Sammamish City Council reluctantly endorses roads and transit measure
April 8, 2014
By Ari Cetron
New: April 8, 9:14 a.m.
No one on the Sammamish City Council seemed particularly excited about endorsing a proposed tax increase to fund roads and King County Metro bus service, but they did it anyway.
On a 6-1 vote, the council endorsed a measure that will add one-tenth of one percent to the sales tax (one cent on a $10 purchase) and replace an expiring $20 car tab fee with a $60 car tab fee. Councilman Ramiro Valderrama was opposed.
The county has placed the measure before voters on the April 22 ballot, pointing to a lack of state action in funding a transportation plan. About 60 percent of the money generated will go to fund King County Metro, while the other 40 percent will fund roads throughout the county.
Some of that money will stay with the county for roads in unincorporated areas, while the rest will go to the various cities for their roads. Sammamish stands to take in about $1.25 million annually. The tax will last for 10 years.
Metro has said if the measure doesn’t pass, there will be a 17 percent reduction in bus service.
In general, even though Sammamish council members supported the measure, they were unhappy with it.
In voting no, Valderrama said that Eastside residents pay more than they get in service from Metro, and he feared the measure might remove some of the urgency from the state taking on the issue.
Mayor Tom Vance said the system must be viewed more holistically. Every car that Metro takes off the road ends up helping everyone by reducing traffic overall.
“Every person that steps on a bus helps Sammamish commuters,” he said.
Councilwoman Kathleen Huckabay, who said she is a 25-year bus rider, said she has some sympathy for Metro, which has to run a large and complex system. She noted she’s spent time serving on regional transit groups, and pointed to perception problems.
For example, commuter bus routes to Sammamish may be full in the mornings as they go into Seattle, but they are empty as they come out to Sammamish. The problem is reversed in the evenings, when full buses come to Sammamish and empty ones head back.
“It’s difficult to send out buses that come back empty,” she said.
She also noted the plan does not call for expanding Metro, but gives just enough money to support the system in its current state.
“This is a desperation measure to hold the line,” she said.
Councilman Tom Odell said he too doesn’t like the idea, and wants Metro to be more transparent with financial information. But he noted a possible negative effect on property values, particularly in Sammamish.
If service is cut, traffic will get worse as thousands upon thousands of bus riders get in their cars to commute. As traffic gets worse, living in more-remote suburbs like Sammamish will become less desirable.
“If we don’t do this, results are not going to be good for our property values,” Odell said.