Durkan proposes six-year transportation benefit district

Mayor Jenny A. Durkan Tuesday transmitted legislation for a Seattle Transportation Benefit District proposal to generate between $20 and $30 million annually for transit over the next six years.

If approved by the City Council, Seattle voters would be asked to maintain the 0.1 percent sales tax this November.

The STBD would support access to frequent and reliable transit service after current funding sources expire at the end of 2020, according to a city press release. 

The STBD proposal ensures the critical elements and bus routes of Seattle’s transit network are maintained, equitable access to transit continues to be prioritized and allows the city to scale up service as Seattle’s transit ridership recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a city press release.

Due to state law, a transportation benefit district has limited taxing authority, and transportation benefit districts are primarily funded through vehicle license fees and/or sales taxes.

The soon-to-expire STBD measure passed in 2014 was funded in part by sales tax and VLF.

VLF is currently unavailable as a revenue source due to the statewide passage of I-976, which was rejected by more than three quarters of Seattle voters. Plaintiffs, including the City of Seattle, are currently challenging the constitutionality of I-976; oral arguments were heard in the Washington State Supreme Court on June 30, 2020.

The city could consider additional transit funding options should VLF revenue again become available or if a regional transit measured is pursued in future years.

According to the city’s press release, in addition to maintaining “a robust, connected transit network and critical programs like ORCA Opportunity, the STBD proposal will focus on investing in neighborhoods with acute mobility challenges, like West Seattle, and neighborhoods that historically face environmental injustices, like South Park and the Duwamish Valley.”

Councilmember Alex Pedersen is sponsoring the legislation, which will first go before the City Council Friday.

Visit SDOT’s website, www.seattle.gov/transportation, for more information on the new STBD proposal.