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Wednesday, September 6, 2006 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Metro bus expansion will be on Nov. 7 ballot

Seattle Times staff reporter

King County voters will decide Nov. 7 whether to increase the sales tax to pay for a broad expansion of Metro Transit bus service.

The County Council voted 8-1 Tuesday in favor of a public vote on "Transit Now," a one-tenth-of-a-percentage-point tax increase that advocates said would dramatically improve bus service in the face of higher gas prices and rapid suburban population growth.

"People all over King County are demanding more bus service," said Councilwoman Julia Patterson, D-SeaTac, who teamed with County Executive Ron Sims in support of the proposal.

Council Chairman Larry Phillips, D-Seattle, said the only complaint he hears about Metro bus service is, "It ain't enough."

If approved by voters, the measure would raise $50 million a year for transit and would raise the tax on a $1 purchase from 8.8 cents to 8.9 cents in most parts of King County.

For most households, said Councilman Bob Ferguson, D-Seattle, the tax would cost $25 a year. "That's a bargain," he said. "The services the voters and residents of King Conuty will receive will be worth that investment."

Reagan Dunn, R-Bellevue, cast the only vote against the measure, saying he agrees with its goals but worries it would jeopardize a three-county transit-and-highways package expected to go before voters next year.

Dunn called that proposal — being put together by Sound Transit and the Regional Transportation Investment District — "the single most important transportation package to face this region in a long time. ... "

"The tolerance of the people is limited. It would be a shame if we got this bus service and next year we didn't get the roads part of this."

Transit Now would bring more frequent service on 35 major routes and add routes or buses to outlying areas, including Redmond Ridge, the Snoqualmie Valley, Maple Valley and Black Diamond.

A new "RapidRide" service would bring buses every 10 to 15 minutes along five heavily used routes connecting Shoreline, Ballard and West Seattle to downtown Seattle, Bellevue to Redmond, and SeaTac to Federal Way.

Keith Ervin: 206-464-2105 or kervin@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company

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