Closing Argument

Ballots in King County’s special election must be postmarked by tomorrow, so now is the time to stop procrastinating and Vote Yes.

I suspect there are many voters out there that simply want to have as few of their taxes as possible going to transit. They’d be perfectly happy to not have public buses at all, or a system that only those in the most dire need would set foot on. If that’s your ideology — you simply haven’t bought into the enormous societal benefits of higher transit use — we’re just going to have to agree to disagree. All the squabbling about labor costs and efficiency are secondary to what you really want, so go out and vote your principles.

For the rest of you, any angst you might feel about this vote comes down to the gap between Metro as it is and Metro as you would like it to be, or perhaps the gap between a vehicle license fee with a low-income rebate and a different tax. We’re aware of those gaps; Seattle Transit Blog has probably thought more than any other organization about how to improve Metro dollar-for-dollar. But a voter more interested in good transit service than “sending a message” needs a theory of change: how a no vote will lead to improvement in whatever Metro is not doing well.

Rejection of this tax will not rally the legislature to produce a more progressive taxing source. Deep cuts to transit service are not going to punish the forces that keep our taxes regressive, and in fact will give them a solid argument that even King County voters just don’t care about preserving transit service levels.

Minor efficiencies aren’t worth deep cuts. True, a crisis at Metro might wring some concessions out of the union, but not enough to make up for the cuts, the suffering of the transit dependent, and the numbers of people who will give up on Metro and decide it’s useless for them. It is no way to build a system. The really big restructures over the past half-decade are connected to qualitatively new service — Link and RapidRide — rather than the specter of cuts. A growing system is easier to restructure than a shrinking one.

If you think Metro is a pretty good agency, vote Yes. If you think Metro could improve greatly, stand with the experts on Metro improvement at STB and vote Yes.

Comments

  1. says

    I am worried that this might fail simply because of all the negative energy and false information put out there. It seems that some people just hate transit with such a passion that they will pay through the nose for buses to get canceled (which is kind of backwards).

    If you go to familiesfortransit.com, you will see exactly what I am talking about. They make metro out to be the biggest promise breaker in the history of the world. I don’t recall any of these specific promises being made, but I assume they were made with the assumption of a then-reasonable growing sales tax model. In their revenue graph, they show revenues for metro, with the graph starting at $350,000 and not $0. They also suspiciously start their graph in 2012, when the economic recovery started to ramp up, and conveniently omitted the entire 2007-2011 period, where all the decline happened.

    And how the fricking hell did the statement in opposition get put on the voters’ guide in its current form? What kind of screening process is there for these? Is there any?

    If this proposition fails because of this, I hope that these people spend 4 hours in traffic every morning.

    • Mark Dublin says

      Ever think that many of the people financing this couldn’t find King County on a map if it was highlighted in chartreuse? Or personally don’t mind even their own traffic because their helicopter makes it irrelevant?

      Remember also that it’s a classic psych warfare tactic from the days when the Constitution gave everybody the right to keep and bear clubs and rocks: make your opponents believe they’re already licked.

      So counter-tactic is to ignore what opponents are throwing at you, or just duck if it’s rocks instead of TV lies, and put up the best fight you can. Advantage of living in modern times in this country instead of Syria is that if you lose one campaign, you’re still alive to redo your game plan and hit them again next year.

      By then, traffic will be so bad they can’t even get to the building with their chopper parked on the roof.

      Mark

  2. Stephen says

    Unfortunately, based on the anecdotal conversations I’ve had with my friends/co-workers, I don’t think this is going to pass. Not a single person I’ve talked to said they would vote Yes. Most arguments against it are pretty simple: “it will cost money”, and either “I don’t ride the bus”, or, “my route isn’t getting cut”. Although one person did mention that other county’s transit agencies have seen similar cuts and the sky hasn’t fallen there either.

    Wether justified or not, I think there’s too much “transit tax fatigue” around here. I think we’ve gone to the ballot one too many times :(

      • Stephen says

        Unfortunately (actually – no it is fortunate) , metro isn’t suggesting eliminating Sunday service to that’s not a convincing argument here :/

    • KyleK says

      My anecdotal experience is the opposite of this, but I live in Seattle and recognize that there are people in parts of King County that will pull this to a very close vote.

      Your anecdotal folks were probably never going to vote for Metro if those are their arguments, it has nothing to do with fatigue. Anyone who is enough of a jackass to say “My bus isnt being cut, and therefore I should vote no” isnt holding an opinion that really tracks.

