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Expanded transportation access and more from the Seattle Transit Measure 2022 Performance Report

A rider boards King County Metro’s RapidRide C bus to West Seattle. In 2021, nearly 25,000 annual hours of transit service were added to four all-day King County Metro routes in West Seattle. Photo: SDOT

Blog Stats: 1,700 words | 9-minute read

The 2022 Performance Report focuses on the second full year of programing funded under the Seattle Transit Measure (STM). This year, we spotlight some of the innovative work of our Transportation Access Programs (TAP) as well as key COVID Recovery Bus Lane projects made possible through the STM. 

2022 At-a-Glance

  • STM has funded 3,233 additional weekly trips on Metro routes operating within Seattle, particularly in historically and currently disadvantaged communities.  
  • 1,950 newly eligible Seattle Housing Authority (SHA) residents received a free ORCA transit pass through the SHA Transit Pilot Pass Program. In 2022, these residents took 360,234 rides and saved over $902,651 in out-of-pocket expenses. 
  • We distributed 1,096 free ORCA cards to Seattle Promise Scholars which funded 120,723 trips and saved participating students $316,700. 
  • We completed and/or advanced work on three COVID Recovery Bus Lane Projects that will improve transit reliability and travel times on bus routes that maintained high ridership throughout the pandemic. This includes our first phase of bus lane installations on Rainier Ave S, which was completed in July 2022. 
  • In 2023, we will continue to expand and support programming for youth, seniors, and equitable transportation access. 
  • Quick link: Read the Seattle Transit Measure 2022 Performance Report 

“Thanks to the STM, Seattle invests approximately $50 million each year through 2026 in transit service, transportation access and fare reduction programs, transit capital improvements, and other efforts to address emerging needs. This includes centering people in our community who rely on transit the most and responding to the lasting effects of the pandemic.”

– Mayor Bruce Harrell 

Equity in our 2022 investments 

In 2022, we engaged the Transit Advisory Board (TAB) to help develop draft investment criteria for the program. Our priorities were equity-focused and centered around providing new service on routes throughout the city that are more likely to be used by historically and currently disadvantaged communities — and at times of the day, and on days of the week, during which more equity-priority populations are using transit. Comparing these factors against current gaps in the City’s Frequent Transit Network (FTN) created a list of investment priorities that explicitly emphasize equity over other factors.

Up to $10 million of STM funds are dedicated to improving transit access annually through Transit Access Program activities. 

You can check out the full annual report to see how the measure is helping fund additional transit service for King County Metro, as well as providing affordable, safe, and equitable access to public transportation through Transportation Access Programs.

Read about a few highlights and takeaways from the report below.

SDOT staff enrolling new participants onto the Recovery Card Program in Othello in summer 2022. Photo: SDOT

“Thanks to your investment in the STM, in 2022 we reduced cost barriers to transit, introduced people to new transit options through community-centered programming, made transit stops safer for passengers, improved bus reliability through transit-only lanes, and more. Across our Transportation Access Programs, we have helped people save almost $4.8 million collectively on transit costs.”

– SDOT Director Greg Spotts

Highlights from the report

Expanding the SHA Transit Pass Pilot Program: In early 2022, the Seattle Housing Authority (SHA) Transit Pass Pilot Program expanded to allow rolling admissions from residents living in eligible SHA properties. By the end of the year, 1,950 residents received a free ORCA transit pass. These residents took 360,234 rides in 2022, saving more than $902,651 in out-of-pocket expenses. Access to reliable, affordable transportation choices allowed many the freedom and ability to go to the grocery store, make a doctor’s appointment, or visit a park with family.

Connecting Seattle youth with opportunities through transit access: our Transit Access Programs continue to support Seattle youth through programming that reduces cost barriers to transit and provides community-centered programming to diverse Seattle populations. In 2022, Washington State began funding free youth fares on transit through grants to local transit operators. King County Metro now offers free fares for all youth 18 and under while SDOT continues to promote youth education and access to transit through the following programs:

  • The Youth Ambassador Program began a new partnership with the Seattle Youth Employment Program (SYEP) in 2022, a City program that helps young people from low-income households and communities prepare for and find meaningful, well-paying job opportunities. In October 2022, the TAP team connected nine SYEP Youth Ambassadors with paid internships at SDOT for the duration of the school year to learn about transit and build leadership skills. 
  • The Jump Start ORCA Program offered families in Seattle Public Schools’ (SPS) Jump Start Kindergarten Transition Program up to four ORCA cards, each preloaded with $35. This allowed families struggling to travel to and from Jump Start schools to participate in the program. In 2022, 98 cards were distributed to 46 families. Building off lessons learned in 2021, we started outreach to schools and families earlier in the summer, and families were able to request cards be sent directly to their address instead of needing to pick them up at the school.
  • ORCA Opportunity Promise Scholars — a joint program between Seattle Colleges, Seattle Public Schools, and the City of Seattle — offers any graduate of a Seattle Public High School 2 years of tuition-free enrollment at any of the three Seattle Colleges. They are also offered many resources to support their success, including a fully funded ORCA card for their time as a Promise Scholar. In 2022, we distributed 1,096 ORCA cards which funded 120,723 trips and saved students $316,712.
Students participating in the Youth Ambassador Program ride a Metro bus to learn how to use transit in their neighborhoods and become transit ambassadors in their communities. Credit: SDOT 

