Constantine proposes fee hikes, new sales tax to rescue Metro riders

The county executive lays out a proposal for a ballot measure that would create a "transportation benefit district." A 25-cent fare increase is also likely in store.
Waiting for a Metro 150, which connects Downtown Seattle, Kent and Auburn

Waiting for a Metro 150, which connects Downtown Seattle, Kent and Auburn Oran Viriyincy/Flickr

To stave off bus service cuts and raise money for roads, King County officials want voters to approve a local ballot initiative this spring. The initiative would create a “transportation benefit district” funded by increased vehicle license fees and a new sales tax.

Under the proposed ballot measure, announced by King County Executive Dow Constantine on Tuesday, vehicle license fees would rise from $20 to $60 and sales tax within the county would inch upwards by one-tenth of of 1 percent, meaning 1 cent per $10 dollars spent. The county estimates that each year the fees would generate $80 million and the tax would create another $50 million. About $80 million would go to King County Metro Transit. The remaining $50 million would pay for roads and other transportation projects. If the County Council approves, a vote on the ballot measure would take place during a special election held on April 22.

Four County Council members — Council Chair Larry Phillips, Jane Hague, Joe McDermott and Rod Dembowski — joined Constantine at a press conference on Tuesday to voice support for the initiative.

The governing board of the countywide transportation benefit district would consist of King County Council members. Under state law transportation benefit districts — and other special-purpose entities like port and fire districts — are considered “quasi-municipal corporations.” Transportation districts can implement vehicle registration fees up to $100 per year and sales taxes up to two-tenths of 1 percent with voter approval. The districts can also issue general obligation bonds.

Without a new source of funding, Metro Transit will face a $75 million budget gap later this year. As a result of the shortfall, the agency has said it will have to cut 74 bus routes and reduce or change service on 107 others. Constantine said on Tuesday that he would prefer using a motor vehicle excise tax rather than the transportation district to help fund Metro. But King County does not have the ability to levy the MVET, which is based on a vehicle's value, without the state Legislature’s authorization. Lawmakers in Olympia have been unable to agree on any legislation that might solve Metro Transit’s budget woes.

“We are out of time for a statewide bill that includes a local transportation solution,” Constantine said. “For five years now we’ve lived under the threat of drastic cuts, bus cuts, at a time when we’ve needed more service, not less.”

Constantine is also proposing that Metro Transit adopt a scheduled 25-cent across the board fare increase in March 2015. At that time, the most expensive fare would rise from $3.00 to $3.25. The fare hike will create an estimated $6.6 million in additional annual revenue, which was already factored into the agency’s financial planning.

Riders with incomes that are equal to or less than two times the federal poverty level would qualify for a new reduced $1.50 fare. The income threshold for the fare would be $22,980 for a single person. Details of determining eligibility have to be worked out. All reduced fare payments would be done through an ORCA card rather than cash.

For the last two years, Metro Transit has avoided service cuts by relying on revenue from a $20-per-vehicle “congestion reduction charge.” Language in the state law authorizing the charge will cause it to expire in June. The transit agency has made $800 million in cost cuts and savings during the last five years and has already increased fares four times since 2008. Constantine said that sales tax declines during the Great Recession caused Metro’s money troubles. Roughly 54 percent of the agency’s operating budget comes from sales tax.

Revenue generated by the transportation district will be divided up within the county based on population. Seattle is slated to receive $16.5 million annually for transportation projects.

“It’s an agreement we can all live with, the cities and the county,” said the City Council’s Transportation Committee chair Tom Rasmussen. “We’re only getting six or seven million now a year from the current vehicle license fee.”


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Comments:

Posted Wed, Jan 15, 2:25 a.m. Inappropriate

This will go down in flames.

NotFan

Posted Wed, Jan 15, 7:12 a.m. Inappropriate

The state legislation for this proposed TBD was enacted when democrats were in complete control. This TBD would be a permanent new taxing district with new bond-selling powers and the public never would be able to dissolve it.

The democrats here are nothing if not consistent. They just can't stop hiking taxes that target most heavily the lower middle class, young families, and the elderly on fixed incomes.

Handing Boeing massive tax breaks and then hiking regressive taxes, even though our state/local taxing structure already is the most regressive in the country . . . yup, that's our democrats in action.

Now, cue the propagandist who'll have conversations with himself using different screen names. This thread will fill with rambling, incorrect, and off-topic posts designed to bore and confuse readers. The interests that would benefit from the tax hike invariably use that technique as a smokescreen in comment threads.

crossrip

Posted Wed, Jan 15, 8:21 a.m. Inappropriate

Thank goodness Dow is willing to be a functional political leader and is willing to address serious issues rather than pander to extremists. We are lucky to have one of the fastest growing economies in the county with some of the highest wages that is not based on extractive industries and we will continue to grow. We need transit and road and utility infrastructure to manage that growth.

Posted Wed, Jan 15, 9:28 a.m. Inappropriate


The "extremists" around here are Dow Constantine and his party's leadership. We have the worst state/local taxing structure in the country, Steve -- because the democrats here are extremists.

The democrats have effectively controlled what happens with taxing policies in this state for a generation. All they've done is give massive tax breaks to profitable corporations and hike taxes that target individuals and families for the greatest financial impact. What haven't they done? Work to impose taxes that target the wealthy and corporations:

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/6/69/19237_TaxFoundation_v2.gif

See how this state is an outlier, Steve? That is because of the extremist taxation policies that Dow Constantine pushed.

The only democrats that flourish in Washington State are those that loathe the notion of progressive taxing. Look at Ed Murray's record in the state legislature – all he did was push for legislation making the tax impacts on the less-well-off worse, and he never advocated for progressive taxing strategies.

Elsewhere in the country democrats are liberal. They try to level the playing field and work for social justice. That's essentially what “liberal” means. Here though the democrats want to increase the wealth gap between the rich and the poor by using nasty taxation policies, especially when it comes to transit.

The democratic party leaders and their functionaries now in power always push for higher sales taxes and car tab taxes for local transit taxing districts, and then work hard to impose them. Those are the singular accomplishments of Frank Chopp, Ed Murray, Greg Nickels, Dow Constantine, Larry Phillips, etc. Constantine and Phillips now are pushing for higher sales taxes and car tab taxes for Metro, instead of questioning the management of Metro, explaining why additional tax revenue might be needed, or advocating for a revenue-raiser not designed to hit the families with the least the hardest.

