Standing with members of the Seattle City Council, King County elected officials, members of the Seattle legislative delegation and community leaders, Seattle Mayor Ed Murray Tuesday announced his proposal for funding bus service in Seattle after the failure of King County’s Proposition 1.
“When so many people in this city rely on transit for their livelihood, especially those with lower incomes, we cannot delay,” said Murray. “We must act to preserve bus service in the city and on key intercity routes. And we know that this is what Seattle wants: two-thirds of voters in last month’s election said so loud and clear.”
Murray said his city-wide proposal would mirror the elements of the county-wide Prop. 1, which received 66 percent support within Seattle city limits. He said a $60 vehicle license fee for Seattle residents and a 0.1 percent sales tax increase within city limits would generate $45 million annually for transit service, which would mitigate more than 90 percent of projected impacts to riders caused by the proposed cuts.
“I will work with any city or cities to keep people moving within their borders and across the region, and I look forward to working with the City of Seattle as one of our key partners and customers in the provision of region-wide transit,” said King County Executive Dow Constantine.
Murray said that he and members of the City Council will work with Constantine and members of the County Council to ensure that Metro service hours purchased by Seattle taxpayers will be provided as efficiently as possible.
“I am very concerned about reductions in bus service affecting people’s ability to get to work, including my neighbors who travel from West Seattle to Downtown every day,” said Councilmember Tom Rasmussen, who also serves as Chair of the Transportation Committee. “With more than 66 percent passage of Prop 1 in Seattle, area residents and riders have shown that they are gravely concerned about impending cuts to Metro bus service, too,” concluded Rasmussen.
Of the $45 million generated by Murray’s plan, up to $3 million would be used as matching dollars in a Regional Partnership Fund, designed to attract financing from other jurisdictions for transit service on shared, peak-period commuter routes. Murray said he would soon be convening city leaders throughout Puget Sound to discuss partnership opportunities.
“This is a thoughtful proposal that will keep Seattle moving and keep our economy strong,” said Kate Joncas, President and CEO of the Downtown Seattle Association. “The Mayor’s approach recognizes that bus routes don’t end at the city limits. Forty-three percent of downtown workers get to their job by transit, we can’t afford a major service disruption.”
Murray also announced that he would use existing resources within the Seattle Department of Transportation budget to stave of the first phase of scheduled cuts to transit service in Seattle, targeted for night-owl service this September.
“I am so glad that there is appetite among our city’s leaders to find ways to keep our buses rolling. Transit is too vital a public service for us not to take action,” said Alison Eisenger, Executive Director of the Seattle-King County Coalition on Homelessness. “We need solutions that are both fair and practical for Seattle and King County. I want to note in particular that Mayor Murray’s proposal would preserve night owl bus service, which is essential for people working swing shifts, and others, who would literally be left stranded without those late night routes.”
Additionally, Murray said approximately $2 million in his proposal would be designated to offset impacts on lower-income residents, including a vehicle license rebate for low-income car owners and a reduced fare for low-income riders.
“Transit is a critical community asset that we can’t afford to cut back on right now,” said Rob Johnson, Executive Director of Transportation Choices Coalition. “Transportation Choices Coalition is determined to work with the Mayor and other elected officials in the region to save every possible hour of Metro bus service we can.”
Murray said that all money sent to Metro from the City of Seattle will be specifically designated for service within the city and on regional partnership routes. At the same time, he emphasized his commitment to a long-term, regional funding solution for transit. Funding for Metro from the City of Seattle would not be a Seattle takeover of Metro, Murray said, and would represent only 8 percent of the total system. He said it could be phased-out in two years if new regional revenue is approved by King County or the Legislature.
“I plan to work with the City Council, the Executive, the coalition partners and our legislative leaders toward achieving a balanced comprehensive statewide package as quickly as we can,” said Murray. “It’s time to act.”
Murray’s proposal will be sent to the Seattle Transportation Benefit District (TBD) Board in the coming weeks. The TBD Board has until August 5 to refer the proposal to voters for their action at the ballot in November.