Greater Seattle Chamber of Commerce Charles Knutson and Councilmember Larry Phillips

Yesterday, the Metropolitan King County Council received 10,000 petitions from citizens urging them to save Metro bus service by enacting the temporary Congestion Reduction Charge (CRC). The petitions were delivered at an event organized by Transportation for Washington (T4WA), a state-wide coalition of pro-transit advocacy groups, against the backdrop of a packed South Kirkland Park & Ride at 3 pm, to symbolize the cars that would be on the road if transit service is cut. The petitions represent citizens from all over King County and 30 major environmental, business, student, and social justice groups (including this blog) and were collected online.

County Councilmembers Larry Phillips and Joe McDermott, Senior Vice President of the Greater Seattle Chamber of Commerce (GSCC) Charles Knutson, and Kirkland Councilmember Dave Asher were present to speak of the importance of Metro bus service and why they supported the CRC.

Asher said the a 17% cut in service would “directly impact everyone that uses our roadways” by adding 15,000 car trips that switched from transit and would “restrict access to thousands of jobs” for those who rely on transit. Asher said leaders should have the “moral courage to hold back drastic cuts” using the tools given only to King County by the State Legislature.

Knutson, representing 22,000 member businesses in the GSCC hopes the CRC can be enacted with a supermajority to avoid the million dollar cost of placing it on the ballot and thinks people will be paying more in transportation costs if Metro service is cut. 1,400 of those businesses buy bus passes for their employees.

Phillips reiterated that employers rely on Metro to get their employees to work. He says the temporary fee is “worth the cost” to maintain mobility for families on a limited budget, and for people who have no other option like low-income people, students, and people with disabilities.

McDermott reminded that Metro has cut costs and increased efficiency (saving $900 million out of a $1.2 billion shortfall) while raising fares on passengers by 80% to fill the gap. He believes that the other non-committed councilmembers can be persuaded to support the CRC.

When asked on the issue of avoiding a public vote on the CRC, Phillips said that every permanent tax increase for funding Metro was voted on, it’s appropriate for a temporary measure like this to be enacted by the council. McDermott adds that both he and Phillips are up for reelection this year and it’s important to lead on this issue. Brock Howell from T4WA notes that transit funding reform at the state level is needed for a long-term solution.

26 Replies to “10,000 Petitions to Save Metro”

    1. Nobody except Tim Eyman is asking for an election. Nearly everyone who testified either supported passing the charge, or opposed it.

      1. Tim Eyman already got exactly what he wanted: 1) a majority council vote to send it to the voters or 2) a supermajority council vote to enact the fee without a public vote. That is consistent with his 2/3rds initiative so I don’t know what his point was when he showed up at the Kirkland hearing. Oh you mean, any tax/fee increase is bad, even if a 2/3 supermajority approved it?

      2. Well Tim Lieyman lives in Mukilteo, Snohomish County.

        Oran: Typical Lieyman behaviour. He won’t lift a finger on tuition but you raise a fee for his luxury car… or his friends… you’re gonna get the what-for.

  1. We have a new group of transit ruiners: Save-my-imaginary-client’s-one-seat-front-door-stop-riders.

    El Centro de la Raza is actually trying to save the 38 — the most empty and pointless of empty and pointless routes. They imagine that some of their clients need the 38 in order to get to them. I don’t believe them unless they can actually produce said clients.

    The same goes for ACRS. Who are these imaginary clients who have an easier time getting to the 42 on Dearborn from the International District than to the 7, and cannot make it the two blocks from the 7 to ACRS?

    I even heard a few calls to save *every* bus route.

    Now is the time to tell your county councilmember which routes are not worth saving, and why saving them hurts other riders who need those service hours on their packed routes.

    1. If I was going there:

      Me and my manual chair can – and would – do the two-block hike. Oh, and transfer buses too. SMH

      I think I’v been further than two blocks uphill in my manual without complaining.

      Some people… (scrap the 42!!)

      1. As a manual chair user, you have ability and dexterity that many – even many who have mobility issues that don’t inlude wheelchiar use – over a lot of others.

    2. Exactly! If you listen to the rhetoric of the councilmembers, they are interested in sustainably restructuring Metro: not “saving” it. There will be cuts, but it will be a leaner system. The $20 councilmaticly gives the ability to restructure thoughtfully.

      1. Here’s a thought, in 2009 cost per boarding was $3.92 and revenue per boarding was $1.05 (26.8% fare recovery). In the 2011 budget is for 23.6% fare recovery which works out to a cost per boarding of $5! Yet Metro is still raiding the capital budget to support the 17% of the service hours accounting for 5% of the ridership. The 25 cent increase to the base fare only increased revenue per boarding by 6 cents. It’s not a revenue problem, it’s a spending problem.

    3. That “two blocks” is substantially longer than 2 standard residential blocks, and from the North is significantly uphill. There are a lot of elderly and otherwise mobility challenged folks who would lose access not only to ACRS but a number of other destinations currently served by the 42 were it to go away.

      This “let ’em walk” thing is elitism at its worst.

      1. It’s a 2.6% grade over 990 feet (or 3 standard blocks) from the SB Rainier & Walden stop to the stop on MLK nearest ACRS. Also 2.6% grade for the 1/3 mile walk from Mt Baker Station to the ACRS bus stop. That’s not “significantly uphill” when there are plenty of other streets in Seattle that are steeper.