Look at how “tax the people with the least the heaviest” is the unvarying theme of the democrats. King County Metro’s high taxing targeting the middle class and poor dates from its first sales tax in 1972. Then Metro doubled its sales tax in 1980. Then the democrats around here really started going to town. They controlled King County and hiked its sales taxes again for Metro in 2000, and then again in 2006. In 2011 the democrats began collecting an additional car tab tax. That completely unaccountable municipality Sound Transit was designed and operated by democrats. It got a big sales tax and car tab tax from the democrats in the state legislature in 1992, and the local democrats began imposing those with gusto. Another unaccountable local taxing district (the Seattle Popular Monorail Authority) was created and authorized to impose heavy car tab taxes. It did that for over three years, and completely wasted all that tax revenue. Now the people here are taxed heavily for transit -- a 1.8% sales tax, plus car tab taxes, plus a property tax.

That's far more regressive taxing, and higher overall taxing, compared with everywhere else in the country.

Seattle used to impose a modest payroll tax a few years back, and then the city council repealed that progressive tax. What did it replace it with? You guessed it, a TBD car tab fee the democrats in the state legislature just had handed it.

What do Dow and Larry want, really badly, at this point? A more regressive taxing structure. What does their party's leadership want after that? Yet more regressive taxing authority from the state legislature for Sound Transit. Then Ed Murray will push for “city-only” regressive taxes on top of that for more light rail.

What don't the democrats ever implement? Policies involving paying for transit the fair way, the way the peers do: not much new local taxing, and progressive taxing only to the extent needed.

Is this clear to you yet, Steve? It is an extremist set of taxation policies, in spades.

crossrip

Posted Wed, Jan 15, 11:01 a.m. Inappropriate

It's easy to be against more taxes. I surely don't want to pay more either. It's easy to blame the demos for spending "too much" on transit and other public infrastructure.

What's hard is coming up with a better solution. Unless congress approves a state wide financing plan, we either have to raise more money locally or reduce transit (or reduce a number of other programs at great expense to the poor and lower middle class).

Status quo won't work. If we simply cut transit, we will effects in various ways. Transit will become less practical and more people will switch to driving. That means more congestion and a demand for more roads. (Where do we put more roads? Use eminent domain to take private property?) It probably means more sprawl as businesses look for locations away from traffic jams. You can envision the whole 1950-1970 LA basin scenario roll out.

In the long run, many things will change. More teleconferencing, self-driving cars, better mass transit (perhaps). For the short run, we will hurt many people if we simply cut transit.

If you have proposals for a working solution, let's hear them.

pragmatic

Posted Wed, Jan 15, 11:10 p.m. Inappropriate

The poor and the middle class, you say? The average bus commuter has a higher than average income. This subsidy is reverse Robin Hood, which is oh-so-typical of so many "progressive" policies here.

NotFan

Posted Wed, Jan 15, 11:38 a.m. Inappropriate

What's hard is coming up with a better solution.

100% wrong.

Buses and trains should be financed the way all the peers do it. Let me guess -- you have no idea what financing techniques are used elsewhere in this country, right? That's the public stance the government heads here adopt: they play stupid about best practices for paying for transit.

Transit here should be financed the way peer regions do it: little or no new regressive taxing, no new g.o. muni bonds, revenue bonds secured by fares (to the extent needed), progressive tax revenue streams, reallocation of parts of extant county/city/state tax streams, mostly federal New Starts grants, state grants, LID assessments and higher fares. All of this is news to you, right?

Ever studied how transit is paid for outside this state? Educate yourself. Start with examining how it's done in New York to pay for NYC's trains and buses (the state legislators in Albany sets the taxing and fare policies for the MTA, and they do a good job of it). The Twin Cities and the greater Portland area are good examples as well. UNlike here, all of them employ reasonable, effective financing plans.

See -- it's not hard if you look outside this state, where our democrats have been setting abusive, unprecedented transit financing policies in place for decades.

crossrip

Posted Wed, Jan 15, 12:16 p.m. Inappropriate

You're answering the wrong problem. The problem at hand is a deadlocked congress leaving King County with few choices. Answer THAT problem.

pragmatic

Posted Wed, Jan 15, 11:25 p.m. Inappropriate

@pragmatic, the answer is "NO." It's really quite a powerful word when used at the right moment.

NotFan

Posted Fri, Jan 17, 8:46 p.m. Inappropriate

Thank you crossrip. I am a former democrat/liberal but the Seattle/King County extremists have turned me away from the party entirely. I have lived in Seattle my entire life and can no longer stomach what is going on. King County could save a ton of money if they stopped subsidizing transportation for its employees. As a taxpayer and KC employee myself,I would GLADLY give up that benefit to save service. The City of Seattle should do the same and pitch in since I am sure KC and City funds are comingled for Seattle's precious street car network that no one needed. There is my two cents! Thank you again crossrip for you honest and informative posts.

mjbg

Posted Wed, Jan 15, 12:30 p.m. Inappropriate

I admire your spunk in wading into this pit of vituperation. The secret to not being gummed to death by the crotchety right-wing codgers who have taken over this blog is to smear yourself beforehand with the ashes of a toad cremated in wormwood. For the scientifically curious, this is not black magic but works on the very same principle as vaccinations.

Nobody imagines that Constantine's proposed tax solution is an ideal one. It just happens to be about the only avenue available in the absence of action by the state legislature to create other funding options. So the actual choice is between sustaining a viable level of Metro service with an admittedly regressive tax or letting the system degrade unacceptably.

Most rational individuals will hold their noses and vote for Dow's tax. I expect it will pass easily.

woofer

Posted Wed, Jan 15, 12:55 p.m. Inappropriate

So the actual choice is between sustaining a viable level of Metro service with an admittedly regressive tax or letting the system degrade unacceptably.

That's a false dichotomy. Indeed, your simplistic “they need to hike taxes or cut substantial service” proposition is an insult to everyone in this community.

What's really going on here is the county government heads are crying wolf. A “viable level” of bus service can be retained without hiking regressive taxes.

Some of Metro's service hours could be cut with minimal impact. For example, routes could be changed so that several hundred people living out by North Bend and on the Issaquah plateau would need to make a single transfer, as opposed to getting a direct ride to downtown Seattle. Cutting other little-used routes could be done. That’s all a 10% service-hour reduction would entail if it is done right.

