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King County transit measure: Nobody’s favorite, but a favorite to win

Why the buses-and-road-repairs package has a good shot for passage.
Waiting for a Metro 150, which connects Downtown Seattle, Kent and Auburn

Waiting for a Metro 150, which connects Downtown Seattle, Kent and Auburn Oran Viriyincy/Flickr

Keep your hand-wringing to yourself.”

This was one of the earliest, best pieces of advice I got in political strategy: No matter your personal ambivalence when advocating for a political cause, it is important to embrace the positive and minimize the negative. It’s a sound idea. Voters, like any humans, want to feel confident when endorsing change. Voters know that no solution is perfect, but an anxious voter is probably a “no” voter.  People are risk-averse, the strategic thinking goes, and instilling ambivalence is doing your opponents' work for them.

It’s interesting, then, that the campaign to raise revenue through a newly formed King County Transportation Benefit District (KCTBD) is choosing to brace outspoken ambivalence.

The measure will be on the April 22 election ballot for voters in King County. They will be deciding whether to raise taxes to support transit — mainly existing levels of Metro bus service — as well as to provide some additional support to cities' road maintenance and bridge repair work.

KCTBD Proposition 1 supporters concede that both the $60 Vehicle License Fee and 0.1 percent sales tax increase will be strongly regressive, falling more heavily on people of modest means. Even with the proposed introduction of a low-income fare and the availability of a low-income Vehicle License Fee rebate, Proposition 1 is not anyone’s favorite option. Proponents labeled the idea “Plan B” from the start.  Indeed, I have yet to see an elected official speak in favor of the April 22 ballot measure without bemoaning the Legislature for failing to act on transportation, in effect tying the locals to an option that involves regressive taxation.

In another situation, this might be the sign of a campaign lost in a death spiral of negativity. That has certainly happened before.  The Puget Sound area is 2-for-4 on passing regional transit measures in the past 20 years. A 2011 Seattle measure, also including $60 licensing fees (car tabs), easily failed. Much of the measure’s stumbling was because of opposition from progressive groups who felt it exacerbated inequities in the tax structure. Entering the November election hobbled with only mixed progressive support, the measure, Seattle's Proposition 1, went down 56 to 44 percent.

Is 2014’s KCTBD Proposition 1 doomed to a similar fate? It depends which evidence you prioritize, but I think not.

To understand why, consider the past failures of past. One of my favorite campaign post-mortems is Ben Schiendelman’s  thoughtful analysis of 2011’s bloodied Proposition 1. Schiendelman, a supporter of both the 2011 Seatle Proposition 1 and this year’s, argued that ballot measures usually come down to a simple question: “How much will I get, and how much will I pay?” In the “get” category, voters want focused benefits — specific, relatable improvements in their community; in the “pay” category, voters are more tolerant of costs that are gradual, subtle and/or diluted. This follows the conventional political wisdom from before: Articulate the positives well, and leave it to your opponent  to muddy the waters.

The good news for the Prop. 1 supporters this year is that the “get” category is being handled winningly. Left-leaning groups —transit riders, environmentalists, social service advocates, and Democrats – are undivided in their support. That wasn’t true in 2011.  Also much-improved is the clarity on affected projects. Protecting pre-existing local bus service is a lot more concrete than long-term infrastructure and road development. That distinguishes KCTBD Prop. 1 from previous failures, which were criticized either or ambiguity (2011’s Seattle TBD Prop. 1), or for being too unfocused (2007’s Sound Transit Prop. 1). 

No doubt the “pay” side is tougher for KCTBD Prop. 1 supporters. Sales tax and car tabs are very concrete costs. Voters notice them, and know that they’re regressive. However, by pre-empting these concerns and aligning liberal groups early, the KCTBD Prop. 1 campaign seems to have taken the wind out of the opposition sails. Indeed, so far no organized opposition has even materialized. Even if the “pay” side is concrete, it will be hard to ding KCTBD Prop. 1 without institutional backing.


