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King County Executive
Dow Constantine


Executive Triplett proposal saves RapidRide at no new cost to taxpayers despite recession

Summary

King County Executive Kurt Triplett today proposed saving five planned new RapidRide routes in Metro Transit’s highest ridership corridors and providing for an additional one-million new passenger trips a year on the 520 bridge at no net increase in taxes. His proposal would use 5.5 cents of new taxing authority granted by the 2009 legislature, but would be offset by rolling back an equal amount in two other levies.

Story

Executive TriplettKing County Executive Kurt Triplett today proposed saving five planned new RapidRide routes in Metro Transit’s highest ridership corridors and providing for an additional one-million new passenger trips a year on the 520 bridge at no net increase in taxes. His proposal would use 5.5 cents of new taxing authority granted by the 2009 legislature, but would be offset by rolling back an equal amount in two other levies.

By reprioritizing transportation dollars now spent on passenger ferries to buses, Triplett proposes 4.5 cents of the Ferry District property tax be rolled back for four years, leaving enough money to move forward with plans to expand Vashon Island and West Seattle Water Taxi passenger ferry service. Triplett proposes drawing down cash reserves from the Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS) program to allow for a one cent rollback to this levy without jeopardizing the work. Combined, the two tax reductions would mean no net increase in taxes to homeowners while creating more stable, dedicated funding to Metro Transit.

The legislature gave King County the councilmanic authority to levy a property tax of up to 7.5 cents per $1000 of assessed value to help reduce Metro Transit’s reliance on local sales taxes. The legislation requires the first one cent be spent on expanded bus service across SR 520. The remaining 6.5 cents authorized by the legislature can be spent on bus service throughout the county. With broader service reductions unavoidable in order to close a projected $200 million deficit in Metro’s 2010/2011 biennial budget, Triplett proposes using 4.5 cents of this taxing authority to save planned new RapidRide service.

Rolling back 4.5 cents on the Ferry District levy would mean suspension of five potential passenger ferry demonstration projects on Lake Washington and Puget Sound. However, cash reserves and $2 million in new federal money secured by Senator Patty Murray would allow for the purchase of new ferries and more trips on the Vashon route and year-round water taxi service.

“In these economic times, more passenger ferry routes are a luxury we cannot afford; we must invest precious transportation tax dollars where they deliver the most benefit to our region,” said Triplett. “This five-and-a-half cents for Metro Transit would provide 23,000 additional passenger trips a day on our most heavily used corridors during a time when overall bus ridership has jumped 20%.”

Metro carries nearly 400 thousand passengers per day, more people than all the other public transportation systems in the state combined. RapidRide service is King County Metro’s version of a new concept in public transportation. The service is more frequent, reliable and environmentally friendly. RapidRide’s hybrid electric/diesel buses will have low floors with 3 doors so that riders can get on and off quickly. Buses will arrive every 10 minutes in the peak period and electronic signs at stations will provide real-time information about when the next bus will arrive so there is no need to worry about schedules during the peak. There is tremendous demand for this service.

Today’s total annual ridership in the five RapidRide corridors is 10.5 million riders. The ridership with this new service is expected to increase to almost 16 million within the next five years Ridership on the 520 corridor is expected to jump 35 percent or one million additional passenger trips per year if Metro can pay for operating costs of the new Urban Partnership service.

“It doesn’t make sense to cut Metro’s planned new RapidRide and Highway 520 service that would add 23,000 bus passenger trips a day while collecting transportation taxes for possible passenger ferry demonstration routes that would carry a few hundred people a day at most,” Triplett continued. “The 5.5 cents not only saves RapidRide and the Urban Partnership it would pay for other core bus service that faces elimination due to the drop in sales tax revenue.”

RapidRide was a key feature of increased service under the voter approved Transit Now sales tax that is currently not generating enough revenue to fund planned service because of the recession. RapidRide is planned between Tukwila and Federal Way, Bellevue to Redmond, downtown to West Seattle, Ballard and Uptown, north Seattle and Shoreline.

The Ferry District would continue to collect one cent to fund planned expansion of Vashon and West Seattle Water Taxi service under Triplett’s proposal. The Metropolitan King County Council created the Ferry District in 2007 when the state ferry system decided to cancel passenger ferry service from Vashon Island. The Ferry District levied a 5.5 cent tax to fund passenger ferry service to downtown Seattle from Vashon and West Seattle and up to five new routes serving Lake Washington and Puget Sound.

The $127 million federal Urban Partnership grant includes $41 million for new buses and park-and-ride improvements for the 520 corridor. It does not provide operating costs of the new buses. The service is designed to give residents an alternative to paying tolls that will begin in the fall of 2010 to pay for a new bridge.

In coming weeks, Triplett will announce a number of other measures he is taking in order to balance Metro’s budget, which is heavily reliant on a nine-tenths of a cent sales tax. Efficiencies, a fare increase, capital and service cuts, and use of reserves are all on the table to close the funding gap.



King County Executive
Dow Constantine
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