Forest Machala

King Country Metro is gearing up for cuts to its services if no new source of revenue is found before mid-2014. Metro is preparing to cut a sixth of its service, eliminating routes, combining buses, and decreasing the frequency of stops for many routes. For those who bus to and from Roosevelt, it’s crucial to check the proposed changes.

One alarming change for those who take the bus to and from Lake City is the complete loss of the 72 route. Another change is that the 66 express, 67, 71, and 72 are going to be combined to form bus route 73, covering one corridor to increase efficiency. More buses will stop along the route, although it will cover less area. Metro describes the changes as an effort to “eliminate duplicitous routes” and to cut buses that are less used. Neighborhoods such as Laurelhurst will see its sparse bus services cut out completely. A significant amount of the cuts will be nighttime services. With Metro transit experiencing an increase in riders lately, expect buses to be more crowded when the cuts come.

The source for all this busing pain lies in the fact that King County Metro never recovered financially from the 2008 recession, and the amount of revenue has fallen short every year since. To ease this deficit, the state and county legislature came up with two temporary funds in order to keep buses running at full capacity. Those funds are destined to run out sometime in mid-2014, and the only the legislature can propose a replacement for those funds.

King County officials are mulling over whether to bump up sales taxes in order to stall the Metro cuts. Officials are unsure whether such a tax increase would sit well with voters since Washington State already has one of the most regressive tax codes in the country, with the poorest fifth of this state’s households paying 17 percent of their income in state and local taxes, while the richest fifth pay less than 7 percent. Such proposed tax increases would put more strain on the poor and middle class, who happen to be the same people who ride buses most often.

To avoid the tax-increase political pitfall, the “Plan A” that state and country officials have proposed is a progressive car-tab fee of $150 per $10,000 in vehicle value. The revenue from the fees would be split so that a significant amount of money goes to road maintenance with the rest going towards operating Metro transit. “Plan B” would be to nudge sales taxes up 0.4 percent, pushing sales tax to nearly 10 percent total, and impose an $80 car-tab fee. Whatever the case, expect to see some form of Metro revenue increase proposal on the ballot in early 2014.

The changes written here have only covered the northeastern portion of the changes Metro is set to do. If you bus to and from Roosevelt from the south or west, visit http://metro.kingcounty.gov/am/future/proposed-changes.html for more details.

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