By Imogene Williams
On Thursday, January 16, two forums on transit were held at Seattle Central Community College (SCCC), sponsored by the college, the Transit Riders Union (TRU), the Sierra Club and others. About 120 anxious people attended. The moderator, Domenic Holden of the Stranger, questioned whether we are losing our ability to be a city.
Chris Arkills of Metro Transit said Metro carries 400,000 passengers every day. The buses are funded only 29% by our fares and 60% from sales tax, which is much reduced since the recession. They have struggled against a $75 million per year gap in funding by cutting services and raising fares. The drivers gave up their raises.
In the legislature, a sticking point is the Majority Coalition Caucus (MCC) in the state senate. In the 2013 session, Senator Rodney Tom of Bellevue and three other Senators prevented the Comprehensive Transportation Package from coming to a vote so Metro got no help from them. They do not seem to care about the real effects of crippling transit in Seattle.
Transit drivers have not had cost of living adjustments for 5 years. Over 55% of bus riders are fulltime workers or fulltime students. The economic well-being of our region depends on the buses. Metro, if nothing is done, will be forced to completely eliminate 74 routes and reduce service on 104 routes.
It would help if King County were allowed to enact a Motor Vehicle Excise tax but the state legislature would have to authorize King County to implement such a tax. The Senate Majority Caucus seems determined to deny King County that authority.
Metro is recommending a $60 King County car tab fee, a 25% fare increase and a 0.l% increase in the county portion of the sales tax. A new low-income fare of $1.50 would be available. King County Executive Dow Constantine and the King County Council are considering putting a ballot measure to King County voters that would implement the revenue recommendations proposed by Metro.
What can we do? We can call our legislators and insist that they pass a transportation package that among other things funds transit at the level needed to keep an effective transit system operating in Seattle and throughout the state.
Imogene Williams is a PSARA Executive Board member, represents PSARA on transit issues and is a frequent bus rider.