A majority of Seattleites want to be taxed more for a better transportation system. 

That’s saying a lot in a city with an incredibly high cost of living. Poll after poll shows voters will not only approve another transportation levy but are willing to pay more to address the biggest transportation issues facing Seattle. A poll conducted by Change Research found that twice as many respondents preferred a larger, $1.9 billion levy that invested in more sidewalks, safety, and transit projects over a smaller, $1.7 billion option. According to the City’s own polling by EMC research, the only argument against renewing the levy that caused a significant drop in support (at a whopping 23%) was that it did not go far enough in investing in walking, biking, transit, and the climate.

Voters understand what’s at stake. Our traffic fatalities are on the rise. Transportation in single-occupancy vehicles is the largest contributor to our greenhouse gas emissions. Missing and inaccessible sidewalks and unsafe crossings mean that people with disabilities, children, and senior citizens are disproportionately at risk when we use our streets to get where we need to go.

Next Tuesday, July 2, the Seattle City Council will vote on final amendments to our next transportation levy. It will fund 30% of Seattle’s transportation budget for the next eight years and have an outsize impact on the direction of our transportation system.

As chaotic as this council’s levy process has been the past two months, I daresay that all six of the council members who submitted amendments last week added at least one proposal that would make Seattle safer, more accessible, and more sustainable. 

Council Member Rob Saka doubled the Mayor’s funding for new sidewalk construction. Council President Sara Nelson and Council Member Joy Hollingsworth added millions for repairing existing sidewalks. Council Member Cathy Moore increased funding for Vision Zero. Council Member Tammy Morales added money for community-based anti-displacement planning at the Graham and CID light rail stations, and Council Member Dan Strauss proposed finally finishing the missing link of the Burke-Gilman trail.

In other words, the council is proposing to fund programs Seattle desperately needs and that voters want and by all indications are willing to pay for.  This should be a big, easy political win for a council still short on policy wins. 

But instead of adding to the levy, council members are pitting essential programs against each other; funding sidewalk repair with cuts to new sidewalk construction, and cutting equity-based neighborhood projects for safe routes for kids to get to school. I’ve heard the council’s approach described as “peanut butter around the money,” but that is too cute of a description because at the other end of the budget line are real people experiencing real-world impacts. We shouldn’t have to choose between these vital needs when polling shows that voters will approve a levy that funds them all. Right now, the council is trading sidewalks, protected bike lanes, and street crossings, simply shifting the locations of inaccessible routes and future fatalities.

Council Member Morales has proposed an amendment that would increase the size of the levy to accommodate her colleagues' proposed additions without cutting vital programs. Now is the time to show vocal support for a larger levy of $1.7 billion that invests in the safety and neighborhood projects we desperately need.  

Rarely does a city’s funding needs align so closely with public opinion. The council needs to follow Morales’s lead and capitalize on this moment where voters are asking for a bigger levy to support walking, biking, and climate. Seattle is waiting.  

Cecelia Black is a wheelchair user, community organizer for Disability Mobility Initiative at Disability Rights Washington, and serves as board president for Be:Seattle.