Transit Riders Union and Alliance Launch "UPass or Fail" Campaign for Full Transit Benefits for All UW Employees

May 1 - The Transit Riders Union (TRU) and the U District Alliance are calling on the University of Washington to provide full transit benefits for all employees. Full transit benefits are already a best practice for major institutions in the Seattle area. King County, the City of Seattle, Microsoft, Swedish Hospital, and Seattle Children’s Hospital all provide unlimited employee transit passes. All other state employees in King County receive fully-subsidized transit passes, as do workers at the UW-associated Valley Medical Center, University Physicians, and Northwest Hospitals. The UW lags far behind its peers. For workers at the UW Seattle Campus, UW Medicine, and Harborview Medical Center, the UW covers only 19% of the employee pass cost, with parking fees covering 23% and pass holders covering 57%. The employee cost for the UPASS has grown by 114% since 2008, currently costing $150 per quarter.

Over a third of commute trips by UW employees are still taken in single-occupancy vehicles. Road transportation represents two thirds of Seattle’s climate-changing carbon pollution, according to the Seattle Office of Sustainability and Environment. As climate instability intensifies, lowering these figures by incentivizing transit use is an urgent matter. The detrimental effects of the UW’s transit policy will increase as the Seattle Campus expands, growing by a projected 13,000 people during the next 10 years. Although the UW claims there will be no negative unavoidable traffic/transportation impacts, the UW's Environmental Impact Statement concludes that with an additional 6,195 single occupancy trips per day by 2028, 9 of 13 U District intersections will be gridlocked and three others will be near gridlock with massive transit delays. Unlimited transit passes have a proven and positive effect on commute behavior. According to the Seattle Urban Mobility Plan, “universal transit passes are usually extremely effective means to reduce the number of car trips in an area; reductions in car mode share of 4% to 22% have been documented, with an average reduction of 11%. 

The Alliance and the City University Community Advisory Council (CUCAC) have also asked the Seattle City Council to require paid transit passes as a condition for approval of the UW's Campus Master Plan, but the Council has not set a timeline for hearings or a vote on amendments to the Master Plan.

Alliance Appeals Hearing Examiner Decision on UW Master Plan

On January 30, 22 organizations and five individuals filed appeal petitions with the City Council, challenging the Hearing Examiner's UW Master Plan recommendations. In issuing her report, Examiner Sue Tanner ignored recommendations from the Alliance and the City University Community Advisory Committee (CUCAC) on transit, traffic, housing, building heights, child care and other issues.

In February, the Coalition of Immigrants, Refugees and Communities of Color (CIRCC) and WA Federation of State Employees Local 1488 filed motions to intervene as parties of record along with the 27 others who filed earlier. 

Alliance leaders Nicole Grant, Bereket Kiros, and Michael Laslett speak to media Jan. 30 at Seattle City Clerk's Office after filing appeals petitions.

The case now goes to the Seattle City Council, which has not scheduled any action on the Master Plan proposal. Even though the UW is eager for a green light from the City for new construction, the Council's current focus on affordable housing and other issues may delay consideration of the Master Plan until late summer or fall of 2018.

Diverse Coalition Challenges UW Plan at Hearing Examiner

December 2017 - Over 30 organizations and over 300 individuals submitted comments to the City of Seattle challenging the proposed UW Campus Master Plan (CMP) last fall. Biggest concerns? The CMP fails to provide affordable housing, transit, childcare and neighborhood livability, even as it adds 20% more people to the UW campus. At a December 2017 hearing, the City and the UW announced that they are still discussing plan changes and will make final proposals to Hearing Examiner by the end of December. Hearing Examiner Sue Tanner will make recommendations to the Seattle City Council in January 2018. 

Coalition Blasts City for “Green Light” on UW Expansion; Calls on City to Renegotiate Agreement with UW

SEATTLE – Nov. 16 Community leaders blasted the Seattle’s Dept. of Construction and Inspection (SDCI) report released today on the proposed UW Master Plan as a “green light” for massive development that fails to address impacts facing communities and employees. The U District Alliance for Equity and Livability (the Alliance) called on the City of Seattle to renegotiate the 2004 agreement with the UW in light of a recent State Supreme Court decision allowing the City to regulate the UW.  


UW Alliance Co-Chair Karen Hart calls on City to renegotiate City/UW Agreement, backed by community, labor and environmental representatives.

“This is one of the largest expansions in recent City history, with impacts across the City and region, said Karen Hart, U District Alliance Co-Chair. “It’s disturbing that the City ignored the Court decision, its own Citizen Advisory Committee, public hearing testimony and the Seattle Comprehensive Plan in giving the UW a green light on this proposal.”

“Even if it meets its own traffic goals, the UW admits that 11 out of 13 U District intersections will be gridlocked (Level of Service E or F) with almost 5 times more vehicle delay,” declared Bill Roach, Sierra Club representative. “The City recommendation today would let them get away with this traffic nightmare for the U District and for transit riders. The UW needs to get those extra commuters on transit, and that means the UW needs to join other major employers like Children’s Hospital and provide free transit passes to employees.”

