Sales-tax increase, vehicle fee, fare hike proposed to hold off Metro cuts, could go to April vote

Will Metro be able to avoid slashing service – including, just for starters in June, eliminating four West Seattle-area routes? Local leaders are no longer waiting for something to happen in Olympia. In downtown Seattle, King County Executive Dow Constantine and other regional leaders have just announced the local campaign to raise money to hold off Metro cuts that would hit our area the hardest. The proposal could go to the ballot as soon as April 22nd. Key points:

*$60 vehicle fee, & one-tenth-cent sales tax that would expire after 10 years

*Metro bus-fare increase to $2.75 (1 zone) and $3.25 (2 zones) next year

The full announcement is ahead:

King County voters could see April ballot measure to save Metro bus service and address backlog of road maintenance

Also proposed: scheduled fare increase in 2015 and first-ever reduced fare for riders of limited means

In the absence of action by the Legislature on a statewide transportation package with local funding authority, regional leaders today united in support of a specific ballot measure that would give King County voters a chance to save Metro bus service and address the backlog of road and street maintenance in the cities and County.

King County Executive Dow Constantine was joined today by four King County Councilmembers and others in proposing a local funding measure for the April ballot. The proposal also calls for adoption of a scheduled fare increase of 25 cents for 2015 and the first-ever reduced fare for riders of limited means.

King County Transportation District

Under existing state law, the Metropolitan King County Council can consider an ordinance creating a transportation benefit district, funded by a potential annual vehicle fee of up to $100 and a temporary sales tax of up to two-tenths of cent.

The ordinance proposed today calls for creation of a King County Transportation District that would ask voters to approve amounts less than the full funding authority:

a $60 vehicle fee – raising an estimated $80 million a year, and

a one-tenth of a cent sales tax that would expire after 10 years – raising an estimated $50 million a year.
Together, the estimated $130 million a year is similar to the estimated $140-$150 million that would have been raised through the motor vehicle excise tax in the statewide package stalled in Olympia. The impact to the average household in King County would be just over $11 a month.

Under the proposal, 60 percent of the revenues – about $80 million ­– would be distributed to Metro Transit for bus service, with 40 percent – about $50 million – to fund roads and transportation needs in cities and in unincorporated King County, with allocations based on population.

Metro Transit fares

The proposed revision to fares includes an across-the-board 25-cent fare increase in 2015, and a reduced fare of $1.50 per trip for qualifying low-income riders who use an ORCA card. The proposal would ensure that users of the Metro system are doing their part to preserve bus service.

The proposed increase was already part of Metro’s long-range financial plan, and would be the fifth time since 2008 that Metro has raised fares to help preserve service. It would raise an estimated $6.6 million annually, starting March 1, 2015.

The reduced fare would help offset the cumulative impacts of increases in fares and the sales tax. It would be available to riders with incomes at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty level and would require the use of an ORCA card. Cash would not be accepted for reduced-fare payment on buses. To develop the most accessible and cost-effective means of determining program eligibility, King County will work with local service providers and state agencies.

The proposal builds upon the recommendation of a 21-member advisory committee, representing a broad cross-section of interests, which unanimously urged that fares be kept as affordable as possible to ensure continued access to bus service and jobs for riders of all income levels.

Service cuts on the horizon

Metro Transit has created more than $800 million in reforms and efficiencies over the past five years, in order to hold off drastic cuts to service.

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.

Metro has outlined a proposal to cancel 74 bus routes and reduce and revise another 107 routes to live within reduced revenues. Three months of public meetings are underway prior to the County Council’s consideration next spring of any service cuts.

Since 2008, funding for county roads has shrunk by over a third as a result of annexations, lower property valuations and a decline in state gas tax revenues. The county Road Services Division has been forced to reduce staffing and there are now 40 percent fewer workers to maintain and preserve the county road network. As a result, the roads system in unincorporated King County is deteriorating, service levels are reduced, and fewer roads can be plowed and kept open for travel and restoration of utilities this year should a regionwide storm strike.

Unincorporated King County roads are estimated to carry more than one million vehicle trips each day.

