Election Update: Pierce Transit is Close

Although most races are now decided, major media outlets have not called the governor’s race despite a consistent but narrow lead for Jay Inslee. I’m personally not much interested in spinning the statistics and am content to wait for everyone to be satisfied that the result is correct, but others apparently feel differently.

Far closer, however, is the Pierce Transit race, which means to raise sales taxes to add service rather than impose drastic cuts. Last night’s results show the no side ahead by 915 votes (50.28% no) with perhaps 80,000 ballots yet to be counted. Chris Karnes at Tacoma Tomorrow is analyzing the race exhaustively- including breakdowns by district - and has declared it too close to call.

An optimist would say we’d win those two, I-1185 will be ruled unconstitutional, C-Tran is in a whole different metropolitan area, and so it was a clean sweep (save for Sen. Steve Litzow and minor annexation measures) for STB’s endorsement slate. A pessimist might say that the Pierce Transit measure may be the only one to have a clear and concrete effect on Puget Sound transit riders, and a loss there would dwarf the importance of everything else.

Comments

  1. Brent says

    I don’t see any stories of Sen. Haugen conceding, nor any stories from last night mentioning her race.

    Current results, if the Secretary of State’s office is keeping up with the county tallies, are here.

      • mic says

        Sorry, my keyboard is acting up.
        2. Defer adoption of the last Sounder ROW installment in 2013 for $45m (capital project) and use Pierce County’s share to backfill much of the service cuts, and move as many regional routes onto ST using Pierce Co. operating funds as can be justified under the ‘regional nature’ of ST.
        3. Figure out Plan D for 2015

      • Adam Bejan Parast says

        #2 pretty much has no precedence and I see essentially 0% chance of happening. It is however I perfect example of the good/bad (depending on perspective) result of having the regional capital oriented agency separate from local operations oriented agencies.

      • Mike Orr says

        Without a separate ST, regional service might be much less than now, and no Link or Sounder, because the county-based agencies would put it second place and underfund it. With a single über-agency across all three counties, service may be more balanced, or it may be skewed in a different way if the agency has esoteric priorities.

    • Bellinghammer says

      This is really terrible news. 900 votes is surmountable, but only just.

      What would a Plan C look like? If this goes down, I don’t see how PT recovers. They will have failed at the ballot twice in 3 years, and from now on they enter the Death Spiral. High costs will remain alongside declining revenue, declining ridership, and worsened route productivity all pushing each other downward. .6% sales tax for a handful of hourly arterial bus routes is woefully inadequate to the task of providing mobility. Non-operations and non-planning staff will have to be cut to skeletal levels, whole departments might have to go, and the PTBA might have to shrink even further.

      Is there any precedent for transit agency bankruptcy, or for folding a PTBA and starting over? As others have implied, a Tacoma Transit might make more sense, allowing ST to take on regional corridors and allowing PT to sell off its remaining assets.

      • says

        There is a mechanism for disbanding a PTBA. I want to say the assets become the property of the county under which the PTBA existed. The county is then empowered to liquidate the assets (which they are required by law to do). I presume the PTBA could assign their assets to a different agency in lieu of the county.

        Jefferson PTBA has had to suffer through this indignant process twice in their life. The first time it actually went to the ballot, the second time, it did not make it past the petition phase.

        Like I’ve said this whole time, something about Pierce Transit does not pass the “sniff” test. They’ve been blowing through their capital budget like there’s no tomorrow, buying enhancements to HASTUS, replacing perfectly serviceable equipment, and generally acting like they need to make their financial situation sound a lot worse than it is.

      • T.K. says

        This is interesting, Brian. Are you suggesting that there may be some criminal malfeasance (or at least gross waste of public funds)?

      • says

        I don’t think there’s criminal malfeasance, as that would have to lead to personal gain, which I don’t think applies in this case.

        I DO think they’re trying to make out their situation to be much worse than it really is. It’s known as the scorched-earth approach. In the scorched-earth approach, you spend all of your funds that are possible on capital projects which aren’t necessarily needed, but hit the bottom line really hard. You then claim that there’s no money left for operations, and thus scare the public into voting in a tax increase or folding-up shop.

        You want proof, look at PT’s 2012 budget, and look at how much their IT department is spending.

