Efforts to prevent King County Metro bus cuts have narrowed from a county-wide approach to a more localized strategy. On Tuesday, Seattle Mayor Ed Murray unveiled his proposal to give Seattle voters another option to save Seattle-centric routes, although he's still got his eye on a broader, regional plan.
Murray’s proposal is the second plan that's surfaced to save Seattle bus routes following the failure of King County Proposition 1 in a special election April 22. The measure aimed to spare about 70 bus routes from the chopping block and prevent other service reductions. Outside of Seattle, most voters rejected it.
Soon after, a group called Friends of Transit filed a Seattle-only initiative to save the city’s bus routes. However, Murray said he’s opposed to it because it relies on funding from property taxes. He said he’s hoping to ask Seattle voters to raise property taxes for one of his top issues — universal preschool.
“If people want to paint me as anti-transit because I’m not willing to send two ballot measures out on the property tax, let them do it,” Murray said during a press conference Tuesday.
Murray’s transit plan mirrors the Prop 1 funding model. It would call for a $60 vehicle fee and 0.1 percent sales tax to maintain bus service. That money would only be used for routes within the city.
“This is Seattle stepping up as a regional partner,” Murray said. “This is not a move to create fortress Seattle.”
During the briefing, Murray and King County Executive Dow Constantine echoed the idea that this local approach is a stopgap measure, not a permanent solution.
“My preference was, is and will be action by the Legislature — action to provide regional tools for a regional system because we live in a regional economy,” Constantine said.
He singled out the Republican-controlled state Senate, in particular, for its reluctance to approve new revenue for the region’s transportation.
In the meantime, Constantine said he’s hopeful Seattle’s self-preservation strategy will catch on. The county’s offered a way for neighboring cities to use their own funds to buy back eliminated bus service.
Chris Eggan, Deputy Mayor of Shoreline, said the city will likely hold public hearings to assess whether voters are interested in the buyback plan. He said the funding would have to be approved in a city-wide vote, which he considers as unlikely to happen before the first round of scheduled bus cuts in September.
Murray’s proposal for Seattle will be sent to the Seattle Transportation Benefit District Board in the coming weeks. The board has until August 5 to refer it on for a public vote in November.