Metro’s proposed cuts are unprecedented in the agency’s 40-year history, would potentially reduce ridership by 14 million a year, reverting the agency to 1997 service levels. According to Metro’s service guidelines, the agency should be increasing bus service by 15 percent. Instead, the current proposal details up to 17 percent in cuts. Another 150 daily bus trips between West Seattle and downtown Seattle – buses that ease construction congestion during the Alaskan Way Viaduct project – also are at risk of being canceled in June when state funding ends.

In October, Metro carried 412,000 average weekday rides, its second highest ever. The agency is nearing the annual record of 119 million riders last seen in 2008.

The Council will deliberate on the specific proposal to place on the ballot, and when to put it before voters.

A majority of councilmembers are already on the record supporting the proposal, so there doesn’t seem to be much suspense there.

4:17 PM: One note, which has come up in comment discussion – the $60 fee would not be on top of what’s paid now; there is a $20 fee, the congestion-reduction charge, which vehicle owners have been paying for two years, that expires in May.

62 Replies to "Sales-tax increase, vehicle fee, fare hike proposed to hold off Metro cuts, could go to April vote"

  • Rick January 14, 2014 (3:02 pm)

    When was the last time you saw a tax increase expire? Politicians are blood sucking leeches. They can’t spend your money fast enough. They’re all fat and happy. Oh,yeah, buy a bike.

  • Best Option January 14, 2014 (3:04 pm)

    Gas tax needs to be increased by at least a few dollars a gallon. Let’s get that going.

  • Rob January 14, 2014 (3:11 pm)

    Dow pulled this @!$#@ in 2011…

  • Diane January 14, 2014 (3:13 pm)

    I participated in the low-income fare meetings, and honestly a bit surprised this may actually happen; YAY!!!
    although, I fear the implementation (especially if only allowed via Orca card) may be a nightmare; sure hope the roll-out on this is way better than ACA

  • S January 14, 2014 (3:23 pm)

    Not going to happen, I will not let you raise taxes or charge me $60 to use my car to help your failing Metro. You need to charge more for fares.

  • ac January 14, 2014 (3:26 pm)

    Given that keeping the buses running means fewer cars on the road, I’ll happily pay my $60 vehicle fee and thank King County Metro for providing mass transit.

  • Krm66 January 14, 2014 (3:53 pm)

    Metro is a mess. They need to get their act together. Drivers pay plenty already. They shouldn’t have another $60 fee for a broken service they don’t use.

  • Maggie January 14, 2014 (3:57 pm)

    Sign me up! It’s a small cost to keep our transportation infrastructure intact.

  • Paul January 14, 2014 (3:59 pm)

    Rob, that $20 fee discussed in the article you linked to expires this year. The current proposal would replace it and also provide money for roads.

  • Kadoo January 14, 2014 (4:06 pm)

    Olympia couldn’t solve it so now we get hit with this? We are in this mess due to Eyman. Definitely would oppose increase in sales tax. Fare rate increase makes sense.

  • West Seattle Hipster January 14, 2014 (4:21 pm)

    I would happily vote for it if Kevin Desmond leaves Metro. There needs to be oversight on how Metro is spending our money.

  • WestSeaSince76 January 14, 2014 (4:22 pm)

    Do not give this inept dept. a single dime. Classic Seattle politics to hold the people hostage until they get there way. i.e. We still owe money on the King Dome. We already have one of the highest taxes in the nation, yet nothing seems to get accomplished with all that extra money. Let them fail or go TU like any other poorly managed business.
    Like a documentary on Seattle said you don’t put large busses on already conjested roads to solve transit problems. Maybe metro should try crowd funding.

  • Kayleigh January 14, 2014 (4:29 pm)

    Gonna hold my nose and vote for it. Your “no” vote will not make Metro magically more efficient or pretty, but it *will* make your commute even uglier, whether you ride the bus, bike, or drive–guaranteed.

  • sam-c January 14, 2014 (4:31 pm)

    is the vehicle fee $60 or $100?

    “funded by a potential annual vehicle fee of up to $100 and a temporary sales tax of up to two-tenths of cent”

    • WSB January 14, 2014 (4:43 pm)

      Sam, that’s the taxing AUTHORITY the county COULD exercise – but instead is going for a lower level of $60 and 1/10th.

