People gather to enter the King County Courthouse.
People gather to enter the King County Courthouse. Photo by Oran.

Hundreds of people volunteered their time last night to sign in or testify to the King County Council in Seattle, most of them in support of the Congestion Reduction Charge (CRC). The CRC is a two-year, $20 annual fee on car tab renewal and would prevent a 17% reduction in bus service that would fully cut many routes.

The Transportation, Economy and Environment Committee hearing may have had the attention of Seattle residents, but two committee members, Pete von Reichbauer and Jane Hague, were notably absent from last night’s meeting.

Inside the council chambers.
Inside the council chambers.

The line to testify took over a full block of downtown and looped around the King County Courthouse. County officials said that this was probably the biggest public comment in King County history. Nearly everyone spoke in favor of approving keeping current bus service, but a non-trivial contingent argued that instead of charging car owners a flat fee with the CRC, we should tax the rich and businesses. Ultimately, King County has no revenue authority from the state beyond the car tab fee to fund bus service, despite incorrect claims made by some who gave testimony.

I gave my own testimony around 9:45 pm after joining the line of people near 6 pm. I argued that a CRC measure sent to voters would enter a crowded ballot, cost progressive groups hundreds of thousands of dollars to campaign for, and needlessly put Metro’s future at risk. I urged the council to adopt the CRC by a 6-vote supermajority.

If you weren’t able to make it last night, please consider attending the next meeting in Burien or writing to the council. On July 25th, the council plans to ultimately decide whether to adopt the CRC by a supermajority, send the CRC to voters with 5 council votes, or cut bus service.

92 Replies to “Hundreds Turn Out to Back CRC”

  1. This here is my car. I don’t use it much. So the proposal is to charge me another $20? Sounds kind of steep at first blush, since my tags are like 60 bucks for my 1997 Rustbucket. I’m poor and all, and don’t have the best bus service where I live, though it’s certainly improved since the 1996 Eyman Transit Murder Referendum.

    Except that part of the reason I don’t use my car much is that I can take the bus to the supermarket. Or I can get home at 2:30 in the morning on the bus. Or I don’t have to take my car somewhere and pay to park it…downtown, parking is pretty steep and demand going up isn’t going to lead to cheaper parking. I can go to the movies out in Woodinville or downtown on the bus. Rather than dealing with the unpleasant drive to school, I can sit back on the bus and do work rather than sit in traffic. If the traffic gets worse, the loss of efficiency to my car is worth a lot more than $20; mid-size cars with four-cylinder engines get much worse mileage in stop-and-go traffic, and if I have to drive, well, you know how this works out. Oh yeah, and because I’m disabled, some days driving just isn’t happening (and some days the bus just isn’t happening) so preserving both methods as viable makes a critical difference for me.

    It’s 20 bucks. Most of the people kvetching are not actually those of us who are primarily transit users or transit-dependent but instead people who blow that much on coffee in a week. (Most of Jane Hague’s district?) It’s not going to break the bank, and putting it on the ballot along with Seattle’s less-well-advised $80 hit that’s also on the ballot is probably going to lead to them being conflated to a “$100 hike.” This could go poorly for obvious reasons.

    We elect people to the County Council to lead and show responsible use of government resources and funding. We’re asking our leaders to indeed lead and do the responsible thing to close a budget shortfall; they have hiked a number of other taxes and fees consistently, so why is transit suddenly a sticking point? Our leaders need to be fiscally responsible (and hey I won’t mind if they write in that the 42 bus must go, as that’d be fiscally responsible, too) and make the mature decision to use the resources at hand to preserve transit service, not just for those of us who use transit, but also for those who solely drive, for their commute will only get worse, too.

    I make ends meet on less than 20k a year. I can afford this, as it’s much better than a future with fewer buses and even less service. It’s time for the King County Council to step up and work for us all.

    1. Amen and well stated! $20 is less than it costs to park your car sometimes! Less than $1.67/week. The Council needs to earn its keep and make this EASY decision for the future of our county.

      Sign the petition and pass it on & I’ll see you in Burien!

      1. $20 is less than one tank of gas for most cars. The benefit of keeping other cars off the road. There are debates about how much increasing transit service leads to a proportional increase in ridership. But if routes are eliminated completely, people WILL buy cars and drive because walking ten miles to work isn’t an option.

      2. @gwen Completely agree!

        @Mike $20 dollars won’t even fill up my VW Jetta half way.

    2. “(Most of Jane Hague’s district?)”

      Let the Bellevue bashing commence. Um… Starbucks is based in Seattle and Seattle has a FAR better selection of places to blow $20 a week on coffee than does Jane’s district.

      I know I’ve been guilty of this in the past. I live and ride my bike amongst the stereotypical Bellevuite you refer to, so I get it. But lets stop painting this as an us vs. them kind of situation, Ok? Doing that will just irritate coffee drinkers over here and make them say “to hell with Seattle”.

      1. +1 to Velo.

        I really don’t like walking around Bellevue downtown. The streets are too wide, and there are too many cars, and the buildings/stores feel very artificial and soulless to me. But I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that DT Bellevue is pursuing exactly the kind of mixed-use development strategy that I’ve been wanting Seattle to do since I arrived.

        Bellevue is an important part of the region’s economy, and there are parts of Bellevue that are underserved by transit, just as much as there are parts of Seattle that are overserved (e.g. the 25 corridor). Don’t let Kemper Freeman and his high-end malls taint your view of the whole place.

