Traffic is not-so-great right now. Take the annual return of rainy traffic, add in work due to the “Green Lake and Wallingford Paving & Multi-Modal Improvements” project, and then layer on I-976 passage and the future can look pretty bleak. The governmental reaction to I-976 so far has simply been to throw a legal tantrum, but there is an opportunity for Seattle government to pull up their big boy pants and practice good governance.
King County taxpayers subsidized transit by 6 billion dollars in 2018 while asking nothing of single-occupant car commuters. The passage of Tim Eyman’s I-976 knocked 381 million out of our transit funding. We need to cover that 6% revenue shortfall and create real incentives to carpool, telecommute, or live near work. We can accomplish all of that by raising Seattle’s commercial parking tax on single-occupant vehicles.
The first number to consider is $31. That’s a low estimate for how much taxpayers subsidized each transit commute in 2018. $31 is what you get when you take Metro and Sound Transit “operating expenses,” subtract revenues from ticket buyers, divide that by how many transit vehicle boardings happen per year on Metro and Sound Transit, then multiply by 4. The multiplier accounts for how many boardings are required to complete a typical transit commute back and forth to work. Transit agencies prefer to talk about “ridership” subsidies, but they equate “ridership” to “boardings” so that a round trip commuter that transfers is counted 4 or 6 times per day.
If we look not just at “operations costs” but also “capital costs,” then the taxpayer subsidy shoots up by an additional $92 to a total of $123 per commute. Some of that additional $92 is going towards system expansion like building out new light rail routes, but it also includes expenses like depreciation of assets, managing financing, online systems, and system management. Lowballing operations cost is a trick built into every transit budget, and it’s what has led to troubles with transit systems in Washington DC and New York as infrastructure wears out and there’s no money to replace it.
The next number to consider is 57 cents. That’s how much tax is assessed on a South Lake Union Amazon employee’s parking spot each day. Seattle has a 12.5% commercial parking tax that is assessed on the “fair market value” for a parking spot. For South Lake Union and much of Seattle, fair market value is $100 per month, with a cost per day of 57 cents based on usage 261 business days per year. The tax is so low that many companies just cover the cost to provide free parking to their employees as a perk for working there.
The final number to consider is $0. That’s how much we subsidize people for being near work so they can walk or bike to it, for telecommuting, or for carpooling. Carpooling is easier than ever now thanks to support from apps like Waze, and if we could get half the single-occupant commuters off our roads then traffic would disappear at zero taxpayer expense. Many people commute long distances to jobs in tech, banking, or teaching when similar jobs exist closer to home. Does it make sense to provide massive subsidies to transit users while neglecting people that make the best choices for our environment and public budget?
Raising the single occupant commercial parking tax in Seattle from 57 cents to $10 per day should cover the transit revenue lost from the passage of I-976. The passage of 976 is estimated to cost King County Metro about 65 million per year and Sound Transit about 316 million per year. Meanwhile, the current commercial parking tax generates 35 million per year, so raising it to $10 could generate as much as 614 million per year. Even when you factor in revenue reductions thanks to carpoolers not paying the tax and reductions we’d see in people driving alone to work, the revenue generated should more or less cover the revenue lost from the passage of I-976.
A $10 per day tax on driving alone into Seattle would immediately deter people from doing just that. When paired with a planned tax on Uber and Lyft, we will finally be providing a real incentive for all transportation alternatives. The funds raised would allow initiative 976 to go into effect while maintaining bus service and providing funds to build out rail to Ballard and West Seattle. It’s a shortcut to most of the benefits of congestion tolling without needing to go through the expense and complexity of building out a whole new tolling system. Win-win, right?
Surprising I actually agree with increasing taxes here. Instead of taxing corporations like Amazon, Boeing, who CREATE jobs, and tax revenue for city services, we tax behavior of people commuting.
