Save Seattle: Tax, License & Insure Pedestrians


Throughout the City of Seattle, residents are seeing their neighborhood streets besieged by free-loading, scofflaws, also known as pedestrians. The crux of the problem is that Seattle is facing budget woes, large areas without sidewalks and 634,535 residents that don’t pay their fair share towards the problem. Fortunately, a new group has stepped forward advocating for change, Concerned Seattlites for Safe Sidewalks, Pedestrian Regulation and Stopping Sadness (CSSSPRSS). CSSSPRSS representatives note that other forms of transportation pay their fair share, such as transit riders through fares and motorists through the gas tax, but pedestrians don’t pay anything towards the maintenance and upkeep of sidewalks. This explains why so many sidewalks are cracked and in dire conditions.

Courtesy of cjelli

Beyond wear and tear, there are further issues with pedestrians. If you’re a motorist, you are likely familiar with the common problem of pedestrians impeding your right-of-way, crossing against the light or jaywalking. Not only do the seconds lost from these activities likely add up to minutes, but everyone bears the cost of healthcare for scofflaw pedestrians. The benefits from licensing pedestrians is bigger than helping solve these problems though. If every pedestrian is licensed, it will finally be possible to require all pedestrians to hold walker insurance. This will mitigate the vast costs from things like drunk walking.

While licensing pedestrians may seem unusual, licensing for all types of things is common, especially transportation modes. As James Vesely points out at the Seattle Times, “Special licenses are not new. We license dogs, our cars, our boats, our motorcycles, our pleasures in hunting and fishing, as well as many other outdoor activities.” While the cost of all the undocumented pedestrians in Seattle is obvious, naysayers suggest that it would be impossible or unprofitable to implement. The CSSSPRSS has a plan though.

Implementing A Pedestrian Fee

Implementation would be relatively simple. Since all Seattle residents are potential pedestrians, Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) could send a letter out to each address in the city annually. Citizens would be required to reply to the letter stating how many people live in the house and return a small, $10 dollar fee for each pedestrian. In order to ensure enforcement, all citizens would have to return the fee unless they affirmatively petitioned the City and proved that they never used sidewalks. Upon receipt of the fee, the city would send a small license plate attached to a necklace back to the citizen. It would be necessary for each citizen to wear this while walking around so that the police could reasonably tell the difference between law-abiding, registered pedestrians and rule-breakers. This would be especially useful in situations like pedestrian critical mass, commonly seen around Westlake Mall during lunch time.

Unfortunately, pedestrians aren’t the only problem on our sidewalks. The especially egregious free-loaders are those that have pets and strollers. Strollers add to the wear and tear of our sidewalks. Since this is especially common in Ballard, it would be best to have an additional stroller fee in that neighborhood.

Lastly, Seattle hosts a lot of tourists who also aren’t paying their fair share. In order to ensure their contribution, it will be necessary to require all Seattle visitors to register with the SDOT and pay a small fee before they are allowed to use sidewalks. Many people might object that this would be confusing to tourists and it’s unlikely they would comply. On the contrary, it’s likely many people would hear about the law before coming to Seattle because it would be the only city in the country with this policy. If non-compliance became a problem, all the City would need to do is throw a few tourists in jail to make a point.

Take Action

CSSSPRSS points out that now is a unique opportunity for this novel solution. With the upcoming City Council elections in 2015, CSSSPRSS points out that Council will feel pressure if citizens take action. Considering the overwhelming power of the pedestrian lobby, it’s important to act diligently and timely. It’s likely there will be push-back from militant pedestrians. The most effective contribution you can make is to publicly support this initiative by notifying news affiliates. We encourage you to email the following media organizations.

Suggested Email Text

Dear Media Organization,

I’m emailing to stand in strong support of pedestrian licensing in Seattle. While pedestrian licensing may seems strange, Jim Vesely (former Seattle Times editorial contributor), makes a strong logical argument for all types of licensing, “Special licenses are not new. We license dogs, our cars, our boats, our motorcycles, our pleasures in hunting and fishing, as well as many other outdoor activities.”

It is clear that Seattle has a sidewalk crisis. There aren’t enough sidewalks. They are in terrible disrepair. There are too many free-loading, scofflaw pedestrians. Requiring pedestrian licensing would help address the city’s budget problems, raise money for sidewalk maintenance, require everyone to pay their fair share and help the city track and punish pedestrians that break the law.

This issue hasn’t received enough coverage and I strongly encourage you to provide the time it deserves.


Concerned Seattlite

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Owen does servicing and consulting for a software company to pay the bills. He has an amateur interest in urban policy, focusing on housing. His primary mode is a bicycle but isn't ashamed of riding down the hill and taking the bus back up. Feel free to tweet at him: @pickovven.

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Southsound Seahawk

Un-freakin-believable. A license to walk on our sidewalks!? Is this idiot serious?
Owen Pickleford, or whatever your stupid name is you sir are a douchebagl

Stephen Fesler

1. As you can see above–it’s satire as you’ll note from the word “satire” and is in response to recent proposals to tax and licence non-motorised users, and 2. your comment has been modified. Owen is pointing out how stupid taxing and licensing non-motorised users is.

Larry Shaeffer

so the author would hold dual licenses. a drivers license for his vehicle use and for when he walks from his home, ofc, store to his parked car he would need a pedestrian license.