      Also — correct, the sky didnt fall in Peirce or Snoho — its just way harder to ride the bus there. Most people in King County don’t want that outcome.

    • Mark Dublin says

      Would somebody check my math, and if it’s right put the whole campaign budget into an ad campaign saying this:

      $40 a year = 77 cents a week= 11 cents a day.

      If Prop 1 loses, start next campaign with TV and bumper stickers- assuming anybody can see a bumper stuck that close in traffic- with nothing on it but that.

      Worst tactical mistake of this campaign was not to put this out there before saying anything else. Hope Prop 1 wins anyhow. At least the math will show that voting against had nothing to do with money.

      Mark Dublin

      • Sam says

        You are both right and wrong. In one sense, voting against has everything to do with money, because all of the vote no yard signs I’ve seen say Vote No on $60 Car Tabs. In another sense, it has nothing to do with money, because if, for example, I already mooch off of you, and I then ask you if I can stick my hand in your pocket and take out even more money, but you object, so then I explain if you break down how much I’ll be taking, it’s only pennies a day, you really aren’t objecting to the money, you are objecting on principle.

      • Mike Orr says

        So all bus riders are moochers, and transit has no benefit to the county as a whole. And if you ride it only occasionally, you don’t benefit from the other times it visits your stop, even though that’s what makes it available to use. Sounds like you’re in Martin’s first category.

      • Mike Orr says

        I thought you were describing your own view. If you were just talking theoretically about what other people might be thinking, then my statement applies to those hypothetical people. The attitude you described seems to be exactly the same as that in the article’s second paragraph, so the same conclusion would apply.

  3. Craig says

    Anecdotal evidence for me has been in the opposite direction. I know 3 of my neighbors in Maple Valley who are voting yes and 8 folks in at my accounting job who are voting yes.

    It will be close but it can pass! 3 editorials against Metro not withstanding. Vote yes and take heart transit supporters! You may wake up happy on April 23.

    • William C. says

      How would you respond to the post’s argument that a “no” vote should require a coherent theory of how this failing would lead to positive change?

    • Mark Dublin says

      With all the electronic surveillance now, I’d be scared to death to be on record having my name down as having voted the same way you did. Also, this way there’ll be no way anybody else can be blamed from too many votes your way.

      Heartfelt thanks, John!

      Mark

    • Alex Francis Burchard says

      So you just voted to disconnect your regional hubs model. Because you realize that Voting no will leave the downtown centric service, while eliminating much of the suburban hub – to – suburban hub service. Given your views on things, why would you vote no?

      • Brent says

        Actually, South King cuts are aimed primarily at seating capacity on peak-direction-only routes. The 152, 158, 159, 161, 178, 179, 190, and 192 downtown expresses are all on the chopping block, as are the 154 and 173 Boeing expresses, and the 167 UW Express. Two DART routes and two other local routes round out the South King County cut list. The 110 goes away in June, replaced by the F Line. The 139 is merely the local portion of the 123, looping the other direction, and the 123 isn’t being down-sized. But the 121 and 122 runs are being cut nearly in half.

        If you commute downtown from South King County, get used to standing a lot (or taking Sounder or Link, and hoping there are seats still available on Link that far south).

    • Mike Orr says

      I don’t support deleting routes in areas that voted no (except in the sense of possibly shrinking Metro’s service area), but looking at it from the other end, would you be willing to let the buses in your area be deleted first since you voted No?

  4. Brent says

    Arguing with No voters is a waste of time. Find the Yes voters. Talk to them and make sure they have voted. You know where they are. This is 60% a transit measure after all…

    Go round up those Yes votes, folks!

    • Jason Barbour says

      Don’t forget the undecided voters and those that “got something in the mail a few weeks ago but haven’t opened it.” Reaching them could make the difference.

  5. Jason Barbour says

    I wish everyone the best of luck tomorrow night.

    If I can provide one last piece of outsider perspective, remember that you’re voting to support transit in the county that’s home to some of the most successful companies in the world, and one of the most admired cities in the US (I’m not being facetious). And Metro makes it easy to visit the area once one has the hang of it.

    One other thing: when TriMet cut Frequent Service in 2009 (while ridership was increasing), there was no public vote, even though members of the public wanted one. Shortly after service became unreliable with late buses, pass-ups, missed transfers, routes eliminated entirely, and discovery that executive salaries and bonuses were increased even while service was slashed and operator salaries and benefits were cut, riders went away and never returned (even now that a portion of Frequent Service has been restored). Today, some TriMet routes are still served by mobile Flxible Metro museums. The final 2013 APTA Public Transportation Ridership Report indicates that TriMet ridership has fallen further, while King Co. Metro ridership has increased. Don’t let TriMet horrors happen to you, vote yes on King Co. Prop. 1.

