Seattle Transportation Benefit District
Seattle has a Transportation Benefit District which supplements service provided by Metro with services specifically for Seattle. This includes extra service hours, which have dramatically improved frequency on many bus routes, as well as funding for reduced fee transit and capital expenditures for bus lanes, bus priority signals, etc. Since 2014, when the District was established, the number of Seattle households with 10 minute bus service increased from 25% to 70%.
STBD has been funded by a combination of $80 vehicle license fees (aka "car tabs") and a .1% city wide sales tax. Vehicle license fee revenue was revoked by state-wide referendum I-976. Seattle sued to stop I-976, and this matter is currently before the State Supreme Court with a ruling possible by Labor Day. In the meantime, Seattle has been able to continue collecting revenues because of a temporary injunction, but must be prepared to refund these revenues if the initiative is upheld.
The State has set aside a number of different pathways for funding Transportation Benefit Districts. They are:
Sales tax up to .2%, requires voter approval
Property tax must be approved annually by voters
Vehicle license fees (authorization repealed by I-976). There is a schedule for how much vehicle license fees may be levied each year without voter approval, starting with $20, two years later up to $40, two years later up to $50. Higher vehicle license fees may be levied if voter approved.
Developer impact fees
Proposed Budget for STBD renewal
Update 8/4/2020: City Council amended the Mayor's proposed ballot measure, notably increasing sales tax to .15%, with most of the increase going to service hours. The proposed budget for 2021-2027 below is therefore going to change upwards.
Update 3/14/2021: With I-976 struck down, a one-time reserve fund of $23.7 M becomes available. City Council approved the spending plan shown in Slide 1 below. Additional information from the 3/3/2021 Transportation and Utilities Committee meeting shows 2022 estimates of $45.6M in revenue from the 0.15% sales tax and $7.4M in revenue from the new additional $20 VLF (spending priorities TBD; Slide 2), and a total annual spending plan of approximately $45-50M from 2022-2026 (Slide 3).
In the Media
Editorial in Seattle Transit Blog and The Urbanist: Tell Council to Save Transit Funding