I would say that Martin described yesterday is not a full and comfortable solution to the funding gap that could force Metro to cut 20% of its bus service. Given the constraints of the situation, Martin’s ideas are strong and well-rounded — but those constraints must be changed by Olympia.
In addition to steep fare hikes (up to $1.25 over the last few years) and a stronger reliance inconvenient transfers, much of Metro’s less popular service would to be severely curtailed. And though these routes aren’t popular, people do depend on them. Additional savings would have to be found by cutting night and weekend service across the region. This would necessarily include even busier routes that operate in Seattle. And finally, we’d see cuts even in good, solid routes that perform well. We would all be affected, even with the smart mitigation that Martin proposes.
So yesterday’s post isn’t this blog outlining a rosy scenario for making the appropriate cuts. We are saying that with a 20% reduction of service, you run out of “appropriate” cuts very quickly and begin to harm the core service that Metro provides. We are saying that cuts would be dramatic and a disaster for the progress that this region has made over the last decade.
And the combination of the above options is not a solution to Metro’s funding gap, it’s a doomsday scenario that will turn many back toward automobile dependence and leave many unable to get to work. That isn’t just bad for congestion. It’s bad for our economy, ruinous for our environment, and a setback for our walkable, livable urban landscape.
This doomsday scenario is something Metro may be forced to do. But it shouldn’t have to.
Legislators in Olympia need to give Metro taxing authority to solve this problem, and local politicians need to use the appropriate tools to put the pressure on. From Rep. Eddy to County Councilmen Constantine and Phillips to Mayor Nickels: You have a responsibility to ensure that Metro doesn’t have to make these drastic cuts. Our region, our county, and our cities depend on you.
So news like this is not encouraging:
King County lobbyist Chuck Williams said one proposal for financing more buses, a 1 percent motor-vehicle excise tax, has gotten the cold shoulder so far from legislative leaders, who told him the idea “is dead on arrival.”
Another measure that would have expanded annual vehicle-license fees also failed to get enough support, as did a bill that would have allowed use of property taxes to help support buses. Another bill, SB5433, is still alive and would allow the county to use up to 0.3 percent sales tax for bus service. It passed the Senate and will be heard by the House Finance Committee Friday. “That’s our last shot,” Williams said.