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King County Executive
Dow Constantine


Executive Constantine and Mayor Durkan announce Seattle voter-funded transit service contract: If approved by councils, riders to see service maintained and new benefits in September

Summary

King County Executive Dow Constantine and Seattle Mayor Jenny A. Durkan announced a new proposed contract for bus service funded by the voter-approved Seattle Transportation Benefit District. The six-year measure could fund approximately 170,000 Metro bus service hours annually, based on revenue projections.

Story

In 2020, Seattle voters overwhelmingly approved the City of Seattle’s new Seattle Transportation Benefit District (STBD), which calls for a sales tax to maintain equitable access to transit and enables Metro to rapidly scale-up service as the region recovers from the coronavirus pandemic.

Seattle’s transit investments focus on ensuring frequency and convenience, prioritizing service where needs are greatest, and addressing acute mobility needs in areas like West Seattle. 

Seattle also is investing in the ORCA Opportunity program for students and in transit access programs for older adults and residents with low incomes.

The proposed six-year contract next goes to the King County Council and the Seattle City Council for consideration and approval and funds up to 170,000 Metro bus service hours a year. The agreement builds on existing partnership and formalizes a program benefiting both agencies.

“The dedicated operators and frontline staff at Metro have helped keep our region moving during the pandemic, getting essential workers and others where they need to go,” said King County Executive Dow Constantine. “As the region recovers, Metro will work to ensure our economy and community are more equitable and stronger than before. Thanks to the wisdom of voters, the Seattle Transit Benefit District will play a big part in Metro’s reliable and frequent service.” 

“The Seattle Transportation Benefit District is a critical tool for providing equitable access to transit in our City. In 2020, Seattle voters once again stepped up to support transit and transportation, especially to ensure reliable Metro bus service for essential workers during this pandemic. Our residents are the reason Seattle can claim one of the best transit networks in the nation,” said Mayor Jenny A. Durkan. “These voter-funded investments are critical to ensuring we build back from the pandemic better than we started.”

Service funded by the measure begins in April 2021. Initial investments maintain critical elements of the Frequent Transit Network that are funded by the expiring measure, while new service investments begin in September 2021 as part of the regular twice yearly Metro service change.

The investments will include aligning bus routes to the three new North Seattle Sound Transit light rail stations scheduled to open in late 2021.

Details of adjusted routes and trips will be shared closer to September. Metro will also begin the process of rebuilding its workforce in support of STBD and restoring services that were suspended during 2020.

“With vaccines available in our community and soon for Metro’s essential workers, we’re optimistic about the future of transit and our region,” said King County Metro General Manager Terry White. “The community relies on transit and we’re committed to continue to deliver it – safely, equitably, and sustainably.”

“Over the last six years, Seattle has been a national leader in transit ridership. Thanks to voters we built it and people came,” said Sam Zimbabwe, Seattle Department of Transportation Director. “Bus service is central to building a more livable and affordable city, and to position us for a strong economic recovery. We look forward to working with our partners at King County Metro and providing safe, efficient, and frequent transit for riders—including essential workers while building a more inclusive city.” 

Upcoming service adjustments and revisions
STBD currently funds over 180,000 hours focused on preserving the Frequent Transit Network (as defined by the Seattle Transit Master Plan) to build toward a sustainable and equitable investment over the life of the new measure. 

Metro ridership since March 2020 has remained lower though relatively stable as people who rely the most on public transportation continue to travel to work and to access groceries, medicine, and necessities. As public health officials give further guidance on activities, Metro and Seattle are planning for ridership to rebound as the region recovers.

Background
The first STBD funding measure was approved in 2014 and expired at the end of 2020. That measure generated about $50 million per year for bus service and other related transit benefits through a $60 vehicle license fee and 0.10% sales tax. The 2014 measure funded bus service hours under a Community Mobility Contract authorized by King County with the City of Seattle. In addition, the measure funded a Via to Transit pilot program in southeast Seattle, and subsidized ORCA fares for youth and low-income seniors as part of the ORCA Opportunity program.

Voters approved a new six-year measure in November 2020. This new measure authorized a 0.15% sales tax that based on current forecasts will generate about $39 million annually over the life of the measure for transit service, capital improvements, ORCA fare card programs, and access to transit programs for seniors, youth and low-income communities. Revenue will be collected beginning in April 2021.

 The new STBD could fund up to 170,000 Metro bus service hours per year, based on STBD and related farebox revenue projections. Metro currently provides more than 3.9 million annual service hours across more than 125 bus routes countywide. Some service remains suspended on several dozen peak commute or low-ridership routes due to the COVID19 pandemic.

The new agreement furthers the mobility objectives of the King County Strategic Plan and Seattle Transit Master Plan by preserving and optimizing the mobility system and providing for more equitable mobility access. The agreement also supports the King County Equity and Social Justice Strategic Plan by supporting the City of Seattle’s investments in transit service based on mutual pro-equity goals. In addition, the agreement supports the Strategic Climate Action Plan goal to reduce climate pollution from passenger cars through sustained and increased public transit frequency.


Quotes

The dedicated operators and frontline staff at Metro have helped keep our region moving during the pandemic, getting essential workers and others where they need to go. As the region recovers, Metro will work to ensure our economy and community are more equitable and stronger than before. Thanks to the wisdom of voters, the Seattle Transit Benefit District will play a big part in Metro’s reliable and frequent service. 

Dow Constantine, King County Executive

The Seattle Transportation Benefit District is a critical tool for providing equitable access to transit in our City. In 2020, Seattle voters once again stepped up to support transit and transportation, especially to ensure reliable Metro bus service for essential workers during this pandemic. Our residents are the reason Seattle can claim one of the best transit networks in the nation. These voter-funded investments are critical to ensuring we build back from the pandemic better than we started. 

Jenny A. Durkan, Mayor of Seattle 

With vaccines available in our community and soon for Metro’s essential workers, we’re optimistic about the future of transit and our region. The community relies on transit and we’re committed to continue to deliver it – safely, equitably, and sustainably. 

Terry White, General Manager, King County Metro 

Over the last six years, Seattle has been a national leader in transit ridership. Thanks to voters we built it and people came. Bus service is central to building a more livable and affordable city, and to position us for a strong economic recovery. We look forward to working with our partners at King County Metro and providing safe, efficient, and frequent transit for riders—including essential workers while building a more inclusive city.

Sam Zimbabwe, Director, Seattle Department of Transportation 

For more information, contact:

Jeff Switzer, King County Metro, 206-477-3833


King County Executive
Dow Constantine
Dow constantine portrait

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