Seattle's Invisible 28-Lane Freeway

This Is Legislators' Last Chance to Save Metro Bus Riders from Crippling Service Cuts

Seattle's Invisible 28-Lane Freeway

George Pfromm II

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Imagine if the Washington State Department of Transportation were forced to shut down a couple lanes of I-5 through Seattle next year, simply because the state senate couldn't be bothered to do its job. That's pretty much the transportation-capacity equivalent of what's facing King County Metro.

If the legislature fails to grant King County the authority to levy a 1.5 percent motor vehicle excise tax (MVET) within the next 30 days, Metro could cut bus service by up to 17 percent in order to close a projected $75 million annual revenue shortfall. With average weekday ridership of about 400,000, that's a capacity equivalent to about 68,000 rides a day.

To put that in perspective, I-5 carries about 250,000 vehicles a day through Seattle, the Alaskan Way Viaduct only 110,000. So we're looking at a capacity reduction equivalent to about a quarter of I-5's weekday traffic, or more than half of the viaduct's. Just from a 17 percent cut in Metro bus service.

It's easy to lose sight of just how crucial transit is to our region's daily commute. Through their various services, Sound Transit and Metro together carry about 500,000 riders a day; that's almost as much as I-5, I-405, and the viaduct combined. Or to visualize it another way, the average capacity of a single freeway lane is about 18,000 vehicles a day—making ST/Metro's half-million rides a day roughly equivalent to building a 28-lane freeway through downtown Seattle.

Of course, a 17 percent cut in bus service does not mean a 17 percent cut in bus ridership; Metro says roughly 70 percent of riders will be affected. Some riders will switch to other routes regardless of how crowded they already are. But the same would be true of closing a freeway lane. Other bus riders will choose to climb behind the wheel of their cars, increasing traffic congestion for everyone else, including the remaining buses on the roads. "The vast majority of our transit users have cars at home," explains King County executive Dow Constantine.

House Democrats included the local MVET option in their transportation-funding package, but senate Republicans balked at the bill. The 30-day special session is likely Metro's last chance to get approval for an MVET option on the ballot this fall, which it needs to stave off substantial cuts before the money runs out next June.

No doubt senate Republicans couldn't give a fuck about King County bus riders. But perhaps if they understood that these transit cuts are the functional equivalent of freeway closures, granting an MVET option wouldn't be controversial at all. recommended


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Cato the Younger Younger 1
King County needs to be it's own state and let the rest of Washington go fuck itself. The rest of them simply aren't worth it.
Posted by Cato the Younger Younger on May 15, 2013 at 8:39 AM · Report this
Lew Siffer 2
Yeah man. I hate the natural beauty in all the other counties. Fuck the mountains, rivers, orchards, hiking trails and all that noise. King County 4 lyf yo.
Posted by Lew Siffer on May 15, 2013 at 8:46 AM · Report this
Cato the Younger Younger 3
@2, yeah..if we broke away we could never visit the rest of the state ever again..yeah, that's right...
Posted by Cato the Younger Younger on May 15, 2013 at 8:52 AM · Report this
Goldy is the worst journalist.

Paragraphs 1-4: "Here are some scary figures I found on the Internet! The sky is falling!"

Paragraph 5: "...but please pretend you never read them, because they don't really mean anything."

Paragraphs 6-7: "Anyway, I'm just here to remind the world that I don't like Republicans."
Posted by Sean P. on May 15, 2013 at 9:11 AM · Report this
How about they raise the rate to ride the bus by 1.5 percent and see how that goes.
Posted by donthatejustpay on May 15, 2013 at 11:17 AM · Report this
Metro fares have gone up significantly over the last few years, and another fare increase is planned for 2014. Trying to solve the problem by charging more to ride transit is foolish.
Posted by MetroRider on May 15, 2013 at 11:30 AM · Report this
@5: Um, they're raising it by $0.25 in 2014...that's an 11% increase on off-peak fares and an 8% increase on peak fares. Way more than the 1.5% you're proposing.
Posted by Orv on May 15, 2013 at 1:37 PM · Report this
Ok so the math sounded a little weird, and then it hit me. Sound Transit servers more than just King County and not just by buses so does the MVET affect rail ways as well?
Anyways, you have 400,000 for Metro and another 100,000 for Sound Transit but this number maybe inflated as we don't know that it consist exclusively of King County passengers affected by the MVET...
Doesn't change the final number of traffic lanes much after all, 23 (rounded up) lanes to 28 (rounded up) is still an impressive number.

