Prop 1: What King County Metro hopes you won't notice

Commentary: King County Metro wants more taxes to maintain existing bus service. What it really needs is better management and more oversight.
Does Metro need Prop One - or just better management?

Does Metro need Prop One - or just better management? Credit: Oran Viriyincy

At the same time that King County Metro demands a huge tax increase to simply maintain existing bus service, Snohomish and Pierce counties are actually adding bus service without raising transportation taxes.

Late last year Community Transit of Snohomish County announced “plans to add 2,500 new service hours and hire five new drivers.” Sales tax revenue increased 6.6 percent last year and will likely go up another 4 percent this year. Late last year in Tacoma, the News Tribune announced that, “Months after threats of bus service being slashed and drivers laid off, Pierce Transit now says it plans to expand hours next year and that it can sustain that higher level of public transportation through 2019.” Reason? Sales tax revenue is expected to steadily increase during that time. Last summer Tacoma's transit board cancelled plans to cut service by 31 percent because tax revenues were rising beyond projections. This comes after voters twice rejected higher transit taxes at the polls. 

So why does King County Metro require tripling the “temporary” car tab tax of $20 and imposing a higher sales tax simply to avoid cutting bus service 17 percent? 

Didn’t sales tax revenue increase here too? Oh yes, and how: Metro’s sales tax revenue is forecast to hit $471 million, the highest on record, and more than $30 million above the amount expected. This on top of last year's $440 million total, which also exceeded expectations and set a record. 

In fairness, both Pierce and Snohomish counties made much deeper cuts in bus service in the last five years than Metro, so they are starting with a lower financial and performance base. But Metro officials now grudgingly acknowledge that they won’t actually have to cut service by 17 percent if voters reject Prop One (which is on the April 22nd  ballot). They won’t say by how much they'll have to reduce service until after the ballots are counted. I doubt it’s because they’re concealing news that would strengthen the case for Prop One.

There are times when it’s very difficult to decide which way to go on an issue that raises taxes for an important public service.   This is not one of those times. Prop One might be the least worthy tax measure that I’ve seen on the ballot and I’ve been voting since 1978. Proposition One deserves a “No” with an exclamation point. Why? Let us count the ways.

Start with Metro's fiscal track record and its inability to rein in costs. Since 2000, inflation has risen 36 percent and Metro’s tax revenues have gone up 56 percent. But its operating costs have soared more than 80 percent. Could this be the result of dramatically increased bus service? No. Passenger trips during this time are up only 20 percent. As the Washington Policy Center has pointed out (Disclosure alert: I co-founded and led WPC for eight years), since 2000 Metro has benefitted from two targeted sales tax increases in exchange for promises of more bus service. For every dollar you spend, 9/10 of a penny now goes to Metro, which has delivered only about a third of the promised bus service.

Then in 2009, King County got permission from Olympia to impose an additional property tax levy to fund Metro. King County alone received this taxing authority. In 2011, Olympia again gave King County alone the authority to charge a $20 car tab surcharge. That's two sales tax increases, a car tab fee and a property tax increase in less than a dozen years. The result: one fattened revenue stream and two new ones. Yet despite the uptick, county officials threaten a vast reduction in service unless the $20 car tab surcharge is tripled for at least the next decade, and the sales tax raised to a full penny.

Perhaps it's time to focus more on spending. The appetite for more money just to do what they're already doing tracks the growth of Metro's bureaucracy and the power of its transit union. Today Metro drivers are among the highest paid in America, and its administration is so thick that it caught the attention of the Municipal League — not exactly the Republican Party — which warned that Metro’s costs were spiraling toward where they now are: unsustainable even with existing tax sources. County officials claim that they negotiated the union into accepting major wage concessions. Not really. From 2010-2013 the transit workers got a pay raise every year, save one. Did you? 