Josh Castle, speaking for the Low Income Housing Institute, questioned the UW’s pledge to build only 150 housing units, which the City rubber-stamped today. “We know what tiny is because we build tiny houses—this is a tiny commitment for a huge institution with thousands of low-wage employees.” “Immigrants and communities of color were not consulted in the UW’s plan, which will result in more housing displacement for immigrants,” said Bereket Kiros, a member of the Coalition of Immigrants, Refugees and Communities of Color (CIRCC).

Dale Bright, President of the MLK County Labor Council, called on the City to renegotiate the 13 year-old agreement with the UW in In light of the State Supreme Court’s recent ruling giving Seattle the power to regulate the UW like any other landowner. ‘We shouldn’t wait ten more years to renegotiate this agreement—can you imagine how bad the traffic and housing impacts will be if we wait ten years?” The current agreement is not in compliance with the State Supreme Court’s latest July, 2017 decision (Univ. of Wash. v. City of Seattle, et al.), ruling that UW must comply with local development regulations.

The CUCAC City Advisory Committee recommendations were based on a year of work by representatives from every neighborhood surrounding the UW. The City report axed most of their key recommendations, including lower height limits, reducing the single occupancy vehicle (SOV) commuting rate to 12% to avoid the traffic gridlock, a free employee UPASS, affordable housing and childcare programs, and supporting U District small businesses.

Alliance Responds to UW Campus Master Plan

September 12 - the U District Alliance presents a 23 page analysis of the UW CMP and recommendations to Nathan Torgelson, Director of the Seattle Dept. of Construction and Inspections (SDCI). The report and recommendations, based on six months of work by Alliance members and consultants, calls on the City to require the UW to fully mitigate the impacts of the proposed 13,000 population increase and six million square feet of new buildings. Recommendations include reducing the campus single-occupancy vehicle commuting rate to 12% to prevent gridlock, providing an employee UPASS, building 1,000 units of affordable housing for low-wage employees, and helping low-wage employees pay for child care. The Alliance report is available HERE.

UW Proposes 150 Unit Housing Project in Response to Alliance

September 6, 2017 - In response to nine months of pressure from the U District Alliance, the UW has proposed building 150 units of affordable housing for its staff in partnership with Seattle Housing Authority. The UW made the announcement the same week the City of Seattle began reviewing the UW's Campus Master Plan expansion proposal. Josh Castle, representing the Alliance and the Low Income Housing Institute (LIHI), said the proposal was "too little, too late," given the housing crisis facing thousands of low-wage UW employees and homeless students.


Coalition members ready to present "Prescription for Equity" to UW Hospital CEO Dr. Paul Ramsey

Coalition members ready to present "Prescription for Equity" to UW Hospital CEO Dr. Paul Ramsey

UW employee Pamela Honegger: "Because of housing costs, I live at home with my parents and commute 90 minutes each way to work. We need affordable housing closer to work and an affordable UPASS!”  

UW employee Pamela Honegger: "Because of housing costs, I live at home with my parents and commute 90 minutes each way to work. We need affordable housing closer to work and an affordable UPASS!”


SEATTLE – July 5, 2017 - Community and labor leaders are gathering today outside UW Medical Center to express concerns about the proposed expansion of the UW campus. Today the UW unveils their proposed final Campus Master Plan (CMP).

The coalition delivered a giant “Prescription for Equity” to the office of UW Medical Center CEO, Dr. Paul Ramsey, asking him to support changes to the CMP that would help protect communities and allow moderate income families to live in the city.

The draft CMP projects building six million square feet of new space, a 30 percent increase in UW campus buildings, to house a 20 percent increase in students, staff and faculty.

The Campaign for a Responsible UW is voicing concerns about the proposed plan at a press conference in front of the UW Medical Center. UW’s medical complex in the South Campus is slated for an additional 1.35 million square feet of new space in the proposed plan.

“Without housing, childcare and transit assistance, the proposed UW expansion, combined with growth by Amazon and other Seattle employers, could push even more UW employees and our families out of the city,” said Rhonda Johnson, a Patient Services Specialist at UW Medical Center and member of SEIU Local 925. “The UW and the Medical Center want to grow, but their employees and the community are drowning in growth.

In keeping with the focus on growth of the UW’s Medical Center and School of Medicine, Coalition leaders are delivering a giant “Prescription for Equity” to UWMC CEO Paul Ramsey.

“This plan calls for a projected 4,500 additional staff and instructors, yet the UW expects they will magically use transit and non-motorized means to commute.  Even a small increase in driving will gridlock traffic in the U District.  We call on the UW to make transit more affordable for its 18,000 existing and new additional staff and faculty,” said Tim Gould, Transportation & Land Use Chair for Sierra Club Washington Chapter.

Cory Crocker, a leader of the University District Community Council, called on the UW to include more open space in the heart of the U District, not just within the UW campus. “Our neighborhood doesn’t have enough open space, and the UW’s growth will make open space even more important.”

Today's press conference was covered by the Seattle Times, KOMO and KING TV, KUOW Radio, and the Urbanist Blog