Interesting to see how people might react when they understand that it means an increase in individual vehicle traffic in Seattle... Please pay up to keep ignoring us.
Posted by QuestionsGy on May 15, 2013 at 1:38 PM · Report this
Texas10R 9
@ 4 who writes: "Goldy is the worst journalist."

That is most certainly untrue!

(Have you read Mudede?)
Posted by Texas10R on May 15, 2013 at 3:39 PM · Report this
Public transportation is an important service that affects us all, whether we use it or not. It reduces the traffic on roads, provides an affordable way for thousands of people to get to work and school and reduces the polution that would be caused by more private vehicles. If the legislature fails to allow the fees to fund the buses, then we will need to raise the price of each ride. We also could increase the $0.75/trip price of the wonderful ORCA card that I as a senior get to use. Or, you could tax me. Please do something.
Posted by Jeanne Large on May 15, 2013 at 8:36 PM · Report this
"The vast majority of our transit users have cars at home"
Yeah, I don't know about that.
But, like, fuck the ones who don't, right?
Posted by estellamig on May 15, 2013 at 10:08 PM · Report this
Another thing to keep in mind in all this... the overwhelmingly most populous county in the State already approved to tax itself for this sort of thing... and the so-called Republican coalition in the State Senate is sticking to the "new new taxes" mantra of the National GOP and seeking to instill its own brand of austerity on the State. They should, of course, realize that the the more populous counties generally vote (1) democratic and (2) pay the most in taxes that then receive (3) less back per capita then are paid to the State. Perhaps these most populous regions should push an initiative for tax funding equity where the dollars paid into the state by the counties STAY within the counties within which they are generated? Hey, that would show them, wouldn't it? Also, it would certainly keep the transit system afloat..
Posted by Nil on May 15, 2013 at 11:32 PM · Report this
Why stop there, why not only pay taxes for services that YOU use? Or just pay more for what you used and not have to worry about taxes?

wait, you're forgetting all the other ways your taxes benefit you. For example, why should Seattlelites pay taxes related to snow removal on the passes? They're not in Seattle, they don't affect you. WRONG! Keeping the passes open allows for your grocery store to stock goods coming from the rest of the mainland, without those taxes, jobs that rely on out of county work would dwindle and die...
Ha the joys of living in society, this means that even if you don't have children, your taxes go to schools, educating the doctor you'll have to see in 20~30 years for your rectal cancer. But by all means, Capitalism all the way, every man for himself.
Posted by Anti-Nil on May 16, 2013 at 12:07 AM · Report this
TheMisanthrope 14
Just a reminder Stranger Readers:

1) This is an INCEASE of 1.5%.

For a $5,000 car, that's a $75 increase.
For a $10,000 car that's $150 increase.
For a $15,000 that's a $225 increase.

On top of the $60 you already have to pay.

2) In Wyoming, they have a 1.8% MVET, with discounts for age. Unless your car is $20k (or more) and brand new, you'll be paying more here than in Wyoming, while the people with more expensive cars are paying less.

3) In San Francisco, I would be paying 40% less than I would here. YMMV, do your research.

The above are facts designed to make you think about the actual expense of the tax increase.
Posted by TheMisanthrope on May 16, 2013 at 9:31 AM · Report this
Hot Hot 15
Ridership is up, there has been a recent increase of fare (the same price to ride the HIGHLY EFFICIENT subway in NYC) and there no more ride free area so why is Metro still in trouble and depends on the government for more money? I blame money management. Just because Metro is government funded does not mean it should be dependent. Another thought if they had bus only lane along routes then they wouldn't be caught in traffic all the time and it would be much more efficient.
Posted by Hot Hot on May 16, 2013 at 2:43 PM · Report this
Lew Siffer 16…

See bottom. Instead of delivering on the 45000 hours of new service, Metro mosty gave it self raises and benefits. They are pretty swift at fucking taxpayers over.
Posted by Lew Siffer on May 16, 2013 at 6:51 PM · Report this
sparkydive 17
Unfortunately, this is what you get when you have a severely divided red - blue state. Elected farmer fucks from Ritzville and Okanogan deciding what's best for Seattle. And vice versa.
Posted by sparkydive on May 16, 2013 at 7:46 PM · Report this
Why not go all the way. Let have MVET at 100% of value!

