pierce Transit, King County Metro, Community Transit and Everett Transit would like this tool, preferably capped at $0.75 and councilmatic, to help fund more transit connections around regional airports.

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