Bus Stomp

Republicans Are Crushing Metro Bus Service


The headline is misleading... if all the Democrats voted for, the funding would be there. But equally to the point, between the portion of the gasoline tax that goes to RTA and my car tabs that go to RTA/transit, I've spent over $500 per year on buses before I drive a mile... and independent of the portions of those for roads and for health care.

How much is enough? Maybe bring the unionized bus drivers into salary-equivalence with the private sector? (A thought that could get me banned from the Stranger.)
"Northside Tony"... so it's the union workers that have bankrupt Metro? Really?

You've dug your whole, now your asssssettts sticking in the air. Your position calls for a swift kick, to force you out of your self imposed ignorance.

From your statement I understand that you do not like spending money you believe does not benefit you directly.

BTW: there is no profit to be made in mass transit. Government subsidizes and runs those services for public benefit. I'm not going into all the reasons how mass transit directly benefits you. But I do have a suggestion:

I understand you own a car, I suggest we sell the (government subsidized)roadways to private companies and allow them free market pricing. I honestly suggest you'd be paying significantly more then $500/yr.

@1, No. Read the article. If all the Democrats vote for it, it still falls one short of the two-thirds supermajority necessary for direct councilmanic approval.
Boy, between the clusterfuck tunnel and the clusterfuck transit we're fucked.
super disappointing that julia patterson isn't able to make up her mind between a one time $20 fee and screwing people out of their only mode of transportation, she'll be getting an email from me!
Great illustration by Tripper Dungan
It's not Republicans who are crushing Metro Bus service. It's Metro itself. The system is grossly inefficient and outrageously expensive to create and maintain. And it will remain so, even if the $20 "temporary" car tab surcharge is approved. All the surcharge does is maintain Metro's current inefficient operation.

@ #5 - It's not a one-time fee, it's for two years. And that's just a start, since we all know from painful experience there's no such thing as a "temporary" fee or tax around here.

Further, before you attempt to minimize the impact that one fee may have on someone else (aka Latte Tax Syndrome), perhaps you need to read this story from today's Seattle Times. Last time I checked, all nine City Council members were calling themselves Progressives or Democrats.


Car-tab fees may soar by $100
The whole plan is flawed. Metro should consider dropping the fare from $2.25 with a 2-3 hour transfer and instead have all trips cost $1.50 with no transfer.
66 EX, 67, 68, 70, 71, 72, 73, 75, 79, 372, 373 -- all of these service the university district. Perhaps the university should contribute a little more. Perhaps cutting these services is political? Does anyone know the details? And at the end of the day, this seems a little bit like turning off the water or the electricity to save some money? WTF Seattle?
A $60m shortfall causes a sacrifice of 9m rides. Those are $6.67 bus rides.
AAAHHH!!! Republicans!!! Everybody run!!

Wait, your serious?

@1, take a fucking pay cut yourself, asshole. Cutting pay of the drivers will not solve the problem.
@4 Hmm.... Seattle traffic gets royally fucked and it's all-gridlock, all the time. Know what cuts through gridlock?


It's kind of like paper beating rock. Or something.
Part of me really wants this to fail just to prove to the idiots out there that if you want public services YOU HAVE TO FUCKING PAY FOR THEM!! And after they voted it down and their commute time to and from work increases I want to laugh in their faces at their stupidity.

This has been the norm for most of the US for years...no one wants to pay for anything and guess what happens? Infrastructure collapses around them and then they blame "big govmit". The sad part now is that stupidity has come to live in the Seattle area.

If there was a god....God help us all. We are FUCKED come February.
If Patterson is truly representing "the poorest of the poor," as in people who can't even afford cars, then shouldn't she be supporting public transit?

Unfortunately, the people who don't want to pay for public services seem to have a limited understanding of cause & effect. There's a powerful and moneyed push for "solutions" to urban decay that privatize public services and infrastructure. The purveyors of these solutions are hard at work convincing the average American, like our friend Northside Tony, that the real enemy is anything that is an impediment to their plans for future profit.
Can anybody explain why in the hell the so-called "progressive" group FUSE Washington is LYING to people and not telling them about the third option for Metro funding, taxing the rich? Why is FUSE protecting corporations and demanding that working people pay more? Call FUSE and ask them why they are protecting the richest of the rich: 206-420-0133
Why are Democrats ABSOLUTELY DEAD SET on protecting the wealthy and corporations? Why is their answer always "making the people who can least afford it pay the most"?

