Over the past few weeks, King County joined with other plaintiffs to challenge Initiative 976, which reduces car tab fees and cuts transportation and transit projects across the state. The county’s lawsuit sought an injunction to halt the immediate and irreparable harms of an initiative that violates the state constitution.
Today, King County Superior Court recognized those harms and granted some immediate relief by issuing a preliminary injunction that puts the measure to cut transportation funding by reducing car-tab fees on hold, and directs state and local jurisdictions to continue to collect car-tab fees. While there remains a long and challenging legal process ahead, this initial decision is an encouraging development.
King County’s close partner, the City of Seattle, has committed to not to make any cuts to revenue that pays for Metro service hours funded through the Seattle Transportation Benefit District (STBD) for now. This means Metro’s STBD-funded bus service will not be affected as long as the injunction is in place.
King County will continue to work with a broad coalition of plaintiffs, including Seattle, to challenge the constitutional merits of I-976 because the initiative, if enacted, would be detrimental to residents who rely on roads, transportation, and transit in King County and across Washington.
While increased congestion and longer waits for more crowded buses hurt all residents and the environment, we’re also conscious of people who could be disproportionately impacted by I-976. These include young people who take Metro buses to school; low-income residents, seniors, and communities of color who use transit to travel to family, friends, work, and health services; and those with disabilities who count on the Access paratransit program.
There will be a follow-up hearing to seek a permanent injunction, and the Washington Supreme Court will likely ultimately rule on the constitutionality of the initiative. In the meantime, we look for leadership from the Washington State Legislature to maintain its commitment to fund projects in the Multimodal Account and other state accounts, and we’ll explore other ways to provide secure and dependable resources for Metro and other transit agencies.