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On Other Blogs Today: Metro, Uber, and High-Speed Internet

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By Erica C. Barnett April 9, 2014


1. Here's an Uber-Lyft condundrum that even Seattle's fraught ridesharing world hasn't had to deal with: Say you're an Uber or Lyft member or operator in the Twin Cities. If you live on the St. Paul side of the Mississippi River, you're golden: St. Paul has allowed the ridesharing companies to operate since last summer. If you live on the Minneapolis side of the bridge, you have to get a formal taxi license—without it, you can be ticketed and your car can be impounded, the Atlantic Cities reports.

Here in Seattle, the city council adopted new rules last month regulating ridesharing services by setting a limit, 150 on the number of ridesharing cars that can be on the road for a single company at any time, and setting minimum insurance requirements, but not requiring ridesharing operators to get full taxi licenses, whose numbers are limited by the city and county. 

2. In a highly misleading piece arguing against preserving King County Metro service with a new vehicle license fee and 0.1-cent sales tax increase, KIRO's Dori Monson reports that some 2,000 King County employees—out of nearly 17,000—make six-figure salaries; therefore, Monson concludes, voters should cut bus service for county residents. 

First of all, Monson's 2,000-plus figure includes the entire county government; look at the transportation department—the only relevant department, when you're arguing that the transportation department is the one wasting taxpayer dollars—just 448 employees make six figures, most of them just above $100,000. Second, I'm willing to bet that most of those bus riders whose service Monson wants to eliminate aren't making six figures.

Finally, Monson's us-vs.-them mentality—the claim that Metro wants to raise "your taxes" so they can preserve service—is the kind of attitude that's only possible when you're sitting behind the wheel of a car, not waiting in the rain for a bus that never comes. 

3. And speaking of specious arguments against fully funding Metro service: Seattle Transit Blog points to another one—the argument that Metro should just do what Pierce and Community Transit did and cut service. As they note, Community Transit has cut service by a whopping 37 percent since 2008, and Pierce Transit has cut service 43 percent.

And guess what? Ridership has suffered, with Pierce Transit's ridership declining 25 percent and Community Transit's dropping 30 percent. When buses aren't available or convenient, people go back to driving their cars—one reason Move King County Now, the pro-Prop. 1 group, estimates that Metro service cuts of up to 17 percent will put an additional 30,000 cars on the road. 

4. Finally, in non-transportation-related news, Mayor Ed Murray wrote on his blog today that Comcast shouldn't be allowed to monopolize high-speed Internet service, and says he's working to change rules that give property owners a virtual veto over the city's ability to put cable boxes, which would make it possible for a company like CenturyLink, or the city, to provide "next-generation" high-speed Internet service to some 21,000 homes that currently lack it, even though the boxes would be in publicly owned right-of-way. 

Currently, 60 percent of property owners within 100 feet of a proposed cable box have to sign off on placing the box in a city-owned planting strip. "Few other cities in the country demand this kind of approval system, which is in part why service providers are investing in those cities and not here in Seattle," Murray writes. 

NPR's Planet Moneydid a fascinating story recently about the "last mile" of the Internet, and explained why U.S. Internet customers have so few options compared to European consumers. 


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