  • e January 14, 2014 (4:39 pm)

    S – 40% of the sales tax and car tabs would be going towards roads, which I’m assuming you use in your car. also, as ac says, the more people in the buses the fewer cars on your roads.

  • MikeInHp January 14, 2014 (5:00 pm)

    WestSeaSince76, who has the highest taxes in the nation? King County might have high property taxes, however we do not pay state or regional income tax. Could you please provide your source? I will pay a 60$ “fee” and enjoy the fact that I do not have to file state income taxes. I would gladly pay more for a better public transportation system with light rail and better roads. I don’t want to spend my time sitting in traffic.

  • RS January 14, 2014 (5:10 pm)

    I’m for it. I’ll pay a little bit more a month for my ONE car so I can actually ride the bus and not have to have a much more expensive second car. Do you “no” votes REALLY want me to add my car to the bridge lineup every morning?

  • Kim January 14, 2014 (5:11 pm)

    I’m same as Kayleigh. And I’m going to the West Seattle Transportation Coalition meeting tonight. See you there?

  • SGK January 14, 2014 (5:18 pm)

    If Metro needs more then rider rates need to increase as well. Metro is causing a huge increase in road repairs because they are being driven down roads never designed vehicles their weight. SDOTs performance on road repairs is lacking. Most pothole “repairs” last a month or two at best. Send the crews to Denver to learn how to repair potholes.

    Shut down the Sounder. Subsidized money pit.

  • JayDee January 14, 2014 (5:22 pm)

    Car drivers do not pay enough — witness the deteriorating roads here in West Seattle. And while we have high sales taxes, we have no income tax, and our property tax, while elevated pales compared to Oregon. Car ownership is a classic case of externalized costs from road programs, non-indexed gas taxes, from air pollution, environmental damage attributable to cars (brake dust, oil drips) leading the undesirable “first flush” in the fall.

    If we paid what it truly cost to have a car, METRO ridership would soar because 1/3 of the people would not be able to afford it.

    Expecting METRO to cover all it’s costs through the fare box is no more realistic than expecting car owners to pay for externalized costs. And I own cars and ride METRO.

  • wetone January 14, 2014 (5:23 pm)

    Just another pay cut and step backwards for the largest group of people and families in this state that need their cars or trucks for work and or family needs. Just remember when you vote to pass any increase like this your rewarding Metro the city and State for a good job and responsible spending habits. You can give them all the money in the world but that won’t change a thing with the people that we have in charge. Just like a spoiled kid, spends irresponsibly, never held accountable and always wants more. Raise bus fares to $4. along with making sure all bus riders are paying. Have some sort of bicycle usage fee along with a small increased vehicle tab fee I might think about it. Dow what a piece of work.

  • BestSeattle January 14, 2014 (5:47 pm)

    So they cant manage the money they have adn now they are going to fleece the taxpayer for more funds.

    Don’t just vote no vote HELL NO!

  • sgg January 14, 2014 (6:00 pm)

    If they promise to save the 37 I will vote yes. If they make vague promises, I will vote no.

  • faultytower January 14, 2014 (6:06 pm)

    For everyone against this, you do realize this is the backup plan IF the state cuts transportation funding for the Puget Sound area? The east side of the state is forcing this on us.

    More people are using the buses, I’ve seen more and more riders on buses since I moved here nine years ago. If the state won’t fund it we’re going to have to support it, otherwise our traffic jams will be worse than before.

    If the State forces us to fund it ourselves then we should. Hey, it’s more “boostrappy” and then you can go back to yelling “Benghazi!”

  • Wes Cider January 14, 2014 (6:07 pm)

    I want something in return from Metro for this tax increase. I want salary freezes on Metro executives. I want wage concessions from the transit union.

  • w January 14, 2014 (6:13 pm)

    visitors need to help pay for the infrastructure of this regional asset that is Seattle. What would WA be without it? For people who are outside the tax area, they can be asked to pay higher rates for things like parking and tickets to shows and sporting events here. Until we can manage to have all transit be regional – managed and paid for regionally, and competently.

