County residents will vote in April on measures to boost King County Metro’s budget, including a $60 car tab fee and a tenth-of-a-cent sales-tax increase.
Bus fares will also rise beginning in March 2015 in another effort to help Metro. Yesterday, the Metropolitan King County Council voted to raise fares by 25 cents, so peak one-zone rides will cost you $2.75 and peak two-zone rides will be $3. If the ballot measure is approved, it will raise $130 million per year, with $50 million of that going to repair streets around the county. The remaining $80 million will be earmarked for Metro and for county-maintained roads.
These efforts are attempts to avoid Metro’s threatened 17 percent service cut after the state legislature chose not to act on Metro’s behalf. Metro said in November it would slash service, including cutting and reducing several routes in the Central District. If the budget picture didn’t improve, Metro said it would eliminate routes 4 and 27 and reduce service on routes 2, 3, 7, and others.
The council also created a low-income fare program to reduce the burden of a fare increase on low-income riders. If the tax measure passes, the county’s approval of a $1.25 low-income fare will go into effect. If voters do not pass the measure, low-income fare will be $1.50.
If passed, the April 22 ballot measure will do several things:
- Increase the King County sales tax by 0.1 of a percent for ten years;
- Establish a $60 vehicle fee;
- Distribute 60 percent of the net revenues of the ballot measure to provide funding to maintain Metro transit service hours at current levels. If any funds remain after maintaining transit service hours, evenly split the remaining funds 50/50 between transit and unincorporated road purposes;
- 40 percent would go to cities for transportation improvements and the county for unincorporated area road purposes allocated based on population;
- Specify that the funds must be used for transportation improvement projects contained in the County’s, Cities’ or Puget Sound Regional Council’s approved transportation plans (as updated by the individual jurisdictions);
- Establish a low-income rebate program that rebates $20 of vehicle fee for vehicle owners whose household income is less than 45 percent of the county’s median household income.
The sales tax increase and the $60 car tab fee would expire after 10 years.