King County’s plan B for Metro includes sales tax, 25¢ fare bumps

King County will move ahead with a local plan to help Seattle and surrounding communities overcome a public transportation budget shortfall to stave off yet another round of planned Metro service cuts.

County Executive Dow Constantine proposed Tuesday a King County Transportation District ordinance that will ask voters to approve a 0.1% increase in sales tax and a $60 annual vehicle license fee. Meanwhile, Metro fares would be adjusted with a 25-cent increase for standard adult fares and a new low-income fare of $1.50 for qualifying riders.

The sales tax and fees would create about $130 million in revenue to help fund Metro, the county says.

Metro says the standard fare increase would raise an estimated $6.6 million annually, starting in March 2015.

Meanwhile, a public transportation forum is planned for Thursday at the Broadway Performance Hall.

Each session will open with a short presentation on the history of cuts to King County Metro, current funding sources, and climate in the legislature. Directly following the presentation, our featured panel will address critical questions regarding the situation.

In late 2013, CHS reported on a slate of cuts being proposed for Metro routes including changes like a truncated 12 on Capitol Hill. “With the expiration of the temporary, two-year $20 Congestion Reduction Charge in June and the draining of reserve funds, Metro needs an estimated $75 million in annual revenue to keep service on the road and purchase replacement buses or it must cut up to 17 percent of service,” a county statement on the ordinance proposal reads.

Metro says it has outlined a proposal to cancel 74 bus routes and reduce and revise another 107 routes to live within reduced revenues.

The King County Council will now take up the proposal and decide how and when it will be brought to the ballot for a vote, likely in April. A statement on the proposal is below.

A new funding proposal

King County, local cities, and community leaders have been asking the Washington Legislature to approve a balanced statewide transportation funding package that would authorize local funding tools. The legislature has been considering such proposals, but has not approved one.

Without a legislative solution and with deep service cuts looming, County Executive Dow Constantine has proposed that the King County Council form a countywide transportation benefit district and put a transportation funding proposal on the ballot for a public vote in April.

This proposed measure would generate approximately $130 million annually from two revenue sources:

  • $60 annual vehicle fee, which would generate approximately $80 million per year.
  • 0.1% increase in sales tax, which would generate approximately $50 million per year (and expire after 10 years).

The proposal would raise enough money to sustain Metro’s current level of service and address some maintenance needs for city streets and King County roads.

Sixty percent of the funds, or about $80 million in 2015, would go to Metro for service and buses.

Forty percent, or about $50 million in 2015, would be allocated to cities and King County Road Services on the basis of population. These funds would be used for the maintenance, preservation and improvement of roads and bridges; for projects that support pedestrian and non-motorized travel; and for other transportation improvements.

Also proposed is a Metro fare change that would take effect in March 2015. All fares for regular transit service would go up by 25 cents; the Access paratransit fare would increase by 50 cents. Metro would also introduce a new reduced fare for people with low-incomes, helping keep bus service affordable for those who need it most. This new fare builds on the recommendation of the Low Income Fare Options Advisory Committee.


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