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Comments:

Posted Wed, Apr 16, 7:14 a.m. Inappropriate

What he said. Vote NO!

mspat

Posted Wed, Apr 16, 7:27 a.m. Inappropriate

Driver's got a raise? No they got a 80% COLA which isn't a raise and doesn't keep up with National or Local COLA.
And....
Given that most of the equipment that Metro in the City of Seattle is old old old and in need of replacement- not repair, that's ongoing daily- where's the $ for that?
Administratively Metro is very top heavy and the upper management is unaccountable to both the public and it's employee's. Supervisors directly above the drivers are more often in meetings (where they are bored) than at their desks and their lives are filled with CYA and paperwork.

It did not help that when the bean counters came in and said the system was inefficient and that recovery time at the end of routes should be cut, that's what has happened- with an increase in service to many locations- and the stress level on the drivers has increased to a point that it is amazing that any of them are even polite.

And car, bicycle, pedestrian population (not just those who live in the city limits but the thousands who come into the city daily) have increased exponentially making timetables and service (to which the administration is not blind) more difficult for all.

Lastly the county council hasn't helped with this morass at all. So though the vote is now in the counters, and yes probably the cuts won't be as deep as originally touted, still a yes would have helped and a no will definitely hurt--all of us.
Jay

Frybyte

Posted Wed, Apr 16, 8:05 a.m. Inappropriate

Has there ever been a measure that benefited average Seattleites that John Carlson was for?

If it doesn't benefit big business John says, no!

elbowman

Posted Wed, Apr 16, 8:21 a.m. Inappropriate

"benefited average Seattleites"

Regressive taxes to support a bus system for above average income earners benefits average Seattleites?

Simon

Posted Wed, Apr 16, 10:32 a.m. Inappropriate

Perhaps the "average Seattleite" is a government bureaucrat.

dbreneman

Posted Wed, Apr 16, 9:42 a.m. Inappropriate

Very good article. I voted NO, as I hope most people will.

Metro did not carry out all the reforms that were suggested to save money. They operate many buses with few or no passengers on them.

Metro's threatened cuts of 17 percent of bus service now will be only as little as 10 percent, because of the increased sales tax revenue Metro is projected to get. Those cuts won't even be noticeable to the vast majority of King County taxpayers.

Prop 1 is a total scam.

Metro is bluffing. Call Metro's bluff.

Vote NO.

Lincoln

Posted Wed, Apr 16, 5:21 p.m. Inappropriate

Where are the routes and the data to show that Metro is running busses with "....few or no passengers". I know they have a fair amount of dead-head routes, commutes to the city in the morning and back to the beginning of the route empty - what would your solution be for these?

I hear a lot of generalizations about "empty busses, inefficiencies, bloated management" but really haven't seen substance to these arguments.

Treker

Posted Wed, Apr 16, 9:59 a.m. Inappropriate

You can tell it's a Republican solution when the first thing they want to do is cut wages. Driving a bus is a stressful job and the bus driver has to deal with a sometimes angry public. If anything, they aren't being paid enough.

Metro is still running older buses, most of which have logged 10 times the miles than your average family car. If anything, Metro needs to expand its service, not cut it.

But I do agree it needs to streamline the bureaucracy and reduce management. But so do most companies in Seattle.

I voted Yes on Prop 1

kedamono

Posted Wed, Apr 16, 10:37 a.m. Inappropriate

"Metro is still running older buses, most of which have logged 10 times the miles than your average family car."


Commercial vehicles are designed to log way more than 10 times the mileage of the average family car. That's why they are expensive and should only be retired when they become more expensive to repair than to replace. Just being "old" isn't reason enough.

dbreneman

Posted Wed, Apr 16, 10:55 a.m. Inappropriate

Metro can expand service with its existing resources by redesigning their bus routes and management structure to be more efficient. Or they should at least make a serious effort to do so before asking the taxpayers for more money than the $600 million year they are already getting.

talisker

Posted Wed, Apr 16, 11:25 a.m. Inappropriate

A raise is a raise, no matter what you call it. We haven't had one for some time. In fact, our income dropped the last few years. Why should Metro keep getting raises when those aren't are paying for all those Metro raises? Makes no sense. We are the boss; Metro isn't. Metro is there to serve the public, not throttle it.

NO to waste and abuse of the public. Vote NO on Prop 1.

Misty

Posted Wed, Apr 16, 11:26 a.m. Inappropriate

s/b "when those who aren't (getting raises) are paying for all those Metro raises..."

