King County executive considers ‘Plan B’ funding for Metro Transit

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SEATTLE — The clock is ticking for the Legislature to approve a multibillion-dollar transportation package before King County Metro Transit will have to slash bus routes. County Executive Dow Constantine is already shopping  a ‘Plan B,’ which involves raising local taxes, if state lawmakers continue to stall.

“We have to do something to save these buses,” he said Thursday.

metrobusesIf the impasse continues until the end of December, Constantine will present a plan to increase both the sales tax and the vehicle tax to help save Metro’s jeopardized routes.

“We’re not going to let 2014  go by without acting to save our buses,” Constantine said.  “We cannot responsibly cut the bus system.  That is cutting our economy.  That is cutting opportunity in this region.”

While Constantine prefers a state solution, he says the county does have the authority right now to go directly to voters for these tax increases.  The plan he’s considering would include two components:

  • Charge a vehicle fee of up to $80
  • Increase the sales tax up to .2%

A go-it-alone transit funding plan in King County wouldn’t be cheap, and even Constantine admits that the sales tax and the flat car fee are unpopular and tough during these tight times.

“You know, what’s more regressive is dramatically cutting your transit system,” he said, “tying up the rest of the transportation system in knots and denying people the ability to get to that job interview, to get to that job, to get back on the economic ladder and start being able to take care of their families.”

This Plan B approach is likely to be a hard sell with voters, even if it’s for the popular Metro bus system.

“They have over-promised and under-delivered,” said Bill Pishue, transportation analyst for the conservative Washington Policy Center.  “The public has been more than generous to Metro.  Since 2000, there’s been two sales tax increases.”

Pishue believes the agency should live within its existing budget.

“When is it ever enough?” he asked.

Even if the state does strike a deal soon on a transportation package, costs for local drivers will go up.  It will almost certainly include at least a 10-cent increase in the state’s gas tax and very likely an increase in the car tab tax.

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  • adam

    Why keep charging the mass population for something they will never use. Raise the fare on the buses not on everyone. They idea of me having to pay for something that doesn’t even serve my area is ridiculous. We already have the highest gas tax in the nation when is the over taxing gonna end. Stop giving away everything to the people begging and start living with in your means most of the population does so should the government.

  • TIIN

    If buses are really in such demand, privatize them and let the bus riders show their enthusiasm by paying what it costs to operate them, just like car drivers.

    I'm tired of paying for a rolling roadblock that just gets in my way and snarls traffic and is NOT a essential function of any level of government.

  • Mike

    Can't help but echo the sentiments of the comments above. I've made a mental note to vote against Dow Constantine come election time. His lack of fiscal responsibility here (suggesting motorists pay still more to subsidize public transit), at a time when everyone, not just metro riders, are feeling financial strain, is pretty egregious.

  • Cynthipea

    My feeling is that if we pay more taxes to support King County Metro Transit, the transit system needs to do their part by planning routes in such a way that the buses are not consistently late. Last night the bus was 25 minutes late, and tonight it was 30 minutes late (a route that is subsidized by hospitals on First Hill). It is unfair to us (and the bus drivers) to pick up riders on Capitol Hill at 3:30 PM, drive down to Federal Way, and expect to come back to pick up the 5:30 – 6:00 PM riders. Also, Metro thinks that all of us have a "Holiday Week, or Two" off in December. This is not true. One reason we have so many cars on the freeway, with one driver per car, is that we cannot countt on a consistent schedule from King County Metro Transit. In summary, if we pay more taxes, the service needs to be consistent and timely.

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