A vote against bus funding is a vote against equity and a healthy environment

Guest Opinion: Metro has already trimmed the fat from its programming. If voters don't step up to fund our bus system, we'll be facing huge, debilitating cuts.
Sonja Rassman of Bellevue makes her support for Metro known.

Sonja Rassman of Bellevue makes her support for Metro known. Credit: John Stang

Coco Chandi believes in the American Dream and knows that a good education will be essential to become a nonprofit development officer. She rises early every morning to catch bus #150 to Highline Community College, where she is taking her first step on an upward-rising escalator.  

But there’s a catch: The bus service she depends on will be cut if voters do not approve its funding on the April 22 election. With no affordable way to get to college, Chandi will be forced to drop out. The whole course of her life will be different, and poorer.  

She is far from alone. If Proposition 1 is defeated in the upcoming election, Metro will be forced to eliminate up to 74 routes and reduce service on 107 others. Eighty percent of the people who currently ride Metro will be affected.  

In much of the world, cities are investing in new transit systems: bus rapid transit, aerial trams and subways. In King County, voters are being put through the wringer once again merely to preserve our existing bus service.  

Metro transit is essential to our quality of life in King County. For some people, Metro provides a choice not to drive their cars. For others, who have no cars, Metro provides a lifeline. Four out of five trips on many routes are by regular riders going to work or school every day. The loss of their bus line is not an inconvenience; it is a calamity.

The benefits of transit extend even to those who do not ride it. Transit reduces congestion on the streets and pollution in the air. King County estimates that 30,000 cars will be added to the daily commute if Proposition 1 does not pass.

It is perhaps auspicious that the election is being held on April 22: Earth Day. As has become clear on issues ranging from toxic waste to endangered species to climate change, there is no way to solve environmental problems without also advancing economic justice. No issue makes this point more clearly than transit.

If we, the voters of King County, do the unthinkable and slash Metro, people like Chandi will see their dreams deferred or destroyed. Thousands of others will simply gas up their cars, clog up our roads and pour their exhaust into the air.  

Opponents claim not to want this result. They argue that Metro should keep its same level of service, but do it with far less money. That is always an appealing argument in a tax-averse society, even when it is untethered by any facts. The fact here is that Metro has already been all over that territory. Metro has cut more than $800 million since 2009 — even as its ridership continued to grow. The fat, and some of the muscle, has already been trimmed.

At this point, less funding means less service.

Cutting Metro will stall our economy, increase congestion, undercut air quality, boost carbon pollution and disproportionately harm seniors, students, the disabled and the working poor. Is that the kind of community we want to be?

Every year on Earth Day, hundreds of millions of people around the world take action to do something good for the planet and its people. In King County this year, we hope your Earth Day actions will include a “yes” vote for Proposition 1.
 

Estela Ortega is executive director and co-founder of El Centro de la Raza, a leading Seattle-based civil rights, human services, and economic development organization.

Denis Hayes was the first national organizer of Earth Day in 1970 and is board chair of the Earth Day Network.


Like what you just read? Support high quality local journalism. Become a member of Crosscut today!

Comments:

Posted Tue, Mar 25, 6:30 a.m. Inappropriate

A "healthy environment?" Seriously? Have you two ever actually ridden a Metro bus? As soon as I saw that headline, I didn't even bother reading the opinion piece.

Posted Tue, Mar 25, 7:07 a.m. Inappropriate

You would never know that Metros tax funding is at an all time high and growing quickly the past 2 years and projected to grow rapidly the next 2 without any tax hike. Yet they need more. And more. And more.

This prop will go down just like McGinn's Prop 1. Vote no.

"Metro announces record-high tax collections
March 19, 2014

In newly-released figures, Metro officials announced they received record-breaking levels of tax revenue in 2013, reporting they collected more money from the public in taxes than at any time in the agency’s history.

The state’s largest public transit agency collected $442,731,128 in tax revenue the last calendar year, surpassing pre-recession revenue levels.

Officials also say their revenue projection for 2014 will exceed previous estimates by $32 million, with $471 million in collections, resulting in another windfall revenue year for the agency.

Revised estimates for 2015 show Metro expects to collect $496 million that year. "

http://www.washingtonpolicy.org/blog/post/metro-announces-record-high-tax-collections

Simon

Posted Tue, Mar 25, 7:16 a.m. Inappropriate

1 of 2

Note the authors are executive employees of tax-exempt organizations (Hayes' employer is the Bullitt Foundation). It's easy for employees of tax-exempt organizations with fat salaries to pimp taxes that won't impact their employers.

