Learn about our proposed spend plan for the new $20 vehicle license fee funding.

The plan prioritizes safety, equity, & maintaining the strength of Seattle’s assets, thanks to the input of stakeholders across the community. 

Rainier Ave S. Photo Credit: SDOT Flickr. 

This blog was updated on April 1, 2021, when the proposed spend plan was submitted to City Council.

The revised text is noted in red below, and aims to be clearer and consistent with what was presented to City Council.

For more information about the stakeholder engagement process, please see the two presentations delivered to the stakeholder groups below.

Presentation 1: February/Early March 2021 | Focus on spend plan framework and category weighting.

Presentation 2: March 2021 | Focus on proposed spend plan.


Summary 

  • In November, the Seattle City Council authorized an increase of the current $20 vehicle license fee (VLF) to $40 as part of the Seattle Transportation Benefit District (STBD). 
  • We’re developing a long-term spending model for the new $20 VLF revenue source. 
  • To-date, we’ve met (virtually!) with staff and modal, labor, and equity stakeholders to learn their perspective and the perspective of those they represent. 
  • The result is a proposed spending plan heavily influenced by stakeholder input. Ultimately, the plan focuses on five different categories of investment: safe streets, safe sidewalks, active transportation maintenance, strong bridges and structures, and planning/reserve funding. 
  • Now, we want to give you an opportunity to weigh in. Please share your thoughts with us by taking our short survey by 9:00 AM on March 30, 2021. 

In November, the Seattle City Council authorized an increase of the current $20 vehicle license fee (VLF) to $40 as part of the Seattle Transportation Benefit District (STBD).  

We are in the process of developing a spending plan for this additional funding. As part of our efforts, we have been gathering input from a group of transportation stakeholders, labor representatives, and community members to better understand their needs and priorities. 

Now, we want to share a little about that process with you, and hear what you think about the proposed spending plan! 

The Seattle Transportation Benefit District (STBD) Vehicle License Fees (VLF) can be used to fund a broad range of transportation projects in Seattle. 

In July, we will start collecting the new $20 VLF. This means that in 2021, we’ll collect about $3.6 million. Every year thereafter, we’ll collect about $7.2 million. The annual revenue is an estimate and likely to fluctuate up and down some. 

A little can go a long way. Though a small part of our approximately $645 million budget in 2021, the $20 VLF can make an impact in your community. To develop the spending plan, we’ve talked to people across the city who represent the needs and values of Seattleites using all different modes of transportation across communities, ages, and abilities. 

Working with staff and modal, labor, and equity stakeholders, we’re:  

  • Developing a long-term spending model for the new $20 VLF revenue source  
  • Considering numerous transportation needs including increasing safety, meeting climate change goals, protecting public assets, reducing maintenance backlog while considering funding challenges, honoring Levy to Move Seattle commitments, and prioritizing equitable investments.  
  • Creating a plan that accommodates change – a plan organized around programs, not discrete projects. 

To-date, we’ve met (virtually!) with these community members to learn their perspective and the perspective of those they represent.  

We met with representatives from our four modal boards (bike, transit, pedestrian, and freight), the Levy Oversight Committee, accessibility and senior advocates, labor advocates, and community members who represent people typically underrepresented in public forums.  

In our meetings, we asked people to “weight” seven categories.  

  • Climate Change Benefits 
  • Equity Potential 
  • Funding Challenge 
  • Increase Safety and Reduce Risk 
  • Move Seattle Levy Performance 
  • Proactive Asset Management 
  • Reduce Maintenance Backlog 

How these categories were weighted informed the areas of focus for the spending plan. Four categories rose to the top. 

We heard significant support for including equity, safety, maintenance, and meeting climate change goals in the spending plan among priorities for the funding, as well as maintaining and creating jobs.  

Here are some of the comments we heard (paraphrased):  

  • Show impact of taxpayer’s investment sooner than rather than later 
  • Distribute investments equitably 
  • Select projects not reliant on additional funding 
  • Improve sidewalks and safety features like lighting and stop signs for pedestrians  
  • Upgrade facilities to be age and ADA friendly 
  • Select projects that train and employ people  
  • Recognize that the negative impacts of climate change are sustained most in marginalized communities 

Here’s a quick summary of how we translated feedback into a spending plan. 

  • SDOT staff started by considering the impacts of the global pandemic and resulting recession on our overall budget and programs. We also looked at our citywide transportation goals, and considered the department’s values when coming up with potential spend plan programs.  
  • This helped us define the seven evaluation categories where additional VLF funding could help put some programs on a more successful long-term track.  
  • SDOT staff, transportation, labor and equity stakeholders then weighted the seven evaluation categories based on how the funds could best be used for the communities they represent. Weight was determined through a virtual, dot-voting exercise provided to stakeholders. (Feedback was also provided through comments and letters during this process.) 
  • Then, we calculated an average weight for each category for the outcome. Here are the results. The darkest blue boxes indicate the categories that received the most weight. The “outcome” row shows the final results after taking step 4 above. 

The result is a proposed spending plan heavily influenced by stakeholder input. Ultimately, the plan focuses on five different categories of investment.  

Each category addresses equity, safety, maintenance, and/or meeting climate change goals, and investments are responsive to the feedback that we have heard: 

The funded programs deliver overlapping benefits across safety, equity, safety, maintenance, and meeting climate change goals. In 2021, this means about 73% of the annual allocation will be for capital projects that build, repair and improve our infrastructure (including bridges, sidewalks and curb ramps). And at a higher level, our plan makes targeted, strategic investments to achieve multiple citywide goals: 

  • About 75% of the total VLF revenue would be dedicated to investments and projects in neighborhoods facing higher risk of displacement & lower access to opportunities.  
  • About 65% would go toward making safety improvements benefiting our most vulnerable users. 
  • Almost 60% will be spent on additional maintenance to bridges, sidewalks, and bike lanes. 
  • Almost 75% would fund projects that improve the traveling experience for people walking, rolling, biking, and riding transit to make shifting to low-carbon travel options easier – and plan toward an equitable, healthier future. 

Here are a few more details about the programs in which we would invest this funding. 


Safe Streets 

  • Make investments and improvements to the streets and communities experiencing the bulk of Seattle’s serious crashes. 
  • What this could do: Vision Zero corridor projects 

Safe Sidewalks 

  • Make investments and improvements to help Seattle become the most walkable and accessible city in the nation.  
  • What this could do: Restripe marked crosswalks, replace crossing beacons, repair sidewalks, and install new ADA curb ramps 

Strong Bridges and Structures 

  • Make proactive investments and reduce the maintenance backlog, extending the service life of bridges, and maintaining safe travel for all modes. 
  • What this could do: Major maintenance and rehabilitation for bridges, stairs, and essential roadway structures like areaways 

Active Transportation Maintenance 

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  • Make investments and improvements to maintain on-street and off-street bicycle facilities to promote safe, active transportation, and reduced carbon emissions from vehicles. 
  • What this could do: Repaint bicycle lanes, install protective barriers between people driving and biking, and make improvements to bicycle signals 

Planning Ahead 

  • Make investments in planning for an equitable recovery and transportation future – including activities that identify capital and programmatic investments based on forecasted travel demand, community priorities, and asset management needs. 
  • What this could do: Initiate development of a citywide multimodal plan. A plan that engages communities to address equity, safety, and climate change goals. 

Now, we want to give you an opportunity to weigh in. Please share your thoughts with us by taking our short survey by 9:00 AM on March 30, 2021.

Thank you for your involvement in this process!