      2. I spent too many formative years there, I think. Mea culpa, it’s familiarity breeding dislike, and the current development is rather dependent on either real transit (ie not cutting the heck out of Metro) or building acres of parking (which Bellevue is beginning to wean itself away from.)

  2. My daughter and I were in the line for a while and then gave up. It was fun to see the excitement, watch strangers engaged in conversations about what buses are important to them, and even see an occasional Metro driver honk as they drove by. The diversity of people in the lines was also amazing. I was impressed.

  3. I went last night, and, after getting through security, got shuffled up to an ‘overflow room’, with a small TV showing the proceedings. After an excellent presentation by a Metro rep, outlining the reason for and nature of the imminent cuts, they started taking public testimony, starting at 2 minutes, then scaling down to 1.
    The majority of arguments were ones of social-equity and for the elderly and disabled. A strong contingent of folks were in the “why are we being given this false choice”, but nobody actually advocated cutting Metro.
    I, and one other person, identified ourselves as riders who would be drivers, if our bus experience got less pleasant (I live in Wallingford, but work in Kirkland). I also made a point about public safety: the safest place on the road to be is in a bus, especially if you’re a teen or elderly. I tried to make another point, which is that having late-night public transit reduces DUIs, but it my attempt to keep things brief, I may have implied that I planned to drive drunk if they cut the 16…

    1. Jeff, your message was not muddled. I was there to hear it. I was surprised that no one had yet called attention to this issue. Drinking and driving is almost a hobby in the Seattle/ King county area. When I used to drive the nightowls, one distinction stood out. A rush hour of drunk drivers flows out of Seattle on all freeways. People come in from Suburbs to Seattle to enjoy Seattle’s lively nightlife. The multitude of returning drunk drivers is so large, that many state troopers only have the chance to pick out the most obvious and blatantly dangerous. In stark contrast, most Seattle streets are silent. Seattleites, thus far, have had a guaranteed designated driver. And don’t forget the mass of nightlife workers that use those same nightowls to commute home.
      Those testifying largely underrepresented the safety factor. There will be an increase in accidents due to service cuts. Not only will drinking and driving incidents increase, so will pedestrian/ bus, and road rage.
      As a Metro operator, I can attest about the dangers and difficulty of pulling in to an overcrowded zone. People are pushed and shoved off of the curb as others attempt to make sure they are not left behind. Visit 41st and the Ave after the 1230 period lets out at the UW. The University district will be one of the worse affected by these cuts. People are going to end up being pushed under the bus.
      As freeways and surface streets become more congested, due to the cuts, people will lose patience. There will be more accidents due to aggressive driving. Not just the garden variety of highway explosions and violent response to a driving danger and discourtesy, but also pedestrian/ cyclist and vehicle incidents.
      There will be accidents caused directly by the proposed cuts.

      1. Seattlites living south of 85th Street have a designated driver. If they leave the bar early enough to catch the 2:15pm bus. Otherwise they’ll have to wait till the 3:30, by which time they could be most of the way home on foot.

      2. I wish we could pay for frequent night owl service out of public safety money. I think carrots like that would be a much better use of money than sticks like DUI checkpoints.

        I will never understand why planners are always so eager to use sticks, when carrots work so much better.

  4. This morning the Seattle Times, opposed to the fee, says “some” supported the CRC.

    1. WOW “some” supported CRC??? Try like 99.99% supported it, including some who use thier cars as well as take the bus, who said the $20.00 was not a lot to pay for the most part.

      OBVIOUSLY they weren’t there for the ENTIRE meeting, which I watched – all 3 hrs and 45 minutes worth of it…..and the people who did speak out against the CRC gave fairly weak reasons for doing so.

      Maybe they’re in the same camp as the missing council members??? Total denial????

      If I hadn’t already stopped my Seattle Times because they couldn’t seem to take direction in regards to Ads, I totally would have after reading they are against the CRC. Time for the Time to stop telling us how to think in my ever so humble opinion, and stick to reporting the news!!!!!

  5. This is in stark contrast to the Kirkland hearing.

    One testifier said Metro would be more efficient if they didn’t run buses in the middle of the day, when nobody rides.

    Another said an ORCA could be purchased online for 99 cents. (He was probably the person who put that ORCA up on e-bay.)

    Another, to too much applause, called for Metro to go bankrupt and be auctioned off.

    Clearly, the tea partiers and people on Eyman’s listserve showed up in Kirkland. Clearly, every one of them could easily afford the $20, especially since they each spent more than $20 worth of their time to be there and trash the concept of a public bus system. Clearly, it wasn’t about the $20 at all.

    We need constituents in all the suburban districts to make their council members understand how much the bus system means to them.

    1. That’s not surprising. Seattle will be the recipient of more suburban subside if this is enacted. You’re right, it’s not about the $20 it’s about waste and inefficiency. Metro doesn’t have a revenue problem it has a spending problem and the only way to fix that is to cut off their allowance. It’s unfortunate that the process has to be a bit like treating cancer, the patient gets worse in the short term but hopefully cured in the long run. And on the public side instead of driving more perhaps people will make a decision to live close to work instead of peak hour bus service, ride bikes or walk more, carpool and a myriad of other choices that only happen when the cost in time and money forces the issue.

