Seattle Transportation Benefit District

About the STBD

On September 20, 2010, the Seattle City Council passed Ordinance 123397, creating a Transportation Benefit District in the City of Seattle, known as the Seattle Transportation Benefit District ("STBD"). While technically a separate entity, the STBD Governing Board was originally comprised of all Seattle City Councilmembers. Upon establishing the STBD, a $20 annual vehicle license fee was implemented and enacted in May 2011 to fund transportation improvements for Seattle residents.

On July 17, 2014, the STBD voted 8-0 to place a measure on the November 2014 General Election ballot that would raise revenue to preserve and extend King County Metro Transit service. More information on this proposal can be found here.

Voters approved a measure in the November 2014 election that started expanding Metro service in Seattle in 2015. The additional service is paid for with a $60 vehicle license fee and 0.1% increase in the sales tax. The improvements focus on reducing overcrowding, increasing frequency and increasing reliability. 

In July 2016, City Council passed Ordinance 125070 which authorized the City of Seattle to assume all the rights, power, immunities, functions, and obligations of the Seattle Transportation Benefit District (STBD) as authorized by state law (36.73 RCW).  This ordinance allows the STBD to be administered and governed as part of the City of Seattle's regular business, including decisions for the STBD's annual budget.  Future legislation related to the STBD will be referred to the Sustainability and Transportation Committee, or as assigned by the Council President, and recorded as Ordinances and Resolutions of the City of Seattle.

FAQs

Please reach out to Rachel VerBoort in the Seattle Department of Transportation. She can be contacted at 206.684.5019 or rachel.verboort@seattle.gov
For other questions relating to Vehicle Licensing, please contact the state Department of Licensing, Vehicle Licensing division at (360) 902-3770; or, locally, you can contact the King County Records & Licensing Services division at (206) 296-4000.

In 1987, the State Legislature created Transportation Benefit Districts (TBDs) as an option for local governments to fund transportation improvements. Chapter 36.73 of the Revised Code of Washington provides for the establishment of TBD by cities and counties for the sole purpose of acquiring, constructing, improving, providing, and funding transportation improvements within the district.

In 2005 and 2007, the Legislature amended the TBD statute to expand its uses and revenue authority, including the ability to authorize a $20 annual vehicle license fee (VLF), and up to an additional $80 of VLF, if approved by voters within the district.

The state legislature provided local governments with these tools because inflation has eroded the local share of gas tax and because a series of statewide ballot initiatives passed over the last 12 years have eliminated other traditional sources of funding for local transportation needs. For example, in 2002 a statewide initiative had the effect of repealing a $15 annual countywide VLF that had been dedicated to the same local street maintenance needs supported by the Seattle TBD's annual fee.

The Seattle Transportation Benefit District is governed by the Seattle City Council.
The following cities collect annual vehicle licensing fees through a TBD:
  • DuPont
  • Bainbridge Island
  • Bremerton
  • Buckley
  • Burien
  • Carbonado
  • Des Moines
  • East Wenatchee
  • Eatonville
  • Edmonds
  • Electric City
  • Grandview
  • Kelso
  • Kenmore
  • Kittitas County
  • Lakeforest Park
  • Lynnwood
  • Mabton
  • Maple Valley
  • Mountlake Terrace
  • Olympia
  • Orting
  • Prosser
  • Royal City
  • Shoreline
  • Snohomish County
  • Snoqualmie
  • Spokane
  • Tacoma
  • Toppenish
  • Wenatchee
  • Zillah
Others collect sales taxes through TBDs. Additional TBD information can be found here.
Without voter approval:
  • Annual vehicle fee up to $20. This fee is collected at the time of vehicle renewal and cannot be used to fund passenger-only ferry service improvements.
  • Transportation impact fees on commercial and industrial buildings. Residential buildings are excluded. In addition, a county or city must provide a credit for a commercial or industrial transportation impact if the respective county or city has already imposed a transportation impact fee.
With voter approval:
  • Property taxes: a one-year excess levy or an excess levy for capital purposes;
  • Up to 0.2 percent sales and use tax;
  • Up to $100 total annual vehicle fee per vehicle registered in the district;
  • Vehicle tolls.
In large part, the legislature authorized the $20 VLF to replace a $15 countywide license fee dedicated to local street funding that had been eliminated by passage of I-776 in 2002.
The STBD budget spends the revenue on a mix of maintenance and preservation as well as safety and enhancements to Seattle's existing transportation network. CTAC III has recommended that future base revenues be primarily devoted to street maintenance, with a small share dedicated to transit corridor projects and improvements to make our streets safer for bicyclists and pedestrians.