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Monday, May 12, 2014

King County Challenges Cities To Buy Back Their Metro Service

Posted by on Mon, May 12, 2014 at 5:56 PM

  • AH
"We're teeing up the ball and seeing who can step up to the challenge," said King County Executive Dow Constantine this afternoon, following an announcement of a program to encourage cities (or groups of cities) to purchase service from King County Metro and prevent cuts to their bus routes. "If Seattle or another city wants to lead the way, that's great."

Constantine said the program is intended as "a bridge to keep some buses on the road until we can get sustainable revenue authority from the legislature...Doing nothing while we wait for Olympia remains intolerable."

The program creates new, streamlined standards for contracts between cities and Metro, including requiring cities to cover all the costs of bus service instead of having the county offset some of them, which it typically has done. Like all the other plans on the table, this program won't prevent the first round of Metro service cuts coming down the pike in September. Contracts with cities would have to be approved by the county council.

"We clearly have not done enough to to inform the public," Constantine said about Metro's overall efficiency, citing its cost per passenger mile of 99 cents, just one cent above the national average. And he blasted opponents of Proposition 1 for taking information out of context, including a 2008 report on Metro's costs by the King County Municipal League. The league put out a statement today reaffirming its reasons for endorsing Prop. 1 and hitting back at its critics. At the same time, Constantine announced a new peer review and audit of Metro.

Could this new program lead to the "Balkanization"—to use Mayor Ed Murray's watchword from last week—of Metro's regional transit service? "I think that's a very legitimate concern," Constantine said, but added that the only alternative is for all of Metro's planned cuts to go into effect. In other words, some Balkanization of Metro is our only option. "I cannot ask cities to accept cuts they are willing locally to prevent," he said.

It looks like Seattle's going to be up first to bat, but will it be with a rehash of Proposition 1? Mayor Murray just announced a press event tomorrow morning where, according to Council Member Tom Rasmussen, he'll outline a proposal for Seattle voters that's "very similar to Proposition 1"—using car tabs and a sales tax increase to buy back Metro service for the city. That matches up with Murray's draft plan, which The Stranger obtained and described earlier today.

Constantine will be present with Murray at the press event tomorrow. But the county is totally "agnostic" when it comes to Seattle's revenue source, he told me. And Rasumussen said while he likes the mayor's plan, he's not opposed to a more progressive measure that relies on a property tax raise.


Comments (34) RSS

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Isn't this an expansion (which is good) of Plan C?
Posted by Not my real name or yours on May 12, 2014 at 6:10 PM · Report this
What about fee based on value of car as has been suggested in comments here? Is that under discussion? Is there a precedence for it?
Posted by Jude Fawley on May 12, 2014 at 6:14 PM · Report this
Precedent I mean.
Posted by Jude Fawley on May 12, 2014 at 6:16 PM · Report this
Supreme Ruler Of The Universe 4
99/cents a mile?

A cab is $2.70 per mile according to…

So putting 3 people in a cab already saves money.

Posted by Supreme Ruler Of The Universe on May 12, 2014 at 6:18 PM · Report this
1 - Fee based on value of car is a Motor Vehicle Excise Tax - Exactly what King County has been asking the state to authorize all along.
Posted by Seattle x on May 12, 2014 at 6:48 PM · Report this
Soupytwist 6
@2 - Barred by state law. Thank Tim Eyman and a dipshit legislature.

It would be awesome if a local news source did a run down of all the funding sources that ARE NOT allowed under state law, and little education on this is clearly needed.
Posted by Soupytwist on May 12, 2014 at 6:49 PM · Report this
Progressive valuation of car tabs was one of WA few progressive taxes. Getting rid of it was Tim Eyman's first government choking success story in the early 90s. He's one of the reasons we have the most regressive taxation in the state.
Posted by LMcGuff on May 12, 2014 at 6:53 PM · Report this
TheMisanthrope 8
"I really like the regressive nature of the taxes" - Mayor Murray's "donors"
Posted by TheMisanthrope on May 12, 2014 at 6:53 PM · Report this
I'd love a little Balkanization. The suburbs do not need the same level of service as the city and it's asinine to tie our interests together.

This is a great first start toward stopping that nonsense.
Posted by giffy on May 12, 2014 at 7:02 PM · Report this
A start we desperately need as Sound Transit 3 is likely going to fail in 2016.

The only way we're going to get more rail in Seattle is if we go it alone and we should be preparing for that fight now.
Posted by giffy on May 12, 2014 at 7:11 PM · Report this
@2, you mean like the MVET we all paid for the monorail ?

Tim tried with I-695 but left local options, then I-776 blocked any new, including local, MVETs but that was overturned by the courts as violating the two subject rule, again. I'm not sure if MVETs are really off the table (or if some R ended up making it their own legislation to block them).
Posted by ChefJoe on May 12, 2014 at 7:25 PM · Report this
12… Seems these guys think a local MVET is doable, although subject to the max of 1% of the property's value limit.... still, a $10k car = $100 a year with the max MVET.
Posted by ChefJoe on May 12, 2014 at 7:28 PM · Report this
MrBaker 13
If municipalities are going to carry all costs then expect the municipalities to only pay for service within its boarders, unlike Ben Schiendelman's Keep Seattle Moving plan that would fund routes that were 80% in Seattle.
It's unlikely that Seattle will give away 20% without a big sales job by the DSA to shuttle workers in to the city.

It's a contiguous blob.

