A plan to cut transit service by 17 percent, or charge motorists $20 per vehicle to maintain service, will be the subject of three public hearings in July by the King County Council’s Transportation, Economy and Environment Committee.
The first hearing is in Kirkland on July 6.
King County Executive Dow Constantine proposed the cuts recently because of a dramatic drop in sales tax revenue due to the weak economy, leaving Metro Transit facing a $60 million budget deficit. The cuts would reduce public transit service to 1996 levels, despite two years of cost-saving efforts already implemented, including the elimination of 100 staff positions.
The state Legislature has authorized a special, two-year $20 “Congestion Reduction Surcharge” on vehicle licenses that the county could implement to avoid the cuts.
This all comes at a time when statistics for May show a 5.1 percent increase in ridership over May of 2010, according to the county. Furthermore, from January through May, Metro bus trips jumped 2.4 percent, or nearly 1.1 million trips, over the same period last year.
“King County has a choice of cutting 17 percent of our transit service -- taking the system back to 1996 service levels -- or preserving current service levels by enacting a $20 congestion reduction charge on vehicles in King County,” councilman and committee chair Larry Phillips said in a press release. “These meetings are an opportunity for the public to learn about the proposed service cuts and weigh in on the future of Metro transit.”
Constantine is not hesitating to indicate which option he prefers.
"This significant increase in ridership shows that more people are turning to Metro Transit to get to work as our local economy improves and gas prices hover near $4,” he said in another press release. “Metro has cut costs and raised fares, and now the county council needs to enact the small, temporary congestion relief charge to keep buses on the road and traffic moving.”
The meetings, all starting at 6 p.m., will be:
- Wednesday, July 6, at Kirkland City Hall council chambers, 123 Fifth Avenue.
- Tuesday, July 12, at the King County Courthouse council chambers (10th floor), 516, Third Avenue, Seattle.
- Thursday, July 21, at Burien City Hall council chambers, 400 SW 152nd St.
Information for this report came from two King County press releases.