      • Nathanael says

        Indeed, why not sell all the buses to the City of Tacoma and start Tacoma Transit? That might work. Tacoma could buy the assets of Pierce Transit using the money from the debt owed it by Tacoma Rail, which would be repaid by selling the segment of Tacoma Rail which Sounder runs over to Sound Transit, which would be paid for by… um…. OK, I’m not sure about that bit. Perhaps Pierce County could lend the money to Sound Transit using the money from dissolving Pierce Transit. :-)

      • Nathanael says

        Brian: high IT spending with little to show for it is often simply a sign that you haven’t hired the right people. There’s often a great deal of IT stuff which really *really* needs to be done — but if you’ve hired programmers who are just one step in quality below what you need, they can write the same software twelve times without getting it right, which starts adding up pretty quickly.

  2. T.K. says

    The City of Tacoma is practically insolvent itself — they’ve closed libraries and put the buildings up for sale, the police and fire departments are under the threat of layoffs, streets can’t be maintained, etc. I don’t think there’s much the city can do in the way of a rescue attempt.

    Many of these PTBAs were created for the very reason that the municipal transit systems they replaced were on the verge of shutdown in the late ’70s and early ’80s.

  3. Bernie says

    It’s getting closer. November 9, 2012 4:34 PM the margin is back down to only 831 votes and it’s within a half of one percent which would trigger an automatic recount if it were a State wide measure or a candidates race. As it stands it looks like the YES supporters are going to have to come up with the money for a recount. The 13,000+ undervotes would be nice to take a second look at but at $200k for a complete recount I’m betting the strategy is to select just a handful of districts where the measure received overwhelming support and look for ballots the machines missed. The NO campaign has backpedaled on it’s support for a recount should they lose.

    Sherwood, who earlier this week said a recount was a given, retreated from that statement Thursday after hearing of the price. He said his side, should it end up losing, doesn’t have that kind of cash.

    • T.K. says

      I thought Sherwood’s line was hilarious… those car dealers could cough up $200,000 in a heartbeat if it was important enough. Maybe with the vote this close, they’re more afraid of bad PR than they’re letting on.

      • Mike Orr says

        The layoffs have been happening for four years since the federal govt gave the states only a token amount of aid during the Little Depression. The reason the unemployment rate hasn’t moved much is that government layoffs have almost equaled private-sector hires.

      • Bernie says

        The reason the unemployment rate hasn’t moved much is that government layoffs have almost equaled private-sector hires.

        It pains me to say it but real progress like this only seems to have happened in the last couple of decades under Democratic administrations. Cue the All In The Family theme… Mister we could use a man like William Clinton again.

        Helped to shrink the welfare state,
        Monica pulled his censored.
        Gee our pre-bailout GM ran great.
        Those were the days.

    • Bernie says

      Friday, November 9, 2012 9:25 PM. The gap widens back to 915 votes. I’m pretty sure this is the closest election in the State but it’s back above one half of one percent. It’s easy to understand PT’s arrogance after gerrymandering the PTBA. Good to see Pierce County voters finally saying no business as usual. Close enough though that the insiders will pull it out somehow.

      • Bernie says

        Saturday, November 10, 2012 6:09 PM
        Approved 92,005 49.78%
        Rejected 92,828 50.22%

        So the gap is back down to 823 votes and it’s looking pretty certain that the difference is going to be less than 1/2 of one percent. With relatively little money the YES campaign should be able to win on a recount. And there’s still over 25k ballots to count. The late ballots seem to be trending YES

      • says

        Good questions. Go ahead and crow gents, you know and I know I was spiking the football in my den when Wisconsin beat back the recall. I know Sir Rob, I know he is a man of great character and a hawk on open government. His loss from public life is going to be felt very deeply not just here but also in the good government community for a long time.

        So by all means tell Governor-Elect Jay Inslee (Progressive Democrat) to be the Transit Governor. There you go.

      • Jason Mitchell says

        Again, no one is giving you a hard time for partisan reasons. We’re giving you a hard time for staring at simple math that said Result A was inevitable, somehow concluding Result B was “very likely,” and then calling people classless, partisan, and mean-spirited for the great sins of reading the math properly and correcting you.

  4. Misinformed says

    Tax Increases almost ALWAYS scare people. This “voting” process was one of misinformation to the community. The verbiage led voters into thinking that the TOTAL TAX would INCREASE. This is NOT the case, and is far from the truth. Pierce Transit would receive a larger share of the taxes already in place, as opposed to the 3% that it is currently receiving to stay barely functional. If more of the public were informed of the TRUTH of the matter, i highly doubt that this current situation would be occurring.

