Seattle - City Hall Park & King County Courthouse P

A letter from King County Executive Dow Constantine and four Councilmembers (Balducci, Dembowski, Upthegrove, Kohl-Welles) expressed support for the Seattle Transportation District (TBD) effort, while pledging to pursue a countywide measure “at an appropriate time.”

The letter is delicately balanced between applauding Seattle’s effort to maintain service, while stressing the need for a regional measure “to provide the greatest mobility, equity, economic, and sustainability benefits.”

It specifically mentions the importance of “the equity and sustainability goals included in King County Metro’s Mobility Framework,” the agency’s (quite good) service allocation formula.

And then it makes its offer:

We are available to engage in discussion now, as you develop the measure to be sent to the voters, and after November, to ensure that options remain open for a countywide measure before the next Seattle Transportation Benefit District expires. When that time comes, we understand that plans for a countywide measures would need to maintain, and preferably enhance, the transit services and equity and access initiatives provided by the Seattle Transportation Benefit District, while merging them into funding for the wider regional system.

While this letter is far from settled policy, and four Councilmembers do not constitute a majority, a source suggests that most of the Council supports it.

The “equity and access initiatives” presumably refer to some last-mile programs and the “ORCA Opportunity” youth ORCA card program. As the latter is mostly a way to abolish the youth fare for Seattle residents only, the easy way to execute at the County level is simply to eliminate it county-wide.

But Seattle has to structure its measure correctly to accommodate a future County measure. Transportation Chair Pedersen’s staff did not take an opportunity to comment yesterday.

Seattle’s Council will take up the legislation Monday.

14 Replies to “King County letter cracks door for regional TBD”

  1. Best birthday present I could ask for, Martin. Transit’s finally wising up to what the car companies have known my whole life, which has handed them the victory that in turn created the Continental traffic jam that’s now become transit’s strongest ally:


    Mark Dublin

  2. I really hope “equity and access initiatives” isn’t code for last-mile programs. There’s nothing equitable about them, and last mile issues are better solved by improving routes, not expensive failures like Via.

  3. A few thoughts.

    a) Considering how so many informal regional measures & efforts in recent years in the West Coast have turned into messes over governance at best – e.g. Caltrain, King County homelessness – it would be best if Seattle went to a 5-year plan to insulate itself with an option to fond into a future successful regional planning attempt.

    b) BUS LANES! Seattle needs more bus lanes, badly. I don’t and won’t get off of my high horse about this. Transit priority now may mean AV priority at a later date plus transit priority now means folks will consider choosing transit first.

    c) As transit revenues recover, King County Metro should copy the “ORCA Opportunity” youth ORCA card program. The message being, “Stay in school or verifiable homeschool, you get an ORCA card to ride free until your 19th birthday.” That said for adults it’s worth noting that employers pay into ORCA and the fare-free experiment on Sound Transit last spring was supposedly a disaster.

  4. Of course now that they’ve given up putting something on the ballot in a presidential election year, they’re willing to work on something. Jackasses know it’s a lot less likely to pass in an off-year election, but care more about their own convenience than actually helping people by funding transit.

    1. My interpretation is that they’re talking about, maybe, doing a county-wide measure for the 2024 election.

      Realistically, I don’t think a county-wide tax to fund transit would pass in 2021, 2022, or 2023. To have a chance at all, it would have to be run on the November 2024 ballot and, even then, only if county-wide transit ridership rebounds to pre-pandemic levels.

      1. Yep, just let service atrophy into uselessness until then. Nothing at all wrong 75with that path. Better earmark 75% of it for peak service too, since that’s the only thing that matters, no one ever takes the bus outside of peak. Not a single person.

      2. I’m simply being a realist, and I think the leaders are realists too. Seattle could probably pass a transit measure any year. The whole county, it gets much harder. The last time they tried, in 2014, it failed, I think, by around 10 points (correct me if I’m wrong). Seattle has gotten bigger since then, and Bellevue and Redmond have also densified. But, suburban sprawl has also grown as well.

        Before COVID, my gut was that a countywide bus measure would have come close in the November ballot and, possibly, barely squeaked through, but for the city of Seattle to depend on a countywide vote to avoid massive cuts to it’s own bus service would be irresponsible. Now, I think it would simply fail and not be close. There are just too many suburban voters who believe transit to be all about getting those office workers to and from downtown at rush hour, and feel transit no longer necessary, so long as the office workers are working from home. A 2024 ballot measure might have a chance, but only if they come up with a vaccine, quickly, allowing ridership to recover to 2019 levels within 3 years.

      3. I don’t know if this link will work, it’s a LinkedIn post.
        Another big company goes remote
        The money quote was actually in a response:

        This week, the BBC News has reported that more than half of work forces have been working from home continuously since March. Employers expect the proportion of staff who work from home all the time to rise to 22% post-pandemic, compared with 9% previously.

        Since it’s BBC it may be specific to Great Britain. And I don’t know if their crystal ball is reliable but the numbers seem plausible. The Siemens model where people are free to work from home 2-3 days a week may be the new normal. I would have thought Japanese corporations would be most resistant since they are big on things like group exercise but Fujitsu is going remote where 80,000 employees in Japan will now be primarily remote-working.

  5. Sorry, Martin. Got right by me that you yourself put the word “Regional” in your title by mistake. That blank space between 10:37 in the morning and 3:07 in the afternoon really left me worried. Dress shirt sales, COMCAST, nobody’s website works right now.

    But I really do need to know. Is it wrong to be grateful that at at least four transit politicians are acknowledging the regionality whose denial almost gave the carmakers who create it total victory?

    And to make sure that the students who at present are school-less will have the education-related transportation, and schooling, to be able to afford to keep giving people my age all THEIR money for FREE for the rest of THEIR lives?

    Completely transit-related reason not to be so scared to argue with me: What with IT avoiding Tacoma and some lethal virology on the wing worldwide, nobody north of the Nisqually has anything to fear. And besides:

    Sunday means Open Thread!

    Mark Dublin

  6. I hope they are not praising the first and last mile projects, Ride2 and Via. The fare programs are a type of access.

  7. diction: in this context, let’s use “countywide” instead of “regional”; lets save regional for intercounty issues.

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