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Prop. 1 rejected, bus cuts loom

Proposition 1, a ballot measure to ensure additional funds for pending Metro cuts, was rejected in last week’s special election ballot count. Fifty-five percent of voters rejected the sales-tax and car-tab increase.

Had the measure passed, County residents would have been billed for a $60 car-tab fee and a 0.1 percent sales-tax increase.

“We gave the voters a choice, and presented a proposal for saving Metro Transit and maintaining our roads,” said King County Executive Dow Constantine in an announcement last Wednesday. “They have chosen a reduced level of service, and we will carry out the will of the voters. Tomorrow I will transmit legislation to the King County Council to reduce service by 550,000 hours and eliminate 72 bus routes.”

Sixty percent of funds would have been allocated to bus service and 40 percent to county roads. Of that number, Mercer Island’s share amounted to $600,000 a year for road improvements.

Those opposed to the measure argued that Metro needed to first cut overhead costs and underused bus routes.

The results could mean big changes for Mercer Island commuters – fewer routes and more crowded buses. Among the routes affected on Mercer Island are the 201, 203, 205 and 213, with service reductions expected for the 204.

“I’m very disappointed,” said Mayor Bruce Bassett as results trickled in last Thursday. “The loss of bus service will have very significant impacts on citizens who can mitigate this.”

Bassett said while local roads may not see a surge of more cars under the cuts, regional roads certainly would, which may worsen an already difficult I-90 commute.

He added that Council may consider a $20 car-tab fee of its own to keep up with the city’s transportation and road-related projects – everything from repaving of streets to the traffic complications anticipated with the construction of the new elementary school.

“If Proposition 1 passed, we would have been in pretty good shape. We wouldn’t have thought about the car-tab fee. But as a fallback, the car-tab fee becomes a leading option,”  said Bassett, noting that the idea first went before Council a couple of months ago when staff recognized the mismatch between project needs and revenue to pay for road and pedestrian improvements.

Bassett expects to return to the idea during budget discussions that conclude in the fall. Next month, Council and staff will begin prioritizing projects.

A study convened by Sound Transit about the Park-and-Ride’s future destination as a transportation hub will also wrap in the next two weeks, in partnership with the city and Metro. The study examines how East Link traffic and changes to bus schedules will impact the surrounding neighborhood.

 

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