Sound Transit also could do what it did in Pierce County for Pierce Transit two years ago: pick up some Metro bus routes. Sound Transit has a massive surplus in the East King subarea because of its excessive regressive taxing. It could run more buses.

Way too much is spent by Metro on the “dial for transit” program, and employers should pay more for the vanpools that benefit them. Those steps would decrease operations costs.

Metro's bad practice of diverting fully 25% of the revenue from the heavy sales taxes it already imposes to a separate capital budget should stop. Most of that now simply is used to buy investment securities. The peers don’t do that.

The county could re-direct income from other sources to Metro, without approval from the state legislature. Tell you what, “woofer” – try and find a summary of where in the current biennial budget the county council allocated, say, the investment income it expects to generate. None of it goes to Metro. You and I then can discuss whether some of that revenue stream (or other county revenue streams) instead should be allocated to transit.

The fact that the state legislature hasn't authorized the county to impose progressive taxes for transit as the peers do sends a strong message: the state legislators believe the local yokels DO NOT need more tax revenue. That makes sense -- there is far more local taxing for transit here already than in any peer region.

crossrip

Posted Wed, Jan 15, 10:57 p.m. Inappropriate

@woofer, are you one a-them angry "progressives" today? Forget to take yer kumbaya pills again? Look, you can always go to one of the many censored "progressive" sites like the Stranger, the Seattle Bike Blog, or the Seattle Transit Blog, and do the group-grope mosh pit thing that you so crave.

The very last thing that a Seattle "progressive" ever wants to tolerate is disagreement, especially from anyone who should happen to mention anything about rampant "progressive" corruption, waste, self-dealing, hypocrisy, and sanctimony. Not to mention transparently two-faced, passive-aggressive, manipulative, fact-free blah-blah.

Oh no! You mean to tell us that you think we are just as stupid, closed off, faith-based, and dishonest as those nasty Republicans out in the Palouse? Off with your head, you crotchety, vituperative, right-wing heretic! And old. Don't you realize that we "progressives" just wish you'd die, already?

Sorry, guy, but you make me laugh.

p.s., I'm going to be voting against you for another 30 years, out of sheer spite. And unlike the stoner 20-somethings who voted to set up a state cartel to slap a 15-fold mark up on an agricultural commodity and call it "legalization" before drifting back into the purple haze, we crotchety, vituperative, right-wing heretics actually study the details and then NEVER miss an election. If you don't believe me, call your buddy Mike McGinn and ask him about it.

NotFan

Posted Wed, Jan 15, 8:55 a.m. Inappropriate

Agree with NotFan and crossrip. Particularly crossrip for stating what many might ignore: the glaring contrast between bribing Boeing and then hitting us up for more, more, ever more. I just paid $95.75 for tabs for my 1999 VW Passat. That was $65.75 in extra taxes and fees, including the "congestion reduction charge" already. And now I should pay $60 on top of that, and a 10th of a percent sales tax increase, too? I don't think so.

And one can no longer have one's tabs mailed to one's home. Either we must have them mailed to a KC office downtown, which of course would cost at least $5 in bus fare or much more to park down there, or we must pay an agency an additional $5 to have the tabs "mailed" to them. According to the woman at the agency they don't receive tabs mailed to them; they just distribute tabs. Why, Mr. Constantine, are we being forced to pay a private business for this non-service? I spent gas money and 20 minutes of my life waiting in line, plus travel time, to pick up the tabs after being forced to go get them somewhere.

How is it that they aren't already collecting that 10th of a cent considering that they get .09 of a cent at this point? How am I paying only 9/10's of a cent when I'm getting whole coins and bills in change?

And can anyone really believe this? "Asked what would happen if the Legislature passes a bill after voters have already approved the transportation district plan he said: “I’d be happy to work with the legislators to find a way to replace the taxes the voters approve with a different set of taxes, that might be by vote of the people, that might be by councilmanic action.”

If anyone can, we need to raise money for mental health assistance.

mspat

Posted Wed, Jan 15, 12:08 p.m. Inappropriate

I just had my tabs mailed to me, at home, last week. Not sure why you aren't able to do this.

My problem with this plan is that it is regressive — but I suppose it's better than nothing.

And yes, I'd like to see more support for mental health as well.

Posted Wed, Jan 15, 1:06 p.m. Inappropriate

My problem with this plan is that it is regressive — but I suppose it's better than nothing.

Benjamin: You seem like a bright enough individual. Want to try answering a question? Try estimating what the average household now pays in transit taxes here. I'll help you get started: there's a .9% Sound Transit sales tax, a .9% Metro sales tax, part of the county property tax is dedicated to Metro, and there's a Sound Transit car tab tax. I'm not including the Seattle TBD car tab tax.

Here's something else to keep in mind -- in the greater Portland region the people pay zero dollars ($0) in general taxes for buses, trains and streetcars -- no sales taxes, no car tab taxes, and no property taxes.

See if you can come up with the average annual tax hit now for a household here though, and keep in mind the average family with two young children will be paying MUCH more. This isn't a trick question.

crossrip

Posted Sat, Jan 18, 6:49 p.m. Inappropriate

Tri-Met gets 0.5% of the property taxes collected in its three-country area, so the statement that it doesn't rely on property taxes is false. That much said, it's nevertheless true the most of its tax support is from a 0.7237% payroll tax on employers. This functions just like a flat-rate income tax. It doesn't show up on anyone's W-2, but it's still there as a rakeoff, and one of many reasons that Portland's incomes greatly lag ours up here.

But the payroll tax is grossly inadequate, and Oregon knows it. This is why Tri-Met's payroll tax rate has risen 11% since 2007, from 0.6518% to 0.7237%. Given the WILDLY optimistic wage growth assumptions embedded into Tri-Met's long-term revenue forecasts, everyone there knows that the payroll tax rate will have to keep rising to keep the boondoggle light rail system afloat.

Portland area voters are increasingly skeptical of Tri-Met. They have rejected a number of schemes, ranging from vehicle excise taxes, new gas taxes, property tax increases, and developer fees. This has tightened the noose, and it will tighten further given Washington State's rejection of a new bridge across the Columbia River that would have no impact whatsoever on car commute times.

