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

  1. The sales tax is already ridiculously high. Hopefully Plan C will propose no new taxes and instead look for ways to cut the budget within Metro. There should be layoffs and then reforms made to the remaining Metro employees’ compensation and benefits.

      • Dave, you’ll have to forgive Eathan, he’s an idiot. It doesnt’ take a rocket scientist to know that Metro employees also deserve a cost of living increase. Those people do not make as much money as people would like to think.

  2. 0.1% sales tax increase? Hmm no. 0.5% was what they added on to restaurant tabs to pay for Safeco Field in addition to some lodging taxes. Put that on the ballot for restaurant tabs only and I’m all in. You don’t want to pay it, don’t eat out in King County.

    the obvious advantage is that it takes the tax to an even 10% for a restaurant tab and makes tipping very easy. Well, for those who tip

    • Hey everybody, let’s all blame the scary drug addicts for our problems!

      I don’t have the numbers, but as a frequent bus rider I have to imagine that the lost fares from free-riders is tiny. Plus, I’m glad they’re lax in this regard, I’d rather the bus keep moving than having to wait through someone’s “i thought I had a transfer” or “can somebody spot me” song and dance. If the bus isn’t packed it’s not like the addition of an extra person (drug addict or not) is really going to effect anyone’s ride.

      Many other countries recognize that public transit being on time is more important than everyone paying, and instead just have occasional ticket collectors sweep through.

  3. Reluctantly, I support this proposal. The service cuts Metro is contemplating would be devastating for the local economy as well as for the working people affected. But let’s not lose sight of the real elephant in the room, namely this state’s ongoing lack of an income tax at a time when the sales tax is (a) getting easier and easier to circumvent, and (b) becoming less and less applicable as a greater share of economic activity shifts from goods to services. Until we have a governor with the courage to champion a progressive income tax, muscle it through the legislature and use his/her bully pulpit to defend it from Tim Eyman at the polls, all we’re really doing is rearranging the proverbial deck chairs.

  4. So, right now i pay $.75 a trip with reduced fare card. This new plan will raise my fare to $1.50 a trip. This doesn’t seem fair that I would get a $.75 increase since I’m already on a limited income from my disability. Can Capitoll Hill Blog research more about the current $.75 senior/disabled fare and if that will raise to $1.00 or be lumped in the new low income $1.50 fare? Thanks!

  5. Unfortunately, King County is doing nothing to get its bus driver union under control. Yes, Metro employees deserve a cost of living increase, but that is not the issue. The drivers are the third highest paid in the country and voted overwhelmingly to keep their automatic pay increases which far outpace the rate of inflation (look it up). They have 47 drivers making well over $100,000 a year (with 417 making just under that). Does a 20 year drive making $110,000 a year drive the bus better than a three year driver? Metro keep threatening to cut routes, but to do that, they would need to lay off drivers. Their union will never let that happen. Over the last 12 years, Metro has received three different tax increases. Each time, they keep promising increased service, stability, etc. The only thing that has happened over the past 12 years is that driver salaries have increased by just over 70%. Seriously! The drivers fail to realize that all metro employee salaries are posted online as well as the history of tax increases for people to see for themselves and track. They are counting on the fact that people are lazy and will not take the time to get the accurate information but instead listen to their propaganda. Do yourselves a favor and don’t drink the Kool-Aid. Spend a couple minutes online and do some research. Ask yourself “Why is it every other country can make mass transit work?” And hate to say it, I kind of agree with J. Fare enforcement is HUGE! That alone might bring about a solution. Some of the data I am reading has a crazy high number of people who never pay (but not really sure how anyone can track that to get accurate numbers.)

    • You’re close. But the problem has always been that model was unsustainable. I’m not even sure it worked through the first generation of drivers after they got rid of private bus companies (same thing with the ferry system). Once the pensions started to be paid out, it took 3-7 drivers paying union dues to cover one retiree. Now it’s all tax dollars and money from the Fed (also tax dollars funny enough).