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Comments:

Posted Mon, Mar 10, 5:33 a.m. Inappropriate

The problem for King County and Metro is that no matter how many times Metro has to be "saved" or service levels "improved" they always end up being the victim of some circumstance that prevents them from actually being saved or improved. Voters are starting to see this, but transit riders don't care.

Off cycle elections for unpopular tax increases is a pattern for the County. The Parks Levy "renewal" last August is a good example. Sold as a replacement for the current levy (which was a lie), it was actually a 41% increase with a yearly escalator. The amount for land acquisition was doubled without any coordinated plan of action with the Federal or State governments going forward, this in a county that is already 50% owned or controlled by some level of government.

People who vote for more money for Metro are repeating the same behavior and expecting the a different result, the very definition of insanity. In order for Metro to reform, they need to address their cost structure, overhead and the inflexibility of their labor contracts. They have not and will not make the changes necessary if the measure is approved. If you want to know how transparent the County is being about this measure, ask the Executives office and Metro how much it actually costs to provide the existing service to the different cities in King County. If you go to the County's website, you will find a spreadsheet that shows how much each jurisdiction will receive, but nothing about how much they will collect from each jurisdiction. That is because the County and Metro are afraid that if the people knew how much they were already subsidizing Metro for marginal service in most areas, they would get a no vote. Which they should.

Help Metro get the tools to really reform and deliver a transit service that represents a real value to the taxpayers in all areas of the County, vote no. Perhaps it is time to stop being extorted by our own County and demand reform.

Cameron

Posted Sat, Mar 15, 6:03 p.m. Inappropriate

You apparently are not dependent upon the bus lines that will be eliminated. That's a fairly comfortable position to be in, isn't it?

sarah90

Posted Sun, Mar 16, 6:07 p.m. Inappropriate

This is why owning a car comes in so handy when disruption, permanent or temporary occurs. Vive Le Choice!

Posted Mon, Mar 10, 7:23 a.m. Inappropriate

Hiking sales taxes and car tab taxes now is Plan A, and always has been Plan A. The state legislature acted deliberately and quickly a couple of years ago when it authorized the higher regressive taxes the local democrats are itching to impose after next months vote.

Everyone understands this TBD sales tax authority and car tab tax authority just was handed to the King County council recently, right? It was authorized by the democrat party state legislators who controlled what happens in Olympia. It is the taxing practice the democrats love hitting the people with. They want the worst, most regressive taxing structure in the country to become worse now.

“Tax the Poor!!”: that is the call of the democrats. Hopefully people here will show mercy.

There are a slew of progressive taxing options. Democrats elsewhere in the country work to ensure businesses have some skin in the transit game. Here though doing maximum financial harm to the households least able to afford it is the goal.

Let's look at how much sales tax already is imposed for buses and trains here, and consider how much extra taxing the state and local democrats are pushing with next months ballot proposition.

The amount of additional financial impact from the proposed tax hikes can be seen from the county's press release about them:

0.1% increase in sales tax, which would generate approximately $50 million per year (and expire after 10 years)

http://www.kingcounty.gov/transportation/kcdot/Future.aspx

That's just the sales tax hike. There also would be a $60 per-vehicle annual hike.

About 70% of the sales tax is paid by individuals and families, and there are 800,000 households in King County:

http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/53/53033.html

Those figures allow the average cost per household to be calculated; it is $43.75 per household per year just for the upcoming sales tax hike (the car tab tax on each car would be on top of that).

Now let's look at the existing regressive taxing for buses and trains here by Metro and Sound Transit.

A 0.1% sales tax hike would cost the average family $43.75. The average family here already pays a 1.8% sales tax for buses and trains, plus a Sound Transit car tab tax, plus a property tax for Metro. Did you know that in Seattle some of the “Bridging the Gap” property tax hike revenues were handed over to the county for additional Metro service on certain routes in the city? Add that in as well – it's more tax revenue Metro already gets.