The bridge is entirely a scheme to extend light rail to Clark County, Washington -- which flatly does not want it. They understand why the bridge has been proposed. It is solely a means for Tri-Met to tap into Washington State's tax revenues, and thereby subsidize Portland and Oregon itself, both of which have been in a prolonged downward economic spiral for 20 years.

The Oregon legislature, increasingly worried about the state's future, is now trying to go ahead with the I.V. line, aka the CRC bridge, without Washington State's participation. Such is the growing desperation surrounding Tri-Met's future, and Oregon's long-term fiscal picture as well. None of it has one single thing to do with mass transit. It's a desperate money grab, period. Oregon knows that Tri-Met, and particularly light rail, is a fiscal boat anchor, and they're very much wanting to spread the liability.

Crossrip, if I were you, I'd really wouldn't point toward Tri-Met as any kind of financial success story. In reality, Tri-Met is a financial black hole that's slowly but surely sucking Portland in behind it.

NotFan

Posted Thu, Jan 16, 7:09 a.m. Inappropriate

How about it, Benjamin?

You acknowledge the county's proposal would impose regressive taxes, which are designed to impact disproportionately heavily the individuals and families with the least economic means. You probably also know we have the most regressive state/local taxing structure in the country.

I asked you to estimate the amount of direct transit taxes the average household here already pays each year. I'd like you to try doing that. What I want to do is establish to your satisfaction that not only are transit taxes here the wrong type of revenue-raisers, but that they also are excessive. That means that contrary to what you posted, these particular proposed tax hikes in fact would not be "better than nothing."

Are you having trouble estimating the amount of direct transit taxing impacting the average household here these days? That amount has increased significantly over the past two decades. It's not a figure that the government "communication teams" include in their press releases, if that helps.

crossrip

Posted Fri, Jan 17, 9:19 a.m. Inappropriate

I renewed my tabs online and it gave me no choice to have the tabs mailed to home as I believe I had in the past. It kept giving me pages with lists of agency locations, including the KC office downtown, which was the only one that did not have the additional $5 fee tacked on. I'd be glad to be educated if there was something I missed. I did click around, check help/faqs and still could not find a way to have my tabs mailed to my home. I contacted my state senator who said he'd look at it. I am not holding my breath waiting for a reply.

And the money! Already $65+ over the $30 tab cost, for which I get no benefit that I can discern. I travel to and from work in Tacoma on 99 in Seattle and now that it has been reduced from 3 lanes to 2 at peak hours, I've added 15 minutes to go the last few blocks to get home.

Last week it took me 30 minutes to get from Winona to 205th at peak hour in the afternoon. I saw exactly one bus using the dedicated lane. It was traveling southbound at about 196th, just south of Aurora Village. I saw no buses northbound, which is the direction I would expect to the direction buses would be benefited in the afternoon. And I should pay more for this? No.

mspat

Posted Fri, Jan 17, 9:33 a.m. Inappropriate

I too have renewed online for years, and have had my tabs mailed to me. Just a few days ago, I received an email reminder to renew my tabs, which I don't think I've gotten before. It does say that renewal online with tabs being mailed is an option. Could it be possible that the State Dept of Licensing has a different process for different regions, ie, that Seattle has required a change made in their jurisdiction? Incredibly inefficient if that is true.

Here is what my email renewal stated:

Renewal options

Save time, go online.
It’s easy to renew online. Save time and gas money by having us mail your tabs to you, or pick up your tabs at any vehicle licensing office. There’s no extra cost to renew online.
Renew by mail.
If you prefer to renew by mail, request a printed renewal notice with a payment coupon. You should get the notice and payment coupon in the mail 7-14 days after you request it. Then simply mail us the payment coupon with a check or money order for the fees.
Renew in person.
You may renew at any vehicle licensing office location and pay your fees by cash or check. The licensing agent will walk you through the process.

Posted Fri, Jan 17, 8:22 p.m. Inappropriate

Now hold on, mspat ... you say "Last week it took me 30 minutes to get from Winona to 205th at peak hour in the afternoon."

I assume you stayed on 99 the entire time. Why?? Jump off and go north on Linden, or Greenwood, or 3rd NW or a combination of any of those. Only lemmings sit in traffic.

I just renewed my tabs online today, after I posted that earlier comment, and my tabs are being mailed to me, although they are being mailed from one of the license renewal centers geographically near me (I do not live in Seattle anymore).

Posted Wed, Jan 15, 11:09 a.m. Inappropriate

Vote no now and as many times as necessary until Dow and Metro get the message. Their value proposition to those who are paying the bills isn't working. You are absolutely abusing those in the outlying areas with shoddy service. You continue to do everything but reform METRO and it's cost structure.

Cameron

Posted Wed, Jan 15, 12:09 p.m. Inappropriate

I wonder why this proposal is not just to fund Metro's shortfall. The "other" transportation projects may not prove as popular as Metro. I'm pretty sure a 0.1% increase in sales tax to keep Metro buses running would pass easily.

Why blame "the democrats" for our current tax structure? It's been in place forever. Given the chance, voters have repeatedly voted to increase the regressive sales tax, especially if transit is involved. And voters also seem to hate progressive income taxes--they have voted against one at least 7 times since 1934, including a whopping 64-36 vote in 2010. Blame "the voters" if you feel blame is needed.

Posted Wed, Jan 15, 3:39 p.m. Inappropriate

"I wonder why this proposal is not just to fund Metro's shortfall. The "other" transportation projects may not prove as popular as Metro. I'm pretty sure a 0.1% increase in sales tax to keep Metro buses running would pass easily."

Me too.

And crossrip, thanks for hanging in there.

afreeman

Posted Wed, Jan 15, 11:05 p.m. Inappropriate

It might be that two-thirds of the state's voters don't trust the grasping fee monsters in public life. Maybe they don't want our state to turn into California or New York, where the sales taxes are almost as high as ours on top of ruinous income taxes.

I know how much that galls the "progressives." Oh well. Tough when ya love "the people," but "the people" don't love ya back.

NotFan

Posted Fri, Jan 17, 9:34 a.m. Inappropriate

And "the people" trust less and less.

