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First Hill residents worry about Metro Transit cuts

The outcome of countywide voting could have big effects in a dense, busy neighborhood.
First Hill mixes busy workplaces like Swedish Medical's Nordstrom Tower in the distance and dense multi-family housing.

First Hill mixes busy workplaces like Swedish Medical's Nordstrom Tower in the distance and dense multi-family housing. Rob Ketcherside/Flickr

Residents of First Hill — home to medical institutions, colleges and universities, food banks and high end residential-living facilities — are on edge. Proposed cuts to Metro bus service, say those who work and live here, would undermine transit mobility and delay plans for a 21st century city, perhaps by decades.

Visit Skyline, a retirement community with a view on this hill, and you'll hear some of the reasons why. Hollis and Katherine Williams moved to Seattle from Everett over a decade ago. She no longer drives after being in a car accident and relies on buses. He grew up in the other Washington and understands the merits of a strong subway system.

They rely on Metro routes 3, 4 and 60 to get around. All three bus routes could be eliminated or reduced. If Metro is forced to cut service by 17 percent, an estimate of the possible reductions developed a while ago, 74 routes could be eliminated and 107 reduced or revised. Hollis Williams says the bus system needs to be expanded not reduced. “I can walk one block, two directions, and get a bus just about anywhere in the city and I'm usually able to get a seat on it,” he says. “If the 4 goes away, the 3 would serve, but it would be so crowded I'd have to wait for another bus and hope I could get on.” He's had to do that at times already because of high ridership from residents, workers and patients at Harborview and customers at the Cherry Street Food Bank.

“It seems there's a schizophrenic public policy in promoting bicycles and better mass transit service over cars,” says Williams, “”because at the same time they're going to reduce the bus system and make us rely on cars with fewer lanes in which to drive and no places to park.” A new code was established for developers, says fellow Skyline resident Max Braun. “Each apartment has 7/10ths of a parking space no matter how many people live in it. So they're cramming people into this place at the same time they're not including adequate parking for cars.”

Tom Gibbs, another resident at Skyline, was Metro's executive first director back in the 1970s. At the time, the city of Seattle had its own bus system, with the oldest fleet in the nation, says Gibbs. "The new service gave mobility to people who had not been able to get around the community or the region. I got lots of letters and phone calls saying really well done." If we don't pass the transit-and-roads funding measure, King County Proposition 1, says Gibbs, the system is going to be decimated.

These pro-Prop I seniors who rely on bus service for visiting friends, doctor visits, volunteer activities and a ball game, are also worried about the mobility of the workers who serve them, particularly First Hill's large medical community. An estimated 15,000 people, nurses, doctors, engineers, cooks,administrative personnel, work at one of three medical institutions, Harborview, Swedish and Virginia Mason.

Shannon Gray is an admitting clerk at Virginia Mason who relies on transit. In a few months, she's moving to Des Moines. She thinks she'll save about $500 a month on rent. "I really can't let that pass me by. But I don't mind saying I'm more than a little nervous at this point.” Buses are already overcrowded, she observes, and they don't always stop for someone with a disability. "I'm just going to have to schedule it so that I can leave very early so I leave no room for error so I'm not late for work. But I'm nervous about it for sure.”

Seventy-five percent of Virginia Mason Hospital and Medical Center's 5,600 employees take alternative transportation, says Brenna Davis, the organization's director of sustainability. Some have extended shifts and work 12 hours. They may start at 7 a.m. and end at 7 p.m. “That could affect their ability to get to and from work,” says Davis, “since Metro is talking about eliminating late night and early morning routes.” Virginia Mason doesn't have recent stats for how many patients or visitors rely on bus service but Davis says many patients are elderly or disabled. Buses are their lifelines. “And when you think that two-thirds of the region's air pollution problems are related to tail pipe emissions according to the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency, that's another example of more single occupancy vehicles on the road and less people on buses," she says. "You can only project what that could do to the region's air quality."


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Comments:

Posted Thu, Apr 17, 5:18 a.m. Inappropriate

"Families for Sustainable Transit, the main anti-Prop 1 campaign group, did not return a request for comment by deadline." Right. Why did Martha go on to attempt to characterisze the position of those she opposes?

Do you really think that METRO is going to stop serving First Hill or any of the Urban Seattle areas? No Martha, METRO has been and will continue to cut the already underserved areas with the alternative service model, if at all..and expect the residents to continue to pay all taxes and fees to support the system. At some point suburban taxpayers are going to realize that it would be far cheaper for them to boot METRO out of their areas and form their own commuter system to feed the major park and rides to catch express routes to the major job centers. It has been done before when protions of Pierce County used the provisions of RCW 36.57A to remove themselves from the METRO taxing and service area. So the message to King County and METRO should be clear, reform yourself or you may be reformed against your will.