The existing sales tax hit for transit here already is $788 every year for the average family ($43.75 x 18). Most families have a couple of cars and are responsible for paying property tax, so add a couple of hundred dollars on top of that figure for those additional confiscations by local governments each year.

Lower income families with young children are targeted for the heaviest impacts (they have to buy kids clothing, furniture, health supplies, etc.).

Call it an even $1,000 in taxes targeting the average family ALREADY for buses and trains.

By way of comparison, in the greater Portland area there is NO targeting of individuals and families via regressive taxing. Households there pay no sales taxes or car tab taxes for that extensive and expanding bus, train and streetcar system.

Now, who wants to argue that the democrats now should be targeting households of very modest means for higher taxes for buses?

crossrip

Posted Mon, Mar 10, 7:30 a.m. Inappropriate

The democrats have effectively controlled what happens with taxing policies in this state for a generation. All they've done is give massive tax breaks to profitable corporations and hike taxes that target individuals and families for the greatest financial impact. That shows they think “trickle down economics” will help those at the bottom of the economic ladder.

What haven't the government heads here done? Work to impose taxes that target the wealthy and corporations:

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/6/69/19237_TaxFoundation_v2.gif

The only democrats that flourish in Washington State are those that loathe the notion of progressive taxing. Look at Ed Murray's record in the state legislature – all he did was push for legislation making the tax impacts on the less-well-off worse, and he never advocated for progressive taxing strategies.

Elsewhere in the country democrats are liberal. They try to level the playing field and work for social justice. That's essentially what “liberal” means. Here though the democrats want to increase the wealth gap between the rich and the poor by using nasty taxation policies, especially when it comes to transit.

The democratic party leaders and their functionaries now in power always push for higher sales taxes and car tab taxes for local transit taxing districts, and then work hard to impose them. Those are the singular accomplishments of Frank Chopp, Ed Murray, Greg Nickels, Dow Constantine, Larry Phillips, etc. Constantine and Phillips now are pushing for higher sales taxes and car tab taxes for Metro, instead of questioning the management of Metro, explaining why additional tax revenue might be needed, or advocating for a revenue-raiser not designed to hit the families with the least the hardest.

Look at how “tax the people with the least the heaviest” is the unvarying theme of the democrats. King County Metro’s high taxing targeting the middle class and poor dates from its first sales tax in 1972. Then Metro doubled its sales tax in 1980. Then the democrats around here really started going to town. They controlled King County and hiked its sales taxes again for Metro in 2000, and then again in 2006. In 2011 the democrats began collecting an additional car tab tax. That completely unaccountable municipality Sound Transit was designed and operated by democrats. It got a big sales tax and car tab tax from the democrats in the state legislature in 1992, and the local democrats began imposing those with gusto. Another unaccountable local taxing district (the Seattle Popular Monorail Authority) was created and authorized to impose heavy car tab taxes. It did that for over three years, and completely wasted all that tax revenue. Now the people here are taxed heavily for transit -- a 1.8% sales tax, plus car tab taxes, plus a property tax.

That's far more regressive taxing, and higher overall taxing, compared with everywhere else in the country.

Seattle used to impose a modest payroll tax a few years back, and then the city council repealed that progressive tax. What did it replace it with? You guessed it, a TBD car tab fee the democrats in the state legislature just had handed it.

What do Dow and Larry want, really badly, at this point? A more regressive taxing structure. What does their party's leadership want after that? Yet more regressive taxing authority from the state legislature for Sound Transit. Then Ed Murray will push for “city-only” regressive taxes on top of that for more light rail.