COVID Recovery Bus Lane Projects: Following reduced and suspended service during the COVID-19 pandemic, we began working with King County Metro to prioritize investments that help move buses more efficiently on key routes. In 2021, STM began planning three new projects to build priority bus lanes on corridors served by bus routes that maintained high ridership throughout the pandemic. Work on these three COVID Recovery Bus Lane Projects advanced in 2022, and will improve transit reliability and travel times:

  • Rainier Ave S, an important transit corridor for King County Metro routes 4, 7, 9, 48, 50 and 106, serves the growing Rainier Valley and communities that have been traditionally underrepresented and underserved. Route 7 is one of Seattle’s busiest bus routes, serving 9,000 riders per day (11,200 riders per day prior to the pandemic). STM funds are being used to improve transit reliability on this important corridor in the near-term by adding bus lanes in two phases to improve travel times during congested peak hours. In 2022, we completed phase one with the installation of a northbound bus lane between S Alaska St and S Walden St, and a southbound bus lane between S Oregon St and S Edmunds St.
  • 15th Ave W and Elliott Ave W provide frequent bus service to King County Metro routes 24, 32, 33, and the RapidRide D line, connecting Queen Anne, Magnolia, and Ballard. Currently, more than 11,000 people ride the D line bus each weekday (more than 23,000 per day prior to the pandemic). This project expanded transit lane hours during morning and afternoon peak periods in both directions, and updated signage was installed in the first quarter of 2023. 
  • The Aurora Ave project focuses on improving safety and mobility for people walking, biking, taking transit, and driving along the Aurora Ave N/State Route 99 corridor — one of the highest traffic volume streets within the Seattle city limits. The RapidRide E line serves this corridor and carries approximately 10,500 rides per day (more than 17,000 rides per day before the pandemic). In coordination with the Washington State Department of Transportation, this project will install northbound bus lanes between Roy St and Halladay St to help maintain travel time and reliability. Construction is estimated to begin in the second half of 2023.
SDOT crews installing signs and painting the bus lanes on Rainier Ave S as part of Phase 1 of the Rainier Ave S Bus-Only Lane project. Photo: SDOT  

Looking ahead in 2023

  • We expanded the SHA Transit Pass Pilot Program and made it permanent in early 2023. Seattle Housing Authority residents of all ages living at any of the 102 SHA owned and managed properties will be able to apply for and receive a fully subsidized transit pass. An estimated 10,000 SHA residents will benefit from this change. 
  • We continue to support Senior Programming in partnership with local senior centers, community-based organizations, Hopelink, and the Department of Neighborhoods Community Liaisons. In 2023, we will host a series of field trips teaching elders in our community how to plan a trip on transit and use various types of transportation to help them explore the city! 
  • In late 2023, we will continue to engage young people with a Youth Transportation Summit in partnership with several other City departments, and in response to Mayor Harrell’s Climate Justice Executive Order. This event will invite youth to participate in conversations about climate justice and transportation. 
  • We are launching a three-year research study in partnership with Uplift NW and the University of Notre Dame’s Lab for Economic Opportunity. The research program, called Uplift Seattle’s Equitable Access to Transit (U-SEAT), will explore the impact that providing fully subsidized ORCA cards has on employment outcomes. Research is expected to begin in late May 2023. 
  • We want to hear from you! We will be launching a city-wide survey later this year to better understand how Seattleites perceive safety while accessing transit and how safety may be a barrier for folks using transit. Keep a look out for our survey and let us know how safety impacts your access to transit.

About the Seattle Transit Measure

The 2020 Seattle Transit Measure (STM) is a voter-approved program to fund increased King County Metro transit service and additional transit programs for Seattle residents, workers, and visitors. Funded by a 0.15% sales tax, the program collects approximately $50 million annually over six years (2021 – 2027) to improve transit service and reliability, and to expand transit coverage and access throughout Seattle.

STM funding promotes key SDOT values and goals: Frequent Bus Service, Transit Access, Equity, and Stewardship.

Equity is at the heart of our work, and we believe STM service investments should align with our core values of racial equity and social justice. All Seattle residents should have the option to travel safely and easily wherever they need or want to go.

Thank you, voters!  

Thanks to the support of Seattle voters, we are able to preserve a robust, connected transit system in Seattle that centers equity by ensuring access no matter the time of day or where you live.