The balls in their court
The ball's in their court

[UPDATE 8:22 PM: Arrgh!  Reading Comprehension!  In my haste to get this out, I misread Erica’s post.  Revisions below in italics.]

Erica C. Barnett reports that King County’s Regional Transit Committee is likely to vote voted to recommend that service reductions be treated as cuts rather than suspensions.  Unfortunately, minutes and video of Wednesday’s meeting are not yet available.

Service reductions will likely be apportioned according to existing service levels, hitting the West subarea (Seattle, Shoreline) the hardest.  As we reported several months ago, if these are considered permanent cuts, service restoration will be in accordance with 40/40/20, meaning that Metro must add back about three times more aggregate service than it cut to achieve the same service level in the West subarea.  That would be a permanent relative shift of resources to the suburbs.

The balance of suburban to Seattle representatives on the RTC is 10 to 2, with Dow Constantine representing both City, suburban, and incorporated precincts.  Constantine has come out in favor of the suspension concept.

The RTC’s vote is merely an advisory to the King County Council, which has a less pronounced Suburban majority.  The expected RTC result would will serve as useful cover for suburban councilmembers seeking to vote the narrow interests of their districts.

On a somewhat related note, Goldy argues that regional governance and agency consolidation aren’t such hot ideas if elected officials aren’t going to consider regionwide interests.

27 Replies to “Regional Transit Committee: Cuts, Not Suspensions”

  1. Martin,

    I think it’s likely that the RTC may vote for cuts as opposed to suspensions but Barnett’s Publicola piece doesn’t say the RTC has already voted.

    She says “representatives of the suburban cities expressed support for designating the cuts as permanent” and says what would happen “if the RTC votes in favor of making the cuts permanent”.

    – Rob

    1. Thanks Rob,

      I fixed it. Tried to get this up on the site for today before I headed off to the baseball game. D’oh.

  2. They’ll save so much money by not running buses in Seattle! Nobody rides buses here, anyway. We all drive.

    The RTC understands this, so they’re making sure they only cut service in the city where nobody rides and keeping it in the suburbs where so many folks ride!

    … wait, that doesn’t sound right.

  3. The state legislature and suburban King County sure seem to have a “fuck Seattle” attitude. Wish we could just take our tax money and spend it at home. Methinks they need us more than we need them.

    1. Sometimes I dream that Seattle, Portland and San Francisco will all secede from their respective states and form one liberal urban-paradise state.

      1. Portland has it pretty good in their state. Their legislature actually gives transit money, rather than trying to steal it for roads.

    2. I think it’s dangerous to assume that Seattle subsidizes the rest of the County. The web of government subsidy, in total, is incredibly difficult to untangle. In general, it’s generally safest to assume that the rich subsidize the rest. Given the money on the Eastside and the (relatively) low incomes in South County, I’m not sure how that pencils out.

      And anyway, a bunch of rich people saying they should “secede” from the poor people should sound as distasteful as it is.

  4. If this goes thru, Seattle better darn well get most of the ARTIC coaches since most of the trips will be overloaded most of the day. Suburbs can have the 40 footers, since not as many trips will be cut.

  5. Don’t flog me please, but as a Shoreline resident who relies on the 348, the notion of cuts vs. suspensions with the former being favoured is absolutely worrisome. Yes, I do understand the financial kerfluffle that Metro is in-but if you take a look at the 5 local/feeder routes up here (I don’t count the 358-it’s 331, 345, 346, 347, 348 which I will refer to as NEL’s, or North End Local), they are routes that for many (ie, me) are lifelines, and they serve important destinations-Shoreline CC, Northgate, Aurora Village, and so forth. There is no duplication, with the exception of the last few miles of the 347/348 and the 345/346. It’s like a domino effect.

    Don’t even get me started on 40/40/20. I honestly feel that we Shoreline residents are getting the short end of the stick just for our geographic location, even though bus ridership is very strong up here and people WANT to take the busses-there are a lot of people who could drive, but they would rather take the bus-cut too much North service and you’re going to have less ridership on the busses, meaning even more justification for them to cut service even further back, which would, pardon my language, screw people like myself, who cannot drive.


  6. Scary stuff. Martin, could you (or someone) direct us to contact information for RTC members so we can do some 11th-hour citizen lobbying?

  7. I used to live at 145th and Aurora. I used to ride the 358 every day! Before that the 28 and 15… North Seattle us already a standing-room-only transit nightmare… How many 358s just skip stops because they are full? Lots. All of this is just another annoying typical BS situation hurting thousands of people just so some… privileged others… can afford another Range Rover and ski cabin for their kid without paying a little more sales tax. We need these systems to improve and grow and help naturally integrate a better way of doing things. Cuts are 100% backward for our economy and our people.

    This is critical human infrastructure. Suspensions are not even acceptable. Anything less than moving forward full speed with public transit is a poke in the eye with a sharp stick to people, business, and the environment.

