This week, a new proposal for a Seattle Transit Benefit District (TBD) was released by the mayor’s office. As presented, it’s about half the size of the 2014’s wildly successful TBD that contributed to our US leading ridership growth. Putting aside our desire for a larger measure, we have major concerns about what was included in this initial proposal. The primary focus of this transit service measure has to be funding transit service.
We take issue with the capital spending in this proposal. “Transit Infrastructure & Maintenance” somehow includes fixing potholes. Major sources of road funding are restricted and can’t be used for transit so we have to guard what precious available transit funding we have against becoming another bucket for road maintenance funding. We also question the other fuzzy goals of the capital section. We already funded signal priority and spot improvements with Move Seattle, though these are generally good goals, being general just isn’t good enough when funds are this tight.
This measure has to be about emergency funding for transit service. We can make this measure better by moving the money allocated to capital to transit service. That change would increase annual service funding by 52% vs the proposed plan.
While we would have preferred a larger measure to build on what the 2014 TBD accomplished and provide more service for essential workers, we understand that it’s a difficult time for people and a regressive tax is a hard pill to swallow. We think funding transit service with a regressive tax is progressive on balance, but know that the politics are difficult right now. As we come out of this uneven recession more people will have to rely on transit, cars are expensive and bills related to cars can be a lead weight on the finances of someone who is already struggling.
This measure can be a lifeline for people. It can fund critical transit that will help people get through this difficult time. Including funding for West Seattle, Low Income Fares, and fares for students are all good decisions and work towards that goal. We have to be smart about how we allocate funds in this new reality, and the proposed capital funding just doesn’t meet the current need.
Please join us in testifying to council the need to remove the capital funding from this proposed measure and use that funding for vital transit service. You can sign up to testify tomorrow, 7/10/20, starting at 8 am.