by Kelsey Mesher

Atomic Taco / Flickr

A countywide 2020 transportation measure would help address affordability, growth and mobility needs — and maintain Seattle’s current level of service.

With one of the largest and most progressive electorates expected to turn out this year, 2020 presents an opportunity to address our region’s largest challenges, including transportation. On Wednesday, February 26, the King County Council kicked off its first public discussion of going to the ballot to ask voters to support a countywide Transportation Benefit District, which could raise as much as $160 million annually for bus service, programs and improvements through a 0.2% increase in sales tax.

We have seen the successes of transit investment through Seattle’s Transportation Benefit District. In the last two years alone, Seattle has increased TBD-funded Metro service by 36%. As a result, more than 7 in 10 residents live within a 10-minute walk of very frequent bus service. While transit ridership has declined in cities across the country, Seattle has bucked the trends – increasing transit ridership and kept drive alone commute rates at bay. The City has also used TBD funds to support access and affordability programs, providing free transit for students and some residents of low-income housing.

Metro’s long range plan, Metro Connects, outlines how we can achieve outcomes like these throughout King County, which is why Transportation Choices Coalition strongly supports taking a countywide approach to funding transit. The alternative is continuing with a “pay-to-play” system where the most well-resourced cities, like Seattle (or potentially Bellevue or Redmond, should they choose to run their own measures), receive a higher level of service, creating a two-tiered transit system.

We are all well aware of the needs:

  • We need to improve equitable transportation access; parts of our region have not received adequate transit investments and a lack of fast, frequent, reliable, and accessible transit is leaving people behind.
  • We need transit to serve our regional growth. Tens of thousands of jobs are being added in Bellevue and beyond, and our population growth shows no signs of slowing.
  • Over 20 light rail stations are coming online by 2024 – we need to get people there and cannot afford (financially or environmentally) to build massive amounts of parking.
  • We need for transit service to be accessible and affordable. Transportation is the second highest cost for households, behind housing – frequent and affordable transit connects people to places that they can afford to live, jobs and education.

The passing of I-976 has complicated how we approach these challenges, and further limits what tools we have to fund transit. Without the option to levy vehicle license fees, Seattle likely can’t maintain its current level of investment if it renews its TBD alone. And of course, without a change in state law, or a court victory against I-976, options for funding transit remain extremely limited. The County must be thoughtful about how to mitigate the regressive impacts of a sales tax increase.

We will not be able to address these challenges without a shared effort to increase funding and deliver more transit across King County. Through TCC’s outreach we know that a countywide transit measure will have the support not only of transportation advocates, but of affordability advocates, labor partners, businesses big and small, climate activists, and the general public – who understand that improving transit in our region benefits everyone. The time to build a broad and winning coalition is now.

Interested in supporting a countywide measure? Sign up for our action alerts. 

Kelsey Mesher is the Advocacy Director at Transportation Choices Coalition

44 Replies to “Now is the time to regionalize transit funding”

  1. A band-aid.

    What we really need is dedicated state funding, like what freeways get, so local government don’t have to beg for money every couple of years for basic service.

    1. Amen.
      Good luck getting the legislature to pass that. MAYBE after 2020 census and redistricting in 2022.

    2. Just be thankful it’s not like CO state where we have TABOR (Taxpayer Bill of Rights), which binds our hands in terms of proper funding for transit projects. Although the local transit agency (RTD) with how FastTracks has turned out to be hasn’t done themselves any favors either. As we’re still in the dark about whether the completion of the entire FastTrack project will be done this decade or two decades from now.

  2. I think that we need to separate the additional funding management away from operators. This is structurally how Move Seattle mostly works. We shouldn’t give a dime to operators to build anything new unless they have support from the other operators and local jurisdictions and State agencies .

    Then we would be in an excellent position to regionalize the planning — and each operator can earn their funding from others by integrating their needs with everyone else‘s.

    This is generally the California model — and even joint transit agencies like those in San Jose and Los Angeles work in this way.

