Fuck the State

Seattle's Secret Plan to Save Metro Bus Service

Fuck the State
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There's only one way to describe the $12.3 billion transportation funding package state senate Republicans have proposed: economic terrorism. Funded by a regressive 11.5-cent hike in the gas tax, 73 percent of the proposed spending would go to building new roads. Only 20 percent goes to road maintenance and safety, while a bare 4 percent goes to transit, bicycle, and pedestrian improvements combined. Only 4 percent! That's not just the opposite of what Seattle wants, it's an intentional insult. And Olympia insiders tell me that Republicans have refused to budge on transit funding.

"Ha-ha, fuck you, Seattle," the Republicans are laughing. They think that Seattle is so desperate to save Metro bus service, we'll approve any package that includes a Metro deal. In particular, many Democratic lawmakers are seeking the authority for King County to approve a motor vehicle excise tax (MVET) of up to 1.5 percent on the value of vehicles to shore up bus funding, thereby dodging a 17 percent transit cut. "You're so desperate for your Metro-saving MVET that you'll accept anything!" the GOP seems to be saying.

So how should Seattle reply?

"We don't negotiate with terrorists." That's the message Seattle-area legislators and voters need to send to Republicans in Olympia.

Sure, the Republican proposal contains the taxing authority we asked for, but they would require it to go to voters (instead of the county council). Which means if this gas-tax hike has to go to the ballot next November, the soonest we could go to King County voters for approval would be the spring of 2015. Meanwhile, Metro is going to start slashing service by June of 2014.

"The people of King County cannot be held hostage," King County executive Dow Constantine warned at a November 21 press conference in which he introduced the county's "plan B" to stave off a looming 17 percent cut in Metro bus service. "We recognize that this plan B would be imperfect," admitted Constantine, "but in the absence of any action by the state, an imperfect local option will be necessary."

Plan B is imperfect because it would be more regressive than a local MVET option, utilizing the county's existing Transportation Benefit District authority to raise the sales tax 0.2 cents and levy a flat car-tab fee of up to $100 per vehicle. But plan B is also imperfect because these less popular taxes would be harder to push past county voters.

Senate Republicans are counting on this imperfection to force us to accept their road-heavy/transit-poor transportation proposal. If it goes to the ballot (and history tells us it will), there is no way an 11.5-cent gas-tax hike passes voters statewide without receiving overwhelming support in tax-happy Seattle. The gamble is that Seattle voters will accept any proposal that allows them to save Metro bus service.

But the Republicans weren't counting on plan C: Seattle's secret backup plan to King County's plan B.

City officials have been quietly exploring options to "buy back" in-city Metro bus service cuts in the event that all other options fail.

Seattle has unused Transportation Benefit District authority of its own (sales tax and car tab fee) that could yield up to $51 million in new revenue a year if approved by a simple majority of Seattle voters. Officials are also exploring a $25 million property tax levy "lid lift" that would also require a simple majority at the polls. Meanwhile, there's another $50 million in new revenue available to the council without voter approval, via a hike in the city's commercial parking tax, and a reinstatement of the controversial head tax, a per-employee tax on city businesses.

Ben Schiendelman of Seattle Transit Blog estimates that $25 million a year would be enough to buy back projected service cuts on all Metro bus routes that run 80 percent or more of their service hours within Seattle city limits. That would restore about a third of Metro's projected cuts, though it wouldn't help a lot of riders commuting into the city. "If they don't live in Seattle, they don't pay taxes in Seattle," Schiendelman points out.

But however imperfect these plans might be, they both have the virtue of flipping the table on Olympia. Once we take care of our own transit needs, we're the ones who will be holding the state transportation plan hostage, rather than the other way around. And that's a "fuck you" the senate Republicans heartily deserve. recommended


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Posted by RayK on December 11, 2013 at 11:40 AM · Report this
Matt the Engineer 2
What @1 said.
Posted by Matt the Engineer on December 11, 2013 at 12:11 PM · Report this
Will in Seattle 3
What @1 @2 said.

No roads will be built next biennium if they don't fund transit.