Posted Thu, Jan 16, 7:58 a.m. Inappropriate

The proposed budget is at http://metro.kingcounty.gov/am/reports/2013/king-county-proposed-budget-transportation-2013-2014.pdf

Taxes already being paid to support transit include $438 million in sales taxes, $24 million from property taxes, and $13 million from the congestion relief tax on car tabs. That's $475 million in taxes every year supporting Metro Transit. Fare box revenues are about $150 million a year.

Metro's total budget is about $850 million a year, though they are proposing to spend $1 billion in 2014 by doubling their capital expenditures from $160 million to $340 million, but capital goes back down after 2014. Does anyone know what that doubling of capital spending is all about? The rest of the funding comes from interagency transfers and grants and other non-tax contributions. Well, they are from taxes in that the money is coming from other government sources, but I'm not going to dig in to that too much.

The first source I ran across online says that there are about 789,000 households in King County, which means that each household is spending $600 a year in sales, property and congestion taxes to support Metro. The proposed funding package would add $132 a year in sales taxes to that amount, plus another $60 per vehicle. Let's assume that King County is a little below the national average of cars per household and call that 1.75 cars per household instead of 1.95, which means the average King County household will pay another $100 a year on vehicle registrations.

$600 in current taxes, plus $235 in new taxes, means King County households will, on average, pay $835 a year to support Metro Transit. That's an increase in taxes supporting Metro of almost 40%.

It's a little disingenuous for Metro's communications people to downplay the amount that the average household will pay by focusing on the montly instead of annual amount, and to avoid talking about how much the average household already pays for Metro. I actually don't mind paying taxes to support transportation, but the information being handed out to the public - and not being checked by credulous reporters and blogs - is incomplete and misleading. This represents a massive increase in the amount of money each household is paying to support Metro.

The lack of honesty and clarity from Metro is annoying, and any time I'm in a negotiation where the other party is withholding or obfuscating information my first reaction is to walk away from the deal.

talisker

Posted Thu, Jan 16, 10:44 a.m. Inappropriate

I've got different annual "tax-impact-per-household" figures than those.

The key point to keep in mind on the subject of the types and amounts of taxing for transit around here is that the democrats enacted legislation to ensure that Sound Transit simultaneously would be imposing heavy regressive taxes. That unaccountable municipality also was structured so it would adversely impact lower-middle class households disproportionately heavily "for transit". Its board's taxing includes a .9% sales tax and a bigger car tab tax than the one Metro has imposed.

These people tax like sociopaths. No other political leaders in the country come anywhere near targeting the most vulnerable segments of their communities with the amounts of regressive taxes the democrats of this state use.

crossrip

Posted Thu, Jan 16, 11:48 a.m. Inappropriate

Wow, so the "progressives" are lying again. Stop the presses!

NotFan

Posted Thu, Jan 16, 12:52 p.m. Inappropriate

I'd attribute it to the marketing and communication degree holders who are telling them what message to send.

talisker

Posted Thu, Jan 16, 1:27 p.m. Inappropriate

Just to make sure I am reading this correctly, this money is in addition to the fares we pay?

kieth

Posted Fri, Jan 17, 11:49 a.m. Inappropriate

Yes, it is in addition to the fares. $475 million from tax revenues plus $150 million from farebox and vanpool revenues.

talisker

Posted Thu, Jan 16, 12:42 p.m. Inappropriate

One thing I don't see addressed here is how this is going to effect students in Seattle if Metro is cut. Currently, many high school students take Metro to school. A lot of these routes are on the chopping block. Does this mean Seattle Public schools is going to have to come up with more funds for yellow buses?

The Seattle Youth Council has made it a priority this year to keep the buses running. My son takes the bus everywhere. To school, to work, just about everywhere.

Something needs to be done to keep the cuts from happening.

Rhonwyn

Posted Thu, Jan 16, 12:56 p.m. Inappropriate

You don't think there is any room anywhere in the Metro budget to make cuts? No routes that can be combined, no changes in how buses feed the park and rides or major through-routes?

I think that there is a lot of room to find efficiency in the existing network.

talisker

Posted Thu, Jan 16, 10:12 p.m. Inappropriate

I agree, this is D.O.A. As somewhere else it was noted, different article, “Custer had better odds.” It’s too heavy a lift at a poor time. Plus, most people are unaware of – and unaffected by – the roads piece, as it applies to unincorporated areas. But, it’s a dire situation there, where roads will continue to turn to gravel and bridges closed, both costing much more if the funds ever become available to restore them (vs. bringing their maintenance up to par). And, the money for Metro in particular is still on a “trust us” basis, i.e. there still lacks transparency for transit agencies and others who receive public funding, though Metro is better than most. And, going beyond the already-planned 25¢ fare increase would've gotten a better reception, such as incorporating a premium fare, say +$1.00, for "express" routes, viable now with the low-income fare built into this proposal, increasing the number of rides that pass prices are based on, etc. @mspat , the $60 tab charge would replace the $20 congestion relief charge. The latter expires in mid-June. That part would be a net +$40 per vehicle. It's difficult to see where the average household would "only" be paying $11 more per month, though.

bricsa

Posted Fri, Jan 17, 1:09 a.m. Inappropriate

Constantine will be back in November with another one. It's what these "progressive" snakes do.

NotFan

Posted Fri, Jan 17, 12:58 p.m. Inappropriate

Anybody remember back 20 years ago when Metro was it's own agency, before it merged with King County? It was a public agency that paid its people high wages and gave it's people bonuses even when computer programs that they spent millions on didn't work? I remember when they merged into King County there was talk about the disparity in salaries between county workers and Metro workers and how the county was going to deal with that issue. Sometimes I wonder if there still is a disparity, I wonder who dreams up all these routes to and from nowhere -- or at least nowhere the people want or use transit except for that occasional trip to downtown Seattle or Bellevue. I think Kevin Desmond is good at using scare tactics -- he sounds like a broken record. Let's see what happens if they don't get what they want -- will they throw a tantrum and take all the bus service away from downtown Seattle, or will they work with what they've got so the public can see what is actually needed before we blindly vote to give them more money.

I for one and willing to invest in transit, but I think Metro needs to review their monthly passes. As it is right now, not only are we subsidizing trips to and from work, we are subsidizing people's lifestyles that choose to live without cars. I do not feel that was the intention of the original monthly passes. If people choose to live without cars, they should be required to buy passes for use on the system -- like the people in New York do or the people in SF do. This change would definitely increase revenue.