  6. Lisa says

    I’ll offer bicycle trip-planning services to any readers of this blog if the No vote passes. I know I’m going to be riding mine a lot more.

  7. Cinesea says

    How can we ensure that our increased taxes will go to current/increased services? I don’t want to pay an additional $40 for car tabs and extra for each (rare) time I go out to eat and then find out that all that money went for raises and not actual service.

    • djw says

      This is a strange worry. What in Metro’s past behavior motivates it? What I’ve seen for the last five years is an agency willing to take drastic steps–including eliminating various administrative positions and postponing raises, as well as draining the rainy day fund and postponing maintenance and capitol investments–in order to avoid major service reductions. Big, bureaucratic organizations are notoriously difficult to change quickly, for better or for worse (in this case, better). The odds of a radical shift in priorities–particularly one that would devastatingly and severely damage their reputation with the public for a generation or more–is exceedingly unlikely.

      • Cinesea says

        My worry is that I work hard for my money and that Metro is a government operation. I don’t want my money squandered on raises when buses are falling apart and services being reduced. I think if Metro were to have gone out and said, very publicly, that for the next 5 years all managers will not get raises and that all revenues from these taxes will go towards service, then they would’ve made a stronger case for voting YES. Whatever changes management has made over the last year or so should’ve been screamed loudly to voters so they could see that their concerns about the revenues would be taken seriously.

      • Kelly says

        @Cinesea: Part of the problem is… if you vote no, it will slow down the replacement of buses. Kevin Desmond (for good or for bad) has raided the bus replacement fun to keep service on the road. Part of his reasoning is that if you don’t have as much service, you don’t need as many new buses if you lack the drivers to operate them.

        The problem is they have been screaming loudly for the last few years to get additional funding… The state (who is supposed to step in to get us the funding) hasn’t. I know this sucks, and I’d love to say that they will ride in like a white knight and save us… But I honestly don’t think it will happen. And voting it down will tell the state that transit isn’t that important.

      • Cinesea says

        Kelly,

        I understand what you’re saying and I think nearly everyone on this blog understands. But what I’m saying is like when teachers go out on strike and the public opinion is in favor of the school districts because the teachers themselves get bogged down into too many specifics. Teachers, and in turn, Transit, need to find a way to get undecideds and even a few NO voters into their corner. When it becomes only about the money, of course the majority of people will say “no way, I already give them enough money.” Transit needs to find a simple message that is as easy(or lazy?) as that one to digest. The head of Metro needs to be on the news every day talking about people who will be screwed over by transit cuts–put a good face on the news that will make people pay attention. Have someone from Microsoft or Amazon get interviewed about how recruits from other countries expect to take public transportation when they get here because that is how they moved around in their home countries. Or, have the tourist agencies of the area talk about how foreigners come here and expect a city like Seattle to have easy public transportation. Someone coming from Seoul is most likely going to downtown Seattle, not Kent, so highlight how awesome it is that LINK goes directly to downtown with no trouble(most people don’t differentiate between Metro and Sound Transit). Have someone from UW on the news about the thousands of students who depend on Metro who will get screwed with transit cuts. Someone from this blog should’ve been on KOMO news to talk about all this.

      • John Slyfield says

        Passing this will ensure that we will be able to replace buses that need replacing and depending on the economy either sustain current service or possibly expand service Otherwise we will stop getting new buses to replace the ones that are wearing out so we can save some money but still fave significant cuts.

  8. Norah says

    Does any other large city in this country have this kind of problem, where we have to constantly fight to keep the bus service we have, and where there are so many people with so many different reasons why they don’t want to vote to keep up the service? Is there any place in this county where transit is thought of as an essential service instead of something it’d be nice to have but if it’s going to cost so much maybe we shouldn’t have so much of it, like we seem to have here???

    • Alex Francis Burchard says

      I dunno. Chicago went through some huge service cuts recently (2010 IIRC) (due to recession). And Chicago has been deferring maintenance for like a century. (which is why our trains take twice as long as they should to get around).

    • Mike Orr says

      But still, nobody talks about shutting down the El or the NYC subway, and whenever they’ve been close to doing so the state realizes it’s vital and puts in money to keep it running. That basically only happens on northeastern cities with a large pre-WWII transit infrastructure, because they realize that millions of people not being able to get around or having to newly drive is untenable. But in cities like ours where it’s only tens or hundreds of thousands of people, they’re less visible and you hear more of “Most people drive, so if you cut down buses it won’t matter much anyway.”

