Proposition 1's passage critical to how we get around | Guest commentary

By Dianna Beckett and Mike Heinisch

South King County Mobility Coalition

Ask yourself, when was the last time you boarded Metro as your transportation choice?

It seems a growing number of us are.

More Americans used public transit in 2013 than in any year since 1956, the National Public Transportation Association reported in March, with Metro ridership up 3 percent.

Do you have an ORCA card? More and more of us do, and use it frequently.

How many times this week have you observed a person with compromised physical abilities waiting for public transportation and have some level of concern/pity and think, “What if it was, and when will it be me?”

Have you found yourself grumbling about traffic on your morning or afternoon commute, that pothole you just hit, or the deteriorating road conditions that are appearing throughout King County?

Regardless of your responses to the questions just posed, and the number of “yeses,” you should know about Proposition No. 1, which is on the ballot registered voters have received for the April 22 special election.

King County Metro is facing a $75 million budget shortfall. Without additional revenue, Metro will have to reduce service by up to 17 percent, which will undoubtedly hit hard in South King County.

Addressing this crisis, King County created the Transportation Benefit District (KCTBD) in February. This separate government entity with countywide transportation taxing authority sent Proposition 1 to the voters to maintain current service levels for Metro, as well as implement street improvements for cities and unincorporated King County.

The KCTBD was created because the state Legislature did not pass a statewide comprehensive transportation package during the two most recent sessions, 2013 and 2014, and three special sessions in 2013 alone. The creation of the KCTBD was an option available to King County to raise funds for roads, transit and other transportation improvements within its jurisdiction by voter decision. It was adopted on a 9-0 vote of the King County Council, a necessary and reluctantly taken unanimous vote.

Proposition 1, if passed by voters, would increase King County’s sales tax by 0.1 percent, establish a new $60 vehicle fee, and provide for a $1.25 fare rate for low-income King County residents (think that physically compromised individual you saw today). Both new revenue sources would be applied exclusively for transportation maintaining Metro service levels and funding transportation improvements in cities and unincorporated King County.

The funds would be divided on a 60-40 split, with 60 percent going to the district to maintain Metro’s service levels, and 40 percent going to the 39 cities and unincorporated King County to fund road improvements. The 40 percent given to the cities and unincorporated King County will be allocated for road improvements prioritized by the individual jurisdictions.

The $60 vehicle fee would come with a low-income rebate program of $20 off for qualifying households with incomes less than 45 percent of the county’s median income.

In addition, Proposition 1 will fund Metro’s low-income fare program. This program would provide a low-income fare of $1.25 for qualifying riders for two years. If Proposition 1 does not pass, the low-income fare will be $1.50 and be funded through other sources at Metro.

The estimated impact per household in King County would be approximately $11 per month.

If Proposition 1 does not pass, Metro will reduce service levels of up to 17 percent, equating to roughly 600,000 annual hours of service (68 calendar years). This will result in an estimated deletion of 74 routes and altering 107 routes. A number of these service alterations would come in the form of reduced service during times when ridership is measurably lower than during peak hours, undoubtedly disproportionally impacting South King County at all hours of the week, and especially on weekends.

The South King County Mobility Coalition strongly encourages you to consider Proposition 1 when you receive your ballot soon, complete the ballot and mail it in by the due date of Tuesday, April 22. Your answers to the questions posed above are “riding” or “driving” on it.

Dianna Beckett is the Public Policy Committee chair and Mike Heinisch is a Public Policy Committee member with the South King County Mobility Coalition.

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