NotFan -- you have been unusually sarcastic of late. What about trying to contribute some ideas for a change? I know you have some.

Norge

Posted Fri, Jan 17, 2:23 p.m. Inappropriate

No one wants ideas here. This is a "progressive" city, and ideas are the very LAST thing anyone wants in Seattle. This city is deathly afraid of ideas.

But, since YOU asked, here goes.

In a previous post about "Berthing Troubles," I demonstrated to some idiot "progressive" that the buses here are responsible for 3% of the passenger miles traveled in King County. Their chief utility is for congestion relief during the day, in a few places.

The bus system should focus SOLELY on that mission. Fares should be set to cover 100% of operating costs.

Everything else should be shut down, along with the light rail, the streetcars, and the Sounder. For those few people who use buses for other reasons, we could do a serious study of who they are, and figure out a way to serve them with small jitneys.

So there you go for ideas. But, like I say, this is a "progressive" city, and the "progressives" of Seattle are actively hostile to ideas. They are just as deeply conservative, puritanical, isolated, closed off, incurious, arrogant, fearful, tribal, grasping, corrupt, and hypocritical as anyone from the other side of the mountains. And did I mention aggressively stupid and proud of it?

NotFan

Posted Fri, Jan 17, 8:10 p.m. Inappropriate

You say "So there you go for ideas. But, like I say, this is a "progressive" city, and the "progressives" of Seattle are actively hostile to ideas. They are just as deeply conservative, puritanical, isolated, closed off, incurious, arrogant, fearful, tribal, grasping, corrupt, and hypocritical as anyone from the other side of the mountains. And did I mention aggressively stupid and proud of it?"

I agree. And what is worse, we pay their salaries. It is definitely time to hold them accountable for decisions, actions, cost overruns, and poor planning decisions.

Posted Fri, Jan 17, 2:53 p.m. Inappropriate

I used to think of myself as progressive, now I consider myself a conservative democrat because I don't believe throwing good money after bad is such a wise idea and maybe it's because I don't have that much money to throw away. Do you think age has anything to do with my change in perspective? I liked the idea of high speed rapid transit and I thought that's what we voted on -- instead we get light rail on surface streets. It would have been faster and cheaper to build BUS ONLY lanes on the freeways with exits and on-ramps and pedestrian bridges to get passengers to park and rides, more flexible too. But heck, I'm not an engineer, why would the powers that be listen to me? One thing I do know is that there is a lot of graft and corruption in Seattle and King Co. Prior to the vote on the light rail through SE Seattle, I saw a lot of properties change hands -- promises that the city gave to builders that they would build a light rail line if developers would revitalize the area. I guess that hasn't worked well either but we have a light rail line. Let's not even talk about the Westlake Streetcar. I think you are mislabeling some progressives that genuinely would like to make Seattle a better place and needing to find a lable for the swines that have an agenda for the city that is not progressive but comes from greed and self-interest. We have a lot of them.

Norge

Posted Fri, Jan 17, 3:26 p.m. Inappropriate

Norge, I'm in precisely the same political category as you. I once considered myself progressive too, but after paying closer attention to city and state politics in recent years, I actively disdain the "progressives" in these parts.

I find them closed-minded, knee-jerk, tribalistic, and insufferably arrogant. The most galling characteristics are their refusal to even consider facts, and their frequent blatant corruption. Their passive-aggressive, smarmy, smug hypocrisy doesn't help matters a whole lot either. This is why I put "progressive" in quotes. These are not, not, NOT the progressives I once knew. They are phonies through-and-through, almost like pod people. But they dominate the political landscape here. It's scary. They're half way to Mormons in thei own way, complete with the hive mind.

I do have to give that last mayor credit, though. His antics really did open my eyes wide open to what an utter joke this area's political leadership is. They dwell in the same few hip pockets: developers, Paul Allen, a few organized pressure groups.

The real problem in Seattle, as I see it, is the general apathy and lack of independence on the part of the average voter. People aren't paying close attention. Then something happens and they go, "Holy shit!" but by then it's too late.

The crowning irony, and real tragedy in my book, is that the "progressives" here have taken aim at all of the things that made Seattle the kind of place that a lot of people wanted to live in. This was a more easy going, do-your-own thing kind of place. It was pretty cheap by big city standards, and had great neighborhoods with lots of relaxed old-timers, and it was easy to get around. The drivers were slow, but they were polite and patient. Seattle was as comfortable as an old shoe.

All of those things are actual targets for the "progressives." That's been the big revelation. I really hadn't been aware that Seattle's "progressive" city government actively resents, and is working to undermine, all of the things I've mentioned. Even now, I struggle to wrap my mind around "progressives" who despise neighborhoods, want to make the roads more congested, want the city to become more expensive, and are bluntly intolerant of everything from cigarette smokers to car drivers. It's very strange, and really unsettling.

NotFan

Posted Fri, Jan 17, 3:57 p.m. Inappropriate

Sometimes I think that the politicians who run this city have stars in their eyes about what a great city Seattle could be in the eyes of the world and want to be memorialized in making Seattle that way when Seattle just being Seattle is a great place to live. We don't have to have the biggest hole in the ground or be the first city to have four professional sports teams (and the stadiums to go along with the teams), we don't need to hire a landscape architect from NY to design a waterfront park in Seattle nor do we need to buy art from out of state artists. We've got plenty of locally grown artists -- who could be better than Robert Beyer and his "Waiting for the Interurban" in Fremont and the Hammering Man at the downtown SAM looked a lot better with the ball and chain attached to his leg.

You are correct about voter apathy but I am close myself to pulling my voter registration card because nothing seems to be going my way. But, I am going to give it another try and am getting involved with a new group from my neighborhood and battling the City of Seattle, DPD, etc. over zoning issues in my neighborhood and many other neighborhoods in the city. Now I know you've said that you think you're in one of the last neighborhoods in the city that will get affected by the developers, but would you consider getting involved on behalf of your neighborhood to make sure it never gets that far. We are trying to get neighborhoods organized as a cohesive group and it is my task to find like-minded people.

Do you think you might have some interest in helping out. Whatever we do needs to be done soon. If you are interested, we can figure out a way to exchange personal information. Thanks for thinking about this -- I would really like to see you and your smart ass ways get involved.

