[April 1st fun's over, back to our regular programming. - Ed.]
Martin recently participated in a forum for employers about Proposition 1, the ballot measure to maintain Metro’s current service levels and fund road maintenance. Towards the end, one attendee asked the panel, “What are the reasons people are giving for voting against this? It seems like a no-brainer.”
That attendee was exactly right. That we should keep bus service hours at least at their current levels is such a blindingly obvious requirement for an economically robust, environmentally clean, and socially just region that it seems tedious to write down the reasons why. However, to summarize: transit is open to people of nearly all incomes and abilities; is better for public health than car use; levies few externalities on others; uses less precious road space per person; and provides a refuge from accident deaths, air and water pollution, and the perils of road users texting while driving. It is critical to the operation of our most economically important neighborhoods and a crucial discriminator for our economy in the global competition for talent.
As Metro’s ridership grows to record numbers along with our region, and cars continue to make less sense, the demand for transit will only increase. Clearly, a cut in the taxes we pay for transit (a No vote allows the $20 tab fee to expire without replacement) is moving King County in the wrong direction. Moreover, Prop. 1 frees King County from the hostage situation where the legislature will not let us save Metro without also approving massive, sprawl-inducing, climate-altering highway expansion.
The arguments against this vote – both sincere and insincere – simply do not stand up to scrutiny.
- Metro has already made significant efforts to reduce its budget hole – including winning concessions from its unions, raising fares three times, cutting low-performing service, and cutting back in places where it shouldn’t, like cleaning bus stops, security, and customer information. In fact, the transit-hostile state legislature was so impressed with their measures that Metro was the only agency to win temporary authority for a $20 license fee to avoid cuts two years ago.
- Although a vehicle license fee and sales tax would not be our first choice, they are the only option for the County; moreover, a low-income license fee rebate and low-income fare will largely blunt the impact on low-income car owners and leave low-income bus riders significantly better off.
- Predictions about the future are hard, and while cuts might not be exactly 17% if Prop 1 fails, they will still be on a large and unacceptable scale.
- A needed restructure of the route network is easier to execute when service is growing — which allows new service patterns to coexist with the old, build their own constituency, and prove their worth — then when cuts force everyone into a defense of what they currently have.
- All of our transportation modes are subsidized, especially when they get into trouble. For starters, the sales tax exemption for gasoline is a huge giveaway to drivers (over $650m per year statewide) paid for by the rest of us. To single out a sustainable form of transportation to pay its own way makes no sense.
Proposition 1 is indeed a no-brainer. The high-level principles are clear, and the tactical arguments against are nonsense. We urge you to vote yes before April 22nd, and to donate your money or time towards passage.
The STB Editorial Board currently consists of Martin H. Duke, Matthew Johnson, and Frank Chiachiere.