  • eric1 January 14, 2014 (6:19 pm)

    I’d vote yes if they raise bus fares by $1 or more (I ride the bus). I appreciate that low income people can ride for $1.50. But until the cost of bus fare equals the minimum parking fee for a day in Seattle, most people will keep taking the bus.
    200% of the poverty level is like $45K so you should be able to afford bus fare. If you can’t afford the bus, dump your cell phone because 90% of the riders on the bus with me have a smart phones that probably cost $100+ a month for service. Job or fancy cell phone? Easy choice for the ones who would rather not starve and have a $10 a month flip phone. If you **need** a smart phone, they better be paying you better than $20/hour.

  • Genesee Hill January 14, 2014 (6:23 pm)

    The “blood-sucking leeches” are east of the Cascade mountains. I only wish the Puget Sound area could keep our big tax money “somewhat” in the Puget Sound area. But, no, we have to finance the whole teabaggin’ east side of the state and Lewis County, to the south.

    But hey, Rick. Don’t let the truth deter you from your dorky rants…

  • Genesee Hill January 14, 2014 (6:31 pm)

    Heck. I will vote yes on an additional 100 bucks a car a year. Heck, I will vote 500 bucks additional a car each and every year. As long as I irk the “baggers…I will be a happy camper..;.

  • JayDee January 14, 2014 (6:32 pm)


    Do you ride the bus to work? Just wondering. Everyone I see get on pays, even when the 56 is SRO. Sometimes I need I drive my car – to downtown Seattle where I pay $13 to park it. Sometimes I drive to a clients site and sneak back and hope Joe Diamond don’t catch me. I prefer that to 50 minute commutes, each way. But not every day of the week. Our buses have things that can be improved upon (more of them) but it is a pretty basic service. Look for waste elsewhere (Sorry to literally throw Bertha under the bus)…

  • steve January 14, 2014 (6:37 pm)


    Are you kidding me? If our society could progress to the point that we encourage using the metro for commuting, work errands, and personal use the roads wouldn’t be in such disrepair and there wouldn’t be so much traffic. Most of the people that claim they ‘need’ their cars for work simply don’t. It’s convenient to have a car for work, but it’s not needed. Look at the majority of people in NYC. They walk, bike, bus, or take the subway miles to get around.

    If anything, tax on gasoline and car registration should be higher. Taxing the metro doesn’t do anyone any good. It just disincentives using it. Would you prefer we go back to the Puget Sound not having mass transit? Have you ever been to a city like Los Angeles or Phoenix? Believe me, mass transit is a good thing!

  • WestSeaSince76 January 14, 2014 (7:29 pm)

    It’s amazing how many people on here share their ignorance MikeInHp. Were talking about sales tax here not property taxes, state or regional income tax. In addition we also have some of the highest gas taxes in the nation. Confirming the fact that raising taxes does not solve the problems. We don’t have a mass transit system that works is the point. Please do not compare Sea. to NYC as they have had a subway for over 100 years. It works because of the extent of the system. I think the word for the future is inequality for all.

  • Seattlite January 14, 2014 (7:43 pm)

    Total mismanagement of Seattle by politicians that have not got a clue! Total cluster fudge. Tax pot not gas.

  • Guy Olson January 14, 2014 (7:49 pm)

    I’m gonna say a bunch of edgy stuff on here, but use a code name or nickname…..

  • David January 14, 2014 (7:54 pm)

    Lets shut down the buses for a month and I bet that all the naysayers would be happy to pay $ 600 a year if they ever got home due to the gridlock that would occur. Every bus keeps 60 cars off the road.

  • RN January 14, 2014 (8:12 pm)

    The worst part is that this will continue to hurt those that need it most, those trying to pay their bills, the disabled and the elderly.

    I will gladly pay $60 to keep the current bus routes.

  • 935 January 14, 2014 (8:48 pm)

    +1 wetone

  • E92 TiAg January 14, 2014 (8:50 pm)

    If this passes I will be registering my car on the east side of the state for sure. I don’t mind paying a share but giving them more money to pi$$ away…no thanks. How about audit SDOT, find where money is being wasted/misused, fix it then come back with how much is needed to continue operation.

  • D.D.S. January 14, 2014 (8:56 pm)

    Just drove down cal. ave, saw two buses, Three riders total. Those Three riders must own a lot of Cars.