Norge

Posted Fri, Jan 17, 6:27 p.m. Inappropriate

I had thought about involvement for a while, but when I saw what the city did to the people in Roosevelt who spent years on a density plan only to have it summarily rejected AND to have McGinn and the city council's allies go out and mercilessly trash them in all the usual places, boy oh boy, why do it?

Seems to me that at the city level, "involvement" is strictly a process of co-optation. The powers that be don't want any ideas. They find ideas and independence deeply threatening.

I did notice a while back that there was a joint state legislature group dealing with climate change. Now, that's something I'd be well equipped to be involved with, because I've studied all the clean tech in detail, know a lot about the topic, can be even-handed and objective, and would be in no one's pocket.

But my guess there is that there'd never be any sort of entry point. I've got to figure that, in Olympia, it's strictly a matter of dueling lobbyists, and that there could never be a role for the civic minded, reasonably neutral citizen.

I don't think any part of the political system around here is set up for that. I've lived in other places that were somewhat receptive to intelligent, practical citizen involvement, but around here I really do think the "involved" citizen winds up being a chump.

I'm afraid that there are so many entrenched interests in "progressive" Seattle that an intelligent, independent citizen would be viewed as a mortal threat. To the extent that I've looked closely at anything that's gone on here, "involvement wise," it certainly seems that way to me, anyhow.

I think the only thing to do these days is throw bricks, and hope to aim well. By the way I hear ua about giving up your voter registration. Same thing's occurred to me, but I guess I'm too much of an old-school type not to vote.

p.s.: Stick your e-mail in a message, and I'll think about meeting up for a cop o'joe. Who knows, maybe you'll convince me to be a city government b****, ha ha! Stranger things have happened.

NotFan

Posted Fri, Jan 17, 7:55 p.m. Inappropriate

The war on cars is at heart the biggest problem in Seattle. That war causes every urban problem to become reality: too much density without enough parking, too expensive of mass transit without enough parking, too many agencies without enough transparency, too many housing units that in 5 years or less look like crap (and have people living in them who do not care that where they live looks like crap), and too many urban planners educated in methods that I personally think are ruining Seattle and most other large cities everywhere.

Voters also need to be educated as to how to understand what is happening and why. It is no longer possible to sit back and say, "well that Mr. Johhansen has been here in Ballard for so many years, I know his kids and wife real well. They are the same kind of folks as me." Those days are long gone, and we are not better for it.

Immigrants have always been the heart and soul of Seattle, they are not the problem. The problem is elected people who aren't running because they want a better place to live, they are running for office because they believe too deeply that the public doesn't know what is good for them, and that THEY are there to save the day. Well, Dudley Dooright they ain't. I also question why the City of Seattle Council is so highly paid, and why the Port of Seattle board is paid only a stipend -- economic growth is a huge problem in our area, and we're paying the dolts at the City Council a butt-load of money, but not the board that helps push economic development forward? (this is not saying that the boards are smart enough to be paid, just a commentary of priorities to think about).

Norge and NotFan, you both do more good here in your anonymity than you realize.

Crosscut is just about the best discussion site with intelligence in Seattle. The discussions bring readership, and challenge whoever writes, whether article writer or commenter, to think. The freedom to say what anyone wants to say (and the passion) cannot be understated. Sure, some will call names, and argue silly points - but the bottom line is that everyone is reading and discussing.

I can feel the ship turning, just a little.

Posted Sat, Jan 18, 9:19 a.m. Inappropriate

NotFan - I just heard a term from a progressive activist that I need further information about because they don't understand how I can be a neighborhood activist without being a progressive. The term is progressive, anti-capitalist. Maybe that's where I fit -- I do know that I believe that neighborhoods need to be involved in the decisions that affect them and right now they don't. I'm really counting on district representation to give the neighborhoods some power back. My email: rsusort@yahoo.com.

Norge

Posted Sat, Jan 18, 1:51 p.m. Inappropriate

I don't hold out much hope at all for the district idea. I see four things happening, none of them very good.

1. The districts still get bought, because they're still too big

2. The district activists will be even worse than the city-wide ones, because they'll be harder to track.

3. Lots more bsckroom deals and swaps based on bribery and power politics.

4. Fragmentation leading to even more neighborhood powerlessness.

In the end, I'm not all that big on "process" questions. Whether it's districting, or instant runoff voting, or bullet voting, and so on, I've always regarded these things as gimmicks. The more intricate any process, the less it's worth.

We'll see, but to my way of thinking the issues here are an ever weakening media due to the failing economics of print journalism, plus the lack of voter engagement. These go hand in hand, and the result is that way too much power gets handed to special interests. Which repels general interest voters. Which accentuates the special interest trend.

It's a paradox, for sure, and with contradictory elements. I don't see it getting better here. To me, the issues of congestion and street repair are the glaring proof statements. This city is so thoroughly dysfunctional that it won't repair the streets and can't even synchronize street lights on 10 or 12 major arterials, something that L.A. was doing 50 years ago.

Will those things change with districting, or will they get even worse? I think thery'll get worse.

NotFan

Posted Mon, Jan 20, 9:29 a.m. Inappropriate

While some of this discussion has merit, most of it sounds like two old guys in Denny's having breakfast yearning away about "the good ole days".

I'm sure there were a lot of detractors about the Denny regrade, constructing the ship canal, building of I-5, South Lake Union, and yes - demolishing that lovely Denny's in Ballard. News flash! Things change.

While Seattle has changed since I first came in 1982, and there are something's I miss, I also look forward to how the city and the area is moving forward. Yea, it's growing - but that is because of the area's economic vitality. I certainly don't want to return to those Boeing slump days.

The next generation will put their signature on the region - it won't all go the way I would choose, but I'm sue it will remain a vibrant town. Move over geezers - your time is done.

Treker

Posted Mon, Jan 20, 9:39 a.m. Inappropriate

Yeah, SonnyBoy, ya got no respect for your elders, do ya?

Nevermind that some of us were BORN here, we didn't MOVE here, and we have generations of family who formed this beautiful City/County/State, and so sorry to ruin your newbie fun, but we aren't going away, we aren't going to shut up, and our opinions still count.

The next generation indeed will put their signature on the region, but no way will they ruin the work we've already put into making it great.

