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On Other Blogs Today: Buses, the Streetcar, and the Gender Gap

Our daily roundup.

By Erica C. Barnett September 26, 2014


1. West Seattle Blog has the news that Food Lifeline, the Seattle nonprofit that provides food to people in need and the agencies that serve them, no longer plans to locate its new distribution center on the former Nickelsville site in West Seattle.

Last year, the city evicted Nickelsville, which had been squatting illegally on the site for two years, in anticipation of Food Lifeline's purchase of the property.

The nonprofit, however, has decided to locate its new center in Riverton, just south of South Park, telling WSB that the group "made the decision to look elsewhere so they could spend their donors' money in the most efficient way possible and to find land that wouldn’t have so many questionable elements attached to it that might be cause for more money being spent for land development.”

2. Earlier this week, Seattle Transit Blog reported that Sound Transit is considering the adoption of a new low-income fare that would parallel King County Metro's recent move to increase regular fares and decrease lower fares for riders making less than 200 percent of the poverty level.

The new low-income fare (which would, somewhat confusingly, only apply on certain ST services) would be the same as the current youth fare (which varies by type of Sound Transit service) and would be offset by a 25-cent increase in regular fares, just like Metro's. 

Any fare changes, STB reports, would go into effect on March 1, 2015, to coincide with Metro's own fare changes—a harbinger, perhaps, of future efforts by King County Executive Dow Constantine to further integrate Metro and ST service. Earlier this month, Constantine released a report detailing "efficiency dividends" the two agencies could achieve by working together rather than as two completely separate entities.

3. STB also took a look this week at King County's transportation budget, which, like the rest of the property-tax-dependent county budget, will take a hit in 2015 and beyond.

In addition to the upcoming $21 million direct service cut (a result of King County voters' failure to pass last year's Proposition 1, which would have preserved hundreds of thousands of hours of bus service), STB notes that Metro will save money by reducing overtime, eliminating paper schedules (a proposal that will disproportionately impact low-income riders without smartphones and tourists seeking to get around in an unfamiliar city), and the elimination of several dozen Metro staffers.

The budget does, however, include money to continue replacing Metro's aging fleet, with the eventual result that Metro's whole fleet will be "entirely low-floor, air-conditioned, and either hybrid or trolley" (yay!)

4. Seattle continues to have one of the worst gender pay gaps in the nation, with women working full-time earning just 78 cents, on average, as men. And that gender gap is only getting worse, as women's pay stagnates while men's pay surges; between 2012 and 2013, the average Seattle man's pay jumped $7,000, to $67,000 while the average woman's pay remained almost exactly the same at $52,000 a year. During that two-year period, women's average pay dropped from 86 cents for every dollar earned by men to just 78 cents per male dollar.

Fully three-quarters of Amazon's high-paying jobs are taken by men. 

Part of the reason for the huge pay disparity, the Seattle Times reported this week, may be the "Amazon effect"—the retail giant is on a hiring spree, but fully three-quarters of its high-paying jobs are taken by men. "According to census data," the Times reports, "people living in Seattle who are employed in tech had a median pay of $91,000 last year—and 79 percent of them are male." Until Seattle's tech boom falters, or until Amazon and similar companies start making efforts to find and recruit female talent, that gap seems unlikely to budge.

5. The city council signaled its willingness to take a gamble on the new First Hill streetcar this week, discussing legislation that would give the city the authority to set fares and to keep all fare revenue; in exchange, the city will forgo a portion of the operating subsidy it receives from Sound Transit. The proposal, Capitol Hill Seattle notes, could backfire: "In South Lake Union, the city’s only other operating streetcar line missed [projections] and has been boosted by loans."

At a briefing this week, SDOT staffers told the transportation committee that as long as the streetcar gets 2,500 riders a day—less than the projection of 3,000 daily riders—the city should come out ahead.

6. Transportation Choices Coalition joined PubliCola's Casey Jaywork and the ladies at Seattlish in rebuking Seattle Times columist Danny Westneat's bizarro Metro-bashing piece about how buses are awful because they're crowded and icky and remind him of that one time he took "a train trip in rural Thailand where the locals kept crowding on with their goats."

TCC responds to Westneat's bus-bashing noting that Westneat assumes transportation is a binary choice between buses and cars, ignores the benefits of riding the bus and the downsides of driving a car (stress, traffic, cost), and fails to mention that Metro is cutting 400,000 hours, thanks in part to his own newspaper's relentless editorial position against adequate funding for public transit. 

"Living car-free is very much about being pragmatic, multi-modal and flexible," TCC writes. "Which Westneat is obviously not."

7. Finally (from last week), Seattlish wants new SDOT director Scott Kubly, who doesn't believe in the "War on Cars," to be their boyfriend.

Here's why.



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