    • Mike Orr says

      Is this true? I thought it was an increase in the sales tax, to claim taxing capacity the Legislature had authorized for transit but the district hadn’t been collecting. If it was just reslicing the pie, then the question becomes, whose budget is it being taken out of?

    • Stephan J. Cox says

      The opposition was able to tug at the heartstrings of teabaggers and well-off suburbanites, for sure. And it seemed all too convenient that automotive dealers jumped on the wagon.

      • MrZ says

        The intresting part isnt so much the auto dealers, its the chairman of MV Transportation who gave a total of $3400 to the campaign. Obviously trying by hook or by crook to drum up some more business for his company.

        The 10.1% figure came from the total local taxing capasity (9.7-9.8%) depending on where you live + the extra 3/10th the state applies to new car sales.

      • AlexKven says

        Where does MV transportation operate, and how does it compare to public transportation? Its website doesn’t show any routes, schedules, or fares.

  5. MrZ says

    With discussions about the situation in tacoma being dyre, I generally agree with some others on here that if it fails thats the end. I think the real problem in Tacoma isnt the agency, but rather the sales tax. Quite frankly, people are tired of paying such high sales taxes. Tacoma has over-relyed on the sales tax for a long time, and PT while they did good with what they had, when it came time to ask for their remaining 3/10th, everyone else had already done that for them. If they had another funding source (mvet, property tax, etc.) it might be a diffrent story.

    I dont think breaking the agency up into Tacoma Transit, and dumping the rest on Sound Transit is a good idea either, Tacoma dosent have the capability to generate enough revenue on its own to fully fund a successful transit system. Sound Transit dosent have enough money to convert the remaining local routes into ST Express routes (although one good benefit of doing so would be to get out from having to provide costly ADA paratransit service). As a matter of fact, I was thinking about just that today, routing wise it could be done (example, extend the 577 to South hill from Federal Way via Meridian, re-extend the 578 to Tacoma, Introduce a new service along 112th in Pierce County (revamp of the old 585?)) But theres just no money right now to do that and make it successful.

    I think a better option for Tacoma/U place/Lakewood would be for them to have a local funding source for transit like Bellingham has, which could than be used to expand Pierce Transit routes 1, and 2 back to their fifteen minute headways in the city, and mabye bring up frequencies on the other local routes as well. This would be cheaper than forming seperate agencies, as PT would already have the resources available (men and equipment) that would not have to be duplicated. The rest of the county would have what they have. Which could be addressed seperately either at the County or Sound Transit levels when things are more economically favorible.

    • T.K. says

      According to Chris’ excellent breakdown by legislative district, Lakewood and U.P. were not particularly supportive of Prop 1.

      This is a shot in the dark, but I wonder if there wouldn’t be some benefit in merging PT with one of its neighboring PTBAs (Kitsap or Intercity) and becoming a multicounty district such as Link Transit or Ben Franklin Transit. I’m sure there would be some efficiencies… probably not enough to save everything that’s going to be lost in Pierce County, but it would be a start.

      • Stephan J. Cox says

        Part of Lakewood wasn’t supportive of Prop 1. That area being where all the rich people live. The lower-income areas were more supportive, according to that map.

      • Bernie says

        Interesting how you define rich people. Around Gravelly Lake; yeah there’s some Weyerhaeuser money (Phone Booth>. Tacoma Country Club isn’t the low rent district. But most of Lakewood would be considered poor compared to Seattle and the gerrymandered boarders of the PTBA left out all the residential in south Lakewood but craftily kept all of the retail areas where those people have to shop inside it’s boundaries.

      • Stephan J. Cox says

        @Bernie

        “But most of Lakewood would be considered poor compared to Seattle and the gerrymandered boarders of the PTBA left out all the residential in south Lakewood but craftily kept all of the retail areas where those people have to shop inside it’s boundaries.”

        Comparing Lakewood to Seattle is apples and oranges. We’re talking about Pierce County here.

        As for “gerrymandered borders”, that’s just anti-Prop 1 Kool-Aid.

    • Stephan J. Cox says

      “Introduce a new service along 112th in Pierce County”

      PT will be doing that no matter which way the vote goes; it’ll be called Route 4.

