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Metro Budget Passes, Funding Equitable Fares and Directing Big-Picture Planning
The King County Council made significant nods toward transportation equity and long-term growth as it passed the 2019-2020 budget this week. After closely following and testifying during multiple rounds of budget briefings and panel discussions, TCC and its partners are pleased to see strong council support for policies like income-based fare structures and developing a funding plan for Metro Connects, Metro’s long-range plan.
Here what’s been updated from the Executive’s original budget that we’re celebrating:
Affordable fares, faster:
The Executive’s original budget included funding for an income-based pilot. Due to advocacy from TCC and a broad group of partners, County Council decided to strike the pilot approach and instead moved to develop a full-on program that would help people who are very low-income afford bus fare. Councilmembers Claudia Balducci and Joe McDermott were especially helpful in championing this request to make fares more affordable as fast as possible.
The budget action appropriates $10 million for this program, including staffing and consulting support. It requires a plan to be developed by September 2019, and implementation of a low- or no-cost fare program for people at 135% of the federal poverty level or below no later than March 2020. This is a valuable step as Metro continues to make transit a public service that is accessible to all.
As part of its budget discussions, the County Council also took up the issue of emerging technologies in transportation. It is imperative that as new technologies come available, we ensure that they are working in service of the type of cities and region we want to build: healthy, equitable and connected.
Though no funding has been allocated in the 2019-2020 budget, Councilmember Balducci introduced a motion directing Metro Transit to develop a regional mobility framework, that considers new technologies but ultimately puts people’s needs at the center. A mobility framework can help address how everything from bike share to autonomous vehicles can contribute to goals that build better communities and center the needs of the people in our region.
A plan for funding Metro Connects:
Adopted in early 2017, Metro Connects is Metro Transit’s ambitious long-range plan to grow its transit system by 70% across the county by 2040. This exciting plan will only be realized if a funding plan is put in place.
During budget discussions, Councilmember Balducci proposed a motion to start developing that funding plan. Her motion directs the King County Executive to convene a special committee that will steward this work forward. Regional coordination and partnerships will be key as leadership determines how to fully fund this vision.