  9. Al S. says

    There are things to be learned from every vote. This proposal seems rushed. It makes everyone pay the same $60 regardless if it’s a Prius or a Dodge Ram gas-guzzler and there is no upfront explanation why this is necessary. There is no discussion of financial accountability or oversight in most of the materials that I see. The primary argument that I see is an “avert the crisis” strategy, which can work occasionally — but many voters roll their eyes when they see it too often. It will be interesting to see if the campaign was strategic in winning over voters but the campaign hasn’t effectively inspired me.

    • Kelly says

      It is rushed. Mostly because Metro has been talking to the state for 2 years trying to get permanent funding taken care of… But no deal is coming down the way, and we are trying to prevent the damage before the cuts come in the fall.

    • djw says

      It makes everyone pay the same $60 regardless if it’s a Prius or a Dodge Ram gas-guzzler and there is no upfront explanation why this is necessary.

      This is completely false. Advocates of prop 1 have repeatedly explained why it’s necessary: the state won’t let us impose a better or fairer tax. It’s incredible simple, straightforward, easy to understand explanation that has the extra benefit of being completely 100% true.

      • Al S. says

        That’s my point, djw. You had to explain it. The literature doesn’t make it front and center. It’s all about “preserve”.

        Keep in mind that 25 to 35 percent of King County voters didn’t live in King County in 2000. The net population has grown around 18% since 2000 — on top of normal migration in and out. This large voting block doesn’t understand these legal restrictions unless they are not only explained in the details, but reiterated as a major point.

        Another point is that a decent chunk of this money is going for local streets and roads. Even the plea here doesn’t discuss that part. That point, if made more pronounced, could sway some undecided voters.

      • Al S. says

        Also, it doesn’t look good when advocates say “we wanted a better or fairer tax” because then the voters just read this as saying “$60 car tabs are not better or fair”. It’s all in the phrasing.

      • eric says

        > : the state won’t let us impose a better or fairer tax

        I’m tired of this excuse. We tried to send an excise tax to Olympia last year for King County. Somehow it ballooned into a $10B transportation package with a gas tax and road improvements for Eastern WA. Too many cooks got their grubby hands in the kitchen. No wonder it failed.

        If anything, we aren’t holding the state responsible for proposing and passing simple, appropriate legislation that lets counties govern as they need.

        If Prop 1 fails, start calling your representatives and asking why they failed *you*. Tell them you’ll vote them out if they won’t allow counties the authority to best govern themselves.

      • William Aitken says

        @eric. This is flat out unfair. The vast majority of the 10B package was not going to Eastern Washington. There were at least three Puget Sound mega projects that ate up over half of the pie.

        It’s worth remembering also, that there was very little bickering over the spending side of that bill; almost all of the bickering was about how much of that was going to be financed with new taxes, and how much was going to be paid for by making sure that highway money actually got spent on highways.

        There’s much that wasn’t great about the package, but let’s not pretend that it was scuttled by an overspending on roads in Eastern Washington.

  10. Craig D. Eakins says

    Al this has been discussed for over 5 years! Where have you been!? If anything it has been well thought out and this is a chance to preserve servece. Metro has been in place as a public transit agency for 40 years.

    It has been supported by generations of riders, legislators, and voters. Now is not the time to cut serivce and the no voters will never be satisfied until the service is gone. They don’t like the public sector nor do they want to pay for it. Yes on prop 1!

    • Glenn in Portland says

      5 years? Actually more like 14 years or so. The MVET became illegal in Washington in 1999, so everyone has to pay the same auto registration fee. Otherwise, those driving $250,000 motor homes would have an undue financial burden placed on them, or some such.

    • CharlotteRoyal says

      I drive a pickup, and I also own a motorcycle. I voted NO . The tabs for my motorcycle are $111!! …my truck’s tabs were less than $10 more! While looking at the breakdown, it appeared that at least $68 went to transit.

      I find it obscene that my tabs keep increasing, as salaries keep climbing skyward. Many of us have had our wages crash, decrease moderately or stagnate while other costs (I.e. rent) increase. Regardless of it being $0.11/day, I’m perturbed by the rationalization of a $600 tax on each vehicle. I’m tired of the people crying wolf. Time to vote NO.

