King County Transit Package

Goldy has the details.

With the Washington State Legislature proving absolutely incapable (unwilling?) of addressing our transportation needs, King County Executive Dow Constantine is rolling out a proposal that would ask voters to approve $130 million a year in new local taxes to avert a 17 percent cut in Metro bus service, while providing additional money to maintain deteriorating city and county roads. Constantine will also ask the county council to approve a new low-income fare category—$1.50 per trip—that would provide a substantial discount to as many as 100,000 Metro riders who are struggling to cope with recent fare increases.


Rather than the more progressive motor vehicle excise tax (MVET)—a tax on the value of your car—that Olympia had promised King County but never delivered, Constantine is proposing raising revenue under the county’s existing but unused Transportation Benefit District (TBD) authority. The TBD would raise a combined $130 million in 2015; $80 million from a $60 annual vehicle license fee (VLF), and $50 million from a 0.1 percent increase in the county sales tax. (The $60 VLF would come after the current $20 “congestion relief charge” expires in June, so vehicle owners would only see a net $40 annual increase in their car tabs bill.) Sixty percent of the money raised would go toward filling a projected $75 million a year shortfall in Metro revenues, with the remaining 40 percent going toward city and county roads, allocated based on population.

The election to decide that will come up pretty soon, so that might be more interesting than whatever is happening, or not happening, in the legislature. I wonder if the opposition to the license fee will be out in as much force as it was in the Seattle election a few years ago. I hope it turns out better. Will the people who opposed it because it was regressive but haven’t lifted a finger to push Olympia for a better option be out again?

Will the promise of a lower bus fare make this package more progressive, so easier to swallow? In that election, there were vague promises that City Light would look into better rates for lower income people to offset some of the problems with the flat rate license fee. In this package, the lower rates are baked in. Goldy didn’t mention it in the piece and I forgot to ask him at Drinking Liberally, but I wonder what the mechanism will be for enforcing the different rate. It seems intrusive to have to prove that you deserve rate, but maybe it wouldn’t be. And with ORCA Cards, it’s probably a bit easier to just bloop the thing (THE TECHNICAL TERM) than to have to show a separate pass. Of course lower income people are probably less likely to have ORCA Cards, by and large.


  1. 2

    Moderate Man spews:

    STB says the $1.50 is a NON-CASH fare only, so it sounds like you’ll have to have an ORCA card to use it.

  2. 4

    Transit Voter spews:

    Problem will be to keep the low-income-fare ORCA cards in the hands of low-income riders. Nobody is going to be standing by the ORCA card readers to verify that it’s the deserving rider wielding the card.

  3. 5

    Ekim spews:

    We can do like the school lunch program thingy and stamp their hands with an indelible marker of some sort. Or maybe a forehead tattoo saying poor person. That should work.

  4. 6

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    @1 This is a really interesting comment. It’s succinct, to the point, unambiguous, and wraps up an entire ideology in two words. And, like virtually everything that oozes from the braind-dead right, it’s dead wrong.

    Before I go further, it’s important to note there are two types of conservatives: The no-taxes, no-government, no-public services crowd, who are basically anarchists; and the freeloader crowd, who want some public services, but wants other people to pay for them.

    These two groups of regressives comprise about 40% of the King County vote, and slightly more statewide. In other words, there aren’t enough of them to win elections, except in the sagebrush counties, so we can ignore them.

    So, they can spew “nope” all they want. All it takes to shut them up is vote “yes.”

  5. 7

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    I’ve never been a fan of the MVET. It’s a regressive tax that hits vulnerable citizens: Seniors, the unemployed, and students. Poor people who drive 2,000 miles a year shouldn’t be taxed the same as rich commuters who drive 2,000 miles a month.

    Many progressives support it anyway due to lack of other tax alternatives. Fair enough. But we already have a MVET. This is layering another MVET top of a MVET that already exists.

    We simply have to find another, fairer, way of paying for road repairs and public transportation subsidies. The technology exists to tax drivers based on miles driven. It’s time to use it.

  6. 8

    Michael spews:

    The state leg is a joke. The best thing we can do is to, the greatest extent possible, delink our cities and counties from the state. The righties will go ape-shit and be all about this. And then their cities and counties will shrivel and die without their state subsides and they’ll come limping humbly back to the state hat in hand. In the meantime Seattle can get on with life.

  7. 9

    Michael spews:

    O’ and the MVET 2.0 is a bad idea. Toll roads and taxing the ever-loving-hell out of gasoline are the way to go.

  8. 10

    Ten Years After - Roger Rabbit is just a liberal progressive troll. spews:

    From 9,

    OK, so what about people who drive hybrids? How do you tax them for owning a “green” car? Tax their odometer readings for the annual increase each year?

  9. 11

    K spews:

    Many interesting ideas. The problem is that the county does not have the authority to implement them and without exercising the authority it has, the bus routes will be cut.