Sorry to burst your little selfish youthful idea that geezers are going to move over and let anyone speak for us, or sit down and be quiet. Most of us so-called geezers aren't so senior that our teeth have fallen out or that we can't get out of bed :), nor are our minds feeble :)

Posted Mon, Jan 20, 8:07 p.m. Inappropriate

See, there ya go again, Treker, with the usual "progressive" tribal assumptions. Which in my case, ain't quite right.

First off, I was fine with the demolition of Denny's and the bowling alley. They were eyesores. I'm not so high on their replacement with architecture that reminds me of a tour of Tallinn, Estonia. Did the local archiectural firms import all their designers from the Baltic states after the fall of the Soviet Union? It sure looks like it. It's bad enough that they swing the ugly stick with such abandon, the unfolding Mercer eyesore and the "sculpture" park being just two of so many examples. But then they actually give themselves AWARDS for these piles of vomit. And we're not supposed to say anything?

Secondly, I moved here 18 years ago, and have seen a rapid downhill slope in day-to-day quality of life. Thirdly, I'm not as old as you think I am. But, unlike the average "progressive," I don't hate older folks who were born and raised here, and who have sunk their lives and life savings into the houses and their neighborhoods. Call me names -- I know you will -- but I have always regarded that as the embodiment of the American Dream, which unlike you I still believe in.

Unlike you, and your favorite ex-mayor and his "New Urbanist" clique, I don't see the city's neighborhoods and their people as threats and obstacled to be tossed into the trash. This might be because, in the other places I've lived, I've sought out established neighborhoods and made friends with the old-timers. The "progressives" here? If you own a house and drive a car and live in a stable neighborhood, they and their developer clique and their bought-off city hall have put a target on your wallet AND on your back.

Not only are you expected to pay for everything, but you're expected to finance the destruction of your quality of life. I am accustomed to taxes, and don't resent them in themselves, but this is the first city where I've felt that the city government itself is actively trying to ruin the quality of life.

The bizarre thing about all of this is that the local "progressives" have fully bought into all of it. Elsewhere, "progressives" side with the neighborhoods against the wreckers and parasites. But not in Seattle. I'm still trying to wrap my head around how and why this would happen. Why would you have such an active tribe WITHIN a city that has specifically targeted those things that make it an attractive place to live? What has caused so many of you to despise Seattle's best features -- its relatively spacious close-in neighborhoods, (until lately) its relatively lower cost of living for its size, and the stability that having a large base of long-time residents brings?

Maybe the worst feature of all this is the overt hatred voiced by this city's "progressives" for its older residents, and its utter disdain for they and others who can't ride a bicycle, or even those who simply don't want to? Did old people in cars and houses abuse you as children?

p.s.: I'm not hostile at all to redevelopment here. I think of one of my favorite one-liners in private conversations about how most of the towns of the Pacific NW are overgrown lumber camps where attractive architecture or planning must have been regarded as a communist plot to turn everyone's sons gay. My complaint is more along the lines that most of the new stuff seems to reflect the same mentality.

NotFan

Posted Mon, Jan 20, 10:14 p.m. Inappropriate

Like I said, there's crumbs of sanity in the discussion - just not this usual performance art.

Without a strong handle on the English language there is necessary crutch of repeated phrases. And "rapid downhill slope in day-to-day quality of life";. My guess is that you haven't made any neighborhood friends because you are as bizarre in real life as you are here.

You may be younger than me but you certainly are a reactionary and a crumedgon. But the shaking the fist at the kids on the front lawn action is first rate performance art that you can carry forward through to you senior years.

Now--- would you like some cheese whith that whine?

Treker

Posted Mon, Jan 20, 10:16 p.m. Inappropriate

Treker, thanks for the compliments, and the confirmation!

NotFan

Posted Sat, Jan 18, 3:50 p.m. Inappropriate

Raise the bus fares. Millionaire seniors should not get $0.75 transfers and round trips!! Bus riders should pay their fair share fare!!

animalal

Posted Mon, Jan 20, 10:05 a.m. Inappropriate

Like I said things change. I flattered by being called a yougin' though and will place that quote next to my modern maturity magazine!.

But I will call the WAHambulance as most of the tirade just sounds like "I don't like things to change". Don't like it? Try and move the process, accept it, or buy that condo somewhere else.

But please, no more whining.

Treker

Posted Mon, Jan 20, 10:44 a.m. Inappropriate

Me too--I'm close to Medicare myself. I really appreciate seeing this dialogue that actually sticks (mostly) to substance, but common1sense, NotFan, crossrip seem locked into a dichotomy that lumps us in with the 20 and 30 something urbanists. Most of whose ideas drive me nuts. I'm a real liberal (progressive if you will), and not a neo-liberal, but their libertarian streak seems to blind them to the differences. I wish they could figure out how to find the commonalities (Crosscut itself has a strong whiff of lesser seattle) and collaborate for action.

louploup

Posted Mon, Jan 20, 11:39 a.m. Inappropriate

And I should point out that there are crumbs of truth scattered among the constant complaining - but jese-Louise, things change.

The assertions that all of Seattle change has been for the worst is anachronistic. Elderly is one thing. Stuck is another,

Treker

Posted Mon, Jan 20, 10:03 p.m. Inappropriate

At every turn here, both of you shill for every "progressive" dullard in this city; show the "progressive" immunity to facts, especially the ones that contradict your faith; and rush to pigeonhole any critic into a tribe that you disapprove of. Those are the signature traits of ideologues, regardless of which side of the mountains they are planted.

God help any Seattle "progressive" if they were ever to be heard admitting that Kemper Freeman just might have been right when he advocated busways rather than light rail. Why, he's an evil REPUBLICAN, and he's RICH, and he's in BELLEVUE. I have to ask: How can you "progressives" aspire to be "world class" if you can't even talk to the foreigners on the other side of the lake, because you're scared shitless that they might have a better idea?

NotFan

Posted Mon, Jan 20, 10:20 p.m. Inappropriate

Yawn

Pot. Kettle. Black

This is either one of your more ironic posts or a contiuium of your top shelf performance art pieces. You masterly continue to blur the line between uninformed idiocy or brilliant ironic art performance.

Either way your mastery of either or both leaves your audience spellbound.

Treker

Posted Tue, Jan 21, 9:47 a.m. Inappropriate

I'm not spellbound. Stunned, maybe, at his capacity to ignore what other people are saying.

louploup

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