Frequently Asked Questions
Visit the state Department of Licensing website to find out which vehicles are subject to the charge and which are exempt.
Why do residents of rural King County pay the congestion reduction charge when most bus service is in urban areas?
All vehicle owners who live in King County pay the congestion reduction charge because Metro's service area is the entire county. Although Metro operates a number of bus routes in rural areas, bus service is not available in some of the county's less-developed areas where there is little demand for transit. Metro provides other transportation services that people in rural communities may use: a vanpool service for commuters, dial-a-ride transit, and Access service for people with disabilities. When the legislature authorized the congestion reduction charge for King County, it also recognized that maintaining transit service supports economic recovery by getting people to jobs and keeping traffic congestion in check, yielding widespread benefits.
The 2011 Washington Legislature authorized King County to approve the Congestion Reduction Charge to help fund Metro transit services. The Legislature recognized that Metro service is critically important in keeping traffic congestion in check, especially during major construction of road and bridge projects in the region. Legislators also acknowledged that transit supports economic recovery and gives people an alternative to paying high gas prices.
A 2012 study by the Texas Transportation Institute concluded that in 2011, the Seattle-Tacoma-Everett area avoided more than 16 million hours of travel delay because of public transportation (ranking 8 among the nation’s 15 very large urban areas), for a total cost savings of $367 million.
I don't live in King County but the congestion reduction charge was on my vehicle registration. What should I do?
Some people have been incorrectly charged because of errors in their license records. King County is reviewing the records to identify these people and refund the charge to those who paid it.
If you believe you were incorrectly charged because you do not live in King County, please call the congestion reduction charge message line, 206-296-7644, and leave your name, address, and phone number or e-mail so we can contact you.
Note: The congestion reduction charge applies to all vehicle owners who live anywhere in King County, including unincorporated areas.
Metro will receive about $25 million in each of the two years the charge is in effect, for a total of $50 million. These funds will be used to maintain transit service, and will be expended in a manner consistent with the recommendations of the Regional Transit Task Force. The task force recommended that Metro place the highest priority on productivity, social equity, and meeting public transportation needs throughout the county.
How is Metro working to meet the King County Council directive to become more efficient and productive?
As part of the congestion reduction charge legislation, the Council directed Metro to replace relatively unproductive bus routes in certain areas with cost-saving alternative services. In February 2012, Metro replaced three low-ridership bus routes in east and south King County with more cost-effective Dial-a-Ride Transit (DART). This action is saving about $400,000 annually.
The Council also directed Metro to reduce at least 100,000 annual service hours from poorly performing bus routes and reinvest those hours to relieve overcrowding or improve on-time performance on more heavily used routes, or to satisfy unmet transit needs. Metro reduced and reinvested approximately 40,000 annual service hours in June 2012.
In September 2012, Metro restructured major parts of its transit system, affecting about 60 bus routes, Most of these routes were in Seattle, with some in Shoreline, Burien and Des Moines. Goals of these changes were to give riders connections to more places, reduce duplication, create more direct routes, and shift service from relatively unproductive routes to heavily used corridors. Many of the changes revolve around the start of the RapidRide C and D lines.
All of these changes were guided by Metro's Strategic Plan for Public Transportation and Service Guidelines. The strategic plan and guidelines were adopted by the King County Council in 2011. They reflect the policy direction recommended by the Regional Transit Task Force and emphasize productivity, social equity and geographic value.
Metro and transit agencies across Washington and the nation rely heavily on sales tax, and they have been hit hard by the weak economy over the past few years. Even after taking numerous actions to cut costs, increase revenues and operate more efficiently, Metro faces an ongoing shortfall of about $60 million a year, plus an additional $15 million for bus purchases, starting in mid-2014, after the congestion reduction charge and other temporary funding runs out.
The state legislature is considering potential funding solutions for transportation needs statewide, including transit. New local funding tools have also been proposed.
If no new funding is approved for Metro, the projected $75 million total shortfall could force Metro to cut its transit system by up to 17 percent beginning in fall 2014.
Do you have a question we didn't answer?
Send us an e-mail with your question, or call Metro's community relations message line at 206-296-7644.