  • G January 14, 2014 (9:04 pm)


    Los Angeles has some of the best mass transit in the country. In fact, it was #1 for accessibility to mass transit…though people tend not to take full advantage of it. I know it’s surprising, but some of the NW folklore about California it just folklore :)

    PS: You take a bus across LA for $1.50.

  • EMO January 14, 2014 (9:05 pm)


    You’re right – it’s amazing how many people show their ignorance: the reason we have such high sales and gas taxes is *precisely* because we have no income tax. If you want schools, libraries, roads, etc etc, the money has to come from somewhere.

    And Seattleite, talk about not having a clue: pot WILL be heavily taxed, but gas should be taxed more. Gas is WAY more harmful when you add in the costs of both getting it and of using it – you just don’t see those costs anywhere.

  • 935 January 14, 2014 (9:15 pm)

    Hey!! Here’s an idea….all you metro riders willing to pay an extra $60 to keep the busses running-just put that $60 in the fare box and please….PLEASE stay out of my pockets.
    Just because the bus fare is $2.25-$3.00 doesn’t mean that’s the most you can put in the fare box.

  • Null January 14, 2014 (9:24 pm)

    I’m ok with all of these. And another idea: Retire paper tickets so the people who hoard the same set of paper tickets and/or make fake tickets can no longer cheat the system. Force everyone to get an ORCA card. This would bring in some extra funding.

  • Seattlite January 14, 2014 (9:53 pm)

    EMO — Pot law limits the amount of stores so tax revenues won’t be as high until years down the road unless pot tax is increased just as cigarette taxes are increased because pot and cigarettes are both unhealthy habits.

  • 81657 January 14, 2014 (10:31 pm)

    I’m just stupefied that we recently GAVE AWAY millions and millions of future tax revenue to a corporation that threatened to leave the area if they didn’t get a big tax break…… This will become the new normal…. Corporations will threaten us with the loss of jobs unless we let them out of paying their fair share of taxes…… Well, guess who is going to make up the losses?….. WE, the regular citizens…. Wake up people…. We keep giving more and more to the 1%… Exactly how many millions of dollars in pure profit do some people need to make?!…. Rent out the ENTIRE metro bus service to Boeing, for a fraction of the tax savings we are giving them……I would rather see Boeing ads posted on every moving bus from now on, then keep bailing out Metro.

  • Driver January 14, 2014 (10:44 pm)

    NO NO NO! We are subsidizing the bus system enough, too much!!!!! I am moving so that I can walk to work, no bus, no car. I will only use my car on weekends to visit people. Just NO! Let the bus riders pay higher fares. The traffic congestion has reached new heights – cannot get out of West Seattle to go north. There is no decent route for me to even take a bus. People riding buses does not reduce traffic congestion. There are other solutions. Unreal.

  • MikeInHp January 14, 2014 (11:46 pm)

    For reference. In 2010 Washington state’s state & local tax burden as a percentage of income was 9.3% which ranked 28th in the nation. The national average was 9.9%.

  • srik January 15, 2014 (1:15 am)

    This charges everyone outside Seattle for fixing Seattle’s Metro problem. It does not fix even a tiny amount of the non-Seattle road issues and does not expand transit to those of us outside Seattle. For those of us who don’t need to be in Seattle ever it isn’t fair unless we are able to utilize the transit or road improvements that we would be required to pay for. It is a lie to believe that any king county tax increase would be any different than previous ones that have nothing to do with “king county”. This is strictly about seattle. If it included the rest of us I would go out and campaign on the streets go it! Remember, this is not about king county fixes even though it charges ALL of king county!

  • miws January 15, 2014 (8:35 am)

    Thanks for supplying the actual factual data, WSB.


    I’d be curious to see the updated opinions of those that made the comments that were being addressed, now that the info has been provided, and they have (presumably) read it….



  • DH January 15, 2014 (10:08 am)

    Thanks TR!! Facts are great. @Rick. 2011, Stadium Taxes. They considered not letting them expire but decided they needed to let them expire to keep public trust. I don’t have the link but it can be easily searched.