      • AlexKven says

        Also, the 497 and the 495 will see no difference between prop 1 passing and failing. I think the 495 should be eliminated (no matter the outcome), and the schedule of the 400 should be adjusted to line up with the evening sounder.

        Also, if it fails, the 62 is history, but if it passes, it will travel to Downtown Tacoma via pacific highway, which is quite strange.
        Why are they not considering restoring the route 61 if it passes?

  6. AlexKven says

    Enough’s enough. Rename “King County Metro” to “Seattle-Tacoma Metro” and extend its authority to Pierce County, giving it the same revenue benefits as in King County.

    Oh, and Pierce Transit? We won’t need them anymore, so we can ditch failure and choose success.

    This would provide a much more homogeneous transit experience across the county line, and would finally give adequate service to the second largest county in the state.

    I can see it now:
    STT 461 – Downtown Tacoma to Browns Point, via Northeast Tacoma.
    STT 188 – Federal Way TC to Browns Point, via SW Dash Point Rd.
    STT Rapid Ride G Line – Federal Way TC to Downtown Tacoma, via Pacific Hwy E.

    Oh, I can see the possibilities.

    • MrZ says

      Actually i’d like to see Rapid Ride A extended to tacoma as one continuous route. Metro used to run route 433 from Tacoma to Seattle, via Pac higway (predecessor to the 174) in the 70s. I have a timetable around here from it. The only thing to keep in mind is that metro has a very high platform hour cost, it used to be one of the highest in the nation.

      • AlexKven says

        Good, I was thinking Metro could connect the A and G line like they connected the C and D line. I think it would be better because the A line would otherwise be quite long, and it would be simpler for the A line to switch to the G line upon arriving at the Fed Way TC, and vise versa.

        There was a predecessor to the 174? Tacoma to Seattle? Man, that must have been a little crazy. How in the world could they estimate what time the northbound bus would arrive in Seattle?

    • AlexKven says

      STT 470 – Downtown Tacoma to Gig Harbor TC, via TCC.
      STT 471 – Fox Island to Gig Harbor TC.
      STT 472 – Key Peninsula to Gig Harbor TC, via Purdy P&R.
      STT 473 – Downtown Tacoma to Bremerton (Express), Via SR 16, Gig Harbor TC.
      STT 801 – Enumclaw to Downtown Tacoma.
      STT 480 – Downtown Tacoma to Dupont P&R, Via Lakewood Station, Tacoma Mall.
      STT 802 – Downtown Tacoma to Buckley, Via Puyallup Station, Pierce College, Sumner Station, Bonney Lake.
      STT 290 – Renton to Bonney Lake.

      • T.K. says

        Pierce Transit used to run on Fox Island. From what I’ve heard, nobody rode it. (No surprise there.) I want to say that there was also a PT route between Enumclaw and Buckley at one time.

        Tacoma to Bremerton could be pretty successful, I think. There was a private operator that ran that line for many years but overextended itself on other Trailways routes.

      • Stephan J. Cox says

        @T.K. ” I want to say that there was also a PT route between Enumclaw and Buckley at one time.”

        There was. IIRC, it was route 406. It went from Downtown Puyallup (South Hill Mall Transit Centre wasn’t built yet), through Sumner and Bonney Lake, through Buckley and then into Enumclaw. I rode it once when I was young and had a free ticket to the King County Fair.

        “Tacoma to Bremerton could be pretty successful, I think.”

        One was able to transfer to a Kitsap Transit route from Purdy to Port Orchard way back when. Not sure if it still stands.

      • MrZ says

        There used to be route 114 Fox Island, and very few rode it. Route 406 once served Emunclaw and Buckley, And Metro route 151 (Operated by Pacific National Lines, in the early to mid 70s)Used to run from Tacoma to Auburn, Emunclaw and Buckley (via Fife/Milton/Puyallup/Sumner to Auburn).

        As for Purdy, Kitsap Transit now has the Purdy Connector although i’m not sure how well its used or how well it works really. The #86 used to go all the way through from Southworth to Purdy. I’ve often thought that this would be a good through route (Bremerton/Tacoma via Purdy, Gig harbor, TCC) The private operator is long gone, I think around the time PT took over service in the early 80s. Infact a private operator ran the PT route 100 up until the early 90s, with Trailways Fishbowls and ex Greyhound saudi MC-5s with the double roof.