What don't the democrats ever implement? Policies involving paying for transit the fair way, the way the peers do: not much new local taxing, and progressive taxing only to the extent needed.

crossrip

Posted Mon, Mar 10, 8:37 a.m. Inappropriate

I hope the writer's speculation that this measure will pass is incorrect. In addition to what the other commenters have said, much of which I agree with, I figure there's nothing to stop the legislature from passing its own ADDITIONAL transportation package, and that then we will be paying at least twice what this package asks for. In fact, I suspect this might be the plan. The transit mania needs to stop. Our streets are in terrible condition and getting worse. Our households are already groaning under the weight of the taxes extracted from us. As the other commenters point out, politicians should be looking to Metro management, and their own for that matter, to see where inefficiencies and outright waste exist, and to reduce their princely compensation packages. Then they could come back to us with a package that serves the whole city rather than just downtown businesses that don't want to pay for their staff's parking.

mspat

Posted Sun, Mar 16, 6:08 p.m. Inappropriate

I wonder how many Metro employees ride the bus to and from work?

Posted Mon, Mar 10, 9:05 a.m. Inappropriate

This proposal would raise another $130 million per year for buses and some county road repairs. If Boeing, Amazon and Microsoft split that amount their stock prices would not drop one nickle.

Tax them, not the individuals and families targeted by sales taxes and car tab taxes.

crossrip

Posted Mon, Mar 10, 9:13 a.m. Inappropriate

Let's see somebody argue that additional transit taxing here is necessary. There already is FAR more taxing for transit here than in the peer regions, and it is much worse here in terms of regressive impacts.

If you look at how taxing for transit is done in the peer regions it is clear that no more general taxing for transit here is needed or appropriate. Metro, the municipal transit governments in Pierce and Snohomish counties, and Sound Transit will confiscate something on the order of $1.5 billion in tax revenue this year alone. All the peers do a great job of providing bus service, and expanding train systems, with far less annual local tax revenue:

- TriMet (Portland) - $233 million;

- DART (Dallas/Fort Worth) - $385 million;

- San Diego Metropolitan Transit System - $100 million; and

- RTID (Denver) - $241 million.

Bear in mind also that families and individuals in greater Portland (for example) pay $0 in direct general taxes each year for transit. A far more modest tax targeting businesses is all that is needed there for buses and its expanding light rail and streetcar systems.

The threat from the democrats that service will be slashed unless they hike sales taxes and car tab taxes indicates bad management, not some kind of crisis of too little tax revenue.

crossrip

Posted Tue, Mar 11, 11:47 a.m. Inappropriate

"The King County Council approved Metro’s 2013-2014 operating budget in November 2012. Metro’s total expected operating cost for the two-year period is approximately $1.4 billion. King County requires this to be balanced by an equal amount of revenue or other funding."

Note that the Metro budget is for two years; you may be comparing one year budgets to two year budgets.

kieth

Posted Tue, Mar 11, 1:01 p.m. Inappropriate

Why are you bringing up Metro's two-year operating budget? My post you're commenting on referenced this year's tax revenue confiscation amounts.

The tax confiscations by Sound Transit and King County (for Metro) each are expected to be north of $600 million this year. The other two transit services providers I referenced also have their own tax revenues. The total for this year for those four is about $1.5 billion. Understand now?

crossrip

Posted Mon, Mar 10, 9:50 a.m. Inappropriate

I rode the bus for a Ballard-Sodo work commute year-round from 2005 to 2013. I don't know the operational details of our transit, but I have used transit across the US and around the world enough to have no doubt that they are either stealing or wasting funds, or both. My bet is there are a bunch of "executive leadership" sucking down the money without providing value and sharing it with politicians who protect them. My commute had over-packed buses, both ways, every day. At $2.50 each way, if it was done honestly and effectively, they should have been making massive profits; plenty to provide a few truly disadvantaged people significantly reduced fares. An honest fare for that trip should have been $0.50-$1.00 each way. And the service quality was very poor. It took me an average of 75 minutes to make an 8.5 mile trip. That was a 2 1/2 hour daily commute; significantly longer when there were weather, sports game, or accident-related problems. Nobody is talking about investigating where the money is going, and I don't trust any of them as a result. No way I will vote for even more money for whoever has already been robbing us the last 8 years.