There is an alternative to charging working people yet another higher tax/fee: TAX THE RICH.

Seattle says fund our transit

SEATTLE--Area bus riders will literally be left on the side of the road if a $60 million budget gap isn't filled at the county bus agency.

King County Metro Transit, which is the primary transit provider for the Seattle area, faces massive budget cuts. As a result of the recession, sales tax revenues nosedived, leaving Metro, which depends on such revenue for 60 percent of its funding, to grapple with its worst financial crisis ever.

The agency has offset initial cuts by redirecting money from transit expansion plans, increasing fares, raiding capital reserves and extracting concessions from the transit workers union. Now the well has run dry.

When the King County Council held a recent forum about the transit crisis, more than 330 people testified about how the measures would affect them, while many more stood in a line that stretched around the block, waiting for a chance to have their voices heard. Local media estimates of the crowd size range from 500 to 1,000 people.

But for those who were able to make it inside, the impassioned pleas to save transit services from the budget ax were compelling.

"Maintaining bus service in these times is a bread-and-butter issue," said Estela Ortega, executive director of El Centro de la Raza. "Access to transit determines access to work and a job, which determines access to housing, food and health care."

The theme of social justice ran through many testimonies about the importance of an affordable, efficient and effective public transit system. "This is a social justice issue and an LGBT issue," explained Ben Crowther. "The LGBT community experiences higher rates of poverty and, as a result, depends more on public transit."

Vicky Foster added that for people with physical disabilities, the bus is often their only means of travel. "The lives of people with disabilities will be devastated," said Foster. "They don't have other transit options. We have to save the bus system."

Mae Mullin, who is deaf and blind, explained that public transit is central to her daily survival. "I rely on the bus system to be independent," she said.

Without a new source of funding, Metro will have to cut service by 17 percent as early as the beginning of 2012. This will result in more than 85 routes being eliminated and 106 routes being reduced or revised. According to Metro, nearly 80 percent of transit riders--more than 380,000 riders a day--will be impacted by the service-reduction plan.

These cuts will return Metro to 1996 levels of transit service. This is despite the fact that the county has seen an 11 percent increase in population in the last 10 years, and year-over-year transit ridership is up by 5 percent.

Despite not having an expansive rail-based transit system, the Seattle area has the 14th highest transit ridership in the country, with 17 percent of commuters using the transit system. Many bus routes are nearing capacity. If these cuts go through, buses that are already crowded will now come less often, if at all.

Another potential impact is on the Link light-rail system. Without connecting buses timed to allow commuters to transfer to their train, ridership on the $2 billion system could plummet. Despite planned expansion of the light-rail system, ridership could still fall if fewer commuters have a means to get to the stations.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

NOT ONLY will the cuts affect commuters, but the environmental impact could be devastating.

As more people seek other transportation options, greenhouse gas emissions will surely go up. Nearly half of all greenhouse gas emissions in Washington state come from transportation. By cutting 17 percent of Metro service, more people will be forced to cars to commute (if they can afford them).

In addition to greenhouse gases, cars and trucks emit other environmentally hazardous gases that have a significant impact on the health of city dwellers. Transportation accounts for 68 percent of all air pollution in the Seattle area, according to the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency. Medical research has shown a strong correlation between air pollution caused by car and truck emissions and increased rates of respiratory illnesses, such as asthma, as well as higher rates of cancer and heart disease.

In Seattle, like most U.S. cities, some of the poorest and most diverse neighborhoods are situated along the busiest transit corridors. For example, the International District, south of Downtown Seattle and situated next to Interstate 5 and many other major traffic arteries, has a 50 percent higher rate of asthma and a 102 percent higher rate of contracting airborne disease. The neighborhood is 81 percent nonwhite and has a median household income of $13,000 per year.

Another problem associated with car and truck use is that storms wash petrochemical pollution from the area's roadways into surrounding waterways, such as Puget Sound. According to a 2007 study by the State Department of Ecology, 6.3 million to 8 million gallons of petroleum flow into Puget Sound from roads and parking lots every year. To put that into context, the notorious Exxon Valdez spilled 11 million gallons of petroleum into Prince William Sound in 1989.

