What is a Transportation Benefit District?
In 1987, the State Legislature created Transportation Benefit Districts (TBD) as an option for local governments to fund transportation improvements. Chapter 36.73 of the Revised Code of Washington provides for the establishment of TBD by cities and counties to levy and impose various taxes and fees to generate revenues to support transportation improvements within the district. A TBD is a quasi-municipal corporation and independent taxing district created for the sole purpose of acquiring, constructing, improving, providing, and funding transportation improvements within the district. In 2005 and 2007, the Legislature amended the TBD statute to expand its uses and revenue authority, including the ability to authorize a $20 annual vehicle license fee (VLF), and up to an additional $80 of VLF, if approved by voters within the district. The state legislature provided local governments with these tools because inflation has eroded the local share of gas tax and a series of statewide ballot initiatives passed over the last 12 years have eliminated other traditional sources of funding for local transportation needs.
Who runs the TBD?
The Tacoma Transportation Benefit District is governed by a Board, comprised of Tacoma City Councilmembers acting ex officio and independently of their elected position, as required by the authorizing state law.
What other cities have established or are considering a TBD?
Bellingham, Bremerton (not funded), Burien, Covington (proposed), Des Moines, Eatonville, Edmonds, King County (unincorporated county only), Lake Forest Park, Leavenworth, Liberty Lake, Lynnwood, Olympia, Point Roberts, Prosser, Ridgefield, Orting, Sequim, Shoreline, Snohomish (not funded), Snoqualmie, Spokane County (proposed), University Place (not funded). Additional TBD information can be found here.
What does Washington law say?
The Revised Code of Washington (RCW) Chapter 36.73 provided the statutory authority for the creation of Transportation Benefit Districts some 20 years ago; however, in 2007, an amendment to the statute allowed city or county governments to create local TBDs and authorized jurisdictions to impose a local vehicle registration fee, up to $20, without a public vote. The City chose to implement the $20 vehicle registration fee at its November 27, 2012, meeting, following a series of discussions on the topic. Other funding mechanisms for the TBD can be approved through a public vote, including an additional property tax levy, a 0.2% sales & use tax, a local option fuel tax or a larger vehicle license tab fee.
How is Tacoma’s TBD spending my $20?
In 2013-2014, the TBD budget spends the revenue on a mix of maintenance and preservation as well as safety and enhancements to Tacoma’s existing transportation network. The TBD Board has primarily devoted funds to street maintenance, with a small share dedicated to improvements to make our streets safer for bicyclists and pedestrians.
What vehicles are exempt from the TBD fee?
Some vehicles are exempt from the TBD fee. The following exemptions are currently in effect, according to state law:
- All farm vehicles
- Off-road vehicles
- Personal use trailers with a single axle and less than 2,000 pounds scale weight
- Commercial trailers
- Combination trailers
- Trailers used exclusively for hauling logs
- Horseless carriage, collector, or restored-plate vehicles
- Converter gear
- Government vehicles
- Private school vehicles
- Vehicles properly registered to disabled American veterans
For more information on exemptions, please see RCW 82.80.140. Vehicles subject to fees can be found on the Washington DOL website.