FAQs

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 a Board, comprised of Seattle City Councilmembers acting ex officio and independently of their elected position, as required by the authorizing state law. When it was established in 2010, the STBD Board sought citizen guidance from the Citizens Transportation Advisory Committee III (CTAC III) (Seattle City Council Resolution 31240 stated the Council's intent to create an CTAC III). The Board, with guidance from the established CTAC III, conducted a comprehensive review of Seattle Department of Transportation's (SDOT) finances and project needs. Ultimately, the vast majority of funding options, other than a vehicle licensing fee, must be approved by the voters.
The following cities collect annual VLF's through a Transportation Benefit District:
  • 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 TBD budget spends the revenue on a mix of maintenance and preservation as well as safety and enhancements to Seattle's existing transportation network. The complete budget breakdown can be found here. 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.