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New county plan won’t prevent Metro bus cuts on Vashon

By NATALIE MARTIN

A new King County plan to allow cities to buy back Metro bus service will likely not prevent bus cuts on Vashon, according to Chad Lewis, a spokesman for the county executive’s office.

Last week in the wake of the failure of Proposition 1, Executive Dow Constantine announced a new program to allow cities to purchase Metro transit service and avoid significant bus service cuts slated throughout the county. Each participating city would decide how to pay for the service — either through a new local tax or reserve funds — and agree to a contract with King County Metro.

“Until the Legislature acts, I cannot ask cities to accept cuts they are willing to locally prevent,” Constantine said in a press release.

However, Vashon, as an unincorporated town, has no city government or taxing authority to designate such funds for bus service. Under the new program, nonprofit organizations or companies can also purchase Metro service, but it’s unlikely that would happen on Vashon, Lewis said.

“It is much more challenging when there’s no governmental agency,” he said.

Vashon could also partner with another city to purchase Metro service, but Lewis called that unlikely as well, saying it is more likely that closely connected cities will partner up.

Prop. 1, which would have provided  $130 million in annual funds for buses and road maintenance and repair in King County, lost with about 54 percent voting no. The measure called for a $60 car tab fee and one-tenth of a percent increase in the county sales tax.

On Vashon, over half of voters said yes to Prop. 1. A Seattle Times analysis of detailed results recently released by King County shows that in most voting precincts on Vashon, voters were 50 to 70 percent in favor of Prop. 1. Three of Vashon’s 19 voting precincts were 70 percent or more in favor of Prop. 1. Those precincts were Carpenter, which is north of Vashon town, Shawnee in the Burton area and Burton on the Burton Peninsula.

Vashon is now slated for small reductions on routes 118 and 119, which will each lose two round trips. Route 119 Express will also lose two runs.

In addition to allowing cities to purchase bus service, Metro will undergo a financial audit focused on its policies for reserves and capital programs and a peer review of its operating costs. Industry leaders from around the country will participate in the peer review.

Lewis said that if any savings result from the audit or peer review, the additional funds will be used to replenish Metro’s reserve account, which was depleted during the recession.

“The only thing at this point that would prevent cuts in certain areas would be groups coming forward and signing (service contracts),” he said.

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