A Divided County Council

The Metropolitan King County Council this evening decided to give themselves more time before deciding on the fate of the temporary 2-year $20/car/year Congestion Reduction Charge (CRC). They will meet to discuss the matter again and vote on Monday, August 15. Jim Brewer, legal counsel, said that August 16 is the deadline to put the CRC on the November ballot. To put the CRC on the ballot that late would require 6 votes and an emergency clause. However, there is no immediate deadline for adopting it directly, not until the authorizing legislation expires in 2014.

Councilmember Reagan Dunn reaffirmed his position that he will not support councilmatic action (adoption without a public vote), “There’s no scenario where I’m able to accept passing this out of the council.” He might support sending it to the ballot if Metro continues to demonstrate additional efficiencies.

The public hearing, scheduled at 3 pm, began an hour late. Over two hours, over 50 citizens testified, most were in support of the council adopting the CRC with a supermajority vote. Only two spoke against it. After a brief recess, the council was scheduled to reconvene at 6 pm for debate and the vote. At 6:15 pm, the council was called back to the chamber, only to have Councilmember Pete von Reichbauer request an additional 20 minute recess to discuss “new information”. After 40 minutes, Councilmember Patterson withdrew her motion to allow more time to work things out and the meeting was adjourned.

Transit advocates at the hearing remain optimistic. There’s still time to convince the other councilmembers to support and adopt the fee.

31 Replies to “County Council Divided, Defers CRC Decision”

  1. Am I understanding this correctly: The council today had 5 votes in favor of the CRC, enough to put it on the ballot. But instead they delay the vote, and in the next vote they will need 6 votes just to put in on the ballot (6 votes that could also pass the CRC directly).

    We are missing some information here. Is there another funding mechanism they can consider?

    1. The deadline of August 16th is to put it on the ballot, after that point it can still be implemented with a vote of the council assuming a 6th vote can be had. Council democrats and Dow don’t want it to go to the ballot because this year is going to be a very crowded transportation ballot year and there are worries that too many will both weaken the campaigns of each due to diffusion of effort as well as turn off voters. Additionally asking voters for money now, with the full knowledge that they have to come back in two years isn’t good.

  2. Even a “Public Vote” will be rigged by Metro lobbying and self-interest. I use Access, and ACCESS called me to inform me in very biased language, using scare tactics, that services would be cut unless I wrote my council members to support the fee.

    I think services DO need to be cut if it means Metro will act more responsibly. (Rapidride??? I feel no sympathy for a lack of money after that, where Bellevue citizens were ignored on their transit needs, and perfectly good bus stops put out of service to build new ones, all to make transit, already fast for a bus system, come more often in Redmond). I also think it is unfair that non-drivers can vote to impose a fee on drivers – that is pure democracy, a dangerous thing, in which the will of the greedy majority can usurp the rights of others. In a democratic republic, the people elect officials who make laws, which themselves are subject to only the power which they have been granted and to the rule of law. The people in turn vote out corrupt officials or ones that do not represent them.

    Allowing purely democratic voting on issues which those who will lose nothing may vote against those who gain nothing is NOT the ideal.

    I can think of sensible ways to cut ACCESS without harming the overall program (such as making it more of an emergency system rather than allowing all riders, or increasing efficiency in routes, even if pick up times have to become more flexible, so the bus is not going from Seattle to Bellevue back to Seattle before dropping people off). I am sure there are also sensible ways to cut the actual bus system (It would have helped had they not spent money on RapidRide, but even so – making routes run -less often- or combining less congested routes would not be the end of the world. I grew up in a small town where we only had four busses a day! Even if a bus is too crowded, people can wait for the next bus (even plan ahead for a wait at the bus stop, and get in line so they catch the first one).

    Taxing another demographic entirely (bus-riders vs. drivers) is not the way to go about it, and Metro needs to change its priority from speed/how often a bus runs to how many people are served/the areas served. A bus is not supposed to be a car or a bullet train or even a Subway – they are by nature slow and you have to plan ahead your route to ride them. Most of the waste of money is because Metro is trying to turn the bus system into something it is by nature incapable of being without exhorbant expense.

    1. Jenai-

      Please consider the fact that, though you believe you “can think of sensible ways to cut” service without hurting people, your ideas haven’t gone through any analysis and we really shouldn’t give your opinions the same weight as, for example, the Regional Transit Task Force. “I am sure there are also sensible ways to cut the actual bus system,” is quite the bold statement given that this isn’t a marginal 2% reduction in hours but rather a cut representing nearly a fifth of all bus service. Is your confidence coming from careful study or sweeping generalization?

      Most folks probably wouldn’t be happy showing up to work late routinely because their bus was too full, and I’m sure you realize different people have different needs from the system.

      As other posts have pointed out here, Metro has done plenty of work to become more efficient in the last few years. There is more to do, and future service realignments will probably generate further efficiencies. If you want to make Metro a more nimble organization, then try to elect the right people, but don’t cut 17% of the bus service that people depend on every day.

