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County Executive's agreement provides supermajority needed for car-tab vote
King County Executive Dow Constantine today announced a supermajority of County Council support needed to enact a two-year $20 congestion reduction charge and avert a 17 percent cut of Metro bus service starting in 2012.
Nearly 1,500 county residents turned out to four public hearings in July to call for this action by the council, including one in Kirkland.
The council is set to consider amendments to the proposed congestion reduction charge at its next regular meeting on Aug. 15.
Under the state’s authorizing legislation, the $20 car-tab tax would take effect six months after the measure is signed into law.
Constantine today thanked members of the council – including Jane Hague and Kathy Lambert, who announced their support today based on a package of amendments that paves the way for councilmanic action at Monday’s council meeting.
Councilmembers Larry Phillips, Bob Ferguson, Larry Gossett, Joe McDermott, and Julia Patterson had previously stated their support.
“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 Constantine. “This agreement creates value for drivers who pay the fee, and provides an incentive for them to give the bus a try. I want to thank these seven council members for stepping up. This is a collaborative approach that shows how government is supposed to work.”
Hague said, “This bipartisan agreement addresses my primary concerns and offers real reform for Metro. It’s critical that we keep people and businesses moving on the Eastside – especially during these tough economic times. This new package creates jobs and provides equity for the Eastside.”
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 increase 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.