[UPDATE: Some P&Rs are actually owned by WSDOT, so those would require legislative authority to introduce fees. For county-owned P&Rs, the legislature doesn’t have to do anything.]
[UPDATE 2: Metro spokeswoman Rochelle Ogershok points out that $50m is a rough estimate of the annual deficit, after planned cuts, in 2012. The “long term” deficit, going out to 2015, is actually $100m. Corrected below.]
At tonight’s meeting of the Regional Transit Task Force, they’ll be looking at an executive summary of Metro’s various revenue options. It’s a treasure trove of information about what Metro collects now and what else is out there. Metro’s long term 2012 budget hole, after the various efficiencies applied, is still about $50m annually.
- There’s still 1-cent-per-$1,000 of property tax authority, unfortunately worth only about $3m.
- Theoretically, the County could create a Transportation Benefit District and levy a vehicle license fee of up to $100 — raising $125m! — but the cities have been busily taking this authority for themselves.
- King County can tax parking in unincorporated areas only, where of course there isn’t a whole lot of paid parking.
- The State has a local option tax for HOV systems, which by applying an MVET or a head tax could top off the capital fund. A lot of Metro’s federal money is already restricted to capital expenditure, so it’s unlikely that this money would free up cash to spend on the operations gap.
- Each quarter you raise fares – not listed as an option in the report – generates about $12m.
There’s then a discussion of taxes that would require legislative action to authorize. For reasons unclear to me, charging at park-and-rides is listed as requiring this, and would generate between and $850,000 and $2.3m annually. There’s a strong case Metro and ST should do this anyway at high-demand park & rides, so in my view the revenue is just a bonus.
Aside from that, my favorite proposal is eliminating one of the state’s biggest (and under-appreciated) subsidies to drivers: the sales tax exemption for gasoline. Without any special dispensation for transit, simply applying existing transit taxes to gasoline would raise $28-40m annually for Metro, patching more than half of the hole. It would generate an even larger amount for Sound Transit, which has revenue problems of its own, to say nothing of its positive impact on state and local general funds, and other strapped agencies like Community Transit. We spend a fair amount of money in this region encouraging people not to drive, and it’s senseless to simultaneously subsidize the opposite.