    2. “Allowing purely democratic voting on issues which those who will lose nothing may vote against those who gain nothing is NOT the ideal.”

      Bus riders also own cars. Car owners who do not ride the bus also stand to lose a hell of a lot more than $20.00 a year in added costs if the fee doesn’t pass.

      At any rate, your fundamental logic and concept of civic operations is profoundly flawed. You are apparently suggesting that only those groups completely and directly impacted by any public law (if such a thing could be coherently determined) be allowed to vote on such laws.

      That’s insanity.

    3. ACCESS is whats called an unfunded mandate. Uncle sam says you have to offer this kind of service. Of course he dosent give you any funds to do this with. However, you can adjust trips to consolidate them (up to two hours either way is my understanding), have a fare that is eaqual to or higher (up to double is my understanding) than the equivilant fixed route cash fare, Only provide service to the letter of the law (3/4 mile around each fixed route, and filling in any small “doughnut holes”). There are also some other tricks you can do, such as trip/travel planning, and eligibility requirements that can help reduce the number of trips as well. While it may not be popular, the fixed route riders have to wait longer for fewer buses, shouldent the ACCESS riders pay more of their cost through higher fares (atleast .75 or $1.00) and offer the schedulers more flexibility in grouping and scheduling trips to optimise vehicle efficency (and actually making sure they follow through with that as much as possible).

      1. From my understanding the reason Metro made calls to Access users is because under the 17% cut scenario coverage would be roughly the same but hours of operation, especially in less dense suburban areas would be cut but. This directly affects Access because it only has to operate while fixed route service is operating, so cut back fixed route service from say 8 to 6 and Access hours will also be cut. For disable or elderly users that is huge.

      2. As much i hate to say it but i like the fact they are tightening up the belt on the paratransit service. Yes loss of this service is hard for those affected, many of these people will have trouble making appointments (especally importaint ones like kidney dyalisis (sp?)) but in terms of an unfunded mandate and the high cost of providing this service i think its something that needs to be done. The reality is, is for some of these trips Medicare/Medicade should be providing them, however even that service has been significantly cut back in recent times.

    4. Your statement that “non-drivers” are a majority forcing their will on the “driver” minority is ridiculous! Transit carries a minority of trips in our region, and the vast majority of people own cars. The other problem is this idea that someone’s number one mode choice is part of someone’s identity. We are not “drivers,” “bus riders,” and “cyclists.” We are people who sometimes drive, sometimes ride buses, and sometimes ride bikes. Most people do all of those things at various times. A majority of transit users also own cars. Many people use cars for errands but use the bus to get to work (that way parking is not an issue). Many couples choose to own only one car, so one person relies on transit while the other drives. Anyway, it is not unjust in any way to use car tab fees to fund transit. Sure, there are better ways to fund transit (I prefer things like tolls, MVET, sales tax on gas, and payroll taxes), but the legislature has only allowed this one option.

    5. If what Jenai says is true, that Metro or their contract agent called to have them lobby the council, then I am truly horrified. Using public funds to campaign is flat out illegal. Period.
      I suggest anyone else that received a call like that, refer the matter to the Attorney General for proper routing.

      1. I don’t know what Access did but Metro’s bulletins were very neutral – The tone was “Here are the options being discussed – 17% cut vs $20 tabs”.I made announcements about the Metro produced information cards and made them available. You may call that “Lobbying” but I’d call it informing. > 90% of the people I drive around own cars – I didn’t hear a single peep about the cost.

      2. If 80% of riders are going to experience a reduction of service, and access riders who have no other means to get around see a reduction of service coverage and span of service I think it would be irresponsible of Metro not to notify riders and provide them the information they need to affect that process.

  3. As you may have noticed by now, Republicans are my party. But this is something they should pass with overwhelming, just in-freak-ing-cred-i-ble public support.


    Enuf said, hopefully the Republican councilmembers get a clue.

      1. It’s ironic that Jane’s commercial declaring that she’s a friend of transit features a bus route (271) slated for reduction if the 17 percent cuts happen.

    1. Read some Seattle history. Original Municipality of Metropolitan Seattle, which ran the old Metro Transit, was largely the work of a Republican attorney named James Ellis. Mercer Island Representative Fred Jarrett, now a Democrat, served on the Metro Council for years.

      Problem is that the Party of Lincoln has now been overrun by the reincarnations of Nathan Bedford Forrest and Black Bob McCulloch- read your Civil War history, especially new book called “River Run Red” about the Fort Pillow massacre, which shows what happens to those who surrender to such people.

      But you can help. I’m forming a new organization called Democrats for Improved Republicans. It’s a shame to see so many decent Republicans, whose business orientation did good service to their innate decency, have no choice but to become Democrats. It’s like demanding that the company’s best accountant become just another middle-manager.

