It is official. King County Metro Transit has received some temporary funding needed to avoid major cuts to bus service thanks to a bill signed into law today by Governor Chris Gregoire.
Senate Bill 5457—sponsored by Sen. Scott White, D-Seattle—would allow the King County Council to implement a temporary congestion reduction charge to fund Metro bus service if they can muster a 2/3rd majority (or if they decide to send it to the voters). The fee is temporary and would expire in 2012.
“A healthy transit system is a vital component of our local economy in King County,” White said. “Not only do many families rely on transit service on a daily basis to get to school and work, now more than ever we need a safe and reliable public transit infrastructure as we seek to reduce our carbon footprint and reliance on nonrenewable fuels."
County Executive Constantine is expected to send the proposal to the County Council as early as next month, where two-thirds of councilmembers must approve the proposal in order for it to take effect. Alternatively the council could decide to send the temporary measure to the voters.
“With $4 per gallon gas prices, demand for transit is rising, yet King County Metro is facing drastic cuts that will leave thousands of people stranded at the bus stop,” said Rob Johnson, Executive Director of Transportation Choices Coalition. “This legislation, which follows the recommendation of the Metro Regional Transit Task Force, is desperately needed in the short-term to keep Metro buses running while we continue to work on a sustainable, long-term funding solution for transit across Washington State.”
It is a relief to see the legislature (finally) do something for bus service in King County and having the potential to save thousands of hours of bus service is without a doubt a win. But, we are still facing a huge transit funding crisis in other communities across the state and this measure is a temporary band-aid that will try to hold together a gaping wound.