    I think people forget that Seattle proposed a Madison RapidRide Route A few years ago, and then Metro proposed an alternative that split the route. Even the Red Line proposal was to put an R in a red circle a few months ago, as Metro rolls out a RapidRide R to be branded as an R in a dark red circle. It’s a parade of continual problems that comes from poor integration.

    It’s tough to change the “this is my thing and I’m going to do it alone” transit attitude but the riders would really benefit from deeper than today’s mere surface coordination. Local advocates are often too familiar with our dysfunctional system that they don’t want to change it — but some basic structural changes are needed.

    1. Metro is the wisest one in the room in terms of route planning, bus capital projects, and keeping transit running day in and day out. If I had to choose Metro, Sound Transit, King County as a whole, Seattle, Bellevue, or another city to do all of it, I’d choose Metro.

      It’s one thing to move coordinating all planning and operations into one transit authority. It’s quite another thing for the political powers to give it enough authority to spec a comprehensive transit-best-practices network and fully implement it. Just because you consolidate the formal activities doesn’t mean you’ll automatically get high quality. Pugetopolis is distorted by public expectations and political turf pressures that won’t go away just by reorganizing the transit planning/operations structure.

  3. The Seattle Times article mentions that a county council member is ALREADY trying to get this tax money diverted from transit to roads: https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/transportation/a-sales-tax-for-metro-bus-service-could-come-to-the-august-ballot-but-details-remain-murky/

    Taking this money out of the hands of a pro-transit city council, and into a potentially anti-transit county council is a recipe for transit cuts and diversions to highway spending.

    Remember what happened with the homelessness “regional solution.” Seattle provided the lions share of the money, but gave up control on how that money was spent. Suburban cities contribute zero dollars, receive money from Seattle, and make no promise on how they will spend it. Most will probably not build any homelessness services, but will divert the money to ends…

    Seattle shouldn’t get played for a sucker again. If King County wants to raise more money for transit, they should pass a separate measure that excludes Seattle, and let Seattle pass its own tax like it has always done.

  4. Here is the counter-argument:

    1) Seattle is willing to spend more than the suburbs. You will be hard pressed to find a funding proposal failing in Seattle in the last ten years. I think the only exception was for a jail. We are a tax and spend city — the suburbs, not so much.

    2) It will do more good in the city. This is not unique to Seattle, but the same pretty much the world over. You can get by with weak suburban service and good urban transit, but the other just won’t work. It doesn’t matter if you can get from Lynnwood to the UW quite easily, if it is hard to get from UW to Fremont, and that is where the rider is headed. The point is, someone from Lynnwood, Bothell, Kirkland, Renton, etc. is far more likely to take advantage of really good Seattle transit, but very few from Seattle will do the reverse. Furthermore, it is just too expensive. It wouldn’t take much to get most of the Seattle bus routes up to the point where they are like those in a typical Canadian city. That means covering pretty much the entire city with frequent transit *in multiple directions*. But doing that to the suburbs would cost way more money. You just get much better bang for the buck in the city.

    By all means, the county should spend more on transit. But the city should spend more on top of that.

    1. the RossB point is valid. but about 60 percent of Metro hours are still in Seattle, so the suburbs are subsidizing Seattle riders. his phase “on top” leads to possibility: that two TBD are stacked, allowing both simultaneous countywide and Seattle measures. 2020 is the year to go, as the Seattle TBD expires.

      in 2020, times are awkward for several reasons. time is very short. folks want the Harborview measure on the General Election. I-976 clouds the fate of vehicle license fees. the current TBD enabling legislation allows limited revenue sources. the legislative session is short and cautious about improving the revenue situation. turnout is critical; there is a strong positive correlation between positive votes for transit and high turnout. April measures were defeated in 1995 and 2014.

      pet peeve on diction: we should use regional for intercounty issues and countywide for King County issues; using regional for countywide issues confuses.

  5. In ideal world where such a proposal actually passes, I would agree. What I’m afraid is that it won’t pass, with an end result that people in Seattle lose bus service because people in Auburn don’t want to pay for it.

    A city by city approach makes transit improvements less likely in the suburbs, but far more likely to happen in the city itself, where it’s needed most.

