By Katie Wilson
If you’re a registered voter in King County, you’ll be getting a ballot in the mail around April 5. This is the first April special election in our county’s history. There’s just one issue to vote on, and the repercussions are huge.
If Proposition 1 fails, this fall King County Metro will begin cutting 17% of bus service, eliminating 74 routes and reducing service on another 107. Transit riders will wait longer for their bus and watch as over-packed buses pass them by. Many riders who do not have the option to drive will be left stranded, especially if they cannot walk many blocks or climb steep hills. Traffic will clog our roads, and 20,000 more cars will exacerbate air pollution and climate change.
Why would anyone vote “no”? In fact, there is little organized opposition to Prop 1. The danger is more subtle, and more revealing. Prop 1 will create new revenue for Metro – and also for cities in King County, which may choose to use their portion on transit or local road repair – by increasing sales tax by 0.1% and raising car tab fees to $60. These regressive taxes will further burden working-class taxpayers. Many voters can be expected to vote “no,” especially if they don’t realize what’s at stake.
We’re being forced to choose between devastating service cuts and more regressive taxes. Who is to blame for this choice? Our State Legislature, of course. Olympia has the power to tell King County what we can and can’t do to raise revenue, and time and again they’ve failed to pass progressive, stable transit funding options for King County and other transit districts. They won’t even let us tax ourselves, let alone dedicate state funding to public transit! So even if we succeed in saving our bus service on April 22, the fight isn’t over. We need to build up our people-power and demand that Olympia make public transit a priority – not to mention overhauling our state’s shamefully regressive tax system.
But for now, these are the only tax options available to King County that raise enough money to save our buses. And the County Council did what they could to make Prop 1 more palatable. They included a $20 rebate for low-income car owners, making the car tab fee less regressive. And they decided that if Prop 1 passes, the new low-income reduced fare will be lowered from $1.50 to $1.25 for two years.
We can’t afford to lose our bus service. The Transit Riders Union strongly urges all transit riders and voters in King County to vote YES on Prop 1 in the April 22, 2014, special election. We need your help to get the word out! Visit www.saveourmetro.org to learn how you can get involved in the campaign, or leave us a message at 206-651-4282. And remember, the fight’s not over in April – so join the Transit Riders Union and help us win the long-term battle for sustainable, progressive funding for affordable mass public transit.
Katie Wilson is General Secretary of the Transit Riders Union and a PSARA member