Misty

Posted Wed, Apr 16, 11:29 a.m. Inappropriate

"But I do agree it needs to streamline the bureaucracy and reduce management. But so do most companies in Seattle. "

Private companies who needed to streamline HAVE done it, or they GO OUT OF BUSINESS. Metro needs to streamline and still doesn't, b/c they think they don't have to, otherwise they would have. NO on Prop 1. Stop taxpayer abuse by Metro.

Misty

Posted Wed, Apr 16, 12:37 p.m. Inappropriate

Free monthly bus passes for certain government and private employees must stop. Vote NO.

animalal

Posted Wed, Apr 16, 1:49 p.m. Inappropriate

FYI - there is a decent article on the pros and cons of the issue on today's Seattle PI website.

Who exactly gets a free bus pass? I know some firms give these to their employees as a benefit and they get a bulk rate on the Orca card, but I don't think Metro is handing out free passes to private or public employees.

Regarding the pay of the drivers - when you look at the regional cost of living our drivers rank around 13th or so, with an average of about $60k. Doesn't seem extravagant. But agreed - they should have put a cap on COL for a few years - sorry, we can do it so can Metro.

Treker

Posted Thu, Apr 17, 8:03 a.m. Inappropriate

Your wrong. My son is a state employee and he gets a bus pass from the state. I'm not sure if it's a free pass or it allows him to pay a reduced rate. Several colleges give bus passes to enrolled students.

Djinn

Posted Thu, Apr 17, 9:12 a.m. Inappropriate

Yes, they give students a pass - but the schools pay a bulk rate for them. Thus, "Metro is giving out free bus passes" is an uninformed statement, or just a lie.

I worked for a firm downtown where we were "given" annual Orca cards for public transport. Metro doesn't "give" them out - the firm paid for them. I guess you could argue that giving bulk buyers a discount is not financially responsible - but that doesn't hold much water.

Treker

Posted Wed, Apr 16, 7:09 p.m. Inappropriate

'But its operating costs have soared more than 80 percent."

Fuel prices, a significant component of operating costs have gone up over 100% since 2000. Carlson does not control for this and just lumps it in with "inflation".

bobp

Posted Wed, Apr 16, 7:12 p.m. Inappropriate

"For every dollar you spend, 9/10 of a penny now goes to Metro, which has delivered only about a third of the promised bus service."

So we are arguing about pennies? Are you serious?

bobp

Posted Wed, Apr 16, 7:17 p.m. Inappropriate

What the sales tax revelations that John shared prove is how volatile sales tax revenue can be as a funding source – and how poor it is to fund a service such as transit service. Instead, a combination of funding sources, such as from employers, property taxes, as well as fares, but with transparency that’s presently lacking. That can't happen yet, though, this is the only taxing choices at present.

Metro deserves some credit for proposing a lower percentage of cuts, but those in Snohomish county weren’t done all at once. Of course Metro won’t update their numbers, for the worse the cuts sound, the better.

Excellent notes on Metro’s fiscal track record. This is the kind of accountability that Metro should be subject to. What are their main cost drivers? Another media type pointed out how many were making over $100,000/year. Another media type pointed out that, in 2012, over 2,000 King County employees are in this domain, about a quarter in the Department of Transportation. Note: few are drivers, and drivers had to work a lot of overtime and put up with a lot to make it to that echelon. Speaking of six figure salaries, in fact, Metro advertised for yet another just last month, odd for an agency that could be on the verge of effecting large cuts.

There does need some focus what they’re spending the public’s money on, and it starts with disclosure. Examples for their website: what is the average salary at Metro? Who are the top managers, and what do they make? What are their benefits, their perks? What is the ratio of managers to staff? What are their pay and benefits? Do they get “step” increases (automatic pay increases every 12 months, strictly on longevity, which I believe John is referring to)? What have their COLAs been recently? What have been the major spending projects, are their costs and timing on target, and if not, why not? What cost saving measures have been put in besides what was suggested by the comprehensive performance audit that councilmembers called for? Nobody knows, it's all based on trust.

