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Seattle ready to take up county’s offer to buy back Metro service — UPDATE

Murray at Tuesday morning's announcement

Murray at Tuesday morning’s announcement

There will be a Seattle solution for saving Metro — and it will probably look nearly identical looks very similar to Proposition 1, the county-wide car tab and sales tax hike that was soundly defeated by Eastside voters in April.

(Image: Shawn Nichols via Flickr)

(Image: Shawn Nichols via Flickr)

UPDATE: Mayor Ed Murray announced Tuesday that he will send a $60 car tab fee and .1% sales tax hike before Seattle voters in November to generate at least $45 million a year to save Seattle Metro services. Murray announced his plan alongside council members and King County officials, saying the proposed 8% boost to Metro’s budget was not a Seattle takeover of the regional transit authority.

Councilmember Tom Rasmussen said the City Council would develop the proposistion over the summer, which will include language that ensures the city funding for Metro will only go towards Seattle bus lines. A regional partner plan would add an additional $3 million to keep some suburban routes open if municipalities step forward to match the city’s funding.

Murray said the tax hikes would be phased out once a stable funding source was developed. In the meantime Murray said he would use SDOT funds to preserve night owl services when planned Metro cuts go into effect in September.

“When you are using a regressive tax for a progressive purpose, when you are using a transfer of wealth to help those who most need transit, it is not regressive,” Murray said.

Over 66% of Seattle voters approved Proposition 1 and nearly 80% of voters in Capitol Hill’s 43rd legislative district approved the measure, which included road funding that Murray’s plan leaves out. Standing with Murray to support his plan, Sen. Jaime Pedersen said voters needed to elect more senate Democrats in November in order to ensure a state transportation package gets passed in 2015.

Murray did not propose any additional fare hikes as part of his funding plan as Metro fares are scheduled to increase 25 cents across the board in March. Metro fares have nearly doubled since 2008.

King County Executive Dow Constantine said at a Monday press conference that he was committed to taking some action, however incomplete, at the county level after voters struck down his car tab and sales tax plan last month. The plan allows municipalities facing Metro cuts to fully fund services through “community mobility grants.” Constantine said he wanted to provide the “bridge” funding option to cities that were willing and able to pay for their own services.

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Original Report: Mayor Ed Murray appears poised to take Constantine up on his offer. The mayor’s office has scheduled a Tuesday morning “Seattle transit funding proposal announcement” where it is expected Murray will outline a plan to allow Seattle voters an opportunity to approve the new fees and tax to support the city’s Metro service.

Over the past week, Murray and other officials had been hinting that his plan would essentially be a Seattle-only version of the plan suburban and rural King County voters shot down in April. Proposition 1 proposed a $60 car tab fee and .1% sales tax increase.

Proposition 1's totals by legislative district show a distinct split in King County. You can see the full map here, courtesy of .

Proposition 1’s totals by legislative district show a distinct split in King County. You can see the full map here, courtesy of Oran Viriyincy.

Screen Shot 2014-04-24 at 3.16.56 PMFollowing the vote, Murray said he opposed an early plan for a grassroots, go-it-alone initiative, dismissing it as a “lone ranger” approach that unfairly dipped into the city’s overused property tax reservoir.

For Constantine, the mobility grants are an acknowledged stop-gap measure. “Doing nothing while we wait on Olympia remains intolerable,” Constantine said Monday. “The sooner a city steps up the sooner we can prevent the second or third or fourth round of cuts.”

Constantine said it would take around six months for the funding to be put in place once a city decided to back its own services meaning some cutbacks will likely still take place on Metro’s Seattle routes. Constantine also called for a peer review of Metro’s operating costs and independent audit of Metro’s books.

In late 2013, CHS reported on the 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. Tuesday night, Metro is holding an open house about the proposed changes to its system at Union Station (401 S Jackson St) starting at 5:30. Part of the session will be devoted to recording public testimony on the cutbacks.

