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Congestion fee begins for car tabs | King County offers free bus rides
As part of the battle over keeping King County Metro service at current levels, the King County Council decided last summer that a $20 "congestion reduction charge" fee be applied to King County residents to help fund the county's regional public bus system.
According to the county, residents will begin seeing the fee with June car tab renewals. The fee will be applied through May 2014.
"This Congestion Reduction Charge will allow us to maintain our overall system over the next two years and make the best use of every transit dollar available," said Metro general manager Kevin Desmond.
The fee came up as a solution for Metro as it faced severe reductions in service due to an anticipated budget shortfall of $60 million, even after a couple of years of attempting to trim the fat in its operations. According to the county, if the fee had not been enacted, 9 million rides would have been lost and would have added an estimated 15,000 commuters onto local roadways. The fee is expected to generate approximately $50 million over its two-year lifespan, with the remaining $10 million to be funded from various other sources available to Metro.
While county residents will notice the additional $20 fee, there will also be an invitation to them for eight free rides on Metro. According to Metro, similar incentive programs in the past have helped increase ridership, and helped reduce congestion on regional roadways.
"By providing an incentive that lets people save money by trying the bus, this program will encourage a new wave of bus riders to become everyday users of our system," Desmond said.
The incentive program will apply to households that register at least one vehicle annually over the next two years. The free-ride tickets are good for use on more than 200 Metro bus routes, which serve 130 park-and-ride lots, garages, and 13 transit centers.
To receive the free-ride tickets, residents must fill out a request form. Residents can also donate their free-ride tickets back to Metro, with those donated tickets going to help underserved populations in the region.
The county notes that the free-ride tickets only apply to Metro, and cannot be used on any other regional or local transit systems.
For more information, visit metro.kingcounty.gov.