Tag Archive: budget

Critical Local Funding for Walking, Biking, and Transit at Risk

Can you take a moment this Earth Day to help protect $80 million in funding for walking, biking, and transit projects from the chopping block? Your voice is needed — Click here to send an email to City Council.

A blue button that reads "Act Now!"


The Seattle City Council is proposing to redirect $80,000,000 from walking, biking, and transit projects to pay for bridge repair over the next twenty years. While we are supportive of increased funding for bridge repair, Seattle is more likely to get state and federal dollars for bridge seismic retrofits than for walking and biking projects. Which is why making sure local dollars go to walk/bike/transit projects is so important.

To explain further, there is a fee called the Vehicle Licensing Fee (VLF) that is applied to every car registered in Seattle. It was briefly killed by Tim Eyman, and then restored by the Washington Supreme Court.

In the fall, the Seattle City Council authorized a $20 VLF and asked the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) to engage stakeholders in creating a spending plan. Seattle Neighborhood Greenways was a part of that stakeholder engagement along with a long list of organizations

A pie chart showing SDOT's proposed spending plan for VLF funding.

The final proposal from SDOT dedicated 28% of the fee revenue to Vision Zero projects, 28% to sidewalk repair (with an equity and transit focus), 24% to maintaining bridges, 10% for maintaining safe bike routes, 7% for walk/bike/transit planning (like updating the very outdated Transit Master Plan), and setting aside 3% as a reserve. With only $7 million per year to divvy up among these multiple categories, that may not sound like a lot, but it would actually make a big difference. 


Three images showing memorials for people killed by being hit by cars on our streets. Images show a cross surrounded by photos and flowers, a white ghost bike, and a group of people holding signs and listening to a speaker.

Vision Zero (28% of the funding for “Safe Streets”)

As you may have heard, Seattle is not making progress on Vision Zero, the city’s goal to reduce the number of road-traffic deaths and serious injuries to zero by 2030, which has been brought into sharp relief by three tragedies in the last month in Georgetown, Lake City, and Seward Park. SDOT just released data finding that the burden of traffic fatalities falls disproportionately on Black Seattle residents, and over the last five years SE Seattle’s District 2 has had double the number of fatalities as any other council district. The Vision Zero team at SDOT knows what/where the main issues are, but they have been chronically underfunded to achieve their mandate. This funding would double the Vision Zero budget, allowing SDOT to redesign more of our dangerous streets like Rainier Ave S, MLK Jr Way, Aurora Ave, Lake City Way, and others. 

A sidewalk made impassible by tree roots and crumbling pavement.

Safe Sidewalks (28% of the funding)

Our sidewalks should be safe and accessible for people of all ages and abilities. But right now there are 156,000 known sidewalk maintenance issues, making the sidewalk network we do have increasingly inaccessible to people with disabilities, the elderly (trip and fall hazards are a serious issue), and parents pushing strollers. Additionally, the City of Seattle was successfully sued for failing to retrofit curb ramps to make crosswalks accessible. This funding would fix hundreds of inaccessible sidewalks and crosswalks each year, making our city more accessible to all. 

A smiling group of people bike past in a separated bike lane wearing colorful rain coats and ponchos.

Safe Bike Routes (10% of the funding for “Active Transportation Maintenance”)

Maintenance and regular upgrades are key to making bike routes that are comfortable and convenient. Unfortunately, too many bike routes fade into obscurity, through city neglect and inattention, or lack true protection from cars (moving or parked). This funding would be the first dedicated source to make sure bike routes are maintained to an all ages and abilities standard, and would fund things like bike lane painting and replacement of barriers.  

Two people board a bus while people on bikes go past in a separated lane.

Planning Ahead (7% of the funding)

Political will, organized advocates, talented city staff, funding, and a good plan are the five key ingredients for making progress towards a city that’s better for walking, biking, and transit. Unfortunately, the Seattle Transit Master Plan is out of date, which transit advocates have identified as a key barrier to bringing more light rail lines to Seattle. SDOT is hoping to use this funding to create a multimodal integration plan, which many advocates are skeptical of, but it could be used to fund a new Transit Master Plan, helping guide future light rail and bus routes in Seattle

Additionally, 24% of the funding, in the SDOT proposal, is dedicated to repairing bridges. 


Councilmember Pedersen has a dramatically different plan for the VLF funds

A pie chart showing the proposed city council VLF spend plan. 75% of the chart is "Strong Bridges and Structures" while 25% is "Other Transportation Infrastructure"

Unfortunately, Councilmember Pedersen is proposing a dramatic re-allocation of these funds: redirecting a full 75% of the available VLF funding for bridge repair and leaving a mere 25% for “other transportation infrastructure.” 

While we are supportive of increased funding for bridge repair, Seattle is more likely to get state and federal dollars for bridge seismic retrofits than for walking and biking projects. Which is why making sure local dollars go to walk/bike/transit projects is so important.

A blue button that reads "Act Now!"

Right now, other City Councilmembers are considering whether to adopt his plan, or the plan that doubles the level of progress on Vision Zero, fixes hundreds of inaccessible sidewalks, repairs bike routes, and plans for a bright transit future. Which is why they need to hear from you. 

So this Earth Day, please take a minute to send a message to the City Council asking them to protect $80 million for walking, biking, and transit projects.

Thank you! 