    As usual local politics is embarassing and shows a complete lack of human-centered thinking. Every now and then something cool happens like Link but otherwise it’s business as usual… Especially the “environmentalists” are out in their cars driving around complaining about Nickels and sales tax.

    Oh I could just go on… Need to stick to one coherent argument. :)

    1. The revenue shortfall isn’t a local issue, except to extent that policies cause Metro to spend money inefficiently. The failure to raise more tax revenue is strictly a state problem, because they’re too afraid of Tim Eyman to raise the MVET and want to preserve new taxing authority to pay for roads.

  8. But when the political compromises necessary to facilitate “regional governance” result in rigid, sub-area allocations like Metro’s 40/40/20 rule, or Sound Transit’s subarea equity provisions, it can’t help but hamper the ability of Seattle taxpayers to provide themselves the level of service they want and need.

    One of the few times I almost agree with Goldy. I think it’s clear that even with someone like Triplett or Constantine trying to take a reasonable county wide view; the rules, regulations and political power structure doom KC Metro as an efficient agency. Seattle should go back to running it’s own bus system. Other cities would then have to contract with Seattle since no other city in King County has a large enough transit base to go it alone. It would be to Seattle’s best interests to structure these contracts fairly and efficiently since a large portion of it’s jobs are filled by people living in the ‘burbs and it would be the ‘burbs best interest at a local level to fund plans that make sense. The big loser would be unincorporated King County which would drive more annexation which the County is pushing for already since it helps everything from roads to parks work better. “Rural” King County by a vast majority doesn’t want an extensive transit system or “city” parks and will be just fine with lower taxes and limited sprawl (assuming the County has the backbone to impose the developer fees and enforce the GMA).

    The part I don’t understand is Goldy’s opposition to sub-area equity. That assures that Seattle and every other area isn’t footing the bill for somewhere else. I think it’s a big part of why the funding measures pass. ST is the regional transportation agency. KC Metro doesn’t need to be. Although to some extent ST would have to shift focus from being a infrastructure builder to a planner and provider for today’s transportation demand.

    1. I don’t think the city should run a bus agency. You say that outlier cities will have little choice but to contract with Seattle so they get bus service into the city. However, the easier choice is to not contract with another city’s bus system and pressure the state to expand roads. Further, many local trips happen with the suburban bus network.

      However, that doesn’t mean suburban representatives cannot be regionally interested. Making these cuts permanent seems to be without a logical basis that I can find. It feels petty.

      I think some of the dismay with sub-area equity is the thought that we could fund much more Seattle rail if we didn’t have to use that money for the other sub-areas. I don’t think that’s the right idea — suburbs wouldn’t vote for just Seattle light rail lines. I think where we are at now, though, sub-area equity absolutely favors Seattle. With a spine like the one we’re building now, it would be too tempting to only expanding suburban lines in the next vote. Sub-area equity will force the construction of more light rail in the city.

      1. Cities don’t get much love from the State asking for money for city streets. Even when they are collector distributors like Mercer. Cities like Bellevue have been on their own road building binge for years. If the City Council had to responsibly budget for transit rather than politically lobby Metro for “free money” the result might be a bit more balanced and the road infrastructure might be more of a “complete streets” approach.

        Cities like Bellevue, Redmond, Kirkland, Renton, Tukwila all have a good sales tax base earmarked for transit. If what you take in is what you have to spend I think there’d be a much more efficient system implemented. Now, cities like North Bend, Black Diamond and such are going to have a tough go of it. They’d like have to rely on route extentions of service that picked up the bulk of the ridership from places like Issaquah/Sammamish and Auburn/Kent. No doubt these low ridership areas, especially unincorporated King County would see a loss of service. But if you’re arguing against 40/40/20 that’s really what you’re asking for; coverage matched to demand rather than out of proportion subsidy.

        I’m not clear what you’re saying about ST and sub-area equity. I agree that it favors the ability of the North sub-area to build light rail. Really, Seattle is the only density that warrants this level of capitol expense. All the other cities in the ST area are barely able to meet the 3k per square mile density that’s even capable of supporting bus service. Rail to these areas really has to be looked at as commuter service like Sounder moving large numbers over long distance quickly.

  9. Is it time to start thinking the unthinkable: that is, undoing Metro Transit? Now that SoundTransit exists for long haul services, does it not make sense to let it take over the King County suburban services and let Seattle fund its own routes? There is a fundamental conflict of interest between a successful inner-city which wants to promote intelligent density and a suburban-dominated county that loves sprawl up and over Snoqualmie Pass.

    So far as I can see, the only services that would have to remediated within the city are Aurora (the #6 would have to come back, hopefully without the jog down Stoneway), the 106 that passes through Rainier Beach and White Center/South Park “through routings” to Burien and Des Moines. The 355 would go back to all day operation to serve trips to Shoreline CC.

    Then, since Seattle built and paid for the DTT, charge SoundTransit a nice fee per bus and Link train passing through to help subsidize in city service.

    I do recognize this is radical and certain people will sneer. But Seattle has fundamentally different goals and needs from the county, and should have the flexibility to pursue them.

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