Posted Wed, Mar 12, 9:28 a.m. Inappropriate

Not to mention that said over-packed buses are ideal breeding and spreading grounds for viruses of all kinds. Sick person sits next to healthy person on bus, sneezes or coughs without shielding him/herself effectively = two sick people.

mspat

Posted Sun, Mar 16, 6:10 p.m. Inappropriate

Reminds me of that Stephen King book from years ago where everyone had a massive cold type virus, that spread in a typically Stephen King gross way ...

Posted Mon, Mar 10, 11:54 a.m. Inappropriate

If an admittedly imperfect transit measure passes, what it signifies is that expectations for rational behavior from government have been lowered. Four years of tea party gridlock have taught us that any opportunity for positive accomplishment (or escape from chaos) is to be treasured -- and don't sweat the details. In places like King County people who oppose everything all the time are no longer being going to be heard, even when they have valid criticisms to offer.

woofer

Posted Mon, Mar 10, 2:30 p.m. Inappropriate

caption correction: Route 150 connects downtown Seattle and Kent via Tukwila. In 2006, Route 180 was implemented between Auburn and Burien via Kent and Route 150 became shorter and more frequent.

eddiew

Posted Mon, Mar 10, 2:31 p.m. Inappropriate

How many times must the public express its opposition to the lunacy that is increased car tab fees to pay for transit? Unbelievable! Hey King County, Pay for "saving" METRO by: 1. Getting Sound Transit to eliminate its North Sounder runs which only work when the track is not covered with mud and then are filled with maybe a dozen people. Grab the savings and use it to keep a bus or two running. 2. Get rid of the rediculously expensive and inefficient Water Taxi. Use those savings (No Marine Division Director, Assistant Director, Secretary and who knows how may other administrative staff) to keep a few additional buses running. Before you know it, no tax increase or car tab fee increase is necessary and METRO is "saved."

jwesmoore

Posted Mon, Mar 10, 3:27 p.m. Inappropriate

"repeating the same behavior and expecting the a different result, the very definition of insanity."

That's the sound of voters falling for Eymanism, a warmed over, stupider version of AynRandianism.

"How many times must the public express its opposition to the lunacy that is increased car tab fees to pay for transit?"

Until we reform the state's entire tax structure so we are not longer the 50th out of 50 states for regressiveness of our taxes.

louploup

Posted Mon, Mar 10, 6:19 p.m. Inappropriate

You say regressive, I say 'equity'.

Simon

Posted Mon, Mar 10, 3:52 p.m. Inappropriate

Louploup says there is no possibility for improvement at Metro that doesn't involve higher taxes. A King County Government "True Believer", in which case you cannot get any stupider.

There are many things that Metro is, but a value to the taxpayers is not one of them. Shrink their area of responsibility and taxation. Allow for private contracting to shuttle from outlying areas to park and ride facilities. King County either needs to fix the myriad of problems at Metro or let them go bust and reorganize.

Cameron

Posted Mon, Mar 10, 5:42 p.m. Inappropriate

We are already paying far too much in taxes for transit in our area. Both Sound Transit and Metro Transit are nothing but black holes for tax revenues. They need to start paying for themselves instead of just ripping off taxpayers.

Raise the fares.

Eliminate low-ridership routes.

Reduce the tax subsidies.

Lincoln

Posted Mon, Mar 10, 6:08 p.m. Inappropriate

Luckily most working class people will vote this down like McGinn's laughable Prop.1. Another tax on the working class to support the middle and upper middle class greenwashing politics.

Simon

Posted Mon, Mar 10, 9:16 p.m. Inappropriate

The missing ingredient in Metro's mass transit's plans, the "masses" and no amount of money will cure that particular ill.