These transit cuts will not only make getting to work harder, but could also jeopardize the health of the area's residents.

County politicians have proposed a temporary two-year, $20 car tab fee to offset the budget crisis. This car tab would put off the catastrophic cuts until 2013, when a long-term solution must be sought. The King County Council has until July 22 to either approve the car tab by a two-thirds supermajority, or a simple majority of the council can vote to put it on the ballot of an upcoming election.

But this solution has many problems.

To start, Seattle and Washington state taxes are already, according to multiple studies, the most regressive in the country. Without an income tax, state and local governments rely solely on a mix of sales and property taxes to fund key programs and services.

In fact, a 2010 study rated Washington state as having the most unfair tax system in the country. The bottom 20 percent of income earners pay 17 percent of their incomes toward a myriad of state, county and city sales and property taxes, not including additional user fees. The wealthiest 1 percent only pay 2.6 percent of their income in taxes, according to the study by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy.

This disparity has only been exacerbated by the ongoing economic crisis, as various government agencies have turned to increases in regressive taxes to fund critical programs.

Despite the fact that the greed of Wall Street and the wealthy was the cause of the economic crisis, it is working people who are asked to bear the burden of paying for social services and infrastructure.

And if the politicians duck their responsibility to manage public services by putting the matter on an upcoming ballot, it's not at all clear that voters hammered by the recession will approve the measure. What's more, voters would be asked to approve a tax increase just to maintain existing service rather than to fund an expansion. In the last year, voters in neighboring Whatcom, Pierce and Thurston counties have all rejected sales tax increases to maintain current bus service.

In an area that is home to immensely profitable companies like Boeing, Amazon, Starbucks and Microsoft, it would be a hard pill to swallow for most voters to pay more for existing service without extracting something from these companies. And in a state that has handed out nearly $6 billion dollar in tax exemptions to wealthy companies and individuals, it would be rightly seen as a slap in the face for voters to have to pay more for Metro.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

THE COUNTY council does have alternatives to sales tax increases to save Metro without adding to the tax burden of working people.

The state legislature has authorized the county to levy an "employer tax" that would tax businesses up to $24 per employee. By some estimates, this could raise $40 million annually. Businesses would pay a small premium for having their employees get to work on time. While such a tax is obviously unpopular to corporate interests, it would create a much larger base of support among the vast majority of working-class residents.

Another option is the creation of Local Improvement Districts (known as LIDs). The county could work with local municipalities to create these LIDs, which would tax commercial property owners in order to fund infrastructure or services in their area.

The South Lake Union Streetcar line was funded using such a scheme. Nearly half of the $50 million construction costs of the streetcar line were paid for by businesses along the route. It would not be hard to imagine that the creation of several LIDs in the major employment centers of King County could also pay for the budget deficit that Metro faces.

Ultimately, a full reform of the state's tax structure is the best long-term solution, but without public pressure, this will never happen.

With transit issues now capturing the attention of hundreds of thousands of people throughout the region, activists should seize the opportunity to not only fight the transit cuts, but also to demand that the rich pay to fund a much-needed expansion of service. Rather than accepting a plan to balance the Metro budget on the backs of the poor and working people, we need to demand more transit service, new bus and rail infrastructure, more frequent routes and a progressive means to fund it.

Martin Luther King Jr., for whom King County was named, didn't help to inspire a movement by demanding what politicians found acceptable. He demanded justice. So should we.

Perhaps YOU need to read more closely. Yes, the City Council is comprised of all Dems, but the King County Council—the body that, you know, votes on county-wide issues, like King County Metro—is split almost straight down the middle Democrat/Republican.
Sorry if I'm ignorant, but why don't they just raise the rates? Doesn't seem like a rate hike that plotted an average extra $20 per rider over the course of a year would be met with that much controversy. For regular bus commuters (let's say 500 trips a year-divided-by-$20), that's 4 cents. Since that's not everyone's scenario make it a 25 cent hike and let's get on with life without the service shortages. Metro can do that anytime they want without council interference.
At any rate, since the swing vote is Jane Hague, perhaps it pays to direct readers to her office's contact information so people can have their voice heard.

