Since the legislature adjourned without approving new transit money, King County Metro is now in the process of cutting bus service by 17 percent for next year.
Fed-up bus riders have organized the Transit Riders Union and are planning their first protest against the coming cuts in bus service.
Katie Wilson, a bus user and volunteer director of the TRU, says it’s irresponsible of the legislature to not come through with any funding option for public transit.
“Our membership (of the TRU) is largely low income – lots of people who depend on public transit, whether it’s because they are low income or because they’re disabled, or seniors who don’t drive any more,” says Wilson.
Taxing drivers isn’t necessarily the solution to supplement the lack of transit funds, says Wilson. It is, however, the only option the legislature is currently considering, according to Wilson.
Drivers won’t be in the clear if they don’t have to pay more taxes.
“If these cuts happen, there will be thousands upon thousands of more cars. If every commuter has a car, has that option, they’re going to get in it,” says Wilson. “They don’t want to see full buses pass them by. So congestion is going to get much, much worse. So this isn’t just an issue for people who depend on public transit.”
Instead of taxing drivers, Wilson points to a more progressive state income tax already in effect in other states.
“There are a lot of extremely wealthy corporations in King County which benefit from having a transit system (that) are not paying very much in taxes, at all, to our state,” says Wilson.
The Transit Riders Union protest is tentatively planned for Saturday, July 20 at Westlake Park. “We’ll be making a lot of noise, trying to get some transit funding and just a more, progressive state tax structure, ultimately,” says Wilson.
A lot of people, frustrated with the state legislature, may have a reason to come out and express their dismay, says Wilson.
MyNorthwest.com’s Alyssa Kleven contributed to this report.