There is an excessive amount of tax revenue confiscated for buses and trains around here already. Moreover, unlike what the peers do, it is the wrong kinds of taxing: sales taxes and car tab taxes that are designed to hit those with the least means the hardest.

What this piece does not do is 1) estimate the additional financial impact of these proposed hikes, or 2) describe the current abusive regressive taxing levels impacting the average household around here.

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

The amount of additional financial impact from the new taxing can be seen from the county's press release about it:

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 - most families have two cars, so add in $120).

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 Tue, Mar 25, 7:17 a.m. Inappropriate

2 of 2

"[Opponents of these tax hikes] argue that Metro should keep its same level of service, but do it with far less money."

That's a lame strawman argument. Opponents in fact argue that too much taxing is done in the name of transit (just compare it to every peer region), and that the incessant regressive tax hikes for buses and trains unduly punish lower-income households -- especially young families with kids.

Just because the democrats want you to vote to tax lower income families for bus service that primarily benefits governments and other large employers does not mean you should do it. Show some mercy. If bus and train services providers here needed additional tax revenue – and they do not – there are better ways than hiking sales taxes and car tab taxes.

Let's compare how much transit taxing takes place here versus the metro area just south of here where a different state's legislature structured the financing plan: Oregon's.

Sound Transit now confiscates about $650 million of regressive tax revenue each year, and Metro taxing (plus the distributions from the Seattle City Council of Bridging the Gap tax revenues) is another $550 million, for a total of $1.2 billion. As mentioned above, in the greater Portland area there is NO targeting of individuals and families via regressive taxing. The $259 million of tax revenue TriMet confiscates comes from a progressive payroll tax, and it is the only taxing TriMet does.

– Average weekday boardings of Sound Transit buses and trains: 100,000 --

http://www.soundtransit.org/Documents/pdf/rider_news/ridership/Q4_2013_Service%20Delivery.pdf%20-%20Adobe%20Reader.pdf

– Average weekday boardings of Metro buses: 390,000 --

https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/pub?key=0Ao4RYEx3kgpodEpYVTYyTHNabWxDT0FocmJHVldvWEE&single;=true&gid;=1&output;=html

– Average weekday boardings of TriMet buses and trains: 318,000

http://trimet.org/pdfs/publications/factsheet.pdf

Sound Transit and Metro combined thus have about 56% more boardings than TriMet, but they confiscate nearly 500% more tax revenue each year. That translates to Metro and Sound Transit confiscating about three times the tax revenue per weekday boarding. Plus, it's regressive taxing that's done up here, which is designed to hit those with the least the hardest.

Try explaining those terrible comparisons. There is no good reason for that level of taxing for transit the democrats here imposed.

Indeed, you can compare the weekday boardings figures to the tax revenue amounts for buses and trains here vs. anywhere else in the country and you’ll see the same thing: it’s far worse here, both in absolute terms and in terms of what kinds of taxes the transit services providers use.

crossrip

Posted Tue, Mar 25, 7:52 a.m. Inappropriate

This is a shameful piece of yellow journalism, void of any actual research. I expect to read articles of this caliber on Breitbart or Fox News on things like Obamacare or Benghazi.

The very first paragraph contains an outright falsehood that was either put in there because they writers didn't research the facts or because they did and wanted something outrageous to provoke a reaction.

Route 150 is NOT being cut, as you can see at http://metro.kingcounty.gov/am/future/PDFs/changes/route-150.pdf . The only change they are making is to end service at 11:00 pm instead of 1:00 am. Service frequency throughout the day is completely unaffected.

Which is it, Crosscut? Did Ortega and Hayes not bother researching basic facts, or did they include things that they knew were untrue to promote their thesis? Either way, you should be ashamed.

talisker

Posted Tue, Mar 25, 8:02 a.m. Inappropriate

Advocates for illegal immigrants should not reference the environment.

Researchers at Oregon State University have determined the NUMBER ONE THREAT to PNW salmon and their habitats is immigration into the region; the vast majority of which comes from outside the U.S. and Canada.

The pro-immigrant leg of the Democrat Party is incompatible with the pro-environment leg of the Democrat Party. We cannot have our cake and eat it, too. Irrespective of whether we drive to the party or take the bus.

BlueLight

Posted Tue, Mar 25, 9:01 a.m. Inappropriate

This article doesn't pass the smell test.

The bar for factual journalism has been lowered to new heights.