Djinn

Posted Mon, Mar 10, 11:25 p.m. Inappropriate

Looking at Metro's Peer Comparison report published on the web, if Metro could somehow reduce its bus operating costs per hour to the level achieved in the Milwaukee and Minneapolis systems, the funding gap problem would be fixed by closing a cost gap instead of raising transit taxes.

jniles

Posted Tue, Mar 11, 6:48 a.m. Inappropriate

Puget Sound only has itself to blame for passing multiple taxes the last 20 years to get an efficient transit system in place.
Since Metro spun off Sound Transit to plan and build mass transit back then, population has grown by 1/3, ridership on all transit has grown by 1/2, and yearly tax cost has grown by 4 times. There are so many players in this turf war for money and riders, only the costs seem to winning the battle. Metro, Sound Transit and Seattle Dept of Transportation with their streetcars are all 'Transit' and need to look at combined performance before tapping the poor motorist again for more car tab booty.

007

Posted Tue, Mar 11, 7:19 a.m. Inappropriate

Puget Sound only has itself to blame

Anthropomorphize much?

Neither Puget Sound nor 99.9 percent of the people living around it have anything to do with the "multiple taxes" you reference. The state legislature is responsible for authorizing all the excessive regressive taxes and the local democrats are responsible for implementing them. They did that via their council and board resolutions.

Try learning the basics of civics, Mike.

crossrip

Posted Tue, Mar 11, 7:55 a.m. Inappropriate

Such as VOTING for all the various tax packages over the last 20 years, and now this one which is, according to the author, a 'shoe in'.

007

Posted Tue, Mar 11, 10:12 a.m. Inappropriate


The propositions on the ballots never describe “tax packages”.

Here's the the resolution the King County council will put on the ballot as a proposition next month:

http://www.kingcounty.gov/~/media/transportation/kcdot/TBD%20Hub/SignatureReport-TD2014-03.ashx

That's not a “tax package”, Mike. Voting for it does not limit or even estimate how much tax the county council could impose after April, and it in no way provides for any particular package of services or capital projects.

Sound Transit's ballot measures were comparable: the approval of those didn't require that board to impose any particular amount of tax, tax rate, or duration of tax impositions. What that appointive board does in terms of taxing is what the democrat party bosses want it to do, not what is in the propositions the voters approved.

You do what all the democrats around here do, Mike: you blame voters for actions taken by government managers and policy-setters.

crossrip

Posted Wed, Mar 12, 9:35 a.m. Inappropriate

crossrip, I agree with SO much of what you post on every subject, and appreciate you sharing your expertise, but lately labeling "the democrats" as the villains is really getting on my nerves. I identify as a Democrat, and yet I share your feelings. I agree that the council members for Seattle and King County, and all the unaccountable boards pushing this or that taxing fantasy may all also identify as Democrats, but still, I wish you'd stop painting all Democratic voters with the same brush. I can't be the only Democrat who agrees with much of what you offer.

mspat

Posted Tue, Mar 11, 7:03 a.m. Inappropriate


What's really going on here is the democrats want a new permanent taxing authority. The TBD is a separate taxing district. That gives them a huge new independent bonding limit. The county's statutory bonding limit would no longer apply, allowing them to sell billions of dollars of new long-term bonds.

Pretty sure the TBD statutes would allow new bonds to be sold without voter approval, and allow the county council to pledge the sales tax for up to forty years to secure those new bonds. Anyone have any information on that?

The democrats around here LOVE new permanent taxing authorities. The monorail authority, Sound Transit . . . if there's one thing the democrats can't get enough of, its new transit taxing entities that target lower middle class families for the heaviest financial impacts.

crossrip

Posted Tue, Mar 11, 7:04 a.m. Inappropriate

Obviously a massive level of bus service can be retained around here without hiking regressive taxes even further.

Some of Metro's service hours could be cut with minimal impact. For example, routes could be changed so that several hundred people living out by North Bend and on the Issaquah plateau would need to make a single transfer, as opposed to getting a direct ride to downtown Seattle. Cutting other little-used routes could be done. That’s all a 10% service-hour reduction would entail if it is done right.

Sound Transit also could do what it did in Pierce County for Pierce Transit two years ago: pick up some Metro bus routes. Sound Transit has a massive surplus in the East King subarea because of its excessive regressive taxing. It could run more buses.

Way too much is spent by Metro on the “dial for transit” program, and employers should pay more for the vanpools that benefit them. Those steps would decrease operations costs.