        One Final Correction; it was Metro route 432 that served tacoma. 433 was the Federal Way Flyer. the 432 followed the old 174 line from seattle through boeing field through federal way to port of tacoma road, where it than got on I-5 to exit at A street and finally terminate at the old greyhound depot. The run time was about 1.5 hours in 1974, and only ten trips of the 39 or 40 that ran that day went all the way to tacoma, the remainder terminated at S. 348th and Pac Hwy.

      • T.K. says

        The Kitsap Transit Purdy Connector is an Access bus that is open to the public, traveling directly between the Port Orchard ferry and the Purdy Park and Ride five times on weekdays. They will make deviations on the Kitsap side up to three-quarters of a mile from the Highway 16 corridor, but usually there are none. I don’t think that there are ever more than five people riding at a time, but they don’t do a lot to promote the service.

        The Purdy Connector was one of the few promises from KT’s 2001 sales tax increase that ever got accomplished. They were able to restore Sunday service for several years, but never did bring back half-hour headways on the routes that had them prior to I-695.

        KT management (and much of the transit board) feels it is more important to test foot ferries that will never be economically viable than running a functional bus system. If they want to supplement the ferry system, they should just run some MCIs between Bremerton and Tacoma and have them meet up with the 590s. My guess it that it would be cheaper than crewing a ferry — just not as sexy.

    • T.K. says

      The only hitch is that Metro isn’t a Public Transportation Benefit Area, like Pierce Transit. It’s a division of King County government. There would have be changes in state law.

      • AlexKven says

        Maybe it could be converted to a partnership between the King and Pierce county governments. They could also create a 3-Zone system, with Tacoma being the third zone.
        Adult fares (Peak):
        1 Zone – $2.50
        2 Zone – $3.00
        3 Zone – $3.50
        Adult fares (Off Peak):
        1-2 Zone – $2.25
        3 Zone – $2.75

      • AlexKven says

        Also, they could annex Pierce County as a whole to King County. I can see it now: SW 520 st and 150 Ave SW.

        Just Kidding.

      • AlexKven says

        Correction: it will be legal next month.
        But that’s not stopping KC from dropping Marijuana infractions (even though they weren’t committed next month).

      • Bernie says

        Correction: it will be legal next month.

        Correction, it will remain illegal because federal law supersedes state law. However, it does create a situation where you can be prosecuted for tax evasion for not paying the State of Washington for your illegal trafficking.

    • AlexKven says

      And because I’m feeling ambitious tonight:

      STT 401 – Downtown Tacoma to Roy, Via 72nd TC, Parkland TC.
      STT 402 – Federal Way to Roy, Via Puyallup, South Hill, Spanaway.

      • Stephan J. Cox says

        Do you mean the town of Roy? Or just the Roy “Y”? The Roy “Y” is a decent enough park & ride, but PT’s buses are meeting up better at the Spanaway Walmart, at State Route 7 and 8th Avenue.

        There’s a bit of distance between Pacific Ave and Portland Ave, so diverting that far off to the 72nd & Portland Transit Center may eat up time and leave some people out. There was enough time chewed when the old Route 46/1 would divert to PLU via Garfield Street. (There was a rumor that the 46/1 did that because one of the transit commissioners had a kid going to PLU, but yeah, rumors.)

      • asdf says

        Given the awful state of Pierce Transit, no one who has access to a car is going to park it at a P&R and ride the Pierce Transit buses. That leaves the Roy “Y” with only one purpose left – a place for carpoolers to park while they go hiking on Mt. Ranier.

        (Speaking of Mt. Ranier, a bus that connects ST 594 to the National Park shuttle system in Ashford, at least on summer weekends, would be very nice).

      • AlexKven says

        @asdf
        No, no weekend routes, for any reason, for any purpose. If PT has to saw itself in half, then that leaves absolutely NO room for weekend service. Remember that cutting weekend service is the ONLY asset left that it can sell enough to be able to cut by 53% and still be a transit system that’s usable for something. This means that there is NO pierce transit on the weekends, which (upon the failing of prop 1) should go live within the next few service revisions. Not even route 1 can run on the weekends. In Pierce County, except for the MT route 182 to Northeast Tacoma, and ST route 578, 574, and 594, public transit on weekends in Pierce County will be dead.

      • asdf says

        “(Speaking of Mt. Ranier, a bus that connects ST 594 to the National Park shuttle system in Ashford, at least on summer weekends, would be very nice).