Then those few people (fat cat bastards) who can then still afford vehicles can fund all of the Buses, trolleys and Bike lanes. Of course if they all buy electrics we are royally fvcked!

I was in Malaysia and Australia in March , Seattle's transit is way cheaper than both places.We should incrementally raise fares to $3 a zone for Sound Transit and Metro . Increase ORCA prices also

It's still a bargain at that price.

Posted by Just Another Knowall. on May 17, 2013 at 8:28 AM · Report this
@18: At $3/zone it'd be cheaper for me to drive in and pay to park than to ride the bus. Not much of a bargain.

The MVET doesn't scare me much because my car is a $2000 beater. I can handle $30/year. Frankly that's pocket change compared to the operating costs of a car; I pay more than that per MONTH in insurance premiums.
Posted by Orv on May 17, 2013 at 11:21 AM · Report this

So for the additional 75c/ (ok $1.50 R/T) you are going to drive?

The IRS says 55.5c / mile , yes I also drive a beater so it's cheaper than that but cost is more than just gas.

How do you drive in and park all day for $6?

I suspect a significant majority of bus commuters wouldn't have that option. My SO works in S Lake Union. No way they could afford to drive and park.

It won't go through anyway, MVET is very unpopular.

Posted by Just Another Knowall. on May 17, 2013 at 4:00 PM · Report this
inquiastador 21
Uh, barely touched on is the fact that the majority of the people riding busses don't drive even if they wanted too. So, zero sum argument here.
Posted by inquiastador on May 17, 2013 at 9:16 PM · Report this
@21. yeah euu:""The vast majority of our transit users have cars at home," explains King County executive Dow Constantine."
Sure that aspect is barely touched as it essentially is a one-liner but it pertains to your comment. Se if they have cars, it's assumed that they have driver's licenses and thus have the option of driving. When asked if you have a car, you don't typically count that one rusting in your front lawn...
Posted by IReadArticles on May 18, 2013 at 1:23 PM · Report this
@Texas1oR:are you an anti-Blackist?Charles Mudede is a fucking professor;what the fuck do YOU do?Sweep floors?(and burn crosses,bitch?).
Posted by 5th Columnist on May 20, 2013 at 11:31 AM · Report this
CALL your state legislatewhores:demand they give King County more autonomy so that it can implement progressive revenue-making instruments (such as a progressive county income tax).Bing "find your legislator" . -----
Posted by 5th Columnist on May 20, 2013 at 11:33 AM · Report this
Los Seangeles
Posted by 5th Columnist on May 20, 2013 at 11:34 AM · Report this
Seattle government hates private automobiles and their drivers.

How about raising the bus fares?
Posted by billwald on May 20, 2013 at 1:18 PM · Report this

We've raised bus fares by around 50% since the recession hit.

For a place that hates private automobiles and their drivers, I find it surprisingly easy to get around by car when I want to.

But Seattle government has nothing to do with this discussion. Metro is not a City department, they're County. And the County's tax authority is restricted to it's current level by State law.
Posted by Lack Thereof on May 22, 2013 at 12:51 AM · Report this
Whoever wrote this is truly a moron.

The average car carries around 1.6 people, so if I-5 carries 250,000 VEHICLES per day, that would be about 400,000 PEOPLE per day.

One freeway lane can carry about 2,000 vehicles per hour. There are 24 hours in a day. Therefore one freeway lane has the capacity of around 48,000 VEHICLES per day. Cars have a capacity of around 6 people per vehicle (including SUV's). So, one freeway lane has the capacity of almost 300,000 PEOPLE per day.

Last I heard, buses need roads to operate on. You don't need buses -- you car travel by car, van, motorcyle, etc. But, everyone does NEED roads.
Posted by Ralph Kramden on November 8, 2013 at 11:56 PM · Report this

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