      1. Bernie,

        Can you name all the audit proposals that Metro has adopted, and every other routing efficiency they’ve enacted?

        Conversely, point out where Metro is wasting money, and what you’ve done to deal with those examples of waste.

        I do already live next to work. But the grocery stores have not made a decision to move next to where I live, or even within reasonable walking distance.

        I’m told that if I got a bike, the car drivers would be subsidizing me. Hey, I don’t buy it, but that’s the meme I hear from car drivers who fantasize that I’m not paying taxes to subsidize them.

        I’m also confused how opposing higher car tabs would encourage people to walk or bike more. On the contrary, I think it will encourage people to drive more. For bikers and pedestrians, it means breathing more exhaust that is never factored in to the subsidies debate.

      2. Metro doesn’t have a revenue problem it has a spending problem

        I can’t believe that you have miss the massive drop in sales-tax revenue over the past few years. And in spite of rising fuel prices, Metro has been managing to cut costs everywhere – we are looking at an agency stripped to the bone right now.
        So I just have to assume that your troll-fu needs improvement. I know you can do better.

      3. [Bernie] Treating cancer by starving the patient? I hope I never get you as a doctor.

      4. I’m not sure if it was what Bernie meant, but it is in fact true that chemotherapy is essentially killing body cells with radiation. The bet with such treatments is that the tumors, where the cells are dividing at a higher rate, will die more quickly than the rest of the body; it is a race to see what dies first: the tumor or the patient.

        On the substance of the question, I think Metro has both a revenue and a spending problem. My testimony yesterday was centered on the fact that Metro needs to get a handle on the unproductive routes throughout the county and aggressively drive down the cost per boarding system-wide, which doesn’t really require much action on their part; mostly it involves them not overriding the work of their planners. I also happen to believe that the damage inflicted to riders and to the region by a sudden massive reduction in service is a much worse evil than making car owners pay an extra $20 a year.

        I also agree that people should live as close a possible to their jobs and that residential densities should be increased to create neighborhoods where most people don’t have to drive or use transit as much, and the transit that is provided will be well-used. But we’ve spent the last 50 years building housing stock that’s low-density and miles away from job centers, and suddenly pulling the rug out from low-income (often large) families in the suburbs and simply telling them they should live near their jobs is appallingly callous and will not serve to effect that change in any reasonable timescale.

      5. Good point, the problem isn’t cancer it’s obesity. Stripped to the bone? Hardly, not when they’re still running empty buses to North Bend, Black Diamond, etc. They’ve more than doubled service hours in the last decade at costs exceeding inflation yet and barely managed to keep ridership on pace with population growth. When I stop seeing Access vans going into gated estates that are way more than a half mile from regular bus routes I’ll believe there’s a concerted effort to control cost. Until then there’s better things to spend tax dollars on.

      6. The CRC is not about retaining service, it’s about restructuring in a sustainable manner. Metro cut 100 staff positions, they won’t be able to cut effectively–minimal mobility damage–unless they have this money.

        If it was about kicking the can two years down the road, I would be against it.

      7. Part of the purpose of public transportation is to be available at all reasonable hours and to reach most of the places people want/need to go. Because the county made an accommodation to suburban/rural voters to provide viable transit to the sprawling remote places they’ve “chosen” to live in, those same suburban/rural voters cannot then turn around and claim that the provision of such service is wasteful and “obese”. That’s called having your cake and eating it too.

        Further, the viability of public transportation also depends on it being a NETWORK of associated routes. As with any network or enterprise, some aspects have negative or neutral apparent benefit (e.g. low or sporadic ridership) but their absence has a cumulative deleterious effect on the viability of the whole.

        The consequence of shutting down wholesale “unproductive routes” is that people will be forced to drive to maintain their present residence and work. If they cannot, then commerce suffers, tax receipts suffer, and our economy as a whole suffers. Congestion increases and thereby costs everyone additional time and fuel. And as a vivid example, the one day New York MTA strike was estimated to have cost the region $400M in lost productivity. That clarified for the region how valuable public transit was to them because people regardless of their station in life literally could not get to their work. If you were rich enough to be driven to work, you still could not get there because all the freeways were gridlocked for the entire day and then some.

        The suburban voters in their myopic zeal to denigrate the value of public transportation will only have themselves to blame when the value of their communities plummet as they become remote islands too expensive to commute to/from or for services to reach them. Look around, it’s already happening.

      8. I should have been more clear about unproductive routes. I meant getting rid of unproductive routes that don’t serve some legitimate purpose of basic mobility, and that cover urban or suburban areas of the county.

        My big problems are with routes like the 42 which don’t actually provide any reasonable amount of mobility that isn’t already provided (give or take a five minute walk) at no additional cost to the taxpayer on Link, the 7 or the 8, and are thus a complete waste of money.

        I also have problems with routes like the 209 and 118 that provide vastly expensive, almost-unused bus service to essentially rural areas of the county that don’t have the residential or employment density to support fixed-route bus service.

        Whatever is lost from the network by eliminating those albatrosses can be more than made up with improved service on corridors that are currently underserved.

      9. Unfortunately, Bellevue Resident, that is not the case.

        The choice, as Metro themselves are presenting it, is:

        CRC fails, 17% service hours cut, plus a great deal of restructuring and streamlining. More than 17% of routes get the axe, which actually may mean better service/connectivity/usability on the restructured system;


        CRC passes, everything more or less stays the same.