        Obviously, if such a bus were to exist, I would not advocating the funds to operate it coming out of Pierce Transit’s very limited budget. If it were to happen, it would most likely be paid for by a mixture of Sound Transit and the National Park Service. And it would likely charge much higher fares than a regular bus route (perhaps $10 per person each way, with no passes accepted) to keep subsidies somewhat reasonable.

    • Aleks says

      Or just have Sound Transit provide all transit service for the region, and eliminate the other transit authorities (along with any routes that are outside the Sound Transit service area).

      • MrZ says

        The idea has been kicked around before, i like to point to LA where LAMTA once covered the LA area and the cities around it, and after a while the areas were tired of the service provided by LAMTA, either it wasent good enough, they dident listen, blah blah blah, and broke off into Foothills Transit, Riverside Transit Agency, etc. I can see the same thing happening here. Instead of creating one super agency, why not have the PSRC become more of an umbrella group over the agencies, making sure they are properly coordinated, makeing sure that things that need to be regional in scope are actually done regionally, working towards eliminating the silos that exist. This is a common practice in eruope where a regional group coordinates such things, and it think chicago even has such a scheme as well.

      • Aleks says

        MrZ,

        First, LA is absolutely huge. Seattle is much smaller. Two other nearby cities of comparable size both have unified regional transit authorities: Vancouver (TransLink) and Portland (TriMet). In fact, most of the cities in the US with the most successful public transit systems have a single transit authority, including Boston, New York, DC, and Chicago.

        San Francisco is the only other major city I’m aware of where services in the city are provided by more than one transit operator. And they’re somewhat of a special case, since San Francisco is so geographically isolated from its suburbs that it’s almost a separate metropolitan area. The Seattle region is much more unified.

        Second, I think it’s important to note that I’m not proposing that we create a new entity, just that we expand one that already exists. Sound Transit has proved itself to be a very reliable and successful agency. They’ve consistently focused on providing useful, productive service. They maintain reasonable and corridor-appropriate headways (many routes have service every 5-10 minutes during busy times), rather than forcing all routes to a lowest common denominator of service. Their routing details aren’t subject to public veto, as Metro’s are. Their taxing/voting area includes only the urbanized part of the three counties, meaning that rural areas don’t get to prevent the cities from getting the transit they want. And subarea equity means that the framework is in place for individual cities to purchase extra service.

        Expanding Sound Transit seems eminently more achievable than creating a new Tacoma Transit agency, or expanding Metro (which is a department of the King County government) to include an area across the county line.

      • Aleks says

        As further evidence of Sound Transit’s effectiveness, consider what happened when Pierce Transit shrunk, leaving the 496 stranded. Within days, Sound Transit voted to create the 596. The county agencies (Metro, Pierce, Community) simply can’t reach that level of responsiveness.

      • aw says

        Aleks:

        In fact, most of the cities in the US with the most successful public transit systems have a single transit authority, including Boston, New York, DC, and Chicago.

        Is that really true? In Boston, MBCR is somewhat independent of the rest of MBTA. In New York, MTA is the RTA, but Metro North and LIRR are managed independently and then there is NJT which is separate but provides service into the city. In DC, WMATA handles the subways and buses, but MARC and VRA provide commeter train service into the city. In Chicago, if I understand correctly, there is an RTA overseeing everything but CTA and Metra are totally separate and I believe there is a suburban bus agency as well.

      • Aleks says

        aw,

        I have to dispute one fact: MBCR is an operator. (In fact, this is by contract; Amtrak used to be the operator, and not much is different.) The MBTA plans all service, including the commuter rail service that MBCR operates.

        Otherwise, while I agree with what you’re saying, the key distinction is that there *is* an RTA. In virtually all of those cities, all service is planned and managed by a single entity (and its subsidiaries). There may be multiple operators, but for riders, that doesn’t matter.

        Also, there’s a big difference between having one operator for in-city service and another for commuter rail, and having two operators which overlap so much that it’s hard to tell the difference. Consider the 255, 271, 540, and 550. Is there any legitimate reason why U-District to Kirkland and downtown to Bellevue are “commuter express” but U-District to Bellevue and downtown to Kirkland are “city”?

        The only example you cite that doesn’t strictly meet that pattern is NJ Transit, which operates the PATH subway inside Manhattan. But honestly, to a first approximation, most people who ride PATH are commuters from New Jersey. And creating a single transit authority across state lines is a logistical difficulty that we (luckily) don’t have.

