Mayor Ed Murray provided more details Wednesday about how the city might spend the $45 million in annual transit funding that Proposition 1 is expected to raise. Voters overwhelmingly approved the measure in Tuesday's ballot count.
Close to 60 routes in all parts of the city could see bus service upgrades under the mayor's plan, which includes adding buses on lines that the Seattle Department of Transportation has identified as overcrowded, insufficiently frequent, or unreliable. The Proposition 1 investments will also add Saturday, Sunday and night service on routes that do not currently have service at those times.
Nearly 20 percent of the Proposition 1 revenue would go toward routes in fast-growing neighborhoods, including West Seattle, Ballard and South Lake Union.
"Nobody wants to wait in the rain at California and Alaska only to see an overcrowded bus," Murray said at a news conference on Wednesday morning, referring to an intersection in West Seattle.
The bus service improvements would happen in steps. The current plan is to add buses to 15 overcrowded lines, and 35 unreliable routes in June 2015. More frequent bus service would also be phased in between next June and next September on at least 28 routes.
According to Metro Transit's guidelines, "unreliable" means that a route is frequently more than five minutes late, Bill Bryant, SDOT's transit program manager said in an email on Tuesday.
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Scroll to see which bus routes would be targeted for each type of upgrade under the mayor's plan. An unreliable route, according to Metro, is one where the bus is frequently more than five minutes late. Source: SDOT
The plan also targets key routes that run throughout the city. The 7, an important line for riders in southeast Seattle, would run more frequently, as would crowded buses servicing the University District, such as the 71X and 72.
Another notable change is that the C and D RapidRide lines would be split and extended. As the bus travels south, the D currently becomes the C in downtown and then continues on to West Seattle. Instead the buses would be independent lines. The D would run from Ballard to Pioneer Square and the C would travel from West Seattle to South Lake Union.
Last night's ballot count showed nearly 59 percent of Seattle voters in favor of Proposition 1, and only 41 percent opposing the initiative.
The Mayor first proposed the transit funding package in May, following the failure of a similar countywide initiative. Under Proposition 1, revenue is generated by increasing the city sales tax by 0.1 percent and car tab fees by $60. The fee and the tax would expire in December 2020.
In response to a question, Murray said that he was confident that the city would be able to track Proposition 1 money, which will eventually be funneled to Metro, to ensure that it goes toward service in Seattle. Some skeptics of the measure have raised concerns that it could trickle into other parts of the agency's budget.
The responsibility for tracking the funds would fall within a new SDOT Transit Division, which the mayor included in his recently proposed 2015-2016 budget. Murray said that he believed that he was hiring the right people for jobs within the division and also pointed to assurances from King County Executive Dow Constantine that Metro would remain transparent and accountable.
Election night marked a high point for Murray. It was the one year anniversary of his own election, since which he has pushed through a $15 minimum wage ordinance and a ballot initiative creating a new taxing district to help fund parks, while also hiring a new police chief and a new SDOT director. On Tuesday night, complementing the successful transit measure, was strong voter approval for a universal pre-school funding initiative, which the mayor also backed.
Rather than delivering his remarks at City Hall on Wednesday, Murray held his news conference in the lobby of PATH's Seattle headquarters in South Lake Union. The neighborhood is an epicenter for Seattle's real estate and technology boom. Outside the building, after the press conference, there were long lunch lines at food trucks and at least seven high rise construction cranes could be seen on the horizon.
Flanked: Mayor Ed Murray speaks to reporters on Wednesday, with King County Executive Dow Constantine (right), and a crew of transit supporters. Photo: Bill Lucia
The mayor appeared along with Constantine, City Council Transportation Committee Chair Tom Rasmussen, and about 15 transit supporters.
As he discussed monitoring how the Proposition 1 revenue would be spent, the mayor acknowledged the challenges ahead.
"We celebrated last night, and today is a very sober day, we have to show that we can move forward," he said. "I believe what the county is doing, and what we are about to do in the city, will prove that we can perform."