        Obviously, CRC passes + restructuring happens anyway = an infinitely more desirable result. But it is increasingly clear that Metro is disinterested in marketing it that way and that pro-CRC forces are allied such a result.

        Given the two remaining choices, frankly, I’ll take the former.

        I should be an obvious yes vote for the CRC. I rely on public transit for most everything, and I do not own a car. But I’m feeling increasingly inclined to vote against it, simply because the restructuring is so vital. At this point, if you want my vote, you’re going to need to prove to me that it’s not throwing good money after bad.

      10. @d.p. Well, it’s my understanding that the CRC won’t completely plug the budget hole, and these cuts will be made in February no matter what. It’s a start, anyway.

        And it’s worth remembering that this charge has an expiration date. Perhaps in 2014 the economy will have recovered and sales tax revenues will be back up. But the headlines today make me think this Great Recession may last as long as the Great Depression. The parties involved know, or should know, that they need to spend those two years finding ways to make Metro service more efficient.

        And in those two years, interested folks like you and me should be figuring out how we could change Metro’s funding and governance structure to make Metro more responsive to the needs of people who use it on a daily basis and not councilmembers beholden to a rural, anti-tax constituency.

      11. Bernie said, “When I stop seeing Access vans going into gated estates that are way more than a half mile from regular bus routes I’ll believe there’s a concerted effort to control cost. Until then there’s better things to spend tax dollars on.”

        Bernie, that would require changes to either the Metro service area or the ADA. I would hope everyone but you would consider ending service to paratransit riders as the absolute last resort.

      12. d.p., I know what I’ve heard from Metro staff: they say there will be restructuring no matter what. I know it’s not the same language which the general public and transit advocacy groups are using because, quite frankly, “a sustainable restructure” does not make a good bumper sticker.

        Large agencies like Metro move at the speed of inertia. They’re starting to move a little bit quicker now (I could probably do a dissertation on all the stupid things Metro does), and I think management understands that if they continue to operate as before the audit, they will not get a longterm funding solution.

      13. Bellevue Resident and Matt L,

        I hope you’re right (about the inevitability of a restructuring, not about the Great Recession).

        While I’m a bit surprised to find myself more cynical about Metro even than someone with Matt’s parenthetical nom de internet, it’s hard for me to feel reassured. Even your trimmings regardless of CRC passage link contains deep inertia-based thinking in its subtext:

        Most people who use the services proposed for reduction will have other,
        but less convenient options.

        The one-seat ride remains our ideal, this says. We’ll keep it whenever possible. We’ll aim to keep transfers for the unlucky few, and we promise they’ll never be “convenient,” pleasant, or point the way to a better kind of system…

      14. We’ll aim to limit transfers to just an unlucky few, and we promise that transfers will never be “convenient,” pleasant, or point the way to a better kind of system…

      15. I’m optimistic that Metro will restructure. It has already started with the Eastside changes scheduled for October, which include cutting peak-express routes, expanding the frequent-transit corridors (not just RapidRide but Bellevue-Kirkland and Kirkland-Overlake-BCC), and putting more areas in-line to strategic transfer points. Metro’s restructuring may be less than what we want, but they’re starting to move in the right direction and confront some sacred cows (one-seat rides, downtown expresses).

        The tolling will further isolate the Eastside and make it more self-contained. People who routinely cross the bridge will hesitate whether this trip is really worth $7 round trip, or whether there’s an alternate destination within the Eastside that’s an acceptable equivalent. That in turn will cause Metro to focus further on intra-Eastside transit rather than cross-bridge transit.

        FWIW, if this debt-ceiling thing isn’t resolved there will be a recession which will probably eventually be called a depression. If it is, we may be able to avoid a recession. Of course, they could also be honest that the real unemployment rate is 18%, not 9%, if you include the people who’ve stopped looking for work or are working part-time because they can’t find full-time work. That means it is, and has been for the past three years, closer to the Depression rate of 25%.

      16. Forgot to mention, it does bother me the difference between what Metro tells transit geeks and what’s on its marketing slogans. But I just put it down to, in marketing you have to start with people’s existing expectations. This is such a short-time and urgent issue that they may think they don’t have the time to educate and prime the public about what “restructuring” means. That does run the risk of people complaining later that they thought the $20 fee guaranteed their one-seat rides wouldn’t be changed. But that may be the lesser of the evils facing Metro right now.

      17. Not everyone can afford to live close to work or school. Let’s see, apartments near school cost triple what my rent does…there’s no way that this is a feasable solution unless you’re volunteering to rent out units cheap, which I don’t think is going to happen.

        Metro has some operational inefficiencies. Some. They’re not deserving of a repeat of 1996, though; some of us lived through that, and my limited-income disabled car-owning student self can certainly afford $40 over two years to not have to deal with that again. Once was enough…

      18. Mike,

        Obviously it would be better for this to be a case of problematic messaging than a case of the decision-makers (who hold our daily lives in their hands) continuing to obsess over preserving one-seat rides “where possible,” at the expense of ever getting a system that works overall.

        (The problem with that “less convenient options” language is that it really only envisions two choices: a slow, infrequent, one-seat-to-downtown from really close; or a different slow, infrequent, one-seat-to-downtown that requires a walk to access. The notion that longer walks can and should be able to access better options appears nowhere in that semantic phrasing, nowhere an any concrete long-term plan, nowhere on our transit map except the rail line, and is a clear afterthought even in the RapidRide plan.)