There also needs some tightening up on the revenue side. For one, other transit agencies have eliminated the paper transfer, as it costs money to print, and it’s abused by fare evaders. At the same time, its elimination is an incentive to switch to using the efficient ORCA card, where transfers are still available. A report on fare evasion would also be a good accountability measure for Metro as well, as would be reporting farebox recovery rates that are comprised of the same factors. Metro, I’m told, includes advertising revenue in their numerator, while at least some others only include fares. Other fare ideas are a premium for “express” routes where non-express options are available, pressing for monthly passes to be based on more than 36 rides per month, and changing the senior fare to at least match the highest normal Social Security retirement age. On the other hand, I’m supportive of a low-income fare, though I question the timing of it being now, which seems to be a way to get votes, as is putting in 40% of the funding of the taxes to cities. I also think that it should be a $1.00, but I cringe at the cost of administering it, which seems to suggest that it would be revenue-neutral, that a free fare would yield the same result. I also support a lower or free fare for disabled riders.

A balanced proposal would have been worthy of support. Some taxes, yes, but only those needed after some fare tightening beyond the fare increases that may have covered inflation’s costs, some lesser service cuts, plus a lot more disclosure. It still amazes me at how many people are more than “slow to notice,” it’s been more like “unwilling to notice.” To these folks, it’s too much bother, akin to heresy to suggest that this should be scrutinized. It’s for the public good, it’s for the environment, it’s a vital service, they’ll say, to avoid questioning authority, in this case a so-called “public” entity. Where have our scruples gone?

bricsa

Posted Wed, Apr 16, 7:17 p.m. Inappropriate

So the bobp's of the world don't mind give a pennie on every dollar they spend for no return? Are you serious?

Cameron

Posted Wed, Apr 16, 7:29 p.m. Inappropriate

"Perhaps it's time to focus more on spending.'

Perhaps. The metro budget shows about 10% for management and administration, including those services they farm out to King County (for which they pay). Exxon Mobil's income/expense report for the 3 month period ending 12-31-13 showed $12billion in admin. expense on revenues of $106billion. Are they, too, excessively bloated, John?

bobp

Posted Wed, Apr 16, 7:36 p.m. Inappropriate

"So the bobp's of the world don't mind give a pennie on every dollar they spend for no return? Are you serious?"

No return? Hardly. Metro takes thousands of cars off the road. This mitigates congestion and wear and tear-enabling the well of and the selfish to get to work faster in their single occupancy cars. It provides cheap transportation so minimum wage workers can clean the effing toilets and still afford to live anywhere near where they work.

For a penny on the dollar it sure looks like a bargain to me.

bobp

Posted Wed, Apr 16, 7:45 p.m. Inappropriate

"From 2010-2013 the transit workers got a pay raise every year, save one. Did you?"

Thank you for pointing out the obvious advantage of having an organized union workplace!

bobp

Posted Wed, Apr 16, 7:51 p.m. Inappropriate

As the analyist from the Eastside Transportation Association points out, Seattle contributes 34 percent of King County Metro’s operating costs but enjoys 61 percent of its services. The entire Eastside and south King County pick up 66 percent of the costs in exchange for 34 percent of the service.

This dysfunctional allocation of bus hours results in truly bizarre scheduling. On the Eastside it's quite common to see multiple buses with very few passengers cruising around on hopelessly complicated routes. Meanwhile commuter buses are packed. Much of this is a result of sub-area equity allocation, but much of it simply comes down extremely poor management.

Of interest is the fact that "Metro’s sales tax revenue is forecast to hit $471 million, the highest on record, and more than $30 million above the amount expected. This on top of last year's $440 million total, which also exceeded expectations and set a record."

Poor customer service, the inability to manage expanding resources, adversarial relations with labor ... until there are structural improvements at Metro, I be voting NO.

SnarkyOne

Posted Wed, Apr 16, 7:57 p.m. Inappropriate

Seattle might get 64% of the bus service from King County Metro, but it also has most of the jobs in the county. That means that outlying communities still benefit from Metro service, even if that service happens to terminate within Seattle. These folks should still vote yes.

skylar

Posted Wed, Apr 16, 8:25 p.m. Inappropriate

Vote yes to ensure your commuter bus remains packed, your park and ride remains full, and your connector bus doesn't. The management is fundamentally unable to meet customer demand despite record increases in resources.