Posted by Will in Seattle on December 11, 2013 at 2:25 PM · Report this
Why should a gas tax fund ANY percentage of transit, bicycle, and pedestrian improvements? It's a GAS tax. It should pay for infrastructure for vehicles that burn gas.

All of the above options are terrible b/c they just keep taking from already cash-strapped, middle class citizens. Seattleites and local politicians seem to think a never-ending series of property- gas- and sales-tax levies are the answer for everything. There is no concept of fiscal responsibility. Every year, incrementally, with these levies and tax hikes, Seattle becomes more and more un-livable.

Let's turn the logic around- there are just as many cash-strapped, low- and middle- class people in Seattle and Puget sound who need their car to get around. They are being punished for being motorists- a $100 flat fee on car tab licenses? Car tabs for 10+ year old cars already run upwards of $80! How about this: turn the logic around- why don't we raise fares on metro busses and use the extra money to subsidize gas prices in the region to make it more affordable for motorists who are struggling with current economic realities? Sounds crazy, right? But somehow it makes sense to you to reach into motorists' pocket books to further subsidize transit?

Vote no on Plan B metro funding. Vote no on Plan C funding. Vote out any local politician who goes around voters to enact any further taxes to fund transit without voter approval.
Posted by ramshackle on December 11, 2013 at 6:45 PM · Report this
Texas10R 5
King County voters cannot swallow a $100 flat car-tab fee increase in this economy. It just won't fly and some people will lose the proceeding elections because of it. What is Seattle saying? "Take THAT, reality!"
Posted by Texas10R on December 13, 2013 at 4:16 PM · Report this
Supreme Ruler Of The Universe 6

Simplest solution is to add a 1% SIIT, or State Investment Income Tax.

Right now Obamacare is funded with a NIIT -- a 3.8% tax on passive income, like interest with a reasonable exemption for the middle class.

A SIIT would work with very little paperwork, because it would tax all the things that the NIIT already does, as described here:

1. What is the Net Investment Income Tax (NIIT)?…

Posted by Supreme Ruler Of The Universe on December 15, 2013 at 3:51 PM · Report this
NaFun 7
I'd pay the extra money in car tab fees heartily if it meant saving that much in transit service. Also, I just paid my car tabs for the year so I have plenty of time to save up BY RIDING THE BUS.

Posted by NaFun on December 15, 2013 at 4:35 PM · Report this
@4 troll. It's a symbiotic (look it up if you don't know what that means) relationship. The more people on buses, the smoother traffic flows for those in cars. You can't separate one from the other.
Posted by I Got Nuthin' on December 15, 2013 at 5:10 PM · Report this
How about a citizen's initiative stating that all tax revenue collected in a county can only be spent in that county. I'd love to see how anti-Seattle counties vote on that. They'd either finally acknowledge that we carry their economic asses, or vote against their own economic self-interest, just to spite us. Ha. Go ahead!
Posted by I Got Nuthin' on December 15, 2013 at 5:12 PM · Report this
@9, seconded.

Totally in favor of this Plan C proposal.
Posted by NineOneFour on December 15, 2013 at 5:21 PM · Report this
@9 Can we go further and say, no taxes collected on the north side flowing to the south side of Seattle?
Posted by North of the Ship Canal on December 15, 2013 at 6:00 PM · Report this
Reverse Polarity 12
@4, Duh, you idiot.

Even if you never set foot on a bus, and you drive everywhere you go in Seattle, you should happily pay to subsidize transit. Why? Because every bus you see out there equals 30 or more cars off the road. That means an easier commute for you in your car. Gut bus service, and your commute will be far worse than it already is.