        But let’s presume for a second that this is just a messaging issue…

        “In marketing you have to start with people’s existing expectations.

        And therein lies the problem. The only people wedded to the way things are already use the system. And frankly, only the ill-traveled, undereducated, and just plain incorrect sub-set of system users think that way. All of them are already guaranteed “yes” votes.

        Who’s on the fence? All those people who’d like to use transit but know that it sucks. The marketing should be all about the massive overhaul that we will see if the CRC passes. If you loathe the transit now, why would “existing expectations [of stasis]” be remotely appealing?

        Even on the messaging front, the “existing expectations [are hunky-dory]” echo chamber could really do Metro in!

  6. It was great to see so many people attend, though I know many gave up and did not give testimony.

    I especially hope that anyone who rides the bus in districts 5 and 6 will attend the next meeting (thurs the 21st in Burien)and that their representatives will do the same. I have yet to hear someone who actually cannot afford the fee speak against it, since those are the same people who benefit most from service across the county. I hope what I heard last night on this issue is reinforced for Julia Patterson at the next hearing.

    1. You can be sure Council Member Patterson will have one of her staffers watch the replay, go through the sign-in list to find constituents, and then contact them.

      1. I sure hope so. Julia should be embarrassed. She laments the $20/year hit on her poor motorist constituents, but had no qualms about voting for a fare increase, 10x higher than that, for youth fares.

        She seems to think that her constituents never venture beyond the bounds of her district, never take the bus to Seattle.

  7. Unfortunately, I had to miss the hearing, but I’m curious about whether there was anyone making a list of all the folks in line that support better transit (not the sign in sheet from staff which they obviously can’t use for political organizing). Unless transit supports are organized and involved in the electoral process, these kinds of lobbying efforts will have only limited impact. I have long thought there should be a group for transit like Cascade Bicycle Club is for biking–a group to evaluate and endorses candidates, raise and give them money, help deliver them votes at election time, and do targeted, district-by-district lobbing afterwards to hold them accountable. But at most we seem to get ad-hoc groups of business leaders that periodically chip in for a ads to support the occasional transportation funding ballot measure. A more long-term, more grass-roots organization would be nice. Is anyone aware of one?

    1. Transportation Choices Coalition, Transportation For Washington, Futurewise and possibly others were there in force doing their thing. There was no shortage of pro-transit organizing at this event.

      1. That’s good to hear, though I would note that none of these organizations (at least as far as I can tell from their webpages or my knowledge of them) get involved in candidate elections with money, volunteers, or even endorsements–probably due to legal issues with how they are funded. So I do think there is a vacuum when it comes to electoral politics and the transit community would probably have a lot more clout in Olympia and especially at the county level if bus riders were organized to vote for or against particular politicians rather than just show up to meetings. For example, 500 people on a sign-in sheet is significant and might give someone like Jane Hague pause before voting against transit funding. But if there was a group that could say “we have a list of 5,000 regular bus riders in your district who will be getting our endorsement sheet just before your election,” that creates an even more powerful incentive for her to vote pro-transit. Unfortunately, there’s really no group today that’s even set up to try to do this.

      2. Oh, OK, a fully political group. I see what you mean, there is perhaps a lack of a group like that.

      3. Scott – I put together a small PAC last year to do this, but since the blog is organized as a 501c4, it can endorse, and it has in years past. :)

      4. @Ben Yeah, I noticed, but it’s pretty anemic – not even a Donate button. :)

        Were you planning to do more with that?

    2. The sign-in sheet did ask which position you supported. (Enact the fee, put it to the voters, or kill the proposal.) The Kirkland sign-in sheet did not. So at least the county (and everybody if it’s a public record) knows how many attendees support Metro even if they couldn’t speak.

  8. After reading the reply board on STB and on the Times I am left to wonder why someone who didn’t ride Metro would be in support of the license fee increase. Is the only reason to support the increase as a non-metro user the potential of traffic congestion caused by people who might be forced to drive instead of take the bus?
    I support the Council voting in favor of the license increase, because I can see the benefit to the County as a whole. But as a Metro rider, I also can’t help but think my support as well as anyone else who rides Metro isn’t clouded by self-interest.
    I personally don’t see why there shouldn’t be a modest increase in fares. Maybe do away with off-peak rates. This might defray the cost to the public at-large to for the tax revenue deficit. I feel everyone in the County has to make some kind of sacrifice.
    I’ve heard Dow Constantine speak about the license increase but he did not speak to why other options with mixed revenue sources were disguarded or not considered. Does anyone have any information about this?

    1. People who drive cars have supported bus funding in King County over the years, potentially because they understand that not everyone is in the same position is them and, more selfishly, they understand that getting people into buses is better than clogged roads. I’m sure other people who drive would be excited to ride the bus if it worked for them, and support transit as a principle.

      Fares have gone up significantly over the last few years. I’m not sure another increase is appropriate.

      The state decides what revenue sources the county has access to. As far as I know, the only source Metro has access to is this one. And even then, it expires in two years.

      1. To put some numbers to it, at the hearing the Metro presentation stated that fares have been increased by 80% since 2008. For a person riding only to and from work (every day) that equates to an additional $500 per year.