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21 thoughts on “Seattle ready to take up county’s offer to buy back Metro service — UPDATE

  1. It’s disconcerting that the Mayor initially went on record as saying Seattle would not go it alone, but now has totally reversed course. Wonder what changed his mind?

    • The threat from the left – specifically, the levy ballot measure filed by transit advocates for Seattle-only funding & service. He’s opposed to the levy measure as it raises property taxes so has to respond with his own (weaker) version.

      Kind of like $15 minimum wage – he only supported it after it became clear Sawant would turn him into political road kill if be didn’t. So he proposed his own (weaker) $15 minimum wage plan.

  2. It is time to install “congestion pricing” fees for the privilege of driving cars into urban Seattle. The fees would more than cover the cost of Metro — and perhaps even force suburban areas to provide better public transit for their people. Drivers are going to have to evolve eventually; they just need some nudges.

      • No … it is charging cars a fee to ENTER the city. Such fees are already charged in London, Singapore and Milan … and San Francisco is initiating their ‘congestion pricing’ plan next year –

        Cars use our streets, pollute our air and water, create noise and barriers for residents … they simply don’t pay their way in a city. Everyone is going to have to face a fossil-free future eventually. There are ways to merge into it gracefully.

  3. Your poll results (as of 5 PM) suggest that all the people who didn’t vote in the last transit vote will indeed come out in November and will vote against it (i.e. previous votes – for: 74%, against 15%, didn’t vote 11%; upcoming election: 76% to 22% to 2%. Numbers rounded brutally)

  4. I’d be interested to see the yes/no votes broken down by whether the respondent has a car or doesn’t. It’s pretty easy to get people without cars to vote yes on a proposal to raise car tag fees. But it’s going to take more than that.

    • I’d like to see every driver who wants better public transportation put this bumper sticker on the back of their car:
      “I wouldn’t be in front of you today if I there were a bus that served my area.”

      • I have a car and I voted “yes” too. But it’s clear looking at the precinct breakdown that probably the majority of the “no” votes were based on, “I never ride the bus, so I vote no because it costs me “. Plenty of us who own cars will vote yes again. I’d like to believe lots of people vote for reasons other than 100% self-interest. But looking at the rest of the county’s votes, it’s pretty hard to convince yourself of that.

      • Maybe the cars should have a bumper sticker that says,

        “I wouldn’t be in this traffic jam in front of you today if all these other drivers had a bus that served their area!”

  5. Hey, let’s outlaw motorized vehicles in Seattle completely. That would solve all kinds of problems. Just think of all the money you could save from your $15/hr job if you didn’t ever drive or take a bus anywhere! Oh, except for the $140/year bicycle license fee…

    • I miss your point entirely. Seattle streets are very car-centric, and nobody is trying to take yours away from you. But we need alternatives, and transit is the only option for some people. We should be increasing bus service, not cutting it.

      • Totally agree about expanding versus cutting. The more we cut peripheral routes, the fewer people who can use the bus to get from the city to anywhere else, and vice versa. My commute route to work is on the chopping block. I don’t own a car, that’s why I live in Capitol Hill. So I’m constantly in fear that riding the bus will become even less convenient.

  6. A very simple solution, that would hit suburban drivers with not as much effect on Seattle drivers, would be to tax downtown parking heavily and use the proceeds to fund transit for Seattle.

    • Not a simple solution at all. Lots of in-city people with cars park downtown. And downtown parking is already heavily taxed. You jack up the parking tax and all it would do is push lots of companies to move their downtown offices to the burbs. Cutting off our noses to spite our faces.

  7. “Murray said the tax hikes would be phased out once a stable funding source is developed.”

    Ha! That is extremely unlikely. Sales taxes have NEVER gone down. Car tab fees do fluctuate somewhat…..but usually, as in this current proposal, they go up.

    I’ll believe the Mayor on this “when pigs fly.”

  8. Pingback: Alternative plan to stave off Metro cuts in Seattle includes parking, employee tax | CHS Capitol Hill Seattle

  9. Pingback: Council considers two Metro funding plans, both include sending $60 car tab to ballot | CHS Capitol Hill Seattle