RapidRide will be saved, announced interim King County Executive Kurt Triplett. Triplett announced plans today to use recent legislative authority to create a transit share of property taxes of 5.5 cents, while cutting other levies to make the plan tax neutral.
“This five-and-a-half cents for Metro Transit would provide 23,000 additional passenger trips a day on our most heavily used corridors during a time when overall bus ridership has jumped 20%,” the Executive said in a press release. This would amount to about $18m a year for Metro, compared with a structural deficit of about $100m a year.
The legislature granted property taxing authority of 7.5 cents per $1000 of assessed value for public transit. The legislature also allowed for enactment of an MVET, but the Governor vetoed that portion of the bill.
Funding would be used primarily to save the beleaguered RapidRide bus rapid transit network that Metro is planning to roll out over the coming years. Failing to deliver on RapidRide could have been politically infeasible given that the 2006 Transit Now! measure campaigned heavily on the idea of rapid, frequent, and fast RapidRide service servicing the fastest growing areas in King County. That measure that increased Metro’s sales tax authority by 0.1% to a maxed-out 0.9%.
The legislature mandated that a portion of the property taxing authority must be dedicated to SR-520 service. Metro is receiving millions in urban partnership funds to buy new buses for the 520 corridor, but no money from those grants fund bus service. Tolls are set to begin along span next year.
Since all of this funding will be used to fund RapidRide and SR-520 service, this additional revenue may not help avoid deep service cuts. Triplett said he will announce a plan next week that will outline the expected deep service cuts and perhaps fare increases. Last November, the King County Council approved a 50-cent fare hike that will finish phasing in next January. It’s hard to say how much more fare riders can stand to pay, particularly without some sort of hardship or poverty exemption.
Read on for more details after the jump…
Though Metro benefits from these changes, the King County ferry district certainly does not. Funding will remain for year-round West Seattle Water Taxi and Vashon service and boats, but new demonstration routes featuring passenger ferries will be cut before they had a chance to leave planning stages, much less the ports. Funding may be restored in four years.
The demonstration ferry routes are “a luxury we cannot afford when Metro ridership has gone up 20 percent yet is facing deep cuts,” Triplett said during the announcement, according to West Seattle Blog.
In a position of having to choose, I’d absolutely agree that keeping bus service is a higher priority. However, I’m not sure if this plan itself really helps with the cuts picture — it seems to merely keep the politically-sensitive RapidRide on track. Many of the RapidRide routes do serve high-ridership and high-demand corridors, but what about the high-demand routes most of use which that aren’t one of the five RapidRide corridors? We’ll see next week, it seems.
Special thanks to the reporting of West Seattle Blog.