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December 2, 2013 at 6:00 AM

Poll: How should King County fund Metro public transit?

King County officials are weaving their way through some gnarly political traffic.

Should they cut Metro transit routes despite growing ridership? Or convince voters to raise taxes and car tab fees? If the Legislature doesn’t pass a transportation package that lets them do this, will they have to resort to an old law that allows them to go it alone, but raise less revenue?

Photo by Mark Harrison/The Seattle Times

Photo by Mark Harrison/The Seattle Times

Seattle Times transportation reporter Mike Lindblom outlines the region’s pending bus funding crisis in this news side story. Here’s one of the big reasons folks are so wary of inching toward 10 percent sales tax per $100 spent by consumers:

According to the Institute for Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP), the poorest fifth of Washington state households pay 17 percent of their income in state and local taxes, while the richest fifth pay less than 7 percent. Those are statewide averages, so the disparity grows in urban Puget Sound, where transit sales taxes are higher.

“(In) a state that is already clearly the most regressive in the nation, amazingly you’d have localities where it is more regressive,” said Matt Gardner, ITEP executive director.

“In fairness, there aren’t a lot of other choices available to lawmakers in Washington,” said Gardner.

Lawmakers appear no closer to a transportation deal, so it’s understandable why officials are antsy to get something before voters in 2014. Cuts are slated to begin next summer. By the time the next legislative session begins in January, the political waters may be too charged for lawmakers to vote on increasing taxes and fees. And even if the state legislature does pass a transportation package that includes local options for counties, a possible referendum may delay implementation of the law till after the November 2014 elections — a less-than-ideal scenario for transit planners.

So let’s get a sense of what readers think about the county’s Plan A and Plan B. Click below the jump to vote in our poll. As first reported in Lindblom’s story, here is The Seattle Times’ description of those two options:

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Comments | Topics: king county, legislature, metro

July 29, 2013 at 6:00 AM

How Seattle mayoral candidates would fix Metro funding crisis

I recently wrote this column about my efforts to live car-free in Seattle. I argued for preserving and expanding the Metro bus network. With the August 6 primary just one week away, this is the time for us all to think about voting for leaders who understand our transportation system’s funding woes.

The new Rapid Ride bus route heading down 3rd Ave. in downtown Seattle sharing the road with other buses. (STEVE RINGMAN/THE SEATTLE TIMES)

The new Rapid Ride bus route heading down 3rd Ave. in downtown Seattle sharing the road with other buses. (STEVE RINGMAN/THE SEATTLE TIMES)

If you want a better understanding of where the money comes from and why Metro has reached the point of possibly cutting service by 17 percent, go to this King County Metro link. Fares increased 80 percent between 2008 and 2011. Metro’s revenue comes mostly from collecting sales taxes, which have fluctuated since the recession began. Hence the need for local option taxing authority — an argument outlined in this May 13 op-ed by King County Executive Dow Constantine.

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Comments | Topics: king county, metro, politics