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.