Metro's bad practice of diverting fully 25% of the revenue from the heavy sales taxes it already imposes to a separate capital budget should stop. Most of that now simply is used to buy investment securities. The peers don’t do that.

The county could re-direct income from other sources to Metro, without approval from the state legislature. Can anyone find a summary of where in the current biennial budget the county council allocated, say, the investment income it expects to generate? I'll bet none of it goes to Metro. Some of that revenue stream (or other county revenue streams) instead should be allocated to transit.

crossrip

Posted Tue, Mar 11, 8:17 a.m. Inappropriate

Why are we even debating this? When have voters in Seattle or King County ever turned down the chance to raise their own taxes, whether there's a genuine benefit to them or not? This, too, shall pass.

Posted Tue, Mar 11, 8:17 a.m. Inappropriate

Why are we even debating this? When have voters in Seattle or King County ever turned down the chance to raise their own taxes, whether there's a genuine benefit to them or not? This, too, shall pass.

Posted Tue, Mar 11, 12:06 p.m. Inappropriate

Speaking of Bonding authority, why is that not being explored instead of this proposal? One of the reasons other areas don't have these funding issues is that they issue bonds?

If this measure fails, is that the new "plan B?" Time will tell you things a political spin consultant with Big Data cannot.

Marksp

Posted Tue, Mar 11, 3:34 p.m. Inappropriate

Like Detroit?

Many areas have funding issues. During the boom of 2005-2007 many officials (not just ours) adopted revenue forecasts that the boom would continue indefinitely, that extrapolation would come true. It didn't.

Bad enough that the federal government borrows hundreds of billions to meet ongoing expenses. If all levels of government yield to that temptation we are all doomed.

simorgh

Posted Tue, Mar 11, 5:16 p.m. Inappropriate

No. Detroit has nothing to do with this. Like Portland, and many other cities and states do to fund transportation. None of which are Detroit.

Marksp

Posted Mon, Mar 17, 12:36 a.m. Inappropriate

Which cities, exactly, borrow money using bonds to pay operating expenses of their bus systems? Name them, Marksp.

simorgh

Posted Tue, Mar 11, 12:39 p.m. Inappropriate

This measure is not only regressive; it is abject surrender to the demand by the rich they be exempt from paying the costs of governance.

As a result, taxes become user fees, falling ever-more-viciously upon those of us whose poverty forces us to make use of government services.

This is precisely the outcome the nation's wealthiest individuals – the most morally imbecilic Ruling Class in our species' history – have long sought.

Made inconceivably wealthy by exploiting workers and looting natural resources, the rich built themselves a utopia by subverting the U.S. political system. They bribed its politicians, nullified our constitution and killed the American Dream.

In other words, the rich are parasites. They demand a society from which they take whatever they please, but toward which they have no obligations beyond indulging their own obscene greed and malevolent selfishness.

And the politicians of the Democratic and Republican parties, themselves equally corrupt, give the rich everything they want – at our expense of course.

Hence the desperate need for Proposition 1.

The good news – and from a revolutionary socialist perspective it is very good news indeed – is that formation of the King County Transportation Benefit District is not merely surrender. It is also public acknowledgement of political reality – specifically the class war relentlessly inflicted on us by the Ayn Rand malevolence of the One Percent and their political servants.

Thus Proposition 1, despite its unfair hardships, becomes a teachable moment on the road to real and lasting change.

For that reason, I'm astounded the politicians allowed it on the ballot. (Could it be that here too we see the Democrats and the Republicans – actually one Ruling Class party that hides behind two names – responding in fear of Councilwoman Kshama Sawant and the Socialist Alternative?)

Whatever, it's unfortunate the politicians of Tacoma and Pierce County are too cowardly – and too unyieldingly corrupt – to permit a similarly consciousness-raising measure to restore Pierce Transit's savagely depleted services.