Djinn

Posted Tue, Mar 25, 11:48 a.m. Inappropriate

A vote FOR 'bus funding' perpetuates and additionally subsidizes already heavily subsidized bus fares. The fare box supposedly collects 29% of the cost of the bus ride. Now factor in all the employers (public and private and non-profit) who also heavily subsidize their employee's bus passes. Ask your favorite city or county employee with a metro pass to honestly tell you how much per month he or she pays out of pocket. It would take $40 per month out of pocket to set the employee amount of $1.00 per one-way ride. I do not think they pay that much. Vote "NO" on Prop. 1. Coco and all other bus riders should stop living off of other's auto costs. Bus riders should pay their full fair share of the fare!!

animalal

Posted Tue, Mar 25, 7:08 p.m. Inappropriate

Buses put out more pollution per passenger-mile than new cars do. So replacing buses with cars would NOT result in more air pollution.

The average Metro rider has a household income of $73,000 per year. The average King County resident has a household income of $66,000 per year. Why should higher-income bus riders be subsidized by large regressive taxes on lower-income people?

The author makes it sound like bus riders are low-income people. But, as the fact above explains, that is not true. Metro bus riders have above-average household incomes. They don't need any tax subsidies at all. They can afford to pay for their own transportation with fares.

Don't raise taxes to subsidize bus riders.

Lincoln

Posted Tue, Mar 25, 11:34 p.m. Inappropriate

Basically, Crosscut allows anyone with non-traditional agenda to write articles for them to post. Then the commenters get to rebut the article points, and we all go round and round.

But Metro doesn't deserve a tax increase. Rewarding inept mediocrity is not the way to move forward. Huge, bureaucratic organizations cannot be sustained, and isn't the point of buses supposed to be "sustainable"?

So just vote no. Some will suffer, but it's the short term. The NO vote has the most power to change the status quo.

Posted Wed, Mar 26, 1:39 a.m. Inappropriate

This is the same old song and dance the Metro has given the public when it needs another tax increase to support an unsustainable system
If more tax dollars was the answer then they would not be a problem

Posted Wed, Mar 26, 1:40 a.m. Inappropriate

This is the same old song and dance the Metro has given the public when it needs another tax increase to support an unsustainable system
If more tax dollars was the answer then they would not be a problem

Posted Wed, Mar 26, 4:48 a.m. Inappropriate

Metro has internal polling data that says this will pass. They are using the County's reliable method of using non-general elections to push through unpopular tax increases on low turn-out. Vote no.

Metro will never reform until they are forced to. Constantine and Jarret are going to keep feeding this organization to keep their political base in line. Vote no.

Metro doesn't represent a value to many of the communities the "serve".
They lack the flexibility due to their Union contracts and huge overhead to make the structural changes that are necessary to become more efficient. They are a monopoly, much like the old State Liquor system, they don't have to change, they don't have to make money, they don't have to deliver a value to stay in business. Vote no.

Cameron

Posted Wed, Mar 26, 8:36 a.m. Inappropriate

Agree with all the commenters urging a no vote. Want to add that the writers' statement "Transit reduces congestion on the streets and pollution in the air. King County estimates that 30,000 cars will be added to the daily commute if Proposition 1 does not pass," fails to take into account the effect of the new BAT lanes on Aurora Ave/SR 99, which I drive twice a day because no Metro or combo of Metro and any other transit entity offers a reasonable substitute for my commute.

The BAT lanes reduced SR 99's capacity by 1/3 for @ 6 or 7 hours/day. I occasionally see a bus in that lane during those hours--occasionally. Meanwhile my travel time has increased by 15-30 minutes depending on the day. So I feel that it is Metro that has increased congestion in my area (North Seattle through downtown). And as one commenter pointed out, Metro's buses are hardly clean machines. The filth they spew into the air is amazing. More of them = more filth.

For the sad sack lead re this Chandi person, I do wish her well and hope she has great success, but if she doesn't live close to her school, perhaps she can consider moving closer or changing schools. I don't feel any obligation to see that she has a bus that works for her. Just ask those who'd like to bus east/west in Seattle if they're being served by Metro. I don't think many would say they are. This whole thing seems to be a shill to mask the real goal, which is to get more buses carrying people into and out of downtown Seattle for day shift work. Let the people who use it, and their employers, step up and pay the freight. Don't expect the rest of us that Metro doesn't and won't serve to subsidize the employers and their workers. Enough is enough!

mspat

Posted Wed, Mar 26, 9:13 a.m. Inappropriate

The anecdote about Chandi is very much undercut by the link posted above showing that the bus she rides would not have service cut before approximately 11 pm.

The case for which routes will be preserved, and what cutting or reallocation has already been done, could be much better presented than it is in this op-ed.

sjenner

Posted Wed, Mar 26, 11:08 a.m. Inappropriate

It would be nice if private transportation companies could use the reserved bus-only lanes, any time they have 3 or more people on board their vans or shuttle type vehicles.