Jane Hague
Council District 6
516 Third Ave., Rm. 1200
Seattle, WA 98104
Phone: 206-296-1006
Toll Free: 800-325-6165
TTY/TDD: 206-296-1024
Fax: 206-296-0398
Well, maybe, Metro just spent a small fortune on "green" buses & now are crying broke. So be it.

Perhaps it be best if we look at how we are all ground into the dirt by irresponsible spending. Years & Years of it, seems car tabs are there every time to bail things out.

Sorry for those of you that can't afford a car. I can & have one. The mayor had 2.4 million for bike lanes in a "broke" economy, he'll help you out. The actual bill was/is 5.1 million & garsh he raised parking fees to cover his ass.

Gee gosh, perhaps if all the nearly empty buses go down, we can all park again. Wow what a concept.

No need to write me, I'll happily go fuck my self, just think you could-a had a very-very fine monorail but you all fucked that up big time. Oh, yeah all of you would have had to pay for...not just car owners..OH WAIT!!! We did pay for it after all you voted it down...ok...gotta go fuck myself now...ba-bye
Does there really need to be that many different bus routes from 1-900? I think the Seattle Metro system is too confusing and clustered. Many of the buses seem to overlap the same roads, and can be reduced to be simpler. The 23 and 124 that run on 4th ave S can just be called #4 or something!
I've recently moved down to Seattle from Vancouver, but i'm still trying to familiarize myself with the metro system. One of the differences I noticed is the ticketing method here.
It is strange that the passenger would pay for the bus ride only when exiting the bus ride. But maybe that was just me as I wasn't use to it.
But more importantly is the pricing of the ticket itself. In Vancouver, a youth ticket costs 1.75$, while it is only 75 cents here.

I'm not offering any opinions on whether the prices should be raised or not. But one thing for sure is that the metro system needs to reform itself to become more rider-friendly.

Does there really need to be that many different bus routes from 1-900? I think the Seattle Metro system is too confusing and clustered. Many of the buses seem to overlap the same roads, and can be reduced to be simpler. The 23 and 124 that run on 4th ave S can just be called #4 or something!
I've recently moved down to Seattle from Vancouver, but i'm still trying to familiarize myself with the metro system. One of the differences I noticed is the ticketing method here.
It is strange that the passenger would pay for the bus ride only when exiting the bus ride. But maybe that was just me as I wasn't use to it.
But more importantly is the pricing of the ticket itself. In Vancouver, a youth ticket costs 1.75$, while it is only 75 cents here.

I'm not offering any opinions on whether the prices should be raised or not. But one thing for sure is that the metro system needs to reform itself to become more rider-friendly.

The bus riders are already subsidized over 75% of the cost of every trip. How about a temporary fifty cent surcharge on every ride instead of increasing the tax on the vast majority who don't ride?
@25 how about the vast majority that don't ride spend an extra 30 minutes commuting each day when thousands of people like me, who rides but also ownes a car, hit the road. Transit benefits you whether you ride it or not.
22 - the routes they are proposing cutting or reducing are not "nearly empty." A lot of those are usually full, full full.
@20 - King County has raised fares 4 times in last 24 months ($0.25 each time) for a total increase of $1.00 on a $1.50 base. That's a 66% increase. And if you're a commuter, 2 trips a day time about 250 working days per year is on the order of a $500/year jump. That's a massive hit. By comparison, $20/year/car really doesn't seem like much at all.

FWIW, I am a regular transit commuter, but I also own a car. I'm paying either way.
if they reduce or cut the 66, 72, 75, and 79 i'm gonna have trouble getting to and from work. i already have to take 2 buses to commute. if the 72 and 79 leave then i'll need to take 3. 3 buses for the equivalent of a 15 minute car ride.

why don't they split that 20 dollar between riders and drivers? add a 10 bucks to the car tab and 10 bucks via an orca yearly "maintenance fee". riders need bus service as well as drivers.

