While most Americans found that their votes were swayed by topics involving healthcare and economic stability during this year’s recent midterm elections, the voters in Seattle, WA focused on something much different: better public bus service for the city.
The process, detailed in the legislation Proposition 1, will increase city-wide taxes in two areas in order to improve the King County Metro Transit system. The tax hikes will affect city sales tax (by .1%) and on car-tab fees (by $60). The Seattle Department of Transit has already identified approximately 60 bus routes that suffer from overcrowding, according to local Seattle news source Crosscut.com.
The legislation was proposed by Mayor Ed Murray back in May, but he left the ultimate decision up to Seattle voters, seeing as the city itself would be paying for the revamped transit routes.
In an event rarely seen in politics, there was almost no direct opposition to the tax hike, and ballots from the November 4 election showed that 59% of voters supported Proposition 1. It’s estimated that most of the 40% of voters against the legislation primarily disagreed with the hike in car-tab fees, according to The Seattle Times.
The city estimates that it will bring in about $45 million yearly for this project. The majority of these funds will go to increasing the number of service routes currently running in the city (increasing service hours by approximately 266,000 additional hours); most other funds will be dedicated to maintaining routes and partnership agreements with systems that run into the suburbs. A small, but significant, $2 million will be dedicated to providing low-cost transportation to low-income city residents.
Although the recent focus on public transportation seems to be limited to the Seattle region in this case, it’s not surprising that such a progressive area would focus on improving the city’s bus system before looking at other types of public transport. Not only are buses extremely affordable for low-income residents, but the recent improvements made by engineers, focusing on green technology and sustainability, prove that buses are likely to remain one of the most environmentally-friendly methods of travel.
Even though Seattle was the only region in the U.S. that focused on such a significant change in public transportation, it’s very likely that this system could become quite successful — especially with so much public support. If this program is successful, it might just convince other cities to make similar changes in the future.