        By comparison, it’s a 6.5% grade over 850 feet from the 5th & Jackson stop to the next stop at Maynard & Jackson.

        What are these “other destinations currently served by the 42” that aren’t already served by the #7 or #8 buses?

        Martin said it in his case against the 42: “We simply cannot construct a sensible system where everyone is within a block of a one-seat ride to downtown.”

  2. I’ve seen this 15,000 cars number bantered about. Where does it come from? Metro has 25,292 total P&R spaces (Metro Q4 utilization report). Average utilization is 72%. Take away 15,000 cars and utilization will be 13%. Grand standing much like the 10 boxes to hold 10,000 petitions collected online.

    I tried to find a statistic for number of daily trips in King County. All I came up with is VMT of 45 million. Average trip length should be somewhere in the range of 6-12 miles which means somewhere between a .4 to .8% increase in the number of trips by car. But induced demand works both ways. More people drive if you decrease congestion and less trips are taken if congestion increases so net change likely won’t even be perceivable.

    1. While I’ve not asked specifically where it came from, I can see where it might come from. According to a King County Executive press release, around 9 million annual passenger trips will be lost as a result of the service cuts, that translates to around 20,000 daily trips which is in the ball park. Not every potential car user drives to a park and ride to catch the bus. The service cuts might force some to drive to a park and ride instead of catching a bus near their home.

      The ten boxes symbolize the 10,000 petitions. What do you want? Them handing over a 3.5″ floppy disk? :P

      1. I was thinking thumb drive but empty boxes symbolize the concerns quite well. 20,000 daily “trips” would only be 10,000 commuters. And as you point out some may end up driving to underutilized P&R lots. Other possibilities are trips not taken, trips combined, walking/biking. I’m sure there will be some increase in car usage but that might not be such a bad thing if those trips are off peak or in lew of poorly performing routes. A 17% cut in service results in a 5% drop in daily ridership. That sounds like a pretty good investment.

        Metro’s numbers just don’t add up. Like claiming base fares would have to be raised $1.50 to replace the tab tax. They claim the tab tax will generate $50 million over two years. A $1.50 fare increase would raise six times that much. Bailo’s guesstimate of 25 cents is spot on.

      2. I don’t think you can multiply $ with xxx million trips to get the amount raised by a fare increase because of transfers, passes and ridership losses. We’ll see what Metro says about this.

      3. Metro ridership is ~109 million yearly. It doesn’t matter how you proportion cash fares, passes, zones, peak fare, etc. Come up with a scheme that averages out to two bits per rider and you’ve got over $25 million. Another way to look at it is fare revenue generates ~$130 million a year. That works out to $1.19 per ride. $25 million more is an increase of 19.3% so the user fee would need to increase to $1.42 or 23 cents. It will be interesting to hear what statistical machinations Metro used to come up with the need for a $1.50 fare increase.

      4. “The 25 cent increase to the base fare only increased revenue per boarding by 6 cents.”

        Which means, holding everything constant, to get your 23¢ average increase, you need to raise fares by $1. Right? Raising fares means lost ridership (not including general growth trends), therefore fares need to be raised even more to make it up per boarding.

        Metro responded to my question briefly, they said: “$1.50 would raise $60M per year in revenue. This is based on the rough estimate that each 25-cent increase brings in about $10M more revenue.”

      5. The tabs provide $20/year, the rest is filled with reserves(ugh) and cuts/restructuring

  3. This open letter is flying around the internets… note the source is a very credible & powerful Republican who is a major voice in government reform.

    Dear Councilmember,

    I urge you to vote NO on the proposed $20 tax increase on motor vehicles to subsidize Metro bus service.

    Metro complains that their fuel and labor costs have increased, and that they need a “temporary” tax increase while they find new “sustainable” revenue sources. The fact is, families throughout King County are struggling with cost increases of their own and have had to cut back significantly on their spending. They have seen huge increases in their cost of gas, food, and sewer service, among other things. Many families are barely making ends meet or are going further into debt every month, and do not have the ability to just reach into the pockets of their neighbors and take money to close the gap as Metro proposes to do.

    It is morally reprehensible for us to lay more taxes on the backs of the poor and needy in our community so that we can continue providing cheap bus rides for doctors, lawyers, businessmen, and senior government employees to get to their high-paying jobs in downtown Seattle. Those who ride the bus as a convenience at the expense of taxpayers already save hundreds of dollars a month on the cost of fuel, parking, vehicle maintenance, insurance, and, soon, tolls, and shouldn’t be subsidized further. It’s time we stopped providing taxpayer-funded bus fare subsidies to people who can afford to pay the full cost of the service they receive and who would still be saving money while doing so.

    Instead of piling more Metro taxes on the poor, we should raise Metro bus fares to the level necessary to cover the full operation and maintenance cost of the system. We could then use existing Metro tax dollars for targeted subsidies only for those who truly need it, by issuing vouchers to those who qualify that can be applied to purchasing discount bus passes, rather than subsidizing everyone who rides the bus.

    Best regards,

    Toby Nixon

    I’m sure this will cause some dialogue.

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