Higher car tab fees proposed to avoid Metro Transit cuts

Jun 21, 2011

Are you willing to fork over extra money to register your car in order to keep buses running?

King County Executive Dow Constantine is betting you are. He’s urging the King County Council to pass an emergency ordinance temporarily increasing car tab fees by $20 per vehicle. The two-year charge would generate about $25 million per year and be used to preserve Metro Transit service at current levels.

Twenty Metro Transit bus routes are scheduled to be eliminated and 12 routes reduced if the car tab fee increase isn't approved. Overall, transit service would be cut by 17 percent and possibly result in deleted and reduced routes.

Constantine, speaking at a news conference on Monday, said ever since sales tax revenues tanked in the county, Metro has been struggling:

"King County has made up the difference so far, by cutting costs, by drawing down reserves, by increasing fares and cutting staff."

He says now he has no choice but to hit up car owners. The extra $20 fee is being called a temporary congestion reduction charge. Constantine added that even car owners who never ride the bus would benefit when bus service is maintained. 

"We’ve seen how bad it gets for West Seattle with just one lane closed at the south end of the viaduct. Imagine how much worse it will be when routes are cut, trips are cancelled and all those cars are back in the gridlock."

Normally, the county wouldn’t be able to raise fees without a public vote, but the legislature granted King County permission to do so if 2/3 of the county council approves.  That could be difficult. The four Republicans on the nine-member council don’t like the idea of raising car tab fees without voter approval.