Hundreds testify against Metro Transit bus cuts

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by JOE FRYER / KING 5 News

KING5.com

Posted on July 21, 2011 at 6:25 AM

Updated Thursday, Jul 21 at 10:20 PM

BURIEN, Wash. -- More than 300 people packed the Burien City Council chambers Thursday night to voice their opposition to proposed Metro Transit bus cuts.

The King County Council must now vote on whether to approve a $20 car-tab fee, which would prevent deep cuts to bus service.  A vote is scheduled for Monday.  If six council members vote yes, the fee will pass without a ballot measure.  If only five vote yes, then the issue will go before King County voters in November.

During Thursday's public hearing, the third and final one on the issue, one woman held back tears while explaining how much she relies on Metro buses.

"I have two artificial knees, I have an artificial shoulder," she said.  "Metro does wonderfully but don't eliminate our buses."

Facing a $60 million budget shortfall, the county is considering a 17 percent cut to bus service.  That would eliminate 600,000 hours of annual bus service over the next two years.

Michael Contos, a Burien resident who rides two-and-a-half hours to his job in north Everett, then two-and-a-half hours back, relies heavily on the bus, especially after his car broke down a month ago.  He fears more cuts would lengthen his commute.

"If they cut it and my schedules doesn't match with it, I'm screwed," he said.

The county council is considering the car-tab fee, which would last two years, to avoid drastic cuts to bus service.  Nearly every speaker at Thursday's hearing spoke in favor of the fee increase.

But George Bonar, a frequent bus rider, told KING 5 it's not fair to put the financial burden on people who use cars.

"Why should I pay for something that someone else is using that I'm not benefiting from?" he said.  "And vice-versa."

Supporters of the car-tab fee argue congestion will increase greatly if bus service is cut by 17 percent, and that would affect all drivers.

The council is scheduled to vote on the car-tab fee Monday afternoon at the King County Courthouse.  The public will be allowed to speak before the vote.  The hearing begins at 3 p.m.  Residents can sign up to speak starting at 1 p.m.

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