    Yes, if we could always fall back on a citywide measure if the county measure fails, but it will be too late; service will have already been cut, and with bus drivers already laid off, it won’t increase again overnight.

    1. Cheap shot at Auburn. How about Enumclaw, Maple Valley, Covington, North Bend, Carnation, Duvall, Snoqualmie, Fall City, Black Diamond, etc.?
      FYI, Auburn is changing. The City Council is mostly blue. A few years ago, it was solid red with some centrist Dems. There’s been a ton of migration here from “priced out” Seattle workers. I’ve also seen several neighbors retire and immediately sell their homes to move to Eastern WA. They’ve been mostly displaced by folks originating from Seattle or from another King County suburb. Those transactions are a shift from red to blue – fogies who saw no value in transit to younger people who see the benefit and will at least consider it. A lot of the “no” voters here support transit but, quite frankly, are stretched so thin on their house and car payments to an extent that they are lower-middle class, living paycheck-to-paycheck, and one layoff away from losing their homes. A modest tax increase for a tech worker is a huge sacrifice to some of my neighbors. Not a fun place to be.

      1. “How about Enumclaw, Maple Valley, Covington, North Bend, Carnation, Duvall, Snoqualmie, Fall City, Black Diamond, etc.?” Oh, they would definitely be voting “no”, but the number of people living in many of those areas is limited enough so that it wouldn’t matter too much.

        “FYI, Auburn is changing. The City Council is mostly blue.” Look at the precinct maps. Auburn voted for Hillary Clinton, but opposed ST3 and supported I-976. Merely being Democrat does not imply support for transit – especially in the suburbs – while being Republican implies opposition to transit with near certainty, pretty much everywhere.

    2. South King County has consistently voted against Metro and ST measures for at least a decade and a half, saying it’s too poor to afford the taxes, and it needs its roads more than it needs its transit to get to work. Maybe that’s changing but we’d need more evidence that it’s changed enough to depend on. “Auburn” is a placeholder for most South King County and Eastside cities, it’s not singling out Auburn in particular.

      1. I-976 provided zero evidence that anything’s changed. Even the precinct containing the Sounder station, as pro transit as Auburn is ever going to get, voted to support Sound Transit by a very underwhelming margin.

  6. I know there are constraints on what taxes can be used, but I do feel a sales tax will be very unpopular outside Seattle. I’m not sure how much county support such a TBD proposition can expect.

  7. “We need to improve equitable transportation access; parts of our region have not received adequate transit investments and a lack of fast, frequent, reliable, and accessible transit is leaving people behind.”

    Except more money won’t get historically underserved communities, like South Mercer Island, more equitable transit access. Good transit, transit nerds will tell you, should go where there’s density. Low density single family home neighborhoods should get little to no transit service. More money doesn’t change that philosophy.

  8. If we have a prolonged coronavirus outbreak, transit operations and construction will likely be affected if not paused for weeks on end. Japan has cancelled all schools today for March and may begin shutting down their transit systems under this planetary emergency.

  9. Kelsey and TCC, I’m with you a lot more extensively than you know, for a regional approach to transit. I’m seeing a bigger region.

    The economy that chased me out of Ballard has subsequently since been creating a whole generation of Olympia voters who’d rather not be forced to drive a freeway from Hell every day to and from their jobs, whose location hasn’t changed with their residence.

    But the generational change that’ll be the approaching backdrop also creates both motivation and method to set to right a situation that’s been wrong to the tenth power for the last nine years since Link’s inaugural.

    With a tenacity that’d shame a rabid weasel, the Sound Transit Board has decreed, and expressed willingness to do inflict deliberate pain with, a fare policy that criminalizes failure to execute a “tap off” on equipment their own instructions list as faulty. In obedience to rules that violate their own RCW’s with their lack of content. Offense never even described.

    Few days back, I recalled watching Governor Mike Lowry years ago tell a discouraged high school student body President that if he could have all the students in any district vote for him, he could take any election in the State.

    Doubtless also mindful of the fact that when you’re eighteen, your first job out of high school could be State legislator. What better chance could a justly-aggrieved voting ridership want?

