Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Seattle voters consider sales tax increase for bus services, transit access

Jennifer Wing
A King County Metro RapidRide D Line approaches on Third Avenue in Seattle.

Seattle voters are considering a sales tax to fund bus services and additional transit-related programs. Proposition 1 authorizes a 0.15 percent sales tax. That's equivalent to 15 cents per every $100 spent.

The measurewould replace a 0.1 percent sales tax and $60 car tab fee voters approved in 2014 that pays for bus services, free ORCA cards for high school students and low income seniors, and other programs. Proposition 1 only includes a sales tax and would not renew the car tab fee.

Emilio Garza is the campaign manager for Yes for Transit, a campaign supporting the proposition. Garza said it’s crucial to invest in transit, even as people continue working from home due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“When our economy reopens, robust transit will be key to a strong economic recovery by ensuring people can get back to work and reach essential services," Garza said.

Garza said while many residents are working remotely, one out of three essential workers in Seattle depends on public transportation.

Revenue from Proposition 1 would fund the city's bus services and programs that increase transit access for workers, students, seniors and low-income residents. It also would invest in transportation options in West Seattle.

Proposition 1  is endorsedby a number of local business, labor and environmental groups and several elected officials. Katie Wilson is the general secretary of the Transit Riders Union, one of the groups backing the measure.

"Our transit agencies are facing major budget shortfalls and that makes it all the more important that we renew this funding measure so that we're not facing really, really deep service cuts," Wilson said.

Wilson said the recent overturning of Initiative 976 won't impact the measure that's currently on the ballot. But, the City Council could act to increase an existing $20 car tab fee or put forward a new fee on a future ballot.

The measure is expected to generate about $42 million annually over the next six years. According to Yes for Transit, it will cost the average Seattle household about $27 each year.

There is no formal opposition campaign for Proposition 1, and no statement against the measure was submitted to the King County voter guide. 

Rebekah Way is an on-call news host at KNKX. She began her career in public radio as a news intern at KNKX, where she's also worked as an interim producer and reporter. Rebekah holds a life-long passion for music and also works as a professional musician and educator in the Seattle area.