Last week, the Metropolitan King County Council announced that it — and its newly formed Transportation Benefit District board, of which the nine council members are the only ones on it — has put a measure on the April 22 ballot that will let voters decide whether they should save Metro Transit with additional tax dollars.
“Voters deserve this chance to control the destiny of this region,” King County Executive Dow Constantine said.
Since our elected officials in Olympia weren’t able to come up with a statewide transportation package that would include Metro Transit, among other projects, the County Council has developed a viable solution with Proposition 1 worth supporting.
The ballot measure includes a sales-tax increase of 0.1 of a cent and a $60 car-tab fee for 10 years, which is anticipated to raise $130 million per year. The proposition mandates that 60 percent of the net revenues would go toward funding bus service at current levels, with the remaining 40 percent paying for transportation improvements in cities and maintenance of roads of unincorporated areas with Metro bus service. These projects would need to be those listed in approved transportation plans.
To offset the regressive taxes that would impact low-income people disproportionately, the council also approved a low-income fare of $1.25, if voters approve the tax increase; if they don’t, the low-income fare would be $1.50. Other riders would assume a fare increase of 25 cents across the board, starting in March 2015.
If Proposition 1 fails, Metro Transit is expected to cut bus service by 17 percent, including the elimination of 74 of its 214 routes; more than 100 others would be changed, according to Metro, because of a $75 million budget deficit. These cuts would start in June, followed by more service reductions in September and in 2015.
Still, the County Council wasn’t able to offer a long-term financial plan to make Metro more sustainable, which is sorely needed to prevent future ballot measures for more tax dollars. This calls into question whether anyone — elected or otherwise — can “control our region’s destiny,” especially if our future needs more than our pockets can give.