    On the phone this morning, Portland MAX verified that their fare system worked just fine with a one-tap legitimization, leaving nobody hurt by the lack of distance-basing along longer track than ours.

    So put some good prints of MAX trains and decent-rule descriptions on your “Vote No” posters….but with signs instantly alterable to “Vote Yes” when your target finally gets the message via means that make remaining seated uncomfortable.

    Like great labor-martyr Joe Hill put it, they’ll have nothing to lose but their chairs. Real reason they shot him. Floor’s open.

    Mark Dublin

  10. Very enthusiastic about this. Better to take a countywide approach to its logical conclusion than Seattle have to foot the bill for King County.

  11. I’m sorry, but this proposal is weird. Seattle needs permission from the State Legislature to raise its sales or property tax rates in order to pay for the transit it needs. It should NOT be forced to depend on autoistas in South King County who resent the success of the city dwellers.

    South King has shown consistently that it doesn’t want bus transit. It voted overwhelmingly against County Prop 1 back in 2014, forcing Seattle to “go-it-alone”. And you know what? The service that has resulted is a LOT better than what the County Council would demand/allow/force Metro to produce.

    1. I would like to see both/and.

      Taking the existing funding levels in Seattle countywide is kinda anti-compelling, with Tom being a case it point.

      Increasing funding countywide while keeping or increasing Seattle’s in-city subsidy would be much more compelling to get transit activists to care about this.

      Going for a less regressive funding source for a change would also help. What is stopping the county from taxing carbon emissions?

      And then, don’t hobble the Seattle bump-up by requiring it to be only spent on bus service. Allow it to also be spent on capital projects that speed up bus service, and on projects to create ROW for zero-emissions human-powered transportation (I’m talking about bikes). Don’t renew Move Seattle Cars and instead use those funding sources to fund the modes that will save the planet. I believe Seattle will vote for a property tax and/or a carbon tax to fund the climate-proofing of Seattle’s transportation grid. And they will gladly vote for the climate-proofing of the county bus system while they are at the polls.

      Go big, don’t re-fight 2014.

    2. Both sides have a point. Seattle needs and will use a higher level of service, and shouldn’t have its service dependent on whether lukewarm cities approve countwide measures. On the other hand, Dow is right that the city and suburbs are heavily interdependent, and a countywide transit increase would benefit everybody including Seattle residents. Because the majority of the population is outside Seattle, Seattlites work at suburban jobs, Southcenter and the big-box city around it have products that aren’t available in Seattle, etc. Dow is looking at the big picture: what’s best for the entire county in the long run. He’s also looking at how to get transit to areas that won’t vote for single-city transit boosts. The Seattle boosters are looking at how to guarantee frequent Seattle service even if the county doesn’t go along.

      Both sides have merit, and two complementary measures or a city-fallback measure is a good way to address all concerns. There are three potential approaches:

      1. A city TBD could suspend itself when an equivalent county TBD is in effect, and automatically resume if the latter expires.

      2. A county measure could exclude taxes and services covered by the city one. This might be difficult because a tax district must charge the same rate to everyone within it.

      3. A county TBD could wrap around Seatlte like the King County Library System does. That would allow the two TBDs to charge different rates and have different chances of approval. And they could cooperate on city-suburban routes like the 120, 106, and 347. Seattle’s TBD reserves a small percentage for city-suburban agreements like this, and the county TBD could do the same.

    3. I like some kind of hybrid. You both have interesting ideas how to bring it about. But let’s put aside a “county carbon tax”. The complexities and unplanned consequences of that would be a mess. Yes to a carbon tax, but statewide.

      Now maybe the economy has improved enough that people in South King would support a county-wide prop, but it’s not good to depend on it.

      I really like Mike’s #3 — the wraparound. Of course ANY TBD depends on Eyman losing at the Supreme Coury.

  12. We will have the most progressive turnout available countywide, and so we will boldly push to fund transit with …

    … a sales tax increase.

    Zzzzzzzzzzzz.