        I’m not proposing that we completely eliminate Metro. Rather, I want Sound Transit to become the regional transit authority, receiving all tax revenues (following subarea allocation) and planning all service, and to contract out operations to the existing county agencies in the same way we do now. Effectively, all we’re doing is transferring the taxing authority, and expanding Sound Transit’s charter to include local service. I think that’s a simple and logical step that has tons of precedent and that would have real benefits for transit planning in our region for a long time to come.

      • aw says

        Well, in fact, Sound Transit is our RTA. It just may not function in quite the same way as those others. It may make sense to have it take on a larger supervisory role, but that would be up to the state legislature.

        Does it matter so much that certain bus lines are run by different agencies? I can tell the difference by the color of the bus and the route number. And with my ORCA card, I don’t need to worry about the details of what it costs (that might matter much more to some folks though).

      • Aleks says

        aw,

        Yes, it does matter, and here’s why.

        - Pragmatically, Sound Transit is designed in a way that makes it well-equipped to provide good service. For example, unlike Metro, its service planning is not subject to a direct vote by elected officials. The subarea equity system, despite its flaws, completely negates any claims by any geographical constituency that they’re receiving less service than they paid for. It also provides a framework by which individual subarea (meaning Seattle or Tacoma) can purchase more service.

        - Politically, Metro has lost a lot of goodwill and political capital in the past two years. No one is happy with the implementation of RapidRide and the related service changes. Everyone thinks that they either went too far, or didn’t go far enough. When the $20 car tab expires, it’s going to be hard for Metro to replace the funding — much harder than it would be for ST.

        - As a distant third, there are a number of minor inconsistencies that could only be fixed by erasing the agency boundary. For example, there’s no question that the 554 and 522 belong in the DSTT much more than the 255 or 106, but due to the weird cost-sharing agreement, that change isn’t possible. And there’s also branding (which matters more than you might think — it means that equipment isn’t interchangeable, which increases costs). And there’s the fare structure.

        Most of the things in the third category could be fixed if we have the political will. But we don’t, and we never will, because Metro is fundamentally paralyzed by the nature of its charter. That means that *something* needs to change. So why not this?

      • asdf says

        I’ve seen Sound Transit routes run with metro buses and vice-versa several times. So I guess, in spite of branding, the equipment is interchangable.

      • MrZ says

        @asdf In a perfect world it might make sense, however i think the local polticans will not want to do this. King County Council likes to have control over metro, just like the elected represenatives like to have granular control over Pierce Transit. Any savings in merging the agencies will quickly be ate up by the HIGH capital cost of the merger (merging computer systems, radio systems, rebranding equipment and facilties, etc). Most likely what would happen is ST would asorb Metro, and metro would asorb the rest of the agencies. Not to mention with 3 diffrent unions for transit operators to deal with, plus any other support unions there will still be a lot of divisions within the agency. What you’d save in a few execs and admin positions would quickly get ate up elsewhere.

        @aleks The 596 came out of ST subarea reserves; and i read that Sumner and bonney lake were talking to ST LONG before PT abandoned service on the 496.

        @AW ST buses and local buses are more-or-less interchangable within the agency, I.E. PT buses can run on PT ran ST routes, KCM buses can run on KCM Ran ST routes and vice versa, but a KCM ran bus cannot run on a PT ran ST route. CT coaches seem to have all the ST routes programmed into their destination signs, but i dont know how much further that goes.

      • Aleks says

        If you kept the existing agencies for operating purposes, then none of the merging costs you describe would actually have to happen. The service planning and revenue side of things would move over to ST, and that’s it.

        Re the 596, my point is that if it were up to Metro, they would have had to propose the route publicly a year in advance, open it up for public comment, etc. With ST, they just made it happen when it needed to.

        King County effectively gave up control of all the routes that got moved over to ST. I don’t see why they couldn’t be convinced to give up control of the rest, especially if it were on the ballot.

  7. aw says

    As of 6:54pm Sat., PT prop 1 is 823 votes behind. There are about 25,000 ballots to be counted in the county.

    • Bernie says

      That’s drop of 128 votes based on the count of about 6,000 ballots. If the trend of late ballots favoring PT Prop 1 continues this will come down to less that a 200 vote margin out of some 350,000 votes cast. The other trend seems to be an increase in the already large undervote percentage.

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