Cameron

Posted Thu, Apr 17, 4:58 p.m. Inappropriate

First of all, no one said that Metro would STOP serving First Hill. Residents are talking about the added difficulties of reducing frequency leadnig to overcrowded buses or how reduced schedules would affect workers.

Second, you mischaracterize what happened in Pierce County. Pierce Transit warned voters what would happen if they voted against their ballot measure for funding. A couple of small city councils even passed resolutions supporting a NO vote. Then, when the measure failed and their commuter express buses were cut -- some of the most expensive routes to run, by the way -- suddenly those folks AND those same City Councils were suddenly screaming about how difficult it was going to be for them to get to work.

Frankly, I have little sympathy for folks who suffer the consequences of their choices. However, Sound Transit wisely stepped in to fund some version of those commuter routes because user were a key source of Sounder ridership.

Mickymse

Posted Thu, Apr 17, 5:51 p.m. Inappropriate

Hmmm, hardly a mischaracterization. As authorized by RCW 36.57A the Pierce Transit board of comissioners at the behest of several cities concerned about service levels- convened a Public Transit Improvement Conference ( PTIC) in November 2011. All told it took about 6 months. the general outline of the PTIC process is outlined below:

Transit must pass a resloution creating and convening the PTIC.

Transit must send a 30 day written notice to the first PTIC meeting to every jurisdiction ( Including the county) within the county.

Transit must provide 30 day public notice of the first PTIC meeting.

Prior to the first PTIC meeting, the county and all jursidictions must designate their representatives ( an elected official).

Actions at the first meeting:
A Chair will be elected for the members at large.
The conference may consider wheter to propose revisions to the Public Transportation Benefit Area (PBTA)boundary.
The conference may set a date for a public hearing, assuming that the Conference concludes that a boundary revision is appropriate. The public hearing must be publicly advertised for four consecutive weeks. The Date of the Ppublic hearing weill be dependent on the County and jurisdic responses tot he preliminary delineation.

Between the first PTIC meeting and the public hearing, a proposed revised boundary will be delineated based on the first meeting discussions. the preliminary delineation will be sent to the County and jurisdictions.

The County and jusrisdictions must then indicate affirmatively wheter they wish to to be included or excluded in the revised boundary.

The prelininary delineation will then be amended to reflect the statement of inclusion or exclusion.

The amended delineation in the form of a map and a description of the proposed boundary will then be placed in the publicly advertised notice for the public hearing.

A public hearing will be held on the date a nd place in the notice.

The Conference may adjourn the public hearing from time to time, but not to exceed 30 days in all.

The Conference may make reasonable and proper changes to the amended delineation, with certain restrictions. If new territory is added, then a second public hearing shall be held. ( NA in this instance with King County and METRO).

At the conclusion of the first public hearing, the Conference may adopt a resolution delineating a new boundary.

Within 30 days of the established resolution, the County may reject the new boundary.

Within 60 days of the establishment of the new boundary, any city may withdraw. (This 60 day period runs concurrently with the 30 day period noted above.)

Once the PTIC process was concluded in Pierce County, which resulted in several cities being removed from the boundaries at their request, the WA State department of Revenue was notified as there is a required period during which they had to notify merchants to stop collecting the percentge of sales tax associated with the PBTA. Rate changes can only take place at the beginning of each quarter since the taxes are reported quarterly.

Now tell me Mickymse, How did I mischaracterize anything? It is a process and it can happen. Should it? We will see how METRO reacts to losing the Prop 1 vote.

Cameron

Posted Thu, Apr 17, 9:09 a.m. Inappropriate

"They may start at 7 a.m. and end at 7 p.m. “That could affect their ability to get to and from work,” says Davis, “since Metro is talking about eliminating late night and early morning routes.” "

This is exactly the sort of nonsense that the pro Prop 1 people use. Who believes that 7pm is "late night"? Or that 7am is "early morning"? lol

7am is a "peak hour." Metro's peak hours in the morning are from 6am to 9am.

Late night is like 11 pm or midnight. Early morning is hours like 1am or 4am. Almost nobody rides those buses anyway. And there is no traffic congestion during those late night and early morning hours. So, eliminating "late night" and "early morning" buses won't impact traffic and it will inconvenience an extremely tiny number of people.

Lincoln

Posted Mon, Apr 21, 12:48 a.m. Inappropriate

If someone's shift starts at 7 AM and they live quite a ways from their workplace, the time when they have to catch the bus would definitely be classified as "early morning".

sarah90

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

I am tired of these stories about how the elderly depend on buses. My grandmother lives in King County, is in her 80's and has never ridden a bus in her life. She still owns a car and drives occasionally. Why should she pay an extra $60 per year in car tabs to increase the subsidies for people who ride the bus, when she never rides the bus?