    Does the legislature not only leave it to localities to fund transit, but also limit our funding options to sales tax and fares?

    How about a county carbon tax? Lets tax something we want to discourage instead of commerce for a change.

    And while we are at it, why not raise the cash fare and/or get rid of paper transfers to promote more efficient operations? I want to see Metro fully embrace ORCA so we aren’t throwing money down the black hole of politically-hobbled slow buses. The full subsidy for those at 80% of the FPL is a move in the right direction, but should also come with ceasing to advantage cash payment in the name of the exceptional cases that will now be free. With the full-subsidy program in place, still advantaging cash payment will be a net negative impact on everyone including those getting the full subsidy. Faster transit for all, please!

    I also want the money to be available to spend on capital improvement projects that help speed up buses and help enable electrification. The eligible projects should have reasonably strict criteria, such as that it can’t be spent on park & rides or bus pull-outs (which are used to get buses out of the way of SOV traffic, and end up slowing down buses and making getting on and off the bus a more dangerous step — see the anti-transit projects that were built to hobble the A Line through Des Moines.) Faster transit for all, please!

    How do we not repeat the mistakes of the last county ballot? Make this about fighting the existential threat of climate change. Show how this will enable the electrification of the fleet, while not retiring hybrids early. Show that the funding source will itself help fight climate change… which sales tax, doesn’t exactly. Excite the youth climate movement to go door-to-door to campaign for this, not just transit wonks. Get the Bernie Bros (I’m referring to his army of volunteers, not the obnoxious and abusive online trolls that other campaigns disingenuously complain about) excited about this. Don’t just go for what sells in the polls, but what sells people to want to work their butts off for this. A sales tax increase and promise of more of the same type of bus service ain’t that.

    1. “Does the legislature not only leave it to localities to fund transit, but also limit our funding options to sales tax and fares?”

      The state created the counties. Counties and cities can only raise taxes at the rates and amounts allowed by the state. The most flexible tax is sales tax because it’s the easiest to change and raise; the disadvantage is it’s strongly pro-cyclical: when a recession hits revenue plummets right when you need a boost. Property tax is more stable but it has tighter caps, and anything more than a small amount must be renewed every four years in a levy. The Eyman initiatives have tightened these compared to the 1990s. Traditionally, property tax funds schools and sales tax funds most of transit, including Metro’s base funds.

      “How about a county carbon tax?”

      The state won’t allow it. It allows only a few tax sources: sales tax, property tax, MVET, employee head tax, and a few other less popular ones that haven’t been used because they’re so unpopular. MVET is about to be shut off, so that will reduce the sources. The state could change its mind anytime, and it might in the long term as the population average becomes more urban and liberal, but it won’t happen this year.

      “And while we are at it, why not raise the cash fare and/or get rid of paper transfers to promote more efficient operations?”

      Those are low-hanging fruit many of us have recommended. They don’t require state permission. It’s just hard to convince Metro, ST, and King County to adopt them because the tradition has been the same fare fore every form of payment. And paper transfers get caught in the debate over the large number of low-income people in Seattle and South King County who can’t afford to prepay an e-purse, don’t live near a TVM, and need the longer transfer period paper transfers provide. An ORCA transfer is 2 hours, while a paper transfer is 2-4 hours depending on the length of the bus run, whether it’s hear the beginning or end of the run, and how often the driver resets the cutoff blade. And after 9:30pm a paper transfer is good all night and the first run of the morning, if that’s still effective. There is ORCA LIFT and the county needs to get it into more eligible hands, and have a lower tier for people who can’t even afford it. Plus there’s the “old transfer loophole”: there are 36 letter-color combinations, and when those repeat people can use old transfers, a strategy of the poor. But that takes time to convince politicians and get it implemented, while paper transfers already exist and it’s easy to just keep using them.

      “I also want the money to be available to spend on capital improvement projects that help speed up buses and help enable electrification.”

      Metro Connects includes capital improvements. Most of it is upgrading lines to RapidRide, but there’s also spot improvements to intersections, and infrastructure needed to support more frequency and half-hourly expresses (i.e., more buses and bases).

