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Phillips introduces resolution to cut passenger ferries, use tax capacity for bus transit instead


Tough economic conditions require tough choices about priorities


With bus service at risk of drastic cuts at a time when money is slated for increasing passenger ferry service, Ferry District Boardmember Larry Phillips today proposed cutting the Ferry District tax levy to $0 in 2010 in order to make tax dollars available to keep Metro buses running. The net impact on taxpayers would be no increase in taxes.

“King County must make the same kinds of choices taxpayers are making when it comes to which priorities to pay for when there’s less money to go around,” said Phillips. “When it comes to a choice between keeping existing countywide bus service on the street or providing a more expensive and selective enhancement like passenger ferry service, we need to choose buses for all county residents.”

Updated sales tax projections show Metro is facing an estimated $200 million budget deficit in 2010 and 2011. Metro has been looking at scenarios for cutting up to 20 percent of bus service hours, with 62 percent of those cuts to be made in Seattle. Metro carried over 110 million riders last year.

The Ferry District levied a countywide property tax in 2009 of approximately $18 million resulting in a property tax collection of 5 cents per $1,000 assessed value. The levy is used to support passenger ferry service to West Seattle and Vashon as well as future demonstration routes on Puget Sound and Lake Washington. The Elliott Bay water taxi carried approximately 59,000 riders last year

Phillips’ resolution prioritizes limited tax dollars for Metro bus service because it is more cost effective and serves more people than passenger ferry service, providing a greater public benefit.

Because the Ferry District tax is levied countywide, Phillips believes it wouldn’t be equitable for taxpayers to continue collecting a portion of the taxes from all county taxpayers for services to continue the Elliott Bay water taxi and the Vashon passenger ferry which only benefit one corner of the county.

“There are demonstration passenger ferry routes across King County that show promising ridership projections, so if we had the resources it would be nice to fund them all,” said Phillips, “But since the resources are needed elsewhere, it isn’t fair to make folks in Kirkland and Kenmore subsidize selective service for people in one corner of the county.”

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