Westneat points out that Amazon has contributed something, as many developers of large projects do.
I admit, I'm not much of a solutions guy. Going all the way back to second grade when I quit the Cub Scouts (too authoritarian), my instinct has been more to poke holes than patch up. That's why I became a newspaper columnist!
But I'll give it a try. Here's my contribution to help solve what ails Seattle right now (namely, that we have so many infrastructure needs and not enough money to pay for it all.)
Growth and development impact fees.
It's hardly a new idea, but it reoccurred to me the other day when my bus ride to work reached comical levels of overcrowding. There were so many riders crammed in the aisles of the Metro bus No. 8 that the driver began quizzing us whether we'd showered that morning. Because she needed us to press up against one another like in a Japanese subway car.
As I was getting intimate with my co-passengers, I realized most of them were wearing blue badges. Signifying they work at Amazon.
That company has been a huge boon to Seattle, in jobs for one. But as with any growth explosion, there have been costs. Why hasn't Seattle asked the company to pay more of them?
I don't mean to single out Amazon. The company is paying for some streetcar service and bike lanes and the like around its developments. Seattle frequently negotiates improvements like this in a scattershot way, but the city has never systematically tried to make growth pay for itself.Westneat points out that this isn't a new idea, and in Bellevue it is common practice, but they assess a one time fee.
Bellevue was the first city in the state to impose impact fees and now dozens do. In 1990, overwhelmed by new construction, Bellevue decided to make new growth help pay for traffic congestion. So today, if you build a house, you pay up to $2,600. An apartment building costs you $1,300 per unit. For office buildings it's $5 to $10 a square foot.
The city has $200 million worth of road work projects in the pipeline due to this fund.
Why can't Seattle do this? By state law impact fees can't be used directly for transit, but we could use them for roadwork, bike lanes, parks or schools. That could free up money from those areas that could be spent on transit.