Tripper Dungan

1, 2, 2 EX, 3, 4, 5, 5 EX, 7, 7 EX, 8, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 15 EX, 16, 17, 17 EX, 18, 18 EX, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 26 EX, 27, 28, 28 EX, 30, 31, 33, 34, 35, 36, 38, 39, 41, 42, 43, 45, 46, 48, 51, 53, 54, 54 EX, 55, 56 EX, 56, 57, 66 EX, 67, 68, 70, 71, 72, 73, 75, 79, 81, 82, 83, 84, 85, 99, 101, 106, 107, 110, 111, 114, 116 EX, 118, 118 EX, 119, 119 EX, 121, 123, 124, 125, 128, 129, 131, 132, 133, 134, 139, 140, 148, 149, 150, 152, 155, 156, 157, 158, 159, 161, 162, 166, 167, 169, 173, 175, 177, 179, 180, 181, 182, 186, 187, 192, 196, 197, 200, 201, 202, 203, 204, 205 EX, 209, 210, 211, 213, 214, 219, 221, 222, 224, 230, 232, 233, 234, 236, 237, 238, 240, 242, 243, 245, 246, 248, 249, 250, 251, 252, 253, 255, 257, 260, 265, 268, 269, 271, 277, 280, 308, 311, 312, 331, 342, 345, 346, 347, 348, 355, 358, 372, 373, 901, 903, 908, 909, 910, 912, 913, 914, 916, 917, 918, 919, 925, 927, 930, 935.

These are the Metro bus routes that are slated for reduced service beginning next year—the ones in bold will be eliminated entirely. If you are a regular Metro rider, look for your bus route above. Chances are, you'll find it.

The alternative: a two-year $20 "congestion reduction fee" coming before the King County Council next week. That's a temporary $20 car-tab fee versus 600,000 annual hours of cuts, roughly 17 percent of total Metro service, impacting four out of five routes and 80 percent of riders. You'd think it would be a no-brainer. You'd think wrong.

In a perfect metaphor for the political gridlock gripping our region's transportation system, more than 700 people lined up outside the King County Courthouse last week to testify in favor of the fee and against the cuts. But inside the council's jam-packed chambers, only Council Members Larry Phillips, Larry Gossett, Bob Ferguson, and Joe McDermott—the four members representing Seattle—were there to take comments from the several hundred concerned citizens who managed to be heard.

For as high-profile an issue as bus service is here in transit-dependent Seattle, it's apparently as visible in the surrounding suburbs as the five council members who represent them. Suburban Republicans Jane Hague, Reagan Dunn, Kathy Lambert, and Pete von Reichbauer were nowhere to be seen, along with South King County Democrat Julia Patterson. If they haven't already made up their minds, they certainly weren't willing to give Seattle Metro riders a chance to change them. A simple majority could put the fee on the ballot—an iffy prospect in this economic climate—but six of nine votes are required for direct councilmanic approval.

Patterson, who last month told local news blog PubliCola it was "almost inconceivable" that she would vote to directly approve the fee, is making the most of that wiggle room, now telling The Stranger that she's seen further analysis that suggests there "may be a benefit" to her constituents after all. "I represent the poorest of the poor," says Patterson. "I have to weigh if another $20 is worth the burden." If Patterson does join her fellow Democrats in voting yes, this would leave Bellevue's Hague as the sixth and deciding vote.

How did we get here? Metro relies on a nine-tenths of a cent per dollar sales tax to cover over 61 percent of its operating costs—sales tax revenue that has fallen $200 million a year short of projections since the start of the Great Recession. Metro has largely avoided substantial cuts up until now by raising fares by 80 percent in the last four years (a full dollar each way, about $500 a year for a daily bus commuter), by tapping reserves, and through various cost-cutting methods, including labor concessions, staff reductions, capital project cuts, and other efficiencies. Altogether, Metro is producing $143 million a year in new revenue and ongoing savings, but this still leaves a $60 million annual shortfall.

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. And that seems like a bargain compared to the nine million annual rides that would be lost and the 15,000 new car trips a day the cuts would dump onto the county's already overcrowded roads and freeways.

Metro's fate is now in the hands of alleged moderate Hague, who went to Olympia to ask for the authority to levy the $20 fee, only to immediately turn around and say she would vote against it. There's still an outside chance that Hague, facing a tough reelection fight, could flip her vote back in response to pressure from outraged Metro riders. That is, assuming she bothers to listen to them. recommended