Vote NO on Prop. 1

SnarkyOne

Posted Thu, Apr 17, 9:18 a.m. Inappropriate

Thanks for pointing out the obvious - the suburbs need Metro to send their folks to Seattle to work.

Treker

Posted Thu, Apr 17, 10:13 p.m. Inappropriate

That the suburbs need transit isn't in question and one could quibble that places like Bellevue or Redmond still qualify as suburban. What has become apparent to all is just how dysfunctional King County Metro has become; simply voting "yes" delays necessary reforms. Vote No.

SnarkyOne

Posted Wed, Apr 16, 9:47 p.m. Inappropriate

I am with John Carlson in voting no but that is about it. If he is so concerned about East King County subsidizing Seattle maybe he and his Republican colleagues can advocate for a more equitable distribution of state tax dollars between counties so that liberal Seattle and its suburbs are not subsidizing cheapskates east of the Cascades. King County citizens are paying enough taxes already to more than sustain bus service - indeed if we got back what we paid we could enhanced public transit and decrease our taxes.

WSDW

Posted Thu, Apr 17, 5:05 a.m. Inappropriate

Ok bobp, I will give a penny on the dollar for a non-government run contracted system and when they don't deliver, like with any private business, we can replace them. Sound fair?

Cameron

Posted Thu, Apr 17, 8:01 a.m. Inappropriate

Last year when I talked to Kevin Desmond about the vast amount of driver overtime at Metro, I asked him why he doesn't use more part-time drivers. He reiterated the union party line that the only good jobs are full-time jobs. That just doesn't sit well with me - perhaps even bordering on sexist. Metro part-time jobs pay well and provide benefits as well. There are many many people who need quality part-time jobs that pay well with benefits and are very happy to not have full time plus overtime jobs - they actually prefer part-time. Women with family responsibilities for instance. I've talked to some of these people and they love their part time jobs at Metro and they stick with them. Kevin also says it's expensive to train new drivers and it's better all around to just use the drivers they have with overtime. What has happened is these perma-overtime drivers are financially addicted to their overtime paychecks just like the firefighters and police doing the same and they push to minimize any talk about more part-time people. I don't think it benefits the system or the public. Tons of people need decent jobs - why not provide a bunch more .5 FTE jobs and reduce costs for the system?

Posted Thu, Apr 17, 8:10 a.m. Inappropriate

Instead of tax payers picking up the Metro tab, why not have the riders pay their way? They are the direct beneficiaries of said service. No need to burden the innocent to protect the guilty sponges.

Djinn

Posted Thu, Apr 17, 9:23 a.m. Inappropriate

Ahhh, no public transportation in the country, nor in fact the world, pays it's own way. Some legs of a system may break even, such as the Bainbridge Island Ferry or say the 76 Express bus route. Metro has raised fares in recent years.

The more unsubstantiated claims I hear about "bloated administration", "I was told that....", "Metro gives out free bus passes" the more I lean towards just voting YES because the lack of coherent argument, and the garbage being tossed around points to some other agenda.

Treker

Posted Fri, Apr 18, 10:40 a.m. Inappropriate

I love your argument for voting yes on Prop 1, emotional and devoid of intelligence. We'll call it the sheeple agenda.

Djinn

Posted Mon, Apr 21, 1:40 p.m. Inappropriate

So you'd like a "coherent argument," eh? Well, let me see now. I have before me not one, but TWO fliers from Metro that came with my latest car tab renewal. They're banner headlined, "FREE Metro Bus Tickets." Capitol letters on "FREE" are an inch high, but on the opposite side of the brochure they're two inches high. In bold, of course. Tough to miss that whole "FREE" thing.

"This Transit Incentive Program offers you tickets for EIGHT FREE RIDES on King County Metro Transit. It's a great opportunity to try Metro!"

