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On Other Blogs Today: Sharing Cars, Driving Less, Funding Transit, and More

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By Erica C. Barnett March 18, 2014



1. As opponents of ridesharing companies like UberX, Lyft and Sidecar have raised alarms about so-called "surge pricing"—the policy of increasing prices during times of high demand, like New Year's Eve or during a snowstorm—the companies themselves are implementing steep discounts, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Lyft just announced new "Happy Hour" prices—a discount of 10 to 50 percent during periods of low demand. 

Yesterday—in legislation aimed, in part, at protecting the traditional taxi industry—the city council adopted new rules limiting the number of drivers that can be working for any one ridesharing service to 150 at a time, a rule an Uber press release argued would "deal a devastating blow" to the company and effectively put it out of business in Seattle. 

2. Geekwire, whose writers are by and large unabashed ridesharing partisans, has a tongue-in-cheek editorial today suggesting other services the city council should consider capping.

Among their proposals: Limit emails to five a day to protect the U.S. Postal Service; eliminate Priuses to protect the oil and gas industry; cap the number of tablets in Seattle at 1,000 to protect the PC industry; and limit the number of on-demand movie downloads to three per week to protect the DVD rental and theater industry.

Maybe millennials are driving less because cars are too expensive, but they may also be developing habits that make them less likely to adopt car-centric lifestyles in the future, even after they're financially stable.  

3. Millennials are indisputably driving less than their forebears, but no one can agree exactly why. Some—let's call them environmental optimists—say it's because they're affirmatively choosing not to drive. Others—the car enthusiasts?—say the kids are driving less because they're short on cash, and they'll start guzzling gas again as soon as the economy rebounds. 

Grist suggests a third alternative: Maybe millennials are driving less because cars are too expensive, but they may also be developing habits that make them less likely to adopt car-centric lifestyles in the future, even after they're financially stable. "Transportation is fundamentally about getting somewhere as quickly, cheaply, and easily as possible. With the right incentives, people will choose not to drive," they write. 

High costs combined with cheaper and faster alternatives, in other words, are a strong incentive to take the bus or walk or ride a bike. Now if only we could figure out a way to fully fund our transit system... 

4. And speaking of that transit system: As Crosscut reports, Delridge, AKA Seattle's biggest "food desert" (an area with few grocery stores), is in danger of losing the bus route that connects the area to the rest of West Seattle, including the popular West Seattle food bank, if voters don't approve King County Proposition 1 on April 22.

Without a new vehicle license fee and sales-tax increase, the county will have to cut bus service as much as 17 percent, devastating many transit-dependent county residents. 

5. Even as King County voters prepare to decide the fate of Metro bus service, Link Light Rail ridership has continued to grow, increasing an impressive 14 percent during the final quarter of 2013 over the same quarter in 2013. Seattle Transit Blog has the details. 

6. And lest you think $130 million a year is too much to spend to preserve basic transit service, Goldy (writing again at his alma mater, HA Seattle) reminds you (in response to a Danny Westneat column in the Seattle Times) that context is everything: If you're going to vote for Tim Eyman initiatives that limit local agencies' ability to pay for basic services like, oh, buses, don't complain when the government comes knocking on your door to fund those services that you used to rely on the government to provide.

As Goldy reports: 

Prior to the passage of Tim Eyman’s $30 car tab fee Initiative 695 in 1999, Metro relied on a relatively stable Motor Vehicle Excise Tax (MVET)—a tax on the value of your car—for about one-third of its operating revenue. King County voters rejected I-695, but it passed statewide, so the legislature granted Metro some additional sales tax authority to make up the difference. Unfortunately, sales tax revenue is much less stable than MVET, and when the economy collapsed in 2008, so did Metro’s funding. From 2009 through 2015 Metro will collect $1.2 billion less in sales tax revenue than previously projected.

That averages to $200 million a year in reduced tax revenue, far more than the $130 million a year Proposition 1 would raise.


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