    • Al S. says

      I’m sorry Craig, but if this was about service preservation, the car tabs would go to maybe $25 but not $60. This is where the problem comes in when trying to sell the proposal to undecided voters. In the back of their minds they hear that $20 goes to $60 but this is to “preserve” service. It just doesn’t meat a logic test, and some explanation is what the campaign should have directly addressed.

      Now I know that some of this is supposed to go to local streets and roads, but no one is focusing about this being a comprehensive funding referendum. All the campaign seems to be doing is talking about transit preservation. I see lots of signs to “save Matro” but no discussion of the streets and roads part.

      Frankly, I think the referendum would have been more successful had the pots been voted separately, as in two separate ballot measures (say $30 for transit and $30 for local streets and roads). With one big amount, it just freaks out many voters.

      • Bernie says

        I agree. It’s just too big of an ask. Besides the issue of part going to roads not much is being publicized about the increase in the Sales Tax. And it bumps it above the magic 10% threshold. Is the roads portion the “back door” that allows more than the State mandated 1.9% maximum for Metro? I think just asking for an extension of the $20 “temporary” tab fee would have had a better chance and yes let the roads fend for themselves. I think the reason the YES side doesn’t say much about the roads portion is that’s not going to do squat to get out the base Seattle transit supporter in which their fate lies.

  11. A Coward says

    “Rejection of this tax will not rally the legislature to produce a more progressive taxing source.”

    OK, sure, I’ll buy that. But I don’t understand how passing this tax will rally the legislature to both repeal this taxing source and produce a more progressive one?

    • William C. says

      The legislature won’t be needed to repeal this taxing source; the county can repeal it when/if the legislature substitutes something better. As for what they will do… well, passing this will demonstrate King County’s commitment to transit, which might help.

      • CharlotteRoyal says

        “The county can repeal it when/if the legislature substitutes something better.”

        I’ll believe that when I see it. We are voting to make a new “temporary” tax after the expiration of another “temporary” tax. Reminds me of voting for the 2/3 vote for tax increases every couple of years.

      • Kelly says

        @CharlotteRoyal: Then you should be voting yes, as this is replacing the existing $20 car tab tax which is expiring this summer.

  12. josh says

    what a bunch of bs, people don’t resist the tax increase out of some strange ideology, they do because every single thing the public sector around here does is an utter failure, of course people don’t want to give them more money before they get their act together

      • josh says

        it’s only been in the making for what 20 years? And we have half a line of train… 7 years for 1 station on the hill. Till 2024 till they reach Ballard and Lynnwood. No plans for them to reach Queen Anne ever?? You’re trying to tell me they’re doing a good job? LOL, so stupid

      • William C. says

        If you count that as an utter failure, then you need to extend “here” to be all the United States. And in that case… well, that battle needs to be fought on a much larger front than King County, which is an innocent victim of federal overregulation.

      • Cinesea says

        William C., no matter how much we say “ahead of schedule and under budget”, a large segment of the voters remember back in 1996 in which Sound Transit promised, PROMISED, a certain amount of rail by now and failed. No matter how much we say “recession” all they are going to remember is ‘broken promise’ and now transit wants more money. Transit supporters need to find a way to cut through the crap and find a message that will change minds instead of this piecemeal approach that keeps happening every two years or so. I’m as pro-transit as anyone else, I’m just trying to tell everyone what a lot of my friends and co-workers say whenever public transit needs more money. The argument that cutting bus service will put 30,000 more cars on the road and increase traffic, all they say is, “Traffic already sucks with buses, so a little more ain’t gonna change anything.” No matter what the facts are that we have on our side, all they see is “you want more money and it doesn’t solve anything to begin with.” What we need to get are the hordes of people taking LINK to Seahawks, Sounders and Mariners games to tell their friends how great it is. (Again, most people don’t know the difference between Metro and Sound Transit. It is all the same to them.) We don’t need the Seattle Times editorial to mention a white-collar lawyer taking the bus, we need people who depend on the bus to step up and say how great it is that they have the bus to get to work.

      • Mike Orr says

        Cinesa: the overoptimistic projections and unknown risks were dealt with when Sound Transit was reorganized, fixed its budget, and revised its projections to what is widely considered conservative. The new projections, budget, and board were confirmed by voters in 2008. So those 1996 projections are OBSOLETE now.

    • Mike Orr says

      I rode a bus to work today. Last weekend I took the bus shopping and to the library. It came every time it was supposed to. The library was open and well organized, the books were where they should be, and my account didn’t have any mistakes. So these were not “utter failures”.

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