Today, all nine justices of the Washington Supreme Court found Initiative 976 to be unconstitutional. I-976 threatened to eliminate or reduce funding for public transportation, bridges and roads, and other critical infrastructure and services across Washington.
In addition to declaring I-976’s to be unconstitutional statewide, the court’s decision protects the ability of counties and jurisdictions to provide transportation services and infrastructure to serve their residents.
“At King County, we are gratified to be able to continue to work with local jurisdictions, other transit agencies, and partners to fund safe, sustainable, and equitable mobility for all our residents,” said King County Executive Dow Constantine in a statement. “Transit and mobility investments will be central to our recovery as we rebuild from the economic devastation from the coronavirus pandemic, and I’m pleased to have this shadow of uncertainty lifted by the Court.”
King County does not collect a vehicle license fee (VLF) or motor vehicle excise tax (MVET), the taxing sources that would have be repealed if I-976 had been upheld. However, the State of Washington, Sound Transit, and 13 King County cities use these tax sources to fund mobility projects in King County, including many operated by Metro.
“Our strong public transportation system aided King County’s economic growth during the past decade, is now helping our region’s recovery, and will be essential to rebuilding and connecting healthy, livable communities on the other side,” said Metro Interim General Manager Terry White. “Today’s decision is good news for the people of King County. We were especially concerned about the potential impacts of I-976 on our most vulnerable customers—including residents from lower-income communities, passengers with disabilities, and people of color—and the Court’s decision helps us best serve them and connect them with opportunity.”
Metro would like to thank the Washington State Legislature for maintaining funding during the 2019/2021 Biennium for the projects and programs that would have been impacted by the implementation of I-976 while it was being reviewed by the courts.
If the initiative had been upheld and the State Legislature had made across-the-board reductions, an analysis in 2019 estimated the impacts for Metro would have included 175,000 fewer bus service hours across 74 routes and significantly reduced funding for Access paratransit, electrification of the bus fleet, incentive programs for businesses and non-profits, RapidRide expansion, reduced fare support for qualified customers, roads and bridges, Sound Transit coordination, speed and reliability investments, transit-oriented development, and Vanpool.
Despite the challenges that transit and our region face, Metro remains committed to rebuilding a robust regional transit network that prioritizes safety, expands opportunity, reduces pollution, and tackles congestion. The agency recently shared its “COVID-19 Response and Recovery Report” on October 8.
Visit kingcounty.gov/HealthierMetro to learn what Metro is doing to keep you healthy and how to best prepare for your next ride.