I'm sure it is, if Metro's buses go where I need to go, when I need to go, and I can carry all my tools and supplies on the bus with me. Instead, by last September (pre-Sky-Is-Falling alleged cutbacks) Metro cut the one bus I "tried" several months earlier. That one had taken 35 minutes and dropped me off seven blocks from my destination. The September solution was three buses and 90 minutes, including a 20-minute wait at Seattle's scariest corner, 1st and Pike. Thanks for the "FREE" ride, Metro. Think I'm over it.

Oh, and in case you didn't receive the offer sheet for eight free bus rides, "Order forms are also available at www.kingcounty.gov/metro/tip."

Coherent enough for you?

Jones

Posted Fri, Apr 18, 11:01 a.m. Inappropriate

I'm amazed many still seem to think this as "cars vs transit" or that "transit riders should pay for their service." In fact, no transportation system operates with some form of public subsidy financed by a fee or tax (gasoline, sales, license, impact fee). That isn't the case with this Prop. 1.

It's really a question of how poorly is run Metro and it's rapid decline. In fairness to everyone being asked to pay, one cannot simply ignore the fact that "[m]etro’s sales tax revenue is forecast to hit $471 million, the highest on record, and more than $30 million above the amount expected. This on top of last year's $440 million total, which also exceeded expectations and set a record."

The agency needs to restructure. Metro is failing at everything from sub-area equity (geographic allocation of bus-hours) to capital expenditure (new buses, etc. ) and how management relates to labor. Unfortunately the agency is seeking a simplistic political solution of going to the voters for more funding.

I take a Metro or Sound Transit bus almost every day. I pay at the fare box and through sales tax. I don't want to see it wasted. Vote NO on Prop. 1.

SnarkyOne

Posted Thu, Apr 17, 10:43 a.m. Inappropriate

I voted Yes on Prop 1 because transit is a public utility and is needed for the reasons many have stated above.

I am glad that sales tax revenues have increased over previous projections. That means Metro can actually increase service over just a maintenance level. We need that as demand grows.

Thanks to east side County Council members and the 40/40/20 allocation of new service over the years Seattle has only gotten a fraction of the new service that it paid for. In essence Seattle has been subsidizing new service in East King County for a long time. Fortunately that inequity changed fairly recently. I am really tired of paying for transit on the east side for people who frankly don't appreciate or even understand what Seattle has done for them.

About the regressive tax being proposed - we can thank the Republicans in the State Legislature for failing to do their !@#$ job and enable more progressive taxation authority to the counties. As a consequence, King County was forced to use the taxing authority that it had which is more regressive. Sound familiar?

If you want to yell at someone, yell at your State legislators for not doing the job we elected them to do.

nwcitizen

Posted Thu, Apr 17, 12:01 p.m. Inappropriate

"Thanks to east side County Council members and the 40/40/20 allocation of new service over the years Seattle has only gotten a fraction of the new service that it paid for. In essence Seattle has been subsidizing new service in East King County for a long time. Fortunately that inequity changed fairly recently. I am really tired of paying for transit on the east side for people who frankly don't appreciate or even understand what Seattle has done for them."

Total BS. Take the Eastside on the South County folks out of the METRO taxing and service districts and allow cost effective local contracted agencies to spring up.

Cameron

Posted Thu, Apr 17, 12:16 p.m. Inappropriate

You've already established that only 40% of tax raise would go to metro transit.
The rest I contend to pay for the Big Bertha fiasco that needs to be
taken care by contractor who built it.
And the I520 pontoon debacle? Incompetent DOT engineers designed a pontoon that needed to be repaired before installation, to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars? You want the taxpayers to pay for that?
NO^^$*&(%^% WAY

Posted Thu, Apr 17, 6:21 p.m. Inappropriate

Hi KateMartin,

Tell me how many attorneys that are able to bill out at $300/hr. are working part time? Why has the free market not filled this need?

Thank you for your time.

bobp

Posted Thu, Apr 17, 6:25 p.m. Inappropriate

"Ok bobp, I will give a penny on the dollar for a non-government run contracted system and when they don't deliver, like with any private business, we can replace them. Sound fair?"