You shouldn't be whining about subsidizing bus service. If you had any brains you should be begging for more ways to increase it.
Posted by Reverse Polarity on December 15, 2013 at 6:37 PM · Report this
@4, you should move. You'd be more comfortable in a sprawling mess like Houston or Somalia.
Posted by NineOneFour on December 15, 2013 at 7:11 PM · Report this
@11, slippery slope arguments are stupid. Stop making them.
Posted by NineOneFour on December 15, 2013 at 7:12 PM · Report this
Lots - LOTS - of people who rely on transit in Seattle live outside Seattle. They need to let their Republican Senators & Reps know this bullshit is bad for them.
Posted by Fluffy on December 15, 2013 at 7:30 PM · Report this
Sargon Bighorn 16
I don't see many Washington State voters going for an 11.5cents tax hike on gas, even if they are "tax-happy".
Posted by Sargon Bighorn on December 15, 2013 at 7:46 PM · Report this
jeffinfremont 17
@9 Thirded. I came in here to say just this. At what point do the urban voters in this state collectively throw up our hands and tell these regressive hillbillies in the welfare queen counties that we're cutting off their allowances?
Posted by jeffinfremont http:// on December 15, 2013 at 7:56 PM · Report this
@17 +1 I say we cut them off now. King County is going to have to enact Plan B or C anyway. Do it now.
Posted by nwcitizen on December 15, 2013 at 8:15 PM · Report this
I thought we had a new mayor who was able to work with Olympia.
Posted by Nothankyou on December 15, 2013 at 8:29 PM · Report this
Is anybody going to mention that the reason why a proposed gas tax increase is going to fund roads is because the state constitution requires gas taxes to be spent on roads? Gas taxes are constitutionally prohibited from being spent on transit. It's not some nefarious anti-Seattle use of tax $, it's directing tax $ to where the state constitution requires it be spent.

If you want to argue that the gas tax increase should be lower, and they should implement a statewide MVET or some other revenue stream for transit, fine. That may be a good idea. But don't imply that there's flexibility to move gas tax $ to transit, because there's not.
Posted by Bax on December 15, 2013 at 8:29 PM · Report this
you morons are always squealing for the RICH to be taxed to buy stuff for the "poor" *sob!*

so RICH Seattle homoliberals should be happy to see some of its tax revenue go to poorer counties.

fucking hypocritical shits.
Posted by Tax The Rich, Bitch on December 15, 2013 at 8:51 PM · Report this
why don't ticket prices reflect what it costs to run the fucking buses?

why do liberals always want someone else to pay for the shit they consume?

fucking taking mooches
Posted by pay for your own fucking buses on December 15, 2013 at 8:53 PM · Report this
@17, at the point where we no longer care about the fact that many extremely low-income people live in all those counties. I hope we don't get to that point, no matter how much we despise their Republican politicians. I don't know what the answer is, but I don't think it's the answer is cutting the lifeline to poor people in Yakima County.

Posted by sarah70 on December 15, 2013 at 9:36 PM · Report this
I will gladly vote to increase the car tab cost to support transit if it is coupled to putting to a public vote bike license plates/rules of the road testing/yearly registration with harsh penalties for anyone bicycling on the public roadway without compliance. Insurance would also make good sense, but I realize there's no infrastructure for that yet.
Posted by ChefJoe on December 15, 2013 at 10:03 PM · Report this
@12 Because every bus you see out there equals 30 or more cars off the road. That means an easier commute for you in your car.

Well, except for those off hours (the majority of the bus hours actually) where the buses only have 4 people and a driver on them but the bus doesn't magically shrink down to a van nor does the painted dedicated lane or bus bulb sticking out into a lane of traffic disappear.
Posted by ChefJoe on December 15, 2013 at 10:12 PM · Report this
Congestion tax. Instead if blindly charging all car owners (many of whom also ride the buses, myself included) who happen to reside within the city, and/or encouraging us to drive out of the city to buy gas, while not really touching commuters from the surrounding areas who elect car worshipping politicians who support these anti-transit policies, it'd be nice if we could make those commuters (plus residents who insist on driving in high-traffic areas when they could bus) face the dilemma of paying more to continue their habits.

Toll the main entry points into the city core, and then also raise the parking prices around downtown. That's the true way to turn the tables on the individuals who support these politicians. Until they change their behavior, at least make them pay more for the luxury of driving around our city while voting for politicians who fuck our transit. See you at the next Seahwaks game!
Posted by madcap on December 16, 2013 at 12:37 AM · Report this
Every year, incrementally, with these levies and tax hikes, Seattle becomes more and more un-livable.

