Likely passage of car tab tax for Metro buses means no more free-ride zone

Aug 12, 2011

A grand compromise, showing that bi-partisanship and good government still exist. That's what members of the King County Council are saying after the announcement that they have a super majority to back a temporary $20 car tab fee and stave off massive cuts to metro transit.

Two Republicans - Jane Hague and Kathy Lambert - have agreed to back the deal when the council votes on Monday. Among other things, it will phase out Metro's subsidy for the free ride zone in downtown Seattle starting October 2012.

King County Chief Executive Dow Constantine says the county has been subsidizing Seattle's free rides at a cost of nearly two million dollars annually, despite a recent audit calling it into question and repeated calls from the East side for more fairness.

"And I think that ultimately we'll have a system that really focuses the free rides on the people who need them and is better for the system as a whole."

The county says nearly 1,500 residents testified in favor of the fee at four public hearings in July and as many as 15,000 sent in their comments.

Without a super majority, the fee would go to voters to decide in November. That's considered a hard sell, since there's also an education levy and likely an additional car tab fee proposal for the City of Seattle.