July 19, 2011
Get real, no more fees for buses
The King County Council should not approve a new tax for Metro buses or send it to the voters to decide. We do believe that new taxes will be needed to get government services operating, but a $20 car tab fee should be rejected.
The council is finishing its series of public hearings on implementing a new $20 fee on existing vehicle registration fees for each of the next two years. This money would maintain the levels of bus service at or near what they are right now.
Without the $20 fee, Issaquah could lose its downtown free bus, Route 200. We have long held that the free ride, subsidized by city taxes, should have a fare fee, even if it’s only a quarter. Another possibility is to limit Route 200 hours to morning and afternoon commuter times.
Taxpayers are already heavily invested in our transportation system, from the gas tax for highways to taxes for the Regional Transit Authority, Sound Transit and Metro.
Five years ago, Metro asked voters to approve Transit Now, a sales tax increase to expand bus service. Within a year, the expansion slowed and the funds were diverted to maintenance of existing routes and new buses — making up the loss of sales tax revenue as the economy slowed. Some voters have called it a good case of bait and switch.
Metro should indeed be cutting some routes and getting more efficient with what it has.
Many downtown Issaquah residents depend on the bus. There is no doubt that sharing a ride is the wave of the future. But reality also says that bus service will never be accessible to all. Now is a good time to tighten the system.
The council should double check the policies that decide what routes will be maintained and which will go, giving consideration to ridership and demographics. But then the council needs to say no more to bus subsidies. Putting the issue on the ballot is an easy pass on a tough decision.
Transit has wider social benefits that make it reasonable for people who don’t ride the bus to chip in towards its operation — but they already are doing just that.