Metro Measure is About Something Bigger Than Saving Bus Service

A unanimous bipartisan vote reflects King County solidarity.

By Josh Feit February 25, 2014

It's tricky, I'm discovering, working on a monthly magazine deadline now, to come up with stories that will be newsy two months out; the editorial calendar at Seattle Met gets mapped out well in advance of publication. 

However, I lucked out this month.

The latest installment of "Urban Upgrade," my monthly dispatch on urbanist innovations, is out, and it's all about yesterday's King County Council vote to put Prop 1, the take-measures-into-our-own-hands measure for Metro bus service, onto a special April 22 ballot. 

It was a 9-0 vote, including all four Republicans, who are typically skeptical of tax measures and funding for mass transit. However, the measure—a 0.1 cent sales tax increase and a flat $60 vehicle license fee (VLF)—also raises about $50 million for county road maintenance.

The other $80 million will stave off cuts as deep as 17 percent to Metro bus service and cover a low-income fare, $1.25, and a rebate on the VLF for low-income families. Any money raised above the costs to cover securing baseline Metro service (estimated at $63 million), the rebate, and the low-income fare (who knows how much the sales tax will really bring in) gets divvied up 50/50 between Metro and local roads. 

There's more going on with Prop 1, though. The unity of metro region council members  transcends R and D labels.

It is, I argue in Seattle Met, a watershed moment for the emerging political school of urbanism. The column starts out:

King County executive Dow Constantine’s January proposal for a $60 vehicle license fee and a 0.1 percent sales tax increase wasn’t just a last-ditch effort to save bus service. Yes, the state legislature failed last year to pass a transportation funding package, and Metro is facing service cuts of up to 17 percent. But the ballot measure represented something more than that. 

Call it tactical localism.


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