Mayor Mike McGinn announced his grim budget plan (be sure to read Erica's summary). Amid the news of reduced services, hiring and salary freezes, and scaled-back library and recreation funding, Mayor McGinn sneaked in one promising proposal for alternative transportation: a $13 million funding increase for walking, biking, and transit over two years.

Funding for the $5 million increase in 2011 and $8 million in 2012 would come from an increased commercial parking tax (though that's already looking tenuous) and a vehicle license fee. According to a press release from McGinn, the money would be used to fund:

  • More Neighborhood Street Fund projects that will improve neighborhoods.

  • Full funding for sidewalks on Linden Ave N.

  • Projects that speed up implementation of the Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plans, i.e. more sidewalks, bike facilities, crossing improvements, stairways, pedestrian lighting, and other neighborhood improvements.

  • Getting started on the creation of a bike sharing program in Seattle.

  • A boost to larger projects that have a bigger impact. Projects receiving funding include: the Lake to Bay Loop Urban Trail, bike/pedestrian improvements on the Ballard Bridge, the Chief Sealth Trail, and the Mountains to Sound Greenway Trail.

  • Completion of the Transit Master Plan and potential early implementation of recommendations

  • Support for Summer Streets events in 2011/2012

The funding increase comes in part thanks to the efforts of the Streets for All Seattle campaign, a coalition of individuals and organizations that have been working to secure funding for pedestrians, bikes, and transit. Last spring, in tandem with McGinn's Walk Bike Ride kick-off, the Streets for All campaign announced they'd identified $30 million in potential funding. McGinn's proposed funding falls well short of that goal, but Street's For All Seattle co-Chair Craig Benjamin remains optimistic.

"We see this as a positive first step, and a down payment in the right direction," said Benjamin. "It's going to allow us to significantly accelerate the implementation of the Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plans, get the Transit Master Plan going, maintain our streets, and convene the Citizens Transportation Advisory Committee III" to advise the city council on transportation planning.

The budget ultimately rests in the council's hands. Given that council members are already pushing back on several of the mayor's fee increases, the increased alt-transportation funding is far from guaranteed.
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