    2. Legally, this is the only revenue source they have available to tap.

      They could raise fares, but it would be counterproductive and probably wouldn’t raise any money. Fares are already up plenty over the past decade – a one month off-peak local pass is already $81. $108 for a peak 2-zone. We’re at a point where the higher fare would eliminate more than a few riders, thus losing all the extra revenue from the higher fare.

      They might be able to push peak cross-lake fare up a little higher when tolling starts on 520, but that would still hit south county ridership.

    3. I attempted to address this issue in my testimony. Metro improves and maintains the quality of life for all King County residents; whether you ride Metro or not.
      Generally I drive bus routes in Seattle. Thursday and Fridays, I operate both inner city routes (University EX) and outer Seattle routes (Tukwila, Eastgate, Issaquah). Many of the commuter routes are going to be eliminated. If a route enters Seattle, it is listed as a Seattle route. The 210, 211, 213 and 219 are going to be eliminated. The 214 will be reduced. What does this mean for Issaquah commuters? Every commuter will try to shove themselves on the reduced service of the 214. Those that can’t will drive to Eastgate to hop on the already swamped 212, 225, and 229. Those whom can’t even find parking spots at the ETC will then drive on I-90 as a SOV.
      Those that have dealt with current SOV congestion issues are going to be hit even harder- even though they don’t ride Metro. Non-riding voters will sit more behind a wheel if the CRC if it is not approved. It isn’t just Eastside residents, but everyone will deal with this.
      The CRC is a band-aid on a gaping wound. It needs to be passed. Losing this segment of our transportation will send us back decades. Metro needs to reorganize and evolve. It needs to provide for all King county residents. The face of public transit is changing. It isn’t just about the poor, disabled, or disenfranchised. They are an utmost priority, but they won’t get anything passed or evolved. Metro needs to appeal to ALL voters.
      Metro does spend as if they were locked in the 1980’s.
      Eliminate all non-electronic transfers. Transfers are issued to facilitate a transfer. If a single route doesn’t service your origination and destination, you can transfer to another route without fare increase. Transfers aren’t go-back-and-forthers. All other transit agencies have watched revenue increase due to paper transfer elimination. Why has Metro grinded to a halt over this issue? If you can plan a multiple bus transfer, you can plan to have funds loaded on your orca card.
      Why is RFA still in effect? Yes the DBA pays 350,000 a year for a service estimated at 4.3 million. This is no different then every non-peak (2.25) passenger paying only $.26. Metro is cutting the service of passengers that pay full fare, but provide service for those who don’t.
      The RFA should be revitalized into a voucher system. Eliminate all paper transfers. Offer ANY ASSOCIATION a discount voucher system. Say the DBA purchases several voucher tickets (good for back and forth) at $350,000. We reduced the full fare by a percentage of vouchers purchased say 12% for every 100,00 purchased a %12 discount, with a maximum 0f 48% discount. Metro will still have revenue for the DBA. The DBA will benefit because their consumers will directly see their commitment to PT.
      This should be extended to ALL ASSOCIATIONS. As the need for PT evolves, so does the implementation. Downtown Issaquah is becoming a vibrant hub. So is Old Burien. People are choosing to go car-less and flourish in densifying suburbs. Metro shouldn’t just cater the already densified Downtown Seattle. Metro needs to encourage density in all urban areas. Creating a voucher system, while eliminating the RFA will do just that.
      It isn’t just about Seattle anymore. It is about all of King County. Abysmally, most residents don’t realize how important Metro is for everyone’s quality of life. The CRC needs to be passed, period. But Metro needs to evolve an adapt. It has not only an expectation but also a necessity to do so.

      1. Just as a point of information, the city has a contract for the RFA service that the county can’t simply nullify. We’ll need to convince the city council and mayor to request being let out of that contract.

      2. A point of information: riders of route 210 and 211 could fit on the 212. Actually, 211 riders would probably drive because they wouldn’t have a direct bus to Pill Hill. But they’re not exactly buses which are very full.

      3. The 211 will likely be abolished when the First Hill Streetcar enters service.

        In fact the 3 and 4 already provide 7.5 minute trolley service straight to Harborview from a stop just across James from the Pioneer Square station. If the 211 were axed before then, it would be interesting to examine the level of rail vs bus bias among suburban commuters, maybe by examining ORCA card data for 211 to FHSC transfers vs 211 to 3/4 transfers.

      4. For people from Eastgate (or, soon, Highlands), that connection would be faster because the 212 and 218 don’t stop at S Bellevue and MI

    4. Sam,

      Here are a few reasons:

      – Social service. Many poor and low-income people depend on Metro. Believe it or not, there are quite a few liberals in the region, who would be happy to vote for Metro for the same reason that they’d be happy to vote for extra taxes for schools or Basic Health — it’s making people’s lives better in a meaningful way.

      – Incentives. By making driving more expensive, this charge will create a disincentive to drive. If you’re worried that cars are damaging the environment, then you’d probably be happy to reduce driving, even if you personally keep using your car for the time being.

      – Eventualities. Maybe they aren’t Metro riders today, but maybe they used to be, or might be in the future, and so they want to preserve service in case they need it (again) someday.

      1. “By making driving more expensive, this charge will create a disincentive to drive.”

        Hardly. $20 is a drop in the bucket compared to all the other expenses of owning and operating a car. At .50 per mile you’re talking the equivalent of 40 miles of driving compared to an average of 12,000 per year. Please.