Yet every year the population of Seattle increases. Strange how that happens.
Posted by madcap on December 16, 2013 at 12:41 AM · Report this
@22 Why don't gas and toll prices reflect the actual costs to maintain the roads and obtain petroleum products (such as funding a significant chunk of our military)? Because externalities, smarty.
Posted by madcap on December 16, 2013 at 12:46 AM · Report this
Cato the Younger Younger 29
@9, you got me behind that initiative. It's either that or say fuck you Washington and make King County our own state telling the rest of the assholes good luck
Posted by Cato the Younger Younger on December 16, 2013 at 3:11 AM · Report this
#26: Any politician who gets behind a congestion tax, or anything like what you suggest, will be dragged from his bed and hanged by the neck until dead from the nearest tree or utility pole.
Posted by You think we're kidding? on December 16, 2013 at 4:14 AM · Report this

and yet buses use roads and petroleum as well.

double moochers, right?
Posted by Bus Fare on December 16, 2013 at 4:33 AM · Report this
Kinison 32
Ahhh yes the simple solution, jack up vehicle fees for all drivers, to pay for things that drivers probably will never use.

The only way it could work if if you passed it without a vote, or is the start of the New Age Seattle Socialism where laws are passed without public vote or debate?
Posted by Kinison on December 16, 2013 at 5:08 AM · Report this
Goldy, would you just cut to the chase and start comparing the politicians you don't like to Hitler? That would save some bandwidth.
Posted by Angry Sam on December 16, 2013 at 6:32 AM · Report this
jeffinfremont 34
@23 They can take their own advice and turn to private charities for assistance. These idiots vote for senators that block any kind of progress and meanwhile I and all the other residents in the big three are stuck with the bill for their roads, schools and emergency services.

Fuck that. Let's get the equal-tax/equal-spending initiative rolling and they can demonstrate just how bootstrappy they all are.
Posted by jeffinfremont http:// on December 16, 2013 at 6:34 AM · Report this

I understand your urge to feel some compassion for the rural impoverished, but let's not forget that these are many of the SAME people clamoring about how THEIR tax money is being "wasted on poor people" (which may, in fact include themselves), and furthermore who express a strong desire to be "self-reliant", "independent", and basically free from the evils of "government restriction" in their lives.

So, maybe it would be illuminating for them to spend just a little time reaping what they seek so vehemently to sow.


I'm all for this on one condition: automobile drivers must also take annual driving tests. What's good for the goose, etc., etc.


The times of day when transit ridership is low just happen to correspond with times when automobile commuting is also low (e.g. the middle of the day and in the mid-to-late evening), because, you know, many people take public transit to get to JOBS, just like drivers, and are less likely to take trips during the day, because JOBS. So guess what the result is? Yep, congestion is less during the day and later in the evenings, because everybody has already gotten to where they need to go and a no longer clogging up the roads.

And here's another thing that might surprise you: Metro actually takes this into account when scheduling routes, so those that mostly serve commuter corridors reduce the number of buses & stretch out arrival times during the parts of the day when demand is lower, or else extend the service area for an individual bus (by say, switching from a #2 to a #13 route and back during the day), so that more stops can be accommodated with a smaller number of buses on the streets when they're not needed.
Posted by COMTE on December 16, 2013 at 9:15 AM · Report this
People bitching about "I don't use buses so don't come knocking at my door!" Should ask, how does public transit benefit you?

Less traffic and congestion! This 17% is, and I'm reaching into the air for a past Stranger article ON THIS SAME SHIT was that it equals, oh... an extra 28 lanes of traffic. Every day.


I drive to a P&R and bus, because I can't afford the cost to park in downtown Seattle or Bellevue, and no bus goes to Snoqualmie Pass on a daily basis. Also, 405 is a parking lot clusterfuck during rush hour, in either direction you need to go. It begs for rage on a daily basis. It's much nicer to bus on backroads to the P&R, and drive into the un-fucked darkness on eastbound I90.