If you park a car downtown, you should pay more when driving it into the city and causing traffic (unless you carpool, then you get a discount)
If you own a car in Seattle, you should PAY to park it on the street, ANY street. EVERYONE should pay to park in the street. This would create an incentive for developers to create parking spots for their residents, as it would then be a competitive advantage to have parking on site.
if you ride a bike, you should PAY a tax to register your bike, as if you are using bike lanes, those cost money to build/maintain.
Seattle should BAN ALL RV’s from parking ANYWHERE in the city limits, on city property, OR charge a fee (they take up a LOT of parking!)
I would do all of the above ONLY if ALL city employees were also required to take transit downtown, and did not get a free pass into city parking garages.
Does anyone know if city of Seattle employees have to pay to park downtown now?
Here’s the trip reduction stuff for city government employees- it looks like they get orca cards, and paying for parking probably varies depending on location:
One ironic tidbit is that hundreds of cars are parked each day at the metro base at I-90 and I-5. I assume that’s all the bus drivers and maintenance people that drive into work. They probably drive weird hours and it makes sense for them, but oh the irony.
I would support a program that charge all cars traveling in Seattle for a fee to fund free bus for all. Use the Good to Go pass or something and set up toll all around the city.
You have got to be kidding. This government is getting enough of my taxes so maybe someone should be their act together and learn to budget with what they’ve already got instead of just reaching their grabby hands out to extort more money from us in other ways such as the crazy idea you’ve just suggested.
You’re pissing into the wind on that one. City council elections just went majority grow-government with Kshama being reelected and the Stranger endorsed candidates winning 6 of 7 slots. Government will be growing quickly, so the only constructive way to engage is to say how government grows and how revenues grow. You can dig your heels and say quit growing government, but until people start voting differently it won’t make any difference.
I fear you are correct. And I have penned a voluminous hate letter in my head (no one would publish it here, for sure, haha!) to the lazy bastards (maybe 2/3rds of registered voters here?) who couldn’t be bothered to fill out their ballots and vote. And, to make it even more insulting, we got taxed even more to pay for the postage so no one has any valid excuse for not voting. I don’t understand the malaise and complacency.
Voter turnout in D4 was over 55% this year.
Not what I read. But I usually disagree with the majority of what you post anyway, lol!
You need a new source then. Here’s the turnout so far. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/d60ec84eb91598a3e3bf02239ddc6345bd22d7b5a55eaf1cec0c67f6c1850b4d.jpg
How is one-ninth socialist “full socialist?”
You’ll notice the lower case “s” on “…socialist…”. Perhaps it’s referring to the bulk of the city council supporting those sorts of ideas. Sort of like “catholic” vs. “Catholic”. Just supposition on my part.
Fair enough, I edited the comment. To be more precise, the majority of the council owes their election to socialists. The Stranger strongly argues in favor of socialism and socialist candidates. The 7 candidates that they chose in the primary got through and then 6 won in the general election. All 6 of those candidates really owe The Stranger for their election, and they are going to be the majority on the council. Still, you’re right that only 1 candidate identifies as full socialist, so the comment was imprecise.
Ha! Yeah, Dan Savage…such a socialist. Dan Strauss too. And Andrew Lewis, of course. Give me a break.
Nice article, It can be a better step for Seattle.
Thanks & Regards
Best SEO Expert in India
Thanks! A typical commute requires about 4 boardings per day, so the cost to the taxpayer is 4 times as much as the “ridership” subsidy numbers transit agencies typically report on. Does that clarify things?
Yeah, I think ideally shuttles would be operated by metro and serve all customers, just be subsidized by companies to add routes the companies want to see happen. On the flip side, shuttles operate with no taxpayer expense, keep some cars off the roads, and metro buses are mostly full to capacity so they aren’t hurting for customers. The real problem is people driving alone and clogging the roads.
“King County taxpayers subsidized transit by 6 billion dollars in 2018 while asking nothing of single-occupant car commuters.” As I am both, I’m sure this isn’t true.