NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's uplifting perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Friday, August 12th, 2011

Deal struck by Executive Constantine, King County Council to save Metro

King Coun­ty Exec­u­tive Dow Con­stan­tine and sev­en mem­bers of the King Coun­ty Coun­cil announced this morn­ing at a press con­fer­ence in Pio­neer Square that they have struck a deal that saves Metro with­out ask­ing the pub­lic to vote on approv­ing a new vehi­cle fee to off­set dev­as­tat­ing cuts.

The deal was made between Exec­u­tive Con­stan­tine, the five Democ­rats on the Coun­cil, and two of the Repub­li­cans (Jane Hague and Kathy Lam­bert), with input from tran­sit activists, oper­a­tors, and groups that rep­re­sent riders.

Under the terms of the agree­ment, Hague and Lam­bert will sup­ply the votes need­ed for the Coun­ty Coun­cil to enact a $20 vehi­cle fee increase with­out a pub­lic vote. (The autho­riz­ing leg­is­la­tion that gives the coun­ty the tax­ing author­i­ty stu­pid­ly requires a super­ma­jor­i­ty rather a sim­ple majority).

In exchange, the fol­low­ing will occur:

  • Eight vouch­ers worth up to $24 total will be pro­vid­ed to every King Coun­ty res­i­dent who pays the new vehi­cle fee.
  • Any res­i­dent who does not wish to use their vouch­ers can donate them to one of the local gov­ern­ment agen­cies that pro­vides low-cost bus tick­ets to the home­less and eco­nom­i­cal­ly disadvantaged.
  • The afore­men­tioned social and human ser­vice agen­cies will also receive more fund­ing to pur­chase dis­count­ed bus tick­ets for the peo­ple that they serve.
  • The ride free area in down­town Seat­tle will be elim­i­nat­ed, begin­ning in Octo­ber of 2012. (When this hap­pens, ORCA will cer­tain­ly become more use­ful for nav­i­gat­ing down­town by bus).
  • Ser­vice realign­ments will be made. Neigh­bor­hoods with low­er demand will get more DART (Dial A Ride Tran­sit) and van­pool ser­vice, while neigh­bor­hoods where demand is high­er will get more bus service.
  • Areas affect­ed by tolling (includ­ing neigh­bor­hoods along SR 520) will see an increase in bus ser­vice so that peo­ple liv­ing in those areas have trans­porta­tion options.

The agree­ment sounds rea­son­able to us. With its adop­tion, the uncer­tain­ty of a pub­lic vote is removed, which means Metro plan­ners can begin work­ing on mak­ing smart adjust­ments to ser­vice rather than try­ing to fig­ure out how to imple­ment painful cuts. This agree­ment, as the cliché goes, is a win-win.

The elim­i­na­tion of the ride free area may be upset­ting to some rid­ers, but its exis­tence always has caused much con­fu­sion — espe­cial­ly because it is only in effect dur­ing cer­tain hours of the day. Get­ting rid of the RFA will make rid­ing the bus in down­town more straight­for­ward. You get on, you pay… period.

The one down­side that imme­di­ate­ly comes to my mind is that this will slow down the load­ing process in the DSTT (Down­town Seat­tle Tran­sit Tun­nel) and on down­town city streets, where peo­ple can cur­rent­ly just walk on.

Maybe Metro can install ORCA read­ers inside the back door or some­thing. They’ve got a year and a few weeks to fig­ure it out.

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One Comment

  1. What a jew­el of cre­ativ­i­ty this is of find­ing a way to make some­thing bet­ter than the orig­i­nal in order to resolve objec­tions. I’m huge­ly impressed by this process and its outcome. 

    Con­grat­u­la­tions to the 7 (too bad it was­n’t 9) coun­cil mem­bers who worked this out to the ben­e­fit of so many.

    # by mathliterate :: August 13th, 2011 at 12:12 AM
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