  6. Is it fair that those who own vehicles would pay the lion’s share of this tax increase? If car tabs are assessed an extra $60/year for 10 years, that means non-transit users would pay $600, in addition to the increased sales tax.

    Car tab taxes have been a cash cow for various government agencies for far too long.

    • You assume that nobody who drives cars also rides transit.
      I drive a car and I don’t want transit cut back. I’ll pay. Just spend the money wisely.

    • Think of it as a minor cost to you to help decrease the amount of traffic on the roads. Plus, you now can request $20 in free ride passes when you get your tabs.

    • I drive 99.999% of the time and have no problem paying $60 a year to subsidize bus service to keep it frequent and affordable for those who need it.

  7. I would love to read a summary of all the increases to taxes and fees which have been put into effect for public transit in the Everett-Tacoma corridor over the past ten years, with breakouts by per-capita, per-vehicle, per-homeowner, etc. The numbers must be enormous! Now they want to add another $60 per vehicle? How is that different from penalizing drivers (yet again) and forcing them to subsidize bus riders? Even if I rode Metro whenever possible — never mind that it would likely take me three times as long per trip, and any time I had a passenger with me it would cost more in fares than in driving expenses — my total rider fee for the year would still be less than the $60 vehicle fee they want. And while I think everyone should have cost-of-living increases and merit raises, how does it makes sense that bus drivers should get them when UW personnel at the PhD level have been under a wage freeze without even a cost of living increase in five years? Just sayin’.

  8. How much money is wasted on all of the bureaucracy and duplicity by having 6 different transit authorities in the Puget Sound region? Combine King County Metro, Sound Transit, Community Transit, Pierce Transit, Everett Transit, and Kitsap Transit into one transit authority. Eliminate 5 headquarters, 5 CEOs, 5 Boards of Directors, etc. Develop a more comprehensive and rational transit plan. There are other regional transit authorities which cover much larger geographical areas and provide a higher quality of service to the users.

  9. Metro should be given no more funds until they agree to eliminate paper transfers. Allow transfers to those with ORCA cards, but no more paper transfers. This would save enormous amounts on printing costs, stop the common scam of saving up old transfers and then pulling the current day’s one from the stash, as well as speed up bus service by relieving the drivers of having to tear off transfers and hand them out. Most major transit agencies have done this, but Metro clings to this wasteful policy. Boston, Chicago, and LA all saw revenue benefits in the millions when they stopped paper transfers, why can’t Metro get a clue??

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  14. I have been a bus rider for over 25 years. Metro riders used to enjoy an un crowded ride at a reasonable expense. There has been a steady increase in rider ship. A mad scramble for people to take the bus for several reasons.
    1) If you are on the bus you don’t pay the toll on the 520 bridge. Its a cheaper ride.
    2) Parking in down town Seattle is crazy, 200 dollars or more a month is common.
    3) Who is riding the bus, where are all these people coming from? There is a crazed frenzy of new apartments that are being built all around us. Lately, next door to park and rides and at the bus stops. look at Ash Way park and ride alone. 100’s of new apartments-painfully obvious these people will all be new riders.
    Next door to Ash Way Fred Meyer, 1000 new apartments. All potential bus riders.

    4)King county and Snohomish county should limit new construction. Each new mega apartment project is equal to new rider ship.

    5) Housing and apartments very near the bus line are obviously using transit , and do not even have to drive to the bus stop (i.e. no one is paying car tab increase by proposition 1.) If your apartment or house is within 1 block of a park and ride or bus stop you should pay a $60 dollar excise tax. When you pick your housing, you are looking at public transportation at your back door. You should pay for that convenience.

    6) Its time for new management with fresh ideas for funding, the well is running dry on sales tax increases, car tabs. How about taxing all new wage earners who relocate to king county and Snohomish county…There is an expectation that these people will be putting the additional burden on our public transportation.
    A “relocation” tax for 10 years. say $60 dollars per year.

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