      For a separate measure like a city TBD, capital improvements cost more than just running more buses, so you want to be wary about allocating limited money to capital improvements that would preclude a substantial increase in frequency. Seattle has had both kinds of measures: the TBD in 2014 was for operations, and Move Seattle in 2016 was for capital improvements. We can continue doing both kinds of measures, and there may be benefit in doing them separately rather than combining them. To avoid the “more P&Rs” problem (which in the 200s was the “more streetcars” problem), you just list the projects it would be spent on, or at least the kinds of projects, or one per district. There won’t be more P&Rs in Seattle because a city law prohibits new P&Rs. That’s why Rainier Valley has no P&Rs.

      “Make this about fighting the existential threat of climate change.”

      The people who don’t support bus taxes are the same ones who aren’t convinced by climate arguments. I agree with articulating the carbon and pollution benefits and getting the environmental activists to help push it, but basing the package content and marketing primarily on environmental benefits is not enough to get it over the top.

      1. I highly doubt anything in the RCW actively prevents cities and counties from levying carbon taxes. Even if there is, human ingenuity can easily discover an environmental tax not prohibited by state law. The city and county are unwilling, not unable, to find novel taxing methods/sources.

  13. The headline is confusing.

    “Regionalize” in Seattle usually means 3+ counties.

    But “The TBD should be run Countywide” should have 1000% agreement with everyone here.

    1. “Regionalize” also implies combining all the operators in the region like ST and KCM — and even PT, CT, ET, Monorail and SDOT Streetcars. It could also include all the WS ferries and KT too.

      What TCC is proposing here has nothing to do “regionalizing”. It’s just about not relying on a special Seattle-funded approach. I even wonder whether the term is chosen as an appealing goal to build support even though that’s not what is being recommended.

  14. Yeah, why not? Seattle, Shoreline, Bellevue, and Redmond will vote for it, most everywhere else will vote against it, and I expect it will pass. The money will go toward something useful, I expect. I could quibble about the details, but it doesn’t matter much.

  15. Let’s see….

    – KCM taxes directly.
    – ST taxes directly — and hands money to a KCM operated project, and builds and operates rail to replace KCM service.
    – City of Seattle taxes directly, and hands money over to KCM for bus operations as well as funds their own streetcar transit expansion and service.

    And who is reviewing the way our transit subsidies get managed? And who is looking out for riders as opposed to political interests?

    I think it’s time to unplug from the usual “more tax for our transit operations” train of thought. While a certain part of the the public always supports more transit funding and a certain part always opposes more transit funding, I think there are a large number of “swing voters” who just want better coordination between operators/ agencies and more traceable financial accountability.

    To that extent, Metro Connects probably is too limited of a vision to sell. It goes part of the way to a post ST2/3 world but it currently lacks public embracing, alternatives or technical debate.

    We are getting ready to move 160K riders to light rail (all but two new stations are in King County) in five years, which represents about 40 percent of the total KCM boardings (granted that many of them will switch to KCM feeders to Link rather than ride a KCM route the whole way). ST (Link, Sounder, STRide, Express) will be carrying over 1/3 of all King County transit boardings in five years! This significant of an investment is HUGE! It’s transforming!

    I think that having a “Transit Connects” vision is what’s actually needed first — with the roles, resources and financial strategies for each operator (and each city and state agency) coming out of that. Add to that station designs that facilitate movement and reduce fare collection methods and boarding time (channeling the MARTA paid-fare bus loading areas at stations).

    The operator-by-operator piecemeal approach has been reasonable in the recent past and it’s great for short-term bandages to a volatile funding system tied to the economic cycles , but — during this era of impending major changes to how riders will use transit — a more comprehensive multi-operator approach and a sustainable funding strategy needs to be laid out first.

    1. Having layers of bureaucracy creates good paying jobs and unions contribute to campaigns. But you’re right, having multiple people just to move money around is wasteful.

      It is interesting that ST doesn’t actually operate anything itself. Once light rail is built out will they even really need to exist? (I know that’s at least 100 years away)

    2. I realize that ST will be about 40 percent of all King County boardings. It’s about 60 percent compared to KCM boardings.

