NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


September 25, 2006

A proposed sales tax increase to fund additional King County (Seattle, Wash.) public transit services would increase the county sales tax by 0.1 percent to pay for more Metro buses and would permanently increase the size of the state's largest transit agency by about 20 percent, according to a new study by the Washington Policy Center (WPC).

According to Michael Ennis, Director of WPC's Center for Transportation Policy:

  • When the last sales tax increase passed in 2000, Metro promised over 500,000 hours of new service; since then, Metro has only delivered 203,000 hours of new service.
  • The new buses promised under "Transit Now" would not arrive until 2009; consumers would pay the higher tax for two years before receiving any substantial increase in service.
  • King County would collect the higher sales tax indefinitely; under Transit Now, County sales tax revenues would pass the $1 billion mark by 2025; presently, sales tax revenue is $355 million a year.
  • Despite years of spending growth, the share of commuters using public transit has remained unchanged for 26 years; experience shows that adding more buses does not increase public transit's overall share of passenger demand.
  • Some 90 percent of daily passenger trips are by private automobile, a figure that has remained unchanged even as Metro has expanded in recent decades.
  • Adding the recent gas tax increases with several pending transportation proposals, including Transit Now, a Seattle resident is facing an additional $600 per year for transportation related projects, compared to just a few years ago.

"The sales tax increase will max King County's current sales tax authority," says President Dann Mead Smith.  "It will in effect, eliminate an important future budget tool for policymakers."

Source: Michael Ennis, "Guide to Transit Now: A proposed sales tax increase to fund additional King County public transit services," Washington Policy Center, September 2006.


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