Are you still on the fence about the proposed $80 Vehicle License Fee (VLF)? I was, too, so I decided to dig into the issues and numbers to learn more.
What’s this all about? Formed in early 2011, the Citizen’s Transportation Advisory Committee III advises the Mayor and City Council on transportation funding alternatives and priorities. CTAC was charged with reviewing the city’s transportation funding system and, most recently, with examining the potential for a ballot measure asking Seattle voters to fund additional transportation projects. The committee conducted surveys, held roundtables, hosted discussions and conducted interviews surrounding this issue. They found that a majority of people supported an $80 VLF to expand transit options, repair and maintain safer roads for all users, and fund new projects.
How will the money be spent? After seeing voter support for the fee, the committee got down to negotiating how Seattle City Council ought to allocate the money. Here’s how their recommendation breaks down:
In the context of $27 million, $1.85 million doesn’t seem like much for bikes, does it? I admit, I was surprised (and maybe a tad disappointed). To those who’ve hyped this into $80 for bike lanes: that’s simply not true. A mere $5.60 is going toward “Bicycle Safety and Access.” That’s $1.85 million a year, which isn’t going to pave Seattle into one big bike path. We’d like to see that figure be higher, but we’re willing to accept this as a reasonable amount – for now. That said, the Seattle City Council could adjust the figures in the above table, and we need your help to send a clear message that the sliver of bike/ped money should not be reduced, and in fact should be bumped up. Please, if you’re a Seattle voter, speak up for the bike/ped portion now.
Tucked within the other categories, there is some other good news for roadway users. In the Seattle Bicycle Report Card, your feedback led Seattle to receive a sorry D-rating for pavement quality. All of us – drivers and bicyclists alike – are sick of potholes and broken pavement. The 30% allocated to “System Preservation & Safety” will help SDOT address a backlog of maintenance needs and will contribute to repaving projects throughout the city. Faded lane markings will also see some attention. There will be an emphasis on implementing Seattle’s Complete Streets policy, so that the needs of all users are addressed when roadways are upgraded.
What happens if the $80 VLF isn’t approved by Seattle City Council? Well, the Bicycle Master Plan is a $240 million plan that is 70% underfunded. We can keep limping along, but can’t we do better? More people are using bikes to get around the city. The VLF would give a boost to bike projects and support the growing user demand. Sharrows are cheap and were a good start, but as one friend put it: “I’m sharrowed out.” It’s time to update the Bicycle Master Plan and get on with some truly inspiring projects. Would you like to see downtown and waterfront cyclectracks, neighborhood greenways, bike traffic signals and safer bridge crossings?
What happens if it is approved by Seattle City Council? Getting it on the ballot is just the first step. After that, you’ll have a chance to vote for it in November. So please help with step 1: getting it on the ballot. If you’re a Seattle voter, please sign the petition today.