Lincoln

Posted Mon, Apr 21, 12:50 a.m. Inappropriate

Because we are a community, and not a collection of individuals who have no dependence whatsoever on each other. Your grandmother may not be able to drive at some point in the future -- which could happen tomorrow, or next week. Are you going to drive here where she needs to go?

sarah90

Posted Thu, Apr 17, 9:19 a.m. Inappropriate

" If Metro is forced to cut service by 17 percent, an estimate of the possible reductions developed a while ago,"

Yes. That "estimate" was developed before the latest sales tax revenues show that Metro will receive about $31 million per year more in sales tax revenues than they based that estimate on. Since, using the earlier sales tax projections, Metro claimed a "shortfall" of about $75 million, that $31 million increase in sales tax revenue means Metro's "shortfall" would be only around $44 million -- a 41% reduction in Metro's claimed "shortfall."

This means that Metro now would "need" to cut only about 10% of its bus service -- not the 17% the author claims, even while admitting that that 17% figure comes from "a while ago."

I find it truly sad how Prop 1 proponents, who want to raise cars tabs to $60 per vehicle, and increase sales tax on everyone in King County, continually rely on false numbers to try to scare people into voting to increase subsidies to bus riders.

Lincoln

Posted Thu, Apr 17, 11:23 a.m. Inappropriate

Are there any first hill residents who are also concerned about tax increases on the sales tax? Crosscut had a very interesting story in the past few months about where tax increases are supported and where they are not. It would be interesting to look at past elections and see what the votes have been in various neighborhoods.

sjenner

Posted Mon, Apr 21, 12:53 a.m. Inappropriate

This will be an increase of one tenth of one percent. That's one penny on a $10 purchase. I'm low-income by any standard and I think I can do a penny. And no, it wouldn't be terribly interesting to look at those neighborhood votes, because it really doesn't matter. The outcome of the vote is all that matters.

sarah90

Posted Thu, Apr 17, 2:25 p.m. Inappropriate

Several years ago, Central Area residents lobbied Metro to create the #8 route along Martin Luther King. This is a route that will be dropped if Prop 1 isn't passed.

As to the 3 and 4, I found if I wanted to catch the bus during rush hour, it made more sense for me to walk from City Hall to 3rd and Union. If I waited until it reached 5th and James (sometimes even 3rd and James), I was likely to be passed by.

I like taking transit. I don't have to pay to park and gasoline is expensive. Some bus services, like Island County Transit, add their operating costs to the sales tax and so it appears that buses are free but paying the fare isn't the burden that it is in other counties.

Amaliada

Posted Fri, Apr 18, 10:03 a.m. Inappropriate

"I like taking transit. I don't have to pay to park and gasoline is expensive."

And when you take the bus, you don't have to pay for the bus, either -- motorists and all taxpayers in King County pay most of the cost of your bus trips for you. Of course you like your [almost] free ride on the backs of taxpayers.

Lincoln

Posted Fri, Apr 18, 1:35 p.m. Inappropriate

And here's another article about the terrible cuts to bus service that starts off with inflammatory, inaccurate information.

Route 3 is having it's frequency in service increased as it absorbs route 4 - service to First Hill is still every 10 minutes during peak hours, the same as it is now. The leg of Route 4 that went down toward Judkins Park is being deleted because it duplicates service already provided by route 48.
http://metro.kingcounty.gov/am/future/PDFs/changes/route-003.pdf

And let's not forget that our new streetcar will be serving First Hill by the time any of these service cuts take effect, rendering many of the concerns about commuter access to First Hill moot. Service will run every 10 minutes with a much higher capacity than existing buses, and getting to the streetcar from commuter buses is a piece of cake.

Please stop with the inflammatory "the world is going to end if I have to learn new bus routes to take" articles. Metro needs to make cuts regardless of whether or not they get their tax increase or they'll just be going back to the County council again in 2015 with dire predictions of what will happen if they don't get more money.

talisker

Posted Sat, Apr 19, 10:01 a.m. Inappropriate

Great points.

And U-Link will be opening in a couple of years, between downtown, Capitol Hill and the UW. This will allow Metro to eliminate hundreds of thousands of hours of bus service without reducing transit capacity in our area, because the new light rail will carry something like 40,000 riders per day that currently use Metro buses.

So, much of the bus service that Metro is threatening to cut if Prop 1 fails will be replaced by new light rail and streetcar service.

Lincoln

Posted Mon, Apr 21, 12:57 a.m. Inappropriate

Lincoln, what is your stake in all this? Surely it can't be that one-tenth of one percent. Why do you wish to see this fail, which will cause people to lose some of their bus service? Are you saying that's just too bad? What do you propose that they do?

sarah90

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