As the largest and most visible department in King County, our work at the King County Department of Transportation is critical to achieving the goals Executive Constantine set for his administration: to become a best-run government, to confront inequities and climate change, and to provide transportation mobility. The biennial budget he announced on September 26 includes a number of proposals which would enable our divisions to continue and improve our essential services in support of those goals.
We heard a tale of two budgets: one, a general fund budget which is unrealistically capped below the rate of inflation; the second, a transit budget bolstered by increased sales tax revenue and solid stewardship of our finances and business practices. It’s important to know that by statute, funds for public transit cannot be shifted to pay for other uses, like criminal justice or public safety.
With growing sales tax revenues, the Executive is making significant investments in Metro Transit to aggressively expand transit capacity to meet growing demand, while making new investments in safety and security. He called for adding 300,000 more hours of bus service over the next biennium to reduce crowding, improve reliability and increase frequency of bus trips on key corridors. See the list of 86 Metro bus routes proposed to receive that additional service, and hear his live studio interview on KIRO Radio.
Lifting the arbitrary one-percent cap on property tax revenue, as proposed by the Executive and earlier this year by our Bridges and Roads Task Force, would not only preserve essential criminal justice services but help raise additional revenues to enable Road Services with its mission of repairing and maintaining our $40 billion investment in the bridges and roads built through the foresight of previous generations.
The Executive’s proposal calls for sustainable funding to keep the Water Taxi afloat and delivering safe, on-time service to ever-increasing numbers of riders.
As a wholly self-sustaining enterprise funded by leases and fees, the Airport is in position over the next biennium to build its organizational capacity, continue improving its business practices, and leverage opportunities that create value at the facility. Critical to the long term future of the Airport, staff will complete the Master Plan Update this biennium which will guide development and help secure FAA funding of future capital investments in aviation.
The budget proposal would also enable Fleet Administration to move ahead with installation of a proposed Automatic Vehicle Locator system which would enable managers to view real-time data on 1,600 of their vehicles by the end of 2018. By capturing such vehicle-use information as location, odometer readings, frequency of use, and vehicle idling, our managers could optimize route planning, dispatch vehicles more efficiently, and decrease fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions.
Finally, the Executive’s budget proposal builds upon the results of our 2015 employee engagement survey to fund initiatives and support efficiencies that would improve safety and security in the workplace, promote equity, provide opportunities for training and career development, and many other actions which will truly help us become a best-run government.
Employees in our department have accomplished much over the past biennium, and that hard work is reflected in the confidence placed in transportation in the Executive’s budget for the next two years. We are grateful for that dedication and look forward, in the spirit of continuous improvement, to working together to create even better ways to deliver outstanding transportation services and mobility for the region.
Senior Strategic Communications Advisor to the Director of the King County Department of Transportation