Friday, April 22, 2011

Temporary Transit Bill Is On Its Way to the Governor

Many thanks to Sen. White and Rep. Liias for their leadership that led to the final legislative approval of the "Congestion Reduction fee". It just received final approval by the Senate and will go to the Governor for her approval.

The bill, ESHB 5457, will generate about $25 million per year for two years to help preserve transit service while lawmakers explore how to fund transit with a more stable source than the sales tax, which is vulnerable in tough economic times.

Here is the Transportation For Washington press release:

Emergency congestion fee bill for transit passes Legislature

Bill to provide short-term local option funding for King County Metro sent to Governor’s desk

OLYMPIA – The legislature today passed SB5457 to help King County Metro stave off double digit service cuts to bus service. After passing both the state Senate and House today, the legislation will be sent to Governor Gregoire for her signature.

Introduced by Sen. Scott White (D-Seattle), with a companion bill sponsored in the House by Rep. Marko Liias (D-Edmonds), the legislation would allow the King County Council to implement a local option fee, called a congestion reduction charge, of $20 per vehicle in King County.

“Transit is critical for thousands of riders in King County, from Seattle to the south county and, of course, the eastside. Commuters, seniors and students depend on buses to get them to work, school and around their community,” White said. “When people are struggling to make ends meet in this economy, we must do what we can to keep transit services available and affordable. This bill helps bring critical funding to King County Metro at a time when budget cuts have significantly reduced transit services in our communities.”

The congestion reduction fee, if enacted by the King County Council, would be temporary and expire in 2013.

“Strong communities have good transit, and this short-term fix will help Metro continue delivering a key service for the Puget Sound region,” said Liias. “While transit agencies are making every efficiency possible, the recession has resulted in Metro Transit and other agencies cutting hundreds of thousands in bus hours just when they need it most.”

If signed by the Governor into law, to implement the congestion reduction fee, 2/3 of the King County Council must vote to approve the fee before it can be collected.

“The last thing our local economy needs is to make our traffic worse and leave riders stranded at bus stops. By funding transit, we are relieving congestion on our roads and providing an affordable alternative for people to get to their jobs,” said Kathy Huckabay, Board Chair of Transportation Choices Coalition and former Sammamish City Councilmember. “The thousands of riders who depend on Metro everyday cannot afford any more cuts. I urge the King County Council to act swiftly to use this tool to fund vital transit service.”

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Transportation for Washington is a multi-year, statewide campaign that lays a new vision for Washington around protecting our air and water, fixing what’s broken, expanding transit choices, and building great, healthy communities. The campaign is led by Futurewise and Transportation Choices Coalition and is supported by a coalition of more than 55 public officials, businesses, labor unions, and environmental, faith, health, and neighborhood organizations.

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