Sorry, the answer is No. We the People have mandated a public agency to serve the public based on public needs, not private profit. So-called economic "efficiency" is not the issue here.

Democracy is messy. I have to live with Tim Eyeman stupid initiatives, you should learn the same lesson.

Try it. It won't kill you.

bobp

Posted Thu, Apr 17, 8:32 p.m. Inappropriate

"In fairness, both Pierce and Snohomish counties made much deeper cuts in bus service in the last five years than Metro, so they are starting with a lower financial and performance base."

Oh, come on now, John -- are you getting soft in your old age? I remember when you would just ignore fairness, and mislead the public with reckless abandon. Oh well, it happens to us all, I suppose.

Yes, Metro didn't make deep cuts. That is the point. King County waited for the legislature to respond and provide funding for this needed service. They waited, and waited, and waited some more. Finally, they decided to act. Doing so was the right thing to do. If you spent some time in a real business, you would know that companies do the same thing. No sense laying off workers if you end up hiring them back a few months (or years) later. It is really expensive to do that. Best to wait until the last possible moment, and hope that things turn around in time. Well, unless we pass this measure, they didn't. The recession lasted longer than a lot of people predicted, and the legislature's inaction is lasting even longer. The fair thing to do (as well as the smart thing to do) is to pass this thing. It will save us a lot of money in the long run.

RossB

Posted Thu, Apr 17, 9:25 p.m. Inappropriate

I was curious about what the amount of service that was going to be cut back in 2011 when Metro was granted the authority to, if the majority of the King County Council agreed, a two-year $20 "Congestion Relief Charge." Here's an article I found at http://transitsleuth.com/2011/06/20/17-service-reduction-seriously/

"...King County Executive Dow Constantine this morning asked the King County Council to make important decisions about the future of Metro Transit: approve a two-year, $20 congestion reduction charge to help maintain Metro service near current levels for two years, or begin the process of reducing the transit system by 17 percent..."

Am I reading this correctly? Back in 2011, it was said that unless the King County Council adopted a $20 Congestion Relief charge (vehicle licensing fee, per vehicle), Metro bus service would be cut by 17%.

This year, the story is similar, but it’s $60 in vehicle licensing fees, per vehicle x 60% for Metro's share = $36 in vehicle fees/year for Metro + $43.75 in estimated sales taxes per household x 60% for Metro = $26.25/year in sales taxes for Metro
My math has that = $62.25 for a so-called “average” household that happens to have one vehicle.

In summary, in 2011, it was $20 or a 17% cut vs. today's (for a one-car household) $62.25 or a 17% cut. It should be pointed out that, without the $20 for two years, the 17% would've been larger and perhaps closer to what the neighboring transit agencies cut (>30%).

Another thing I found in my research was that Metro has impressive and, from what I can tell, unprecedented locally, documentation of the various cost-savings measures they've implemented, especially those beyond what was suggested to them in their comprehensive performance audit. They also mention what costs have been going up so fast; see "About Our Costs." It suggests that fares should be going up just to cover those costs, and they have, though one can't tell if, numerically, they did or not. They also avoided mention of their seemingly-high administrative salaries (close to 500 in 2012 were > $100,000 by my count, most not from bus drivers, who would have to work a ton of overtime to reach there vs. being a salaried employee), extremely-generous benefits (e.g., in one plan no-premium medical file:///Users/bricsa/Downloads/KingCareBenefitsAtAGlanceRegularPTTO2014.pdf), nor why other fare-tightening measures weren't taken. A lot of questions are left unanswered. See http://metro.kingcounty.gov/am/future/why-cut.html under Actions Taken...

bricsa

Posted Fri, Apr 18, 8:44 a.m. Inappropriate

I rode one of the new "rapid ride" buses last week for the first time. One interesting thing I noticed is that the seat arrangement seems to have reduced the number of seats on those buses substantially. Where previous/other buses have rows of two across seating for a large part of their length, this bus had bench seats aligned along the long sides of the buses. It appears this reduces the seating by quite a few. And we're paying for that, too, plus we're losing a third of the lanes north/south on Aurora to accommodate this. Just another reason I voted no.

mspat

Posted Fri, Apr 18, 6:48 p.m. Inappropriate

Seriously? Bench seats and a bus lane are reasons to vote no????