8 BIG WINS for walking/rolling/biking and equity in the 2020 Seattle City Budget!

Because of supporters like you, we won eight huge wins for walking/rolling/biking and equity this year! Thank you to everyone who sent in emails and gave public comments, our allies at the MASS Coalition, and to the Mayor and City Council for their support in making our transportation budget represent our city’s values and stated goals. These changes are all one-time increases, but we will be back next year to continue to fight for needed funding.

Without further ado, here are the eight big wins:

african american biking on 2nd ave SDOT photo
1) Biking Routes: $10.35 million increase

Southeast Seattle currently does not have a single safe and convenient connection for people riding bikes to the rest of Seattle. This funding will change that, by building the Georgetown to South Park Trail, the Beacon Ave Trail, or a Martin Luther King Jr. Way South protected bike lane, or partially constructing some combination of all three! There is still more work to be done to fully bridge the $32 million gap for bike projects that were included in the 2019 Bicycle Implementation Plan (released earlier this year without allocated funding), but this is a huge step forward.

Walking

2)  Walking Routes: $11 million increase 

Walking and rolling is a fundamental right — but right now many people are unable to get around safely and conveniently in Seattle because of inaccessible or nonexistent sidewalks. The city’s budget added $4 million for sidewalk construction and $7 million for accessibility improvements like curb ramps. This is an improvement, but we also recognize that it is a drop in the bucket the 26% of Seattle streets that don’t currently have safe places to walk, and the need for a long-term, sustainable source of funding remains.

A rendering of Thomas St showing wide pedestrian spaces and trees.

3) Connecting to Seattle Center: $3.76 million increase

Everyone should be able to get safely and conveniently to the Seattle Center and the new arena that is opening in 2021, but right now there is no family-friendly east-west route. This funding will allow for design and partial construction of a vibrant, people-focused space on Thomas Street. This win was made possible thanks to Councilmember Sally Bagshaw’s incredible leadership for this project, and support from the Seattle Parks Foundation, the Uptown Alliance, and and many others. Next year the project will undergo additional design and outreach with construction anticipated for 2021.

A group of small kids walking with adult supervision wait at a crosswalk.

4. Safe Routes to School: New staff for Seattle Public Schools

Every child should be able to walk and bike to school safely, but currently there is not a single full time employee at the Seattle Public Schools in charge of making sure that happens. As a result dozens of schools lack crossing guards, and other traffic safety programs are run exclusively by volunteers (creating an equity disparity). Now thanks to the Seattle City Council there will be a full-time Active Transportation Coordinator to help the thousands of Seattle public school children who walk and bike to school arrive safely. Thank you to the School Traffic Safety Committee for their identification of this solution and continued advocacy and to Councilmember Mike O’Brien for the addition.

A graphic of hands reaching together in a circle.

Graphic Credit: Seattle Department of Transportation

5. Transportation Equity Program: $300,000 increase

Unfortunately, race and racism play a huge role in determining a person’s ability to get where they need to go in Seattle. Seattle Neighborhood Greenways strives to redress the historical and systemically-rooted inequities in transportation and city investments (for more see our our Racial Equity Action Plan released this year). This funding will allow continuation of the Transportation Equity Program, helping to identify and address systemic and structural equity issues. 

Duwamish Tribe City Council Budget Hearing 10.22.2019 Public Comment

6. Duwamish Longhouse crossing: $500,000

Right now, people cross 5 lanes with a 40 mph posted speed limit on a major truck route to get between the Duwamish Longhouse on one side of the street and Herring House Park, parking lots, and the Duwamish Trail on the other. Tour groups and school field trips are unwilling to risk the danger, which limits the Tribe’s economic and engagement opportunities. This funding will cover design (but not full construction costs) and is a step towards helping people safely access this important cultural and community center. Thanks to the Duwamish Tribe for leading this effort, West Seattle Bike Connections and Duwamish Valley Safe Streets for their continued advocacy, and Councilmember Lisa Herbold for this budget addition.

 

Three people smiling next to a planter box, holding a sign that says "Home Zone"

7. Home Zones: $350,000

There is a 1,800 year backlog to build sidewalks across Seattle. Home Zones are a cost effective tool to make neighborhoods without sidewalks more walkable. This funding will allow continuation of the Home Zone concept that Seattle Neighborhood Greenways brought to Seattle in 2018.

west-seattle-admiral-way-bike-lanes

8. Bike path maintenance 

Seattle city council has required the Seattle Department of Transportation to present a plan on the maintenance of existing bicycle infrastructure. Currently, maintenance is reactive and complaint-based, resulting in bike routes that are hard to use, unwelcoming, and sometimes even obsolete or absent. Additionally, routes in wealthier or whiter neighborhoods are often maintained better than those in other parts of the city. When SDOT presents their draft plan, we will push for it to standardize maintenance so that the program relies less on complaints and all communities across the city can have safe and well-cared for bike infrastructure.

A woman wearing a bike helmet stands at a microphone in front of a crowd of people holding signs, some with mobility aids.

What didn’t make it and what’s next?

We also had a few disappointments: We fought hard to increase funding for Safe Routes to School and to improve Seattle’s Complete Streets evaluation practices (Level of Service metrics), neither of which made it into the final balanced budget. We’re not giving up on these two campaigns, and will continue to push in 2020.

Please take a moment to send a Thank You to the Mayor and City Council for their support of these 2020 budget improvements by emailing [email protected] and [email protected]

Appreciate our advocacy to make our city a better place to walk, bike and live? Please donate today to keep us fighting tomorrow. Thank you. 

A huge crowd of people stand outside City Hall at the Ride 4 Safe Streets.

Photo Credit: @4SafeStreets