Courtesy Ned Ahrens, King County

This month, King County car owners renewing their license tabs will begin paying a two-year $20 Congestion Reduction Charge (CRC) to help keep traffic in-check — and that calls for a big thanks to the thousands of riders and stakeholders who have shown their ongoing support for maintaining Metro’s bus system. Without you, we would be on the verge of shrinking our system in the face of rebounding employment and record gas prices in Puget Sound.

Passage of the CRC last year by the King County Council has allowed us to avoid a system meltdown. Had the CRC not been enacted, about nine million transit rides a year would have been lost – forcing an additional 15,000 car trips a day onto county highways and roads. Four of every five riders would have been directly or indirectly impacted by the cuts.

Given broad support for the CRC, we are now able to maintain service for thousands of riders. While some routes with few riders have been scaled back, those service hours are being reinvested to put every transit dollar to best use to serve as many riders as possible.

The slow economy has no doubt taken a major toll on Metro’s funding in recent years. In adopting the CRC, the County Council’s intent was to help close a projected $60 million annual revenue shortfall in the years ahead. This move temporarily preserves the Metro system for two years until more stable funding sources can be secured.

It’s estimated the CRC will generate about $50 million over the two-year life of the fee. Metro has been using reserves and other one-time sources of funds in recent months to maintain service until the fees can be collected.

So we hope you keep on riding and take advantage of better connections to more places as we continue to make our system more productive.  And don’t forget, households that register at least one vehicle annually over the next two years will be eligible to receive eight Metro free ride tickets. Those tickets will be good for use on more than 200 Metro bus routes serving 130 park-and-ride lots, garages, and 13 transit centers.