Among other items, the ridicluous comments tipped the scales and I voted YES.

Treker

Posted Mon, Apr 21, 8:43 a.m. Inappropriate

I had already voted no at the time I discovered the seating arrangement on the spendy new rapid ride buses. That was not my reason for voting no, nor was the reduction by 1/3 of a state highway's capacity for 6 or 7 hours a day the only reason, although it did have some influence. I voted no because I am sick to death of subsidizing transportation for downtown employers who should be paying that freight. I voted no because I am sick to death of terrible street surfaces. I voted no because Metro goes absolutely nowhere I want to go, and nowhere pretty much anyone wants to go if it's not into and out of downtown at work commute hours. I voted no because Metro's bureaucracy is bloated with overpaid computer jockies and other "executives" who add absolutely nothing to the city but a great big bill for rich salaries and benefits, and who devise these ridiculous threat-based campaigns to extort more money from us.

As a single person who's raised no children I am paying more taxes and getting less service than anyone not similarly situated. And I am fed up. I vote no on a lot of other taxing ideas as well. No person or reasonable business could remain viable mismanaging money like our local government entities do. They need to get a clue and get out of our pockets.

mspat

Posted Sat, Apr 19, 7:10 a.m. Inappropriate

voted no..in fact no one I know voted yes..the real outcome will be if it's close neither side will even consider the other's position..transit will continue it's bloat..and drivers will continue to drive..my point being both are powered by hot air..

Posted Sat, Apr 19, 8:17 a.m. Inappropriate

Agreed with that point at least - here's hoping for a vote tipped one way or another - but I kinda doubt it. Cheers

Treker

Posted Mon, Apr 21, 1:05 p.m. Inappropriate

You know what else King County Metro hopes you won't notice? The additional $56 million (minimum) that is NOT designated for buses. It's a sop to various DOTs outside Seattle to get the burbs on board the Prop. 1 train wreck.

So, what has been bleated for months by Metro as a critical means to keep the fleet flying is actually economic bloat-ware, a pricey, non-specific slush fund for municipalities that had zero interest in Seattle buses until they stood to gain from the proposal.

What's also missing, and what I have seen discussed absolutely nowhere: What happened to the Bridging the Gap funds that were supposed to address the very needs Prop. 1 is now claiming it will fix? Anybody out there aware that Bridging the Gap comes up for renewal next year? NOW how much will you pay?

Jeez...I can't believe I agree with John Carlson on anything. I guess there's always a first time.

Jones

Posted Wed, Apr 23, 7:11 a.m. Inappropriate

Well - vote was relatively clear - we'll see what the Metro results are shortly.

Treker

Posted Thu, May 1, 8:37 p.m. Inappropriate

I too lament County's decision to retaliate against voters' rejection of proposition 1 by reducing bus service. It's a common response by govenrment  organizations. We saw it several years ago when the library closed its buildings to the public (yet maintained executive salaries and benefits).  I expect Metro executives to retain their salaries and benefits and other fixed expenses such as rent for facilities, planning departments,service debt etc to continue during it's slow-down while  furloughing salaried drivers and service personnel, least able to suffer the economic consequence of counsel's decision. Of course, you and other metro customers must also suffer the consequences of Metro's retaliation.

At the same time, as a regular user of Metro transit, I find our Metro buses usually filled with riders and I often mentally compute the Metro's income by fare-paying passengers, the trip earning many hundreds of dollars each way, enough to make any capitalist who would like to have that business, very jealous   of the money-making business of transporting passengers along major city routes. In other words, the buses make money, lots of money just from the fare-boxes alone despite Metro's claimed losses.

Thus, instead of complaining about Metro's reduction, we should urge the County to allow private bus services to assume the routes about to be closed by Metro. As Metro admits by its reduction that it is incapable of servicing those routes which our people depend on, By opening-up competition to private enterprises,  County, if it is really concerned as to the well-being of it customers and salaried bus-drivers would allow free-enterprise to solve the problem.  

Al Calde

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