        It’s pitiful that people who will vote against that can’t see how they are voting against their own self interest. I suppose it shouldn’t surprise me as there is even a loud and vocal group of bus drivers at Metro who plan on voting against it just to save $20.

      2. Velo, sorry if I was unclear. I think the charge is a great idea, and I’m absolutely voting for it.

        I agree that the incentives here are relatively minimal compared to the alternatives. But sometimes, symbolism can count for a lot. People who think of themselves as environmentalists may very well vote for the tab because they like the idea of taxing higher-pollution activities to fund lower-pollution ones. (And the converse is true too; people may vote against the tab because they see it as part of a “war on cars”.)

  9. Sell Sound Transit and the commuter routes to the suburbs, and go back to Seattle Transit. Seattleites are willing to pay.

    1. That’s what they might end up doing in Pierce, cutting off the low-density service. A ballsy move. I’m really curious to see how this works out for them, but I wouldn’t want to try it at Metro yet…

      1. Removing service area cuts sales tax revenue. It also strands the bus-dependent population that, on good faith, chose where to live based on the accessibility of transit. That’s why it is nearly a cardinal sin to remove existing service (unless it is in an urban area and part of line consolidation).

        In particular, Access riders who would then be outside the Metro service area would no longer have service. Suburban riders who need paratransit for things like getting to dialysis would be in dire straights. Axing routes in suburban areas so as to eliminate existing paratransit service would also be a cruel thing to do to mobility-challenged riders who can’t afford to move.

      2. Removing service area cuts sales tax revenue.

        And that’s why it’s a scary move, and I want to see how it works out for them.

        The theory that PT seems to be operating under is that if they shrink the service area, they will end up with a tax base willing to pay a higher tax rate. Look at what they’re cutting, and you’ll see they’re hacking off regions of their network where residents voted against the funding plan.

        If the area shrinks, the next version of Prop 1 is sure to pass.

      3. The areas Pierce is cutting are exurban. It’s equivalent to Duvall and Snoqualmie, not Bellevue and Bothell.

    2. It would be nice if we could have differential tax rates in subareas. But no, we have to tell voters in Skykomish they should pay a car-tab fee for transit that will never serve them.

      1. More realistically, it would be nice if we had an urban growth boundary, like TriMet. Skykomish simply has no place in urban transit planning. Their residents shouldn’t have to pay anything, but I also don’t want them voting on our issues. And the same goes for Snoqualmie/North Bend, and lots of other parts of East King.

      2. @Aleks: we have an urban growth boundary. But it’s not contiguous. There’s a beautiful line drawn around outlying towns like Enumclaw and Duvall, and there are Metro routes that drive long distances through the hinterlands to reach them. We also have Metro buses on Vashon which is outside the UGB.

        @Oran: Yes we in the ST district pay more, but we do so to fund regional, commuter-focused service throughout the Puget Sound Region. Meanwhile, the difference between what Seattleites pay in Metro taxes and the cost of Seattle service led to the horrid 40/40/20 policy.

        I frankly would like to see Metro divorced from the county and be a district more-or-less the same as the ST district within King County. This would make the transit-hating exurban residents happy, and we’d be left with an electorate more likely to accept higher taxes in order to make up the difference.

      3. Didn’t Skykomish use to have Community Transit rather than Metro? It looks like it has no transit now. I thought the Everett-Gold Bar bus used to extend to Skykomish.

      4. Oran and Matt: Yes, you’re correct, I spoke too fast. I was vaguely aware of the urban growth boundary, but that isn’t quite what I meant.

        What I’m really whining about (and I admit it’s whining :D) is that I would like to see the Sound Transit district become a more coherent political entity.

        In a perfect world, I would like to see the ST district become a county, and replace all current city/county government inside it. But in the real world, it would still be great for Metro to narrow its scope to be the part of King County inside the ST district.

        Either way, the current boundaries are just too darn arbitrary, and I think it’s hurting us in a real way.

      5. I found a June 2011 map. The URL is long and I hate URL-shortening sites, but you can go to and search “urban growth boundary” to find it. It shows a line going from the south county border, the east side of Auburn (directly south of Renton), then northeast to an L-shaped penninsula to include Covington, Maple Valley, and Black Diamond. It then goes north (again at the longitude of Renton), spreads out to the Renton Highlands, then back west for Newcastle, then spreads east to include Issaquah and Sammamish. It then goes west to include Redmond, exclude the wine country north of Redmond, and include Woodinville. There are separate islands for Enumclaw, Snoqualmie-North Bend, Carnation, Duvall, and an unnamed island between Redmond and Duvall. So in other words, it includes all the suburbs and exurbs, but not the areas between exurban towns.

    3. Sound Transit is a separate agency from Metro already, and their projects in the suburbs are already funded by the suburbs. Seattleites are getting the Sound Transit service they pay for.

    4. As Velo says, it’s not that simple. Does Capitol Hill have more in common with Montlake and Laurelhurst, or with DT Bellevue and DT Kirkland?

      In a city like San Francisco, this works, because geographic constraints and history mean that the peninsula really is more dense than the surrounding suburbs. But for us, the intra-city variations dwarf the inter-city ones.

