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May 11, 2012

$20 Congestion Reduction Charge to preserve bus service to begin appearing on car license tab renewals

Registrations also include an invitation to obtain tickets for eight free bus trips to sample Metro Transit

If you live in King County you’ll soon begin paying a $20 Congestion Reduction Charge (CRC) to fight congestion and preserve transit when you register a vehicle or renew your tabs. The charge begins with June renewals sent out by the state Department of Licensing and will be collected through May 2014.

The charge was authorized by the state legislature and enacted by the King County Council in 2011 to enable Metro Transit to maintain its current overall level of bus service while helping to keep traffic congestion in-check.

“This Congestion Reduction Charge will allow us to maintain our overall system over the next two years and make the best use of every transit dollar available,” Metro General Manager Kevin Desmond said.
The CRC and the recent adoption of a new transit strategic plan have made Metro more stable and productive. Metro is rebalancing the system to reduce or eliminate routes with few riders and restructuring corridors that have duplicative service. Through these restructuring efforts, Metro will be improving service on many routes.

Had the CRC not been enacted, about nine million transit rides a year would have been lost - forcing an additional 15,000 car trips a day onto the county's already congested highways and roads. Four of every five riders would have been directly or indirectly impacted by the cuts. Instead the CRC has spared thousands of riders from having to walk farther, wait longer, or stand in the aisle or at the curb as loaded buses pass them by.

The slow economy has taken a major toll on Metro’s funding in recent years. In adopting the CRC, the County Council’s intent was to help close a projected $60 million annual revenue shortfall in the years ahead. The move temporarily preserves the Metro system until more stable funding sources can be secured in Olympia. 

It’s estimated the CRC will generate about $50 million over the two-year life of the fee. Metro has been using reserves and other one-time sources of funds in recent months to maintain service until the fees can be collected. The County is currently developing a new biennial budget that will determine how far into 2014 Metro will be able to maintain service without additional funding sources. 

When county residents begin registering their vehicles this month, their registration will include an invitation to obtain tickets for free bus trips on Metro as a result of last year’s CRC action.

The program is intended to reach beyond the bus riders who already account for 113 million annual trips on Metro. Each King County household registering a vehicle will be eligible to receive eight Metro free ride tickets. Past experience with similar incentive programs has shown that people who give the bus a try are more likely to keep riding.

“By providing an incentive that lets people save money by trying the bus, this program will encourage a new wave of bus riders to become everyday users of our system,” Desmond said. 

The ticket incentive program is designed to build ridership. At a time when transportation costs and gas prices are at a near record high, Desmond says there’s never been a better time to give Metro a try. 

The program applies to households that register at least one vehicle annually over the next two years. The free ride tickets will be good for use on more than 200 Metro bus routes serving 130 park-and-ride lots, garages, and 13 transit centers.

To receive eight free-ride tickets, households will need to fill out a request form, which will also offer the option of donating the value of the tickets to a fund to support low-income residents who rely on the bus. The bus tickets will only be good for rides on regular Metro bus routes and will not be transferable to other transit modes or service providers.

More information about the Congestion Reduction Charge is available online.  Information about Metro’s ticket incentive program and eligibility requirements is here.

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