      The Democratic Party needs to be taken over from the precinct level up by people willing to stand and fight the forces of slavery and secession, rather than look for compromises with implacable enemies. And the Republicans need to remove their own party from those same forces from the same grass roots. Good luck to you.

      Mark Dublin

  4. While I support the $20 car-tab fee, one silver lining should it not pass is that the bicycle community might be able to win over some riders who are seeing their service cut. Costing a fraction of what a car costs and immune to government agency budget shortfalls, a concerted campaign may be able to take advantage of the opportunity to win over some people, especially those who take short neighborhood trips that are going to go from merely overcrowded to unbearable.

    1. “Costing a fraction of what a car costs and immune to government agency budget shortfalls”

      Great idea if people live on a safe bike route – bad idea if you force people onto the unsafe routes that exist for many. You need government money to fix those routes.

      1. Paradoxically, under the RTTF guidelines, the highly-productive frequent-service corridors that serve the dense Seattle core will mostly escape the bloodbath if the CRC fails; and that’s where the some of the best, safest bike infrastructure has been and is being built.

        Some examples include the fantastic new bike lanes on Dexter, the Chief Sealth trail (and the new connection to the I-90 trail) paralleling Link and the 36, the Elliot Bay trail serving Ballard, the Burke (and the missing link that’s crawling forward), the cycletrack on Broadway that will go in with the streetcar.

        The whole suburb vs. city frame from some opponents is amazingly stupid, as the suburbs will fare the worst if this goes down.

    2. Yeah, I’m probably in that group. I live right next to route 28 and currently ride the bus to my workplace in Fremont most days because it’s the most convenient option. If the 28 is cut, I’ll have to walk a half mile to get to a bus stop. That walk would take almost as long as biking all the way to work, so if my bus goes away then biking would become a very attractive alternative.

      I guess that’s why I wouldn’t be too sad about the CRC not passing. I would lose my one-seat bus ride from my home to my workplace, and I would have to bike through the cold rain of Seattle winters, but I would save about $1000/year in fares and would also get an opportunity for more regular exercise.

      1. “would also get an opportunity for more regular exercise.”

        Um-doesn’t that opportunity exist for you already?

      2. Sure, the opportunity exists. I just don’t take advantage of that opportunity very often because I tend to be a bit lazy and the bus is easier.

        Let me amend my last sentence by striking the words “an opportunity for.” My point that Metro cuts would actually be good for me in certain ways stands just as well this way.

        Did you have a point to that post or are you just being pedantic?

    3. Cycling is absolutely not immune to government agency budget shortfalls. How do you think potholes get fixed? Who paints those bike lanes?

  5. Hopefully, this is a good thing; it gives swing votes (Jane Hague?) an opportunity to say they went back to their districts, talked to business owners, etc., and now have new perspective on it, and they’re ready to vote for it.

    Otherwise, with 5 councilmembers on record as being in favour of it, they’ve got a easy out to kick it to the ballot so that none of them are targets for backlash if it fails or passes.

  6. From this: http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/localnews/2015729067_cartabs26m.html

    “I know a majority in both caucuses want to see real tangible reform from Metro,” [von Reichbauer] said. “The next two weeks will give us an opportunity to look at what Metro has done and says it will do to gain the trust of those skeptical” of the agency.

    At the City Center Bellevue forum on July 15th, Metro GM Kevin Desmond stated that the agency has already made cuts to the tune of $140M/year, resulting in the $60M/year shortage that the CRC will help offset. How much more “real tangible reform” does the Council expect? They agency has done everything it can to trim itself down without getting to the point where it loses its identity.

  7. Thoughts on yesterday’s meeting.

    1. Will stand by my own public comments, but my tone was nastier than I either necessary or productive. Had missed lunch, and really was ticked off both at current Seattle Times campaign to cut transit wages and Council’s taking an hour and a half to get to CRC. Hope Paul W. Locke lives for ever, because he’s my only defense against succeeding by seniority to his current public position.

    2. Will start looking on Wikipedia for minutes of the off-meeting meeting. Von Reichbauer and closed doors go together like Darth and Vader.

    3. Most important testimony for our side to pay attention to came from the older man in the coverall from the Classic Car club, who complained that by adding taxes on people like him, transit was just going for “the low-hanging fruit.”

    Coupled with recent coverage of a city car tax plan, under earliest discussion, that even supporters concede-without apology- is terribly regressive, I think people like this man are the opposition group we most need to convince- and with an honest and straightforward approach, the easiest.

    Nothing we do should make life in Seattle harder for working people- or look like it does if it doesn’t.

    Mark Dublin

    1. Sorry for typo in first sentence. Also stress that in addition to Wikipedia, will also check Wikileaks.


      1. That’s okay, my hero Heather Brooke of http://HeatherBrooke.org and a UofW grad is putting out a book on WikiLeaks next month or the month after.

        I swear though the Republicans need to govern for all or quit. Or perhaps a certain resident of the Eastside who just got retired graclessly ought to run as an Independent and quarterback winning forever for the King County Council, eh?

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