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Seattle Car-Tab Fee Implementation (November 2011)

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A Seattle Car-Tab Fee Implementation measure was on the November 8, 2011 ballot in the city of Seattle which is in King County.

This measure sought to implement a car-tab fee at a rate of $60 and would be in place for a period of ten years.[1] About half of the money collected from the fee would have gone towards transit projects in the city. King County also implemented a $20 fee, the city council was thinking to propose an $80 fee in the city but reduced it in hopes the smaller amount would have gotten approved. No specific projects had been attached to the fee money, but some ideas included bus maintenance costs, extending the electric trolley route and making areas more transit friendly.[2]

The general ballot title which was issued by the City Council noted 'bridges' in the inclusion of what the transit would be used for, but opponents were quick to point out that bridges should not be included in the title. The County Prosecutor's Office which approves the language, had noted that it would have taken the language out even if it was not noted by opponents. City Council members commented that they were not trying to deceive residents, it was just a general statement which had been drafted earlier in the year and was not edited before being submitted.[3]

Election results

Seattle Car-Tab Fee Implementation
Defeatedd No96,62856.94%
Yes 73,075 43.06%

Source: The Seattle Times, 2011 Election Results


An argument in favor of this measure noted that while the tax seems unfair, equal rate to everyone, the deeper meaning of the fee increase was that in some it would push them to use public transit more and rely less on cars. Also, the fee was not that large in the long run and in most cases would not be the last straw to being broke. The fee addition would also have set aside funding for sidewalks and crosswalks which also promote alternatives to driving.[4]


The Seattle Times had given their opinion on this measure, they were encouraging residents to vote no. They point out that a flat car fee increase was not fair to those who are of a lower income yet still need their cars to get to work or school. They also noted that property taxes are at least fair, as lower income families have lower rates, but the increase to $100 for each car owned was too much for a lot of people.[5]

Text of measure

The question on the ballot:

The Seattle Transportation Benefit District’s Proposition No. 1 concerns an increased Vehicle License Fee for transportation improvements. If approved, this proposition would fund transportation facilities and services benefitting the City of Seattle, including: transportation system repairs, maintenance and safety improvements; transit improvements to increase speed, reliability and access; and pedestrian, bicycle and freight mobility programs, all as provided in STBD Resolution No. 5. It would authorize a $60 increase in the Vehicle License Fee beginning in 2012, allowing collection of approximately $20.4 million annually for ten years. Should this proposition be approved?[6][7]

See also

Additional reading