Posted Tue, Mar 11, 2:45 p.m. Inappropriate

Has no one at the county suggested raising fares? I wouldn't mind supporting a smaller tax increase if there was some indication from Metro that they were going to combine it with a modest fare increase and modest service cuts. But it is irksome to increase taxes on cars without hearing how Metro is trying to save money and make our tax dollars go farther.

talisker

Posted Tue, Mar 11, 5:22 p.m. Inappropriate

They ARE raising fares, but only 25 cents. It should be at least 50 cents. And company ORCA passes should cost more too. What they are also not saying is that the deficit is not as big as it was, due to the state finally kicking in some money for the Viaduct routes, and higher than anticipated sale tax revenues.

Last I checked, it reduced that 17% figure to at least 12%, with the reality likely being even less.

Marksp

Posted Fri, Mar 14, 11:25 p.m. Inappropriate

I'd say that passage is 50/50, as I think that people feel "tapped out," and they'll realize that the cost to them will be more than the proponent's claim, which is an average. If one has a two-car family, that's $120 right there - though the proponents will be fast to claim that it's $80 due to $40 of that being the "temporary" congestion relief charge enacted a couple of years ago, which proponents now call - loosely IMO - an "existing fee." Add to that the estimated cost of the 0.1% sales tax increase of $43.75, and you're well above the proponents' estimate of $11/month ($132/year).

The county councilmembers set up their Transportation Benefit District and repeatedly stated things like this measure was a last resort and that they had looked at everything. In fact, I can't tell if they did, for they failed to answer the many questions people have in their zeal to put up a ballot measure vs. digging deeper. The "why not raise fares" question is one that's easy: it's because the fares would have to go up by about $5 for fares to cover expenses, which would move a considerable number of people to cars, freeways, parking spaces, etc. That's for those who have a car. About 7% of the households (by one account) don't even have a car, while others only have 1 car, which the "average household cost" supports. However, some of these folks do so by choice, while others take advantage of taxpayer-subsidized transportation and don't mind the extra time and lack of flexibility it adds. At least the low-income fare attempts to get at the differential between "choice" and "transit-dependent" riders, but it shouldn't have been the only part of the county's efforts.

Why not add a premium fare, say $1 for "express" and other limited-stop (i.e., BRT) routes, particularly where non-express buses serve the same end points? Why not end the paper transfer system, as many of the other transit agencies have, saving a ton of printing costs and abuse, putting an end to the underground market for transit slips? I can attest to this, as while watching people deboard a bus, they were asking those of us going on the bus if we needed a transfer, and a recent article expounded on this racket. Why not increase the number of rides/month that a transit pass is based upon, currently a low 36, to a more-realistic 38 or 40? Why does someone age 65 get a discount, while at 64 they do not, yet both might be working and can afford it (better would be to separate "senior" from the disabled fares and either have them pay the same fare - with a discount for low-income - or delay or phase in the discount to the full discount to age 75, or at least to what Social Security's full retirement age is)? Why not change the zone system to be north/south, say through Lake Washington, vs. the city limits of Seattle, to reduce the number of times drivers have to manually change ORCA machines back and forth, which probably costs more in fuel and time than it's worth, especially just north and south of Seattle city limits?

Lastly, providing better accountability at Metro would've been helpful. Metro is currently hiring a Transportation Operations Manager at a six-figure income; their previous one retired several months ago, yet they've seemed to have gotten along fine without. An agency that could be cutting service 17% doesn't need more administrative overhead. There should be accountability info online...organizational charts, proportion of managers/staff, salary and benefit information for all managers and above, total department costs, expenses that are over 10% of revenues (projects: budget, percentage of completion, why/why not), cost savings that Metro has implemented on their own vs. that initiated by the County Council (I'm referring to the recent performance audit, which Metro now claims as their efforts to reduce costs).

This may be the election where voters again succumb to the doom and gloom of the expected service reductions (which the transit agencies to the north and south implemented even larger %s of, yet the sky's still there in both), or it could be that more voters will refuse to provide a blank check anymore. We'll soon find out.

bricsa

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