Transportation Prop 1 will let Seattle add bus service for first time since '07

Guest Opinion: With the population of Seattle itself growing faster than any other core city in a major metro area, it's important to address pent-up demand and equity issues.
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Rush hour in Downtown Seattle

Guest Opinion: With the population of Seattle itself growing faster than any other core city in a major metro area, it's important to address pent-up demand and equity issues.

Right now, Seattle voters have a tremendous opportunity to expand the bus service that so many of us rely on.  Seattle Transportation Benefit District Proposition 1, at the end of your Nov. 4 ballot, is an essential first step to providing Seattle with the public transit we need.

Seattle is the fastest growing major city in the country, but we haven’t added any bus service since before the great recession in 2007.  As the city’s population continues to grow, and our economy expands, it is clear that Seattle needs to improve our transportation infrastructure to reflect the demand for transit services

With Metro’s financial picture improving, it is looking more likely that King County will eliminate the bus service cuts that were scheduled to go into effect in 2015. If that is the case, then Prop. 1 funding will be used primarily not to restore impending cuts, but — even better — to expand priority bus routes in Seattle.

In other words, Transportation Proposition 1 would mean funding around 250,000 hours of additional service annually. This would address most, or even all, of the growing gap between the level of transit service we need in Seattle and the stagnant level of service we currently have.

This measure is particularly important for lower-income residents, who disproportionately rely on bus service to get around. With Metro poised to implement a new lower fare for low-income riders in March 2015, we are about to see how progressive public policy can improve access to jobs, school, health care and community services for tens of thousands of our neighbors. This new fare is expected to boost ridership, which is also good over the long run in terms of reducing traffic and pollution.

Transportation Proposition 1 is the key to strengthening bus service in Seattle. The measure asks Seattle residents to support a $60 vehicle fee (with a $20 rebate for low-income car owners) and 0.1 percent sales tax increase to take the first step in rebuilding our public transportation system. It will raise $45 million in Seattle to support bus service, including $2 million to improve Seattle residents’ access to the low-income fare and $3 million to build partnerships with other jurisdictions around King County.

Specifically, Transportation Prop 1 will expand bus service by adding buses to routes that need more frequent service; fixing chronically overcrowded routes; and  improving reliability on chronically late routes. It may also allow Seattle to reverse the most serious service cuts made in September 2014.

According to a plan developed by the Seattle Department of Transportation, the measure could:

  • Expand 16 routes that are chronically overcrowded: Rapid Ride Lines C and D, 5, 8, 15X, 16, 18X, 28, 40, 41, 44, 48, 70, 71X, 72 and 74X.

  • Improve nearly 50 routes that are chronically unreliable: Rapid Ride Lines C and D, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 10, 11, 14, 16, 17X, 18X, 21X, 21, 24, 25, 26X, 27, 28, 28X, 29, 31, 32, 33, 37, 40, 41, 43, 44, 48, 49, 55, 56, 57, 60, 64X, 66X, 70, 71, 72, 74X, 76, 83 and 99.

  • Increase frequency of 28 routes that have high demand for more frequent service: Rapid Ride lines C and D, 2, 5, 7, 8, 9X, 10, 11, 14, 16, 24, 25, 27, 30, 31, 32, 40, 41, 48, 49, 60, 66X, 67, 68, 70, 120, and 125.

Improving bus service would be a huge benefit for students and low-income Seattle residents who depend on the bus to get to work, school, day care and services. We particularly appreciate that this carefully considered measure is designed to expand affordable access to transit for those who need it.

This is the right time to make this investment. Metro has continued to work hard to improve productivity and efficiency, with encouraging results. Compared to peer transit agencies (the 30 largest bus transit agencies in the U.S.), Metro ranked 10th in total ridership in 2012. Its operating cost per mile was $0.99, right in line with the $0.98 average for the peer group. And Metro ranked 19th (of 30) for growth in operating costs between 2007 and 2012 — a strong indication the agency is holding the line on costs.

We would have preferred to see a countywide solution, but that measure failed in April despite overwhelming support from voters in transit-dependent Seattle. We know this is not the perfect plan, but we believe that passing Transportation Proposition 1 will send a strong message of public support and momentum for investing in transit, a message that will complement ongoing efforts to develop a statewide transportation package with a strong transit component.

Transportation Prop 1 has been endorsed by a broad coalition including Mayor Ed Murray, the Seattle Human Services Coalition, the Downtown Seattle Association, Martin Luther King County Labor Council, Transportation Choices Coalition, Fuse, The Washington Bus, Futurewise, and many others, and by major local media. The Seattle Times, the Stranger and PubliCola are all supportive.

Seattle voters value transit and want to expand bus service. This measure will benefit us all. Please join us in voting "yes" for buses: Support Seattle Transportation Proposition 1 when you vote between now and Nov. 4.


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