Photo by Shane Harms
In Ballard, bus routes 61, 62, and 28 will be eliminated entirely, and routes D, 17x, 18x, 28x, 29, 40, 44 will be reduced or revised.

Higher taxes to save bus routes; emergency ballot out this week

Due to the economic down turn of 2008 and the Legislature unable to provide funding, King County Metro Transit is facing dramatic cuts to bus routes.

The cuts will make up for an estimated $1 billion in projected revenue lost in sales taxes, a main contributor for Metro.

Starting in June, Metro will have to cut 17 percent of its services. 74 bus routes will be eliminated and another 107 others across the county will be revised or reduced.

Metro currently provides 400 thousand rides a day and the cuts will effect 80 percent of riders by having to wait longer and walk further to bus routes. Moreover, the cuts could mean a loss of an unprecedented 14 million rides annually.

“Riders already face crowded buses, and our growing county and economy needs more bus service, not cuts,” said Metro Transit General Manager Kevin Desmond last November.

“Temporary funding and reserves run out next year (June 2014) – and those were part of how we kept service running through the weak economy after the Great Recession,” Desmond said.

Sales taxes provide the bulk of Metro funding and the sales tax receipts are still below the 2008 levels according to Desmond.

“Recent economic growth is good news but doesn’t rescue us, as sales tax receipts are still below 2008 levels and remain a volatile source of Metro’s revenue. We’ll continue to push for stable funding to keep King County and the state’s economy moving forward, but time is running out. Metro must plan for service cuts to reduce costs and operate within our adopted budget.”

In a time when Seattle is among the top ten US cities for traffic congestion, the cuts would mean an estimated 30 thousand more drivers on roads and freeways.

In Ballard, bus routes 61, 62, and 28 will be eliminated entirely, and routes D, 17x, 18x, 28x, 29, 40, 44 will be reduced or revised.

Bus - map

Back in November when the announcement was made, King County Executive, Dow Constantine said in a statement, “The time for action is now … to avert cuts to bus service that would be without precedent in the 40-year history of Metro. At a time when riders need more bus service, it is unconscionable to be compelled to cut it.”

Indeed, and action has been taken by Move King County Now. The coalition has proposed a measure (Proposition 1) that will raise the vehicle licensing fee to $60 and a .01 percent sales tax increase. The emergency measure is unanimously supported by the King County Council to prevent these bus cuts.

The increases would cost the average household about $11 a month. Moreover, the measure makes sure that low-income bus riders and car owners can still afford to get around. It stipulates that individuals making less than $23 thousand a year would get a reduced bus fare ($1.25) that could save them around $35-54 a month. Low-income car owners would also have a reduction in the vehicle-licensing fee through a tax rebate.

6o percent of the fee increases would go to the County to help make up the $1 billion revenue loss to Metro and 40 percent would go to the city and county to fix pot holes.

Move King County Now has received support from over 100 organizations and businesses, including Goodman Real Estate, Swedish Medical Center, Amazon, Transit Riders Union, and the 36th District Democrats. Mayor Ed Murray has also endorsed the measure.

Carla Saulter, Director of Outreach and Communications for Move King County Now said that there has never been a emergency ballot like this in April but that its necessary to avoid the cuts in June.

“A lot of people don’t even know this if happening… We have so much development happening in the City and other things happening based on people driving less. It all depends on a robust transit system. If the cuts happen we assume people with cars will drive them and bus routes will be saturated even more than they are now,” said Saulter.

Voters will determine if the measure passes. Ballots will be mailed this week and will be due back by April 22.

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