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New Seattle Bus Funding Initiative Addresses City-Suburb Split

It's a pattern seen as recently as two years ago in metro Atlanta: a crucial transit measure wins in the central city but dies in the more populous suburbs. The fix is to craft a city-only transit initiative—just what advocates in Seattle will do.
April 28, 2014, 11am PDT | Irvin Dawid
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In opposite corners of the nation, the Southeast and Northwest, more numerous suburbanites out-voted central city residents in crucial transportation funding initiatives. Their defeats may be as much a reflection on the city-suburb split as it is a statement on transportation funding.

In the Atlanta region two years ago, a one per cent sales tax measure for transportation was defeated on July 31, 2012 and in King County, Washington a one-tenth of one percent sales tax and $60 motor vehicle registration fee to fund bus operations and road maintenance was defeated last Tuesday (April 22).

"Even though the plan known as T-SPLOST lost in all 10 Metro Atlanta counties and most regions statewide, most Atlanta voters cast ballots for the proposal. Inside city limits, T-SPLOST won by 16% of the vote," wrote Charles Edwardsthe news director for NPR-affiliate, WABE in a post-mortem on the measure on August 7, 2012. [Listen here].

In Seattle, Proposition 1 supporters "are blaming suburbanites for rejecting the county measure. They said inside the city, voters are willing to spend on buses," writes the editor of Seattle's NPR affiliate, KUOW. The solution: "A new Seattle-only initiative will try to save buses inside city limits. A group called Friends of Transit said it filed the initiative with the Seattle City Clerk's Office Friday (April 25)."

As we noted Thursday, the new initiative will be a six-year property tax. Unlike county-wide Proposition 1 which directed 40% of the tax and vehicle registration fee revenues to road repair and maintenance, the new initiative will presumably use 100% of the property tax revenue for purchasing bus routes that operate at least 80% within city limits. 

"Friends of Transit said that money would be used to buy back endangered routes from King County MetroThe idea of cities buying routes from Metro isn't new. King County Executive Dow Constantine says several cities in the region are doing it now. 

Now the hard part. Once "the initiative is approved by the city clerk, supporters will need to gather more than 20,000 signatures to put it on the November ballot."

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Published on Friday, April 25, 2014 in KUOW
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