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King County voters in April to decide whether to help fund Metro Transit, road projects

King County voters will decide April 22 whether to help fund bus service with a $60 vehicle license fee and a 0.1 percent sales tax increase. - COURTESY PHOTO, Metro Transit
King County voters will decide April 22 whether to help fund bus service with a $60 vehicle license fee and a 0.1 percent sales tax increase.
— image credit: COURTESY PHOTO, Metro Transit

King County voters will determine on the April 22 ballot whether an annual $60 vehicle license fee and 0.1 percent sales tax increase should be used to help pay for Metro bus service and road projects.

The Metropolitan King County Council, in its role as the newly formed Transportation Benefit District, voted 9-0 on Monday to send the measure to voters. The increase would boost the sales tax in the county to 9.6 percent for those who live within the Sound Transit district.

Under the measure, which would generate about $130 million annually, 60 percent would go to Metro and 40 percent to the county and cities for road and other transportation projects.

Kent would receive about $3 million from the measure for street repairs, according to city officials. The amount distributed to each city would be based on population.

The council formed the Transportation Benefit District in early February in order to send the measure to voters. County officials are trying to avoid Metro service cuts of 17 percent because of a lack of revenue.

The Transportation Benefit District is similar in structure to the King County Ferry District and King County Flood Control District, with the members of the County Council acting as the board. The board will have the authority to acquire, construct, improve, provide and fund transportation improvements identified in the transportation plan of the Puget Sound Regional Council, the county or a city within the county.

Also on Monday, County Council members approved a bus fare increase to start in March 2015 that would raise fares by 25 cents for all fare categories in order to boost revenue. Fares for Access para-transit service would be increased by 50 cents in order to move toward the county’s policy goal of achieving parity between the Access fare and off-peak adult fare over time.

The legislation would also require the Transit Division to send the council a low-income fare program implementation plan. If a program implementation plan is adopted by the council, a low-income fare program for transit riders would be established using the existing ORCA (One Regional Card for All) system.

If an interlocal agreement is reached with the King County Transportation District for the distribution of voter-approved revenues, the fare would start in 2015 at $1.25 for eligible adults and the youth fare would remain at $1.25, with these fares rising to $1.50 in 2017. Absent the interlocal agreement, the low-income fare and youth fare would be set at $1.50 starting in 2015.

The eligibility threshold for the low-income fare would be 200 percent of the Federal Poverty Level, currently $22,980 for an individual. Adults in a family of four earning up to $47,100 would also be eligible.

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