    3. “who is reviewing the way our transit subsidies get managed?”

      The city council manages the TBD. Sometimes it buys specific runs on specific routes. Usually it gives Metro general principles, and Metro combines it with its list of underserved corridors and gives the council a package of routes, and they approve it.

      The county council manages base revenue, and the ST board manages its revenue. ST’s delegation to Metro is an internal issue. I don’t see why it matters whether ST or Metro or a private contractor operate it, as long as they do a reliable job and pay their workers adequately. Most of Link’s and ST Express’s problems are due to ST, not to how Metro operates them.

      “And who is looking out for riders as opposed to political interests?”

      Government is political.

      “While a certain part of the the public always supports more transit funding and a certain part always opposes more transit funding, I think there are a large number of “swing voters” who just want better coordination between operators/ agencies and more traceable financial accountability.”

      The issue we’re concerned about is comprehensive transit service like San Francisco, Chicago, Vancouver, and New York have, where buses are always frequent and go to all neighboring urban villages and along grid lines, and only a few coverage routes are infrequent. You can’t ride coordination or accountability; it can’t get you from A to B.

      Some people want more bus service, and thus support taxes. Metro taxes are especially good and yielding proportional bus service, as proven in the TBD. (The problem of bus-base capacity is a short-term issue that doesn’t invalidate this.)

      Others who focus on accountability hunting and restructuring the agencies usually don’t value additional bus service that much. What they’re demanding requires significant resources to implement, and in practice it displaces additional service that we could have gotten for the money. Where ST and Metro make inefficient decisions, we can focus on changing those directly.

      “I think there are a large number of “swing voters” who just want better coordination between operators/ agencies and more traceable financial accountability.”

      I think you’re projecting your own desires and overstating the number of people who focus on this. Most people either want more bus service (support for raising taxes is more mixed), don’t want their taxes raised (and generally don’t care about bus service or think it should remain as is), or don’t think about these topics much at all.

      “Metro Connects probably is too limited of a vision to sell.”

      Too limited? It’s the biggest visionary change in Metro in the past thirty years.

      “We are getting ready to move 160K riders to light rail…”

      That’s precisely one of the things Metro Connects is designed to address. If you don’t think it does it well enough, suggest specific changes.

      “Add to that station designs that facilitate movement and reduce fare collection methods and boarding time”

      That’s mostly on ST to improve its station designs. Addressing that in an organization restructure is a bigger issue that can’t be done in Metro Connects or 1-2 years. They can both proceed in parallel: an immediate solution to the bus network for the next decade, and a larger reorganization that could incorporate it and identify what should come after it. Metro’s fare practices are smaller issues that we can address within Metro. The larger issue of all-agency fare practices can be dealt with in this larger restructure, and I see it as a secondary issue compared to what routes run at what frequency. I can ride routes from A to B to do my errands; I can’t ride fare practices.

      “The operator-by-operator piecemeal approach has been reasonable in the recent past and it’s great for short-term bandages to a volatile funding system tied to the economic cycles , but — during this era of impending major changes to how riders will use transit — a more comprehensive multi-operator approach and a sustainable funding strategy needs to be laid out first.”

      That’s a good overall goal, and it’s worth considering a high-level vision and structural changes. But there’s the forest and there’s the trees. A high-level structure will take time and can’t address the more immediate needs in the meantime. Metro Connects is an immediate need, a tree.

      1. “… comprehensive transit service like San Francisco, Chicago, Vancouver, and New York …”

        While there are outer operators in these cities, none of these cities have two operators each carrying at least 30 percent of all of the transit boardings. Instead, they have most bus and rail service operated by one entity. If that’s your goal, you should be advocating for a reorganization of ST and KCM.

      2. “ It’s the biggest visionary change in Metro in the past thirty years.”

        As I said earlier, it’s not the content but the process and lack of alternatives that limits this vision. It’s a big change in our transit system without public vetting or broad discussion.

      3. “ Metro Connects is an immediate need, a tree.”

        Wrong. It’s a long range vision with a 2040 end date.