  • wetone January 15, 2014 (10:12 am)

    Lets see here their saying this proposal will only maintain the Metro service we have now. Well that doesn’t solve much does it, only means to expect more sales, vehicle, property, gas, tolls, business tax increases very shortly. Just another sloppy bandaid that does nothing towards fixing the problem of creating a mass transit system. W/S traffic will never get better than it is today and only get worse as the population increases from all the new building the city is allowing here. The road infrastructure we have can only handle so much. Funny how many people move to W/S that work in the downtown corridor and think what a short commute, just remember W/S is like living on an island and will always have ingress/ egress problems.

  • Captain Filmore January 15, 2014 (10:20 am)

    @TR – gives little detail about the “belt tightening”. I found your comment a little condescending and a bit as if you are encouraging the rest of us little folk to just drink the Koolaid. This link (at the bottom) reads as just PR speak to me – claiming that they need more money.

  • Mickymse January 15, 2014 (12:08 pm)

    Here’s a few more pesky facts for readers:
    In Washington, our state constitution prohibits gas tax monies from being used for anything but roads and car ferries.
    The fees and taxes on your car today are cheaper than they were 10 years ago.
    King County Metro is asking for new tax sources to REPLACE lost revenues. They are not asking for more money to add to their budgets. They keep trying to fix the budget holes that we the taxpayers have blown in the agency by voting for things like Tim Eyman initiatives.
    Finally, 1/3 of all commuters in and out of Downtown Seattle are arriving by transit.

  • Bradley January 15, 2014 (4:40 pm)

    $60 of my money going to buses that criminals use to rob people, drug addicts urinate on, and burglars flee the area in? Hell no! Metro needs to make the buses safe AND start making riders pay higher fares.

  • E January 15, 2014 (7:03 pm)

    Metro is a public service! We need metro and it helps to reduce congestion, environmental impact and an alternative to driving a car.

    Public transit is our future. We are a growing city especially in West Seattle and we need to build an infrastructure that supports that future!

    I support metro and so should you!

  • McFail January 15, 2014 (7:48 pm)

    Tim “He who must not be named”…
    How about we spice up the Mayoral SEA vs SF game? If we win we get their mass transit system and agency…

  • Correction January 16, 2014 (4:44 pm)

    Please explain to me why you believe comparing Seattle to NYC or LA is valid and supports your argument. This question is for all of you that keep doing this. Do you also believe socialism and capitalism are the same? That could explain our newly elected city friend.

  • CWP January 17, 2014 (2:05 pm)

    People need to understand some basic facts about bus transit in our area.
    1. “Vehicle miles traveled” per capita in King County is 22.1 per day.
    2. “Transit miles traveled” per capital in King County is 0.7 per day, or 3% of the total.
    3. If you adjust the raw figures for the fact that some of the vehicles in #1 are trucks and commercial vehicles, and others are vehicles (including cars) that are just passing through, you’d also have to adjust #2 for the fact that the average commuter car carries 1.2 people, and the average non-commmuter car carries 1.6 people.
    4. Bottom line: No more than 5% of the miles traveled on King County roads are traveled by bus.
    Mass transit isn’t nearly as vital or important as its promoters claim. Its main utility is for alleviating rush hour congestion. King County Metro should be restructured as a daytime commuter service. Raise the fares to cover the full cost of operation, and radically trim the rest of the routes.
    The money saved by doing this would be enough to subsidize cheaper, more innovative, and more fuel efficient ways of providing transit for the relative handful of people who rely on buses for other purposes.
    Light rail is a complete waste of money, as are the downtown streetcars and the Sounder.

  • Seattle Driver January 17, 2014 (8:06 pm)

    I used Metro in my youth until I could afford a car and fuel. I gave them a chance again last year when I had to go into the city and thought “Hey, I’ll try the bus” That bus never came and I waited around 45 minutes till the next one arrived which was standing room only.

    According to Metro’s trip planner website, to get from Highland Park to my workplace in Renton would take me 3.8 hours, two transfers, and still make me 20 minutes late for a 5:00am shift start!

    Is there any question why some people choose to drive? Metro may be great if they happen to have a convenient route, you work downtown, 9-5 shift or can flex your time, but it is not for everyone and I am unwilling to pay any more than the existing $20 “save transit” fee to keep it alive.

Sorry, comment time is over.