I wonder just how interested some cities will be to pay to have their citizens leave town to go to downtown Seattle to work. It makes sense at a county level, but, what's the real benefit for a city like Shoreline?
Posted by MrBaker on May 12, 2014 at 7:29 PM · Report this
MrBaker 14
@12, an income tax is just as legal up to 1%
I would go for a 1% income tax.
Posted by MrBaker on May 12, 2014 at 7:33 PM · Report this
Banna 15
I'm too lazy to read, but I bet a tollbooth at every "city entrance" (and maybe every exit) with a $1 "entrance/exit fee" for all non-city residents would get things done.
Posted by Banna on May 12, 2014 at 7:43 PM · Report this
@4 yes, when I call. a cab, I always have 2 others to split the cost with!
Thank God for Dow!
Posted by pat L on May 12, 2014 at 8:21 PM · Report this
You say regressive, I say flat.
Posted by I say potato on May 12, 2014 at 8:23 PM · Report this
@15, so, you mean a "Mercer Island I-90" pass for Seattle-ites. Sounds good, but I think you'll need a wall like Berlin had.
Posted by ChefJoe on May 12, 2014 at 8:58 PM · Report this
fletc3her 19
@9 The suburbs don't have the same level of service as the city now.
Posted by fletc3her on May 12, 2014 at 9:03 PM · Report this
TCLballardwallymont 20

As soon as you get the State Supreme Court to revisit it's 1933 decision you could go higher than that... but first you'll need to get it past the voters. Since IIRC State income tax initiatives have failed at the polls several times in the last 20 years I can't see that happening.
Posted by TCLballardwallymont on May 12, 2014 at 9:09 PM · Report this
So wait a minute here. We have a regional system (Sound Transit) and a county system (Metro Transit), and now that two systems actively working in the same area isn't enough, Dow wants cities to pay for city service on top of this?

How much of this stupidity are we going to bear before we start looking at actual viable solutions? All this is going to do is further ensconce the dysfunction that lies at the heart of our transit woes. One area, one system, one source of funding. Eliminate the redundant overhead, unify tax structure and transit base, clarify the actual transit footprint...

Unfortunately this makes far too much sense to ever actually happen in this state.
Posted by 23 years riding Metro, it keeps getting worse... on May 12, 2014 at 9:29 PM · Report this
"I would go for a 1% income tax."

Go for it!
Posted by mcGangbanger on May 12, 2014 at 9:29 PM · Report this
raku 23
Property tax and car tabs are not the city's only options. If King County or Seattle want to be actually green, and we do, we should implement a sharp and increasing tax on the #1 cause of climate change -- livestock products. An excellent way to use the tax money would be to pay for environmentally-friendly transit.

Livestock (beef, pork, dairy) tax is inevitable and the only way Seattle can be an environmentally-friendly city. It's somewhat regressive but not as clearly as a sales tax -- it's easier to opt out of a livestock tax than a cigarette tax or even cars, because livestock is not addictive and there are countless alternatives available everywhere, even fast food if that's the only option around. Taxing cars hurts those who are stuck in our unfortunate sprawl.…
Posted by raku on May 12, 2014 at 9:30 PM · Report this
Posted by raku on May 12, 2014 at 9:33 PM · Report this
Ballard Pimp 25
If Mayor Murray's plan is anything like this, we are about to see Murray's first foreseeable failure.
Posted by Ballard Pimp on May 12, 2014 at 10:15 PM · Report this
@25, his first failure? Have you not been listening for the last 4 months of his tenure?

It is extremely sad to think of the people who have been priced out of renting in Seattle, who live in Burien/Renton/wherever but work at some low-paid job in a Seattle hotel, and who will not be able to get to work because their bus service is cut, because their neighbors in those "suburbs" think they're overtaxed.
Posted by sarah70 on May 12, 2014 at 10:28 PM · Report this
McBomber 27
@23 & 24, no and no. I agree that feedlot farming needs to be curbed, but taxing the consumer for food is not the answer. You'd like to levy a tax on milk and say it's only slightly regressive.
Posted by McBomber on May 12, 2014 at 11:08 PM · Report this
Sean Kinney 28
Dow looks in the mirror, channels Russell Wilson, and says, "why not me?"
Posted by Sean Kinney http:// on May 13, 2014 at 12:49 AM · Report this
29 Comment Pulled (Threatening) Comment Policy
@19 They basically do at a per capita level thanks to the still mostly in place subarea equity rules. It just seems that way as transit can only be efficient with density. Seattle has bought a few more hours thanks to some previous votes, but that's about it.
Posted by giffy on May 13, 2014 at 5:45 AM · Report this
Kinison 31
So if a city like Federal Way wants to buy back the one or two routes that are set to be eliminated, that might cost the city less than a million dollars. For Seattle, they need 40 million or more to keep their 25-30 routes. And yet Seattle residents still wonder why the rest of the county rejected prop1.
Posted by Kinison on May 13, 2014 at 6:40 AM · Report this
Over 2,000 King County employees make six figures; is that why they want a tax increase?…
Posted by Phillip on May 13, 2014 at 12:14 PM · Report this
@15 - Yes! People driving cars into Seattle MUST pay for the privilege - if only to offset their carbon footprint. The fees can go toward funding Metro and pedestrian/bike projects. This is already being done around the world -- it is called a "congestion pricing ". San Francisco begins their version next year -…
Posted by Dktr Sus on May 13, 2014 at 5:16 PM · Report this
"The league put out a statement today reaffirming its reasons for endorsing Prop. 1 and hitting back at its critics."

It's the INTERNET. Drop in a link, please?
Posted by for the common good on May 13, 2014 at 7:03 PM · Report this

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