King County Executive Dow Constantine announced this morning (Friday, August 12, 2011) that a bipartisan supermajority of seven King County Council members have agreed to support a $20 congestion reduction charge to help fund Metro Transit for two years.
Instituting the $20 car-tab fee, in combination with additional actions, would prevent 600,000 hours of transit service from being cut from Metro. The cuts would have impacted several Green Lake bus routes.
“The people of King County voted with their feet, and they overwhelmingly turned out to tell us to save Metro Transit and keep bus service on the street. They have been heard,” said Executive Constantine in a press release today.
The County Council is set to consider amendments to the proposed Congestion Reduction Charge at its next regular meeting on Monday, August 15. According to the press release, under the proposed legislation King County Metro Transit would:
- Develop a Transit Incentive Program to provide eight bus tickets worth up to $24 for each car tab renewal. People can use the tickets for rides to work, play or special sporting events. They may also choose to donate the value of those tickets to a pool of nearly 150 human service agencies to provide mobility for those in need.
- Phase out the downtown Seattle Ride Free Area in October 2012. The Council’s 2009 performance audit called for Metro to update its formula for collecting revenues in the Ride Free Area (RFA). When first established in 1973 as the “Magic Carpet Zone,” a city subsidy funded 100 percent of the fares Metro no longer collected in that area. Today the city of Seattle pays Metro $400,000 a year to support the RFA, which is about 18 percent of the $2.2 million annual cost for Metro to operate the RFA.
- Increase the pool of funds that provides sharply discounted bus tickets to human service and homeless programs. Metro now discounts tickets worth nearly $2 million annually. The tickets are currently sold to human service agencies at 20 cents on the dollar. Metro will either increase the current ticket allocation, or further reduce the discount while giving the public the option of donating their tickets under the incentive plan to those in need. Metro will seek the advice of human service agencies in how to best help those in need.
- Implement right-sizing of service consistent with the Transit Strategic Plan. In communities where it makes sense, Metro will deploy lower-cost, more efficient Dial-a-Ride Transit service (DART), community access transportation services, Vanpools and vanshares, making service more efficient and responsive to our riders.
- Consider routes that carry more riders due to the effects of highway tolling as candidates for added services.This language in the proposed legislation is consistent with the principles to enhance Metro’s productivity developed by the Regional Transit Task Force and adopted in the County’s Transit Strategic Plan.
While the temporary congestion reduction charge is in effect, King County would continue working with state and regional leaders on a long-term funding solution for transit.