charge me a little extra if it's necessary. but don't cut my routes. i can't afford a car,... hell i can hardly afford the bus.
If they take out the 66/67/79, I will not be able to get to work. I am fortunate to be able to pay rent and taxes (and internet!) but I can't afford a car. I highly doubt people would prefer to pay me unemployment because I can't get to my goddamn job.
I commute to and from work using the Metro…and often use the Metro for short trips in/around my neighboring areas. I also own a car and use that for longer commutes and anything that involves getting outside the city. Public transportation as a benefit to all is a no brainer in my book. There are several things I have to ponder after reading over this article. I’m not 100% opposed to the $20 car-tab, but as stated, “The $20 car-tab fee would generate only $25 million a year over two years; tapping Metro's remaining reserves would close the rest of the gap.” aren’t we looking at a very short-term solution? If this solution forces the Metro to tap the remaining reserves what’s next? Then again was this sentence written to be dramatic or is that accurate? I hope the later. If so…that leaves a broke Metro and nothing close to something we could consider a long-term plan. Is it out of the picture to consider analyzing the Metro organization as a whole to see where inefficiencies may exist? I for one am surprised the ‘free-ride zone’ has not been mentioned in any comments. And as someone mentioned previously should we question the salary of employees and effects of union? Why not…of course we should. It seems obvious that the $20 car tab fee is a kiddie band-aid on a gushing head wound. I by no means claim to have the answers, but would love to see some rational & logical thoughts shared. For this I am disappointed at The Stranger for turning a complex issue into their typical headline ‘those evil baby eating profit minded Republicans are out for you!.’ Maybe there is way more to the picture that would require putting your own ideals and closed mindedness aside?

A moderate in Seattle
@32: My guess is they're hoping that by the time their reserves run out, the economy will have recovered and sales tax revenues will be back up enough to cover the current shortfall.
Goldy, does your asshole hurt from constantly getting fucked in the ass by Democrats in exchange for propagandizing for them? It's 2011. Wake the fuck up.

There is NO ISSUE in contemporary politics that can be understood in terms of "Republicans v Democrats" and the only idiots who think that such issues exist are party hacks like you. The fact is BOTH parties are fucking us over.

Take for example the King County Council's false choice between Metro cuts and raising car tab fees. This is a false choice that is actually an attack on working families on behalf of businesses and corporations. There are two solutions that both the Democrats AND the Republicans refuse to mention, because it targets their big business and corporate masters. 1. The "employer tax" authorized by the state legislature. 2. Create a Local Improvement District to tax commercial property owners to fund infrastructure. Tax the bosses and the billionaires, not working people!

Mr. Goldy, I DARE you to write a piece that raises these solutions and asks why the Democrats always let corporations of the hook.

@34 - Holy fuck you're annoying.
@ 19,

Actually, the county executives are cowards, or non-partisans.

They hide their D's and R's.


I miss Tri-Met so bad.


32 did mention "a kiddie band-aid on a gushing head wound". And when will this 2 year tax end. Are we not paying for the Kingdome still?

Gas go up 30% so everything go up 50% and republicans prove evey day they suck & they all speak the same language! Dumb ass!
Do kids rely on the metro to get to school?
For those who say Metro sucks and is a bad system, please try living in a similarly-sized city somewhere else. Metro rules. Come to Baltimore sometime and I'll show you what truly awful, wasteful transit is.
Tax the rich already!
I wonder where Goldy got her/his information about what lines will be cut? I asked a Metro driver, and also called Metro, and in both cases was told that no decision on which lines would be cut has been made.

I am a car owner and Metro rider and would gladly pay the $20/year, so I'm not a naysayer...just wondering where the info. came from and how accurate it is (or isn't).

And yes, a significant number of Seattle public school middle-and-high school students DO ride Metro.

If this car tab fails, Bill and Paul should each pony up $25 mil...do ya' think they could afford it?
Go out some afternoon, and count how many empty "out of service", "Base" buses are going up and down I-5. You could do this at NE 45th over I-5. I leave work around 3 PM every day. I have counted over 20 on any given day going south as I go north to Everett. That's normally a 40 minute commute. 20 buses in less than an hour. Granted they are not all Metro, some are Sound Transit and Community Transit. How much money is being wasted? Maybe the transit companies should look at themselves and try to figure out where they are loosing money internally before they com asking for more from us.
Regressive tax city. The poor are taxed more than the rich. Most services are operating on the backs of the poor here, it's pathetic. Car tab is a regressive tax. It's a shame to propose more regressive taxes in one of the worst regressive tax cities like Seattle.