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King County Executive News

King County Executive News
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Aug. 15, 2011

Leadership by Executive and Council saves Metro bus service for next two years

Executive praises hard work, leadership and trust that led to amended package

King County Executive Dow Constantine hailed tonight's County Council enactment of an amended package for a two-year, $20 Congestion Reduction Charge as a bipartisan action that demonstrates courageous leadership by all Councilmembers.

"I thank all seven Councilmembers who voted tonight to preserve 600,000 hours of bus service for their commitment to principle, and for their courageous leadership," said Executive Constantine. "The package of amendments is the result of the persistence, leadership and trust exhibited by Councilmembers Jane Hague and Kathy Lambert. They worked hard to develop solutions, and through their efforts this is a different and improved proposal from the one I presented. This legislation provides certainty for commuters, mobility for economic growth, and reforms to protect taxpayers."

"Though statesmanship may be on its deathbed in Congress, tonight's vote shows that it is alive and well here at home in King County," added the Executive. "This is a victory for our regional economy and a victory for those who turned out overwhelmingly to call upon us to save Metro Transit. The people of King County spoke, and we heard them loud and clear."

The Executive lauded members of the Transit Rescue Coalition for their extraordinary work to focus public attention on the issue, and the unprecedented turnout of thousands of King County residents who he said "stood as one" in support of transit funding.

He also thanked Council Transportation Committee Chair Larry Phillips for his three-year effort that laid the foundation for today's action. "From the 2009 performance audit to the development of the Regional Transit Task Force and adoption of our Transit Strategic Plan, Councilmember Phillips has been a staunch ally in the fight for Metro Transit reform and the Congestion Reduction Charge that will keep the buses on our streets," said the Executive.

Nearly 1,500 County residents turned out to four public hearings in July to call for action by the Council to avert a 17 percent cut of Metro bus service starting in 2012. Under the amended legislation adopted today, King County Metro Transit will:

  • 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.

Under the state's authorizing legislation, the Congestion Reduction Charge would take effect six months after the measure is signed into law.

The State Legislature granted King County authority for the Congestion Reduction Charge after hearing testimony on sweeping reforms at Metro - including staff reductions, operational efficiencies, labor partnerships, fare increases, the cancellation of bus replacements and the tapping of cash reserves - that have generated nearly $400 million in savings over the past several years.

"Today's action keeps buses on the streets, but this is only an interim measure," said Executive Constantine. "This gives us time to work statewide on a permanent solution for funding transit and other critical transportation needs."

Learn more about how Metro can have a sustainable future at:

www.kingcounty.gov/metro/future