      For better or worse, parochial thinking doesn’t get us anywhere. We need to take a page from Portland’s book and plan regionally. And part of that means that we’ll spend more money providing bus service within and between dense urban areas, just like we spend more money providing fire and emergency service to sparse areas.

      Having said that, I actually do support the establishment of an urban growth boundary. As Matt L says, having Skykomish voters pay for Seattle urban bus service is ridiculous. And probably, it wouldn’t make sense for Snoqualmie/North Bend to be in the boundary either. But for our urban region — including most/all of Seattle, large parts of South and East King, and some parts of Pierce and Snohomish — we need to stick together.

      1. Absolutely agree. As tempting as it is to say Seattle should go it alone, that would be a disaster. Consider the 120. It runs between downtown and Burien TC, but it does so via the high-ridership Delridge corridor in Seattle. If Seattle ran its own transit, would the route stop short to avoid serving the Burien residents who don’t pay taxes for it? To the north and south, Seattle’s city limits are pretty arbitrary and don’t reflect the limits of continuous urbanization.

      2. That reminds me of when I wrote to the monorail commission and suggested the West Seattle-South Park-Link line should go through White Center. They said the monorail commission did not have authority to go outside the city limits, so they couldn’t consider that, although a special arrangement to that effect could be made later.

  10. Like just about every experience lately with the public, especially those under thirty, last night’s meeting left me even more deeply convinced that there is now a complete disconnect between our politics and our people, at every level of Government.

    Considering the general caliber of the participating audience as opposed to the miserable legislative process that put us there, I have to say I’m profoundly grateful that our political system definitely does not represent us.

    Unfortunately, survival of the Republic, let alone transit service requires we correct the situation. Fortunately, could identify several people on the speaker list who could start corrective process just by running for County Council or the State Legislature.

    When they and the many people like them finally do get into politics, our service area and the rest of the nation will begin its return to the First World.

    Also, people like me will learn what “CRC” means before bothering the Blog about it.

    Mark Dublin

  11. I drive SOV to work. I hate Metro because of the conditions inside the buses. But I’d happily pay more for the bus service.

    In fact, I’d pay more than the $20. I’d like the service to improve so much that it’d get me out of the car. I’d pay more for that!

  12. It’s amazing that hundreds stood in line. I just used the webform and expressed my extreme displeasure at the fee.

    My argument is simple. We’re being asked to pay twice.

    We pay once with general tax…and then again with fees. And in many cases the fees turn out to be deterrents for the services we pay for in the first place!

    So, we pay for parks…and then get charged $5 to use them…so we don’t.

    So, we pay for roads…and then get charged to ride in a HOV…and have a lane taken away from us if we don’t.

    So, we pay for transit…and then get our cars taxed on top of that.

    We cannot let these scoundrels masquerading as public officials continue in office.

    1. Well fortunately the hundreds of people, including myself, who gave up our evening and showed up in person sent a stronger message than people who spend all of their time trolling on blogs.

    2. What a perfectly libertarian and selfish point of view. Do you have ANY concept of managing a resource? I guess not because libertarians can’t fathom competent government. An HOV lane was added to the roads in most cases and was paid for mostly with Federal funds for the purpose of incentivising people to increase the density in their cars. But that’s right; You want the market to decide such matters. Well, voila! we give you HOT lanes, where you recognize that time is money and can decide how much you want to pay to pay to get to your destination faster.

      By managing the resource, we’ve avoided or postponed for decades the billions of dollars of expense in adding additional freeway lanes to handle the ever increasing volume. That is also one of the purposes of public transportation but your market driven libertarian mindset won’t allow you to grok that.

      We won’t even get into the substantial environmental savings such policies provide because as a libertarian minded person, you can’t grok anything you can’t see or taste or count in your own little wallet.

    3. If the tax only pays three-quarters the cost of providing the service, and the fee pays the other quarter, then it’s not double taxation, it’s single taxation. We’re in this predicament because the sales tax collapsed and it’s not bringing in as much as expected. That doesn’t mean that Metro’s expenses magically go down by the same amount. If you run a taxi service and your fare covers the cost of gas and then the gas price rises, it doesn’t mean you “should” keep the same fare-rate and pay the difference out of pocket. It’s a real gap in resources that has to be addressed.

    4. Next time I get on a bus, I’ll just tell the driver I already pay sales tax, so I don’t have to pay fare. If she/he doesn’t buy that argument, I’ll drop your name, JB.

    5. So, if we just raise the sales tax to 1.2% instead, or get rid of that and add it to your property tas, that’d make this all better? It’s not the *amount* you pay, it’s the number of ways you have to pay it?


      Also, if paying $20/yr deters you from owning a car, that would be weird, but also not the worst thing, either.

  13. John, I just watched a replay of your testimony via streaming video and then replayed it again.

    A few thoughts from a political operative (of sorts):

    a) DON’T say it costs progressive causes $$$ and expect conservative support, you just egged on the conservatives by accident. The this should be a “quiet measure” was another spark into their tinderbox.

    b) DO point out the absence of the conservative/Republican councilors. Bloody shameful that a $20 fee is more harmful to some than slicing off the disabled & seniors at the ankles. I liked what one guy a bit before you that he’d call out those who didn’t feel a part of King County.

    c) DO keep on the social media front.

    BTW, assuming the debt ceiling doesn’t fall in on August 3, I do intend to visit Seafair. Will need some mass transit to help me get around being disabled & all. So best of luck.

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