Also, the TWO buses that get the closest in North Bend are both going to be cut because of lack of ridership.

Cutting metro service in Seattle slows down commerce from the ports to the rest of the state; does more damage to the roads due to increased wear from extra traffic, making them more expensive to maintain; and just costs everyone more money and precious time in the long run. So STFU already you pansies.
Posted by erly on December 16, 2013 at 11:51 AM · Report this
@32 THAT IS HOW TAXES WORK, GODDAMMIT. "Food stamps are being paid for by people who aren't even using them. Way to punish me, assholes!"

If we lived in a world where poor people could pay for the things that they needed, we wouldn't need taxes.
Posted by Ruke on December 16, 2013 at 12:13 PM · Report this
keshmeshi 38

The whiners embody the maxim "penny wise, pound foolish".
Posted by keshmeshi on December 16, 2013 at 12:33 PM · Report this
keshmeshi 39

Many buses that go out to the sticks, or, hell, Tukwila, completely shut down between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. and then again between 7 p.m. and 6 a.m. Must suck being a suburbanite who works irregular hours.
Posted by keshmeshi on December 16, 2013 at 12:36 PM · Report this
GlibReaper 40
The myopia of @32 is profound. Drivers don't use buses, but they benefit from the reduction in traffic that mass transit provides. They can't see the cars that aren't there.

@37 in this case, drivers do use uncongested roads. How about floating a congestion tax to drive that point home?
Posted by GlibReaper on December 16, 2013 at 12:39 PM · Report this
keshmeshi 41
I would more readily support an MVET if it were half the amount or less, and it only funded transit. The 1.5 percent MVET supporters would do well to stop playing coy and pretending that it's a nominal increase. It is not. It would triple my licensing costs (even including the extra fees the state already charges). Are the MVET supporters forgetting that Seattle already voted down an extra $60 licensing fee that was also supposed to go to transit and roads?
Posted by keshmeshi on December 16, 2013 at 12:55 PM · Report this
....major disconnect; first, major push to get out of your car, then rates are jacked and service is curtailed.

We must have some concessions.

Extend transfer validity to 4 hours so one can catch a movie, a meal, or conduct business.
Posted by dogant on December 16, 2013 at 4:20 PM · Report this
Isn't the point of a transfer to help you get to your destination, not to provide you for a round trip?
Posted by madcap on December 16, 2013 at 5:42 PM · Report this

concession (kənˈsɛʃən)

— n
1. the act of yielding or conceding
Posted by dogant on December 16, 2013 at 5:54 PM · Report this
It seems equally likely Seattle voters will both support spending their own money on transit and theirs and everyone else's on more roads across the state. That is not a particularly bad outcome for the Senate Republicans
Posted by wsdw on December 18, 2013 at 4:01 PM · Report this


Why would Seattle voters vote for the gas tax increase if they instead vote for local taxes to fund transit? That doesn't make sense; Seattle has always been strongly opposed to "Roads Without Transit".

Now there might be an unintended consequence of doing so. King County as a whole has also been opposed to "RWOT", but much less strongly so. If Seattle goes its own way by buying back its cut hours, the rest of the county may swing towards roads and push it over the line.

I guess the city might have the last laugh on that, though. It could levy the Head Tax, but only on employees from outside the city. Not sure if that would fly with the State constitution but it's worth a thought.
Posted by anandakos on December 19, 2013 at 11:24 AM · Report this
How about a reasonable solution? The people that use transit can actually pay for it?
Posted by DuhTransitRiders on December 19, 2013 at 5:24 PM · Report this
I would certainly support spending tax money in the county it is raised in. If not permanently then at least for a long enough period of time that the red, eastern counties wake up and realize who is/has been supporting them all these years. The actually do believe they are the rugged individualists that keep the state solvent. I grew up there and have relatives there to this day who believe theys end money to Olympia that never comes back to be spent on their interests.
Posted by Jim PB on February 10, 2014 at 11:57 AM · Report this

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