A proposal to raise Seattle’s commercial parking tax from 10% to 12.5% is being met with opposition from the University of Washington. The additional $5 million a year would be used to start funding a new Elliott Bay seawall. During this morning’s City Council’s Transportation Committee meeting, UW director of transportation Josh Kavanagh said a parking tax hike would seriously hurt students and staff.
“Frankly, we represent 10 percent of the commerical parking tax receipts for the city of Seattle presently,” said Kavanagh. “With an increase in that tax to fund the seawall, we’re looking at UW commuters funding 10 percent of the seawall replacement. I have serious concerns about that.”
Kavanagh also said the proposed hike would jeopardize the future of the U-Pass, which provides students and staff with low-cost transportation options from buses, commuter train service, light rail, vanpooling and carpooling. The money collected from parking at the UW is used in part to subsidize the U-Pass. If the UW has to pay more in commerical parking tax, it has less money to funnel toward the U-Pass. The result would be higher prices for the U-Pass, which has already seen a significant drop in the number of people using it. The U-Pass recently jumped from$50 a quarter for students to $99 a quarter.
“I encourage the committee to look into ways to lessen the burden on the University of Washington’s U-Pass program and not go down the road of making it cost prohibitive in the near future,” said Andrew Lewis with the Associated Students of the UW.
An amendment that would exempt or partially exempt UW from the commercial parking tax was brought up during today’s committee meeting, but was withdrawn after members decided more discussion was needed to potentially include hospitals and community colleges. The plan to raise the tax to 12.5% was passed along to the full Council for a final vote.