I won't ride a bus, ever. Safety first, and to me, that means stay away from the Metro bus system. Standing in the bus aisles is not a safe option of transportation, nor is rubbing shoulders with people who carry weapons without permits.

Posted Wed, Mar 26, 9:51 a.m. Inappropriate

We really need to re-examine every Metro route, and seriously look at whether or not we have the most efficient model possible. We should be treating the main routes from the Park & Rides as rail service with frequent service. We should have shuttle routes in the neighborhoods and suburbs that bring people to the main line routes at the park and rides. There shouldn't be a bus from Sammamish to downtown - they should all feed the main line at the park and ride or to the light rail line.

You can have more frequent service in each neighborhood, and more bus capacity going to downtown. Why does route 150 go all the way from Kent, meander through the valley and Southcenter and get on I-5 for the last run into town? Why not run it as a loop that connects with a high priority, high capacity line that runs up 167 from the Auburn P & R?

Metro could be much more efficient than it is now, but they need the push to make those choices.

talisker

Posted Wed, Mar 26, 11:06 a.m. Inappropriate

It's too bad that those of you who don't see a direct benefit from metro (use it daily) feel the need to vote no.

Metro is a service, like the fire or police dept. Should we 'punish' those services also because we don't use them or like the way they beat homeless in Pioneer Square?

jeffro

Posted Wed, Mar 26, 10:13 p.m. Inappropriate

Metro is a service just like the police and fire septs. LOL

If this is true let's set up a fare system for the users of those services, payable on delivery of said service.

Djinn

Posted Fri, Mar 28, 9:10 a.m. Inappropriate

I do see a direct benefit to Metro. My family uses it daily. But, unlike police or fire, the decision of whether or not to use it is discretionary. I think that we need to subsidize public transportation, but we also need to recognize that the majority of funding for it is coming from the taxpayers and there is an obligation to spend that money wisely.

Metro's routing can be much more efficient than it currently is, and they owe it to the taxpayers to seriously look at how they are providing services rather than reducing disposable income to maintain the status quo.

talisker

Posted Fri, Mar 28, 6:02 a.m. Inappropriate

Metro is a service, but one that can be delivered by altenerate means other than a Government monopoly. If you are the County, you are going to hold the transit dependent populations you purport to serve, hostage with the threats of reduced bus service. It is how they get out the vote to keep their monopolies intact. It's all about getting more money and hence control. If the County is serious about funding METRO maybe it chould be a part of the base budget.

Cameron

Posted Fri, Mar 28, 9:02 p.m. Inappropriate

"the complete misunderstanding of all 3 levels of government to, in the most modest of ways to meet the needs of those being served, while those being served are at the same time mocked and harassed to the point of silence is tragic.."

now to my point when I open my door I have 1 of 2 destinations work or play..i do not work downtown and downtown stopped being fun long before the tubeman was murdered..so why do all bus routes lead downtown?.our best shot at independent low cost travel within the city were the ride shares..DEAD..we know who killed them..i wonder if the bus lines in Detroit all go downtown..want full buses? first and for most realize that when the city voting districts come union monopolized racketeering will be increased and more open to view?.so if there are any of those EVIL industrial areas left they will not receive the priority they need..so what is the point?. vote no you won't notice the difference..after all isn't the city denying commercial building permits because the those businesses attract too many low wage workers?.and after all we don't want low wage earners downtown..do we?.or is that what the 15 an hour is all about?.after all being the states most expensive city already to do any business making or spending..well driving the cost up just helps..RIGHT?..

Posted Mon, Mar 31, 1:46 p.m. Inappropriate

Why do busses go downtown? Are you kidding? That's where the vast majority of the jobs are. That spoke and hub system generally works well - but east - west within the city is definitely a grind because of the increased traffic.

While I'm undecided about the fare increase, I think it's ironic how folks point out the wrong information about Route 150 - while similarly spewing out misinformation on how busses pollute more per rider than cars (well maybe if they were all a Prius), how all the busses are filthy, how the busses are empty, and only rich people ride transit. While I might be persuaded to vote no on this issue, the garbage thrown about here makes me less inclined to do so.

Treker

Posted Tue, Apr 1, 9:28 a.m. Inappropriate

The low income routes buses mostly are filthy. The Issaquah buses are quite clean. Any bus that allows passengers to stand in the aisles is a dangerous bus, and should be pulled over by the cops, and ticketed (not the passengers).

Too many long buses do run nearly empty. Why aren't little vans or short buses used more often during scheduling?

Login or register to add your voice to the conversation.

Join Crosscut now!
Subscribe to our Newsletter

Follow Us »