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Metro Transit Asking Voters To Pass Prop. 1, Prevent Bus Service Cuts

King County Metro Transit's Facebook Page

King County voters have less than two weeks to decide whether they want to pay a higher sales tax and car tab fee to prevent major cuts to King County Metro Transit bus service.

Proposition 1 would raise the sales tax by .1 percent and boost car tabs by $60. These increases would stay in place for the next 10 years.

If the measure fails, Metro says it will have to get rid of 16 percent of its bus routes and cut thousands of hours of service. 

Metro commuter Racida Butle says she knows Prop. 1 is asking a lot from voters.

“The sales tax is pretty high already, you know — almost at 10 percent. That’s a lot," she said. 

Still, Butler, who works two jobs and can’t afford a car, says she'll vote for the measure.

“I know there are only a few buses that run late at night, and if they are taken away, there are no other options," she said.

But some say Metro needs to go on a serious diet before asking voters for more money. The Seattle Times Editorial Board, the Bellevue Chamber of Commerce and a group called Families for Sustainable Transit all oppose Prop. 1, saying Metro needs to rein in its labor costs and increase revenue from bus fares.

The Municipal League of King County, a government watchdog group, has closely monitored Metro Transit's operations over the past several years. In 2008, the organization wrote a detailed report about the agency and its finances, and followed up with another report about Metro last year. The League says Metro is now a more transparent organization, but needs to increase revenue from the people who use the system.

The League also says Metro is still recovering from the recession. Chuck Sloane with the League says failure to pass Prop. 1 will hurt the transit system and those who rely on it.

“If we don’t fully fund it, that will have a disproportional impact on lower income residents that don’t have a lot of options. And it could potentially have folks who are now riding the bus to work reconsider that and go back to their cars, which we believe isn’t great for the region," Sloane said.

Two factors led to putting Prop. 1 before voters. Lawmakers in Olympia failed to pass a transportation funding package, and a tax that puts $25 million a year into Metro’s coffers is about to sunset.

Not all of the money raised by Prop. 1 would go to Metro; 40 percent would be spent on improving roads throughout King County. Ballots must be postmarked by April 22.  

Jennifer Wing is a former KNKX reporter and producer who worked on the show Sound Effect and Transmission podcast.