      4. It’s what’s guiding the Northgate Link restructure right now, and the Lynnwood and Federal Way restructures after that, and RapidRide I planning in Renton-Auburn.

        My goal is a bus network like Chicago’s. Link is roughly similar to the el, even if has a different relationship to the city’s trip patterns than the el does. It doesn’t matter whether they’re run by one agency or two agencies as much as where they go and when. Those are also city agencies over a smaller area than either Metro or ST, so they face different feasibility options than we do. Link can’t be changed at this level; it is what it is, so the bus network has to work around it. That’s what Metro is doing.

      5. “It’s a big change in our transit system without public vetting or broad discussion.”

        What should Metro have done differently? Two vision alternatives? Proposal 1, 2, and 3 with a feedback cycle after each? Metro took comments for a year on it and is still probably taken comments, and it has quietly updated it periodically. It’s Metro’s one best estimate of what the future should be? Should it hold back some ideas or split them into two alternatives? Isn’t it better to have all its favorite ideas in one integrated map where we can evaluate it as a whole? It’s not really “This route shalt go from here to there”, it’s, “Should this route go from here to there?” The answer to that will be in the specific restructure proposals per district and their 1, 2, and 3 cycles.

      6. I’m glad you mentioned the Northgate Link restructure for 2021. Do you think it’s rather revealing the CT is already planning for Lynnwood Link in 2024 but KCMetro hasn’t begun rolling out a world post East Link with Redmond Extension, Lynnwood Link or Federal Way Link yet? Isn’t the KCMetro process apparently three years too late compared to the CT process?

        And yes, Metro should have rolled out different alterantives. I could see alternatives being:

        1. Incremental changes to serve Link.
        2. System design focused on Link, RapidRide in non-Link corridors + feeder buses.
        3. System design focused on a two-tiered operation, with free local feeders + neighborhood circulators and a distanced based system for longer trips.
        4. System design by turning over all RapidRide and Express services to ST, and focusing only on local buses.
        5. System design for when automated low-speed vehicles become feasible.

        All of these are on top of the peak versus non-peak hours of service. The need to fund long peak-hour bus service will subside (I have serious doubts of the viability of First Hill express buses after Link opens, for example). All-day demand will grow in importance as Link takes more commuter-oriented trips.

      7. “ I think you’re projecting your own desires and overstating the number of people who focus on this. Most people either want more bus service (support for raising taxes is more mixed), don’t want their taxes raised (and generally don’t care about bus service or think it should remain as is), or don’t think about these topics much at all.”

        There are plenty of swing voters and they make a big difference . King County Prop 1 in 2014 got rejected with only 45 percent support, while ST3 got approved with 57 percent support in 2016 in King County.

      8. I may not be a swing voter, as my transportation options hinge on mass transit (I don’t drive, never have). That said, I most definitely “want better coordination between operators/ agencies and more traceable financial accountability.”. I’ve heard Metro drivers say there are more administrators than there are drivers. In actual numbers of Metro alone, not as hyperbole or including ST. That’s insane if true.

      9. “There are plenty of swing voters and they make a big difference . King County Prop 1 in 2014 got rejected with only 45 percent support, while ST3 got approved with 57 percent support in 2016 in King County.”

        I think that has less to do with agency accountability and more to do with transportation mode. There are quite a few suburban voters who are willing to pay for light rail (so long as there’s P&R stations they can drive to), but are not willing to pay for more bus service.

      10. Yes, many people swing toward Link and Sounder but away from Metro. It’s not the agencies but the type of transit. They will drive to an express-level train or bus but they won’t take a local bus to it. That’s the problem in Mercer Island: people want to drive to Mercer Island Station and aren’t interested in a feeder bus. They’ve rebuffed the feeder buses that have existed on and off for decades. Stride may be able to gain that support if it’s faster and more reliable than buses stuck in regular traffic.

        Mercer Islanders may warm up to feeders if they’re frequent and ubiquidous. That could provide a model for other areas, although it’s easier on an island where there’s a physical barrier all around and people are psychologically “we’re all in this together”.

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