PubliCola Picks

PubliCola Picks Yes on Seattle Transportation Benefit District Proposition No.1

Rather than keeping Metro on life support, Prop. 1 can fix it.

By PubliCola Picks November 3, 2014

Proposition 1, a Seattle-only do-over of last April's countywide vote on a 0.1 percent sales tax increase and a $60 vehicle license fee for bus funding, falls under our "No-Brainer" list; 66.5 percent of Seattle voters supported the idea in the Spring.  (The county at large killed the measure, though, and Metro lost 151,000 hours of bus service in September.)

The November 4 vote is different than the April measure in a few important ways that should make Seattle voters even more convinced to say 'Yes' this time around. 

Rather than casting a vote to prevent 15-percent service cuts as a desperate measure to preserve an underwhelming system (the April vote), this time voters will be addressing a different pressing need: Dealing directly with problems—such as overcrowding, infrequent unreliable service, and chronically late buses—that have been ignored for several years. Judging from basic indicators—numbers of boardings, measures of overcrowding, and (blood pressure check) "on-time" performance—Metro head Kevin Desmond puts the pent-up demand at 500,000 hours of service. By raising $45 million a year to buy bus hours through 2020 as the Prop. 1 says, voters will actually be fixing Metro rather than simply keeping it on life support. 

Revenues from Prop. 1 will allow Seattle to add 250,000 bus service hours annually, a 10 percent increase right off the bat—more than the system has grown in decades (which is why the need is so great.)

By raising $45 million a year to buy bus hours, voters will actually be fixing Metro rather than simply keeping it on life support. 

The Seattle Department of Transportation—which is adding a new transit division to explicitly ugrade the city's role in holding Metro accountable to its biggest customer, Seattle—has already come up with a list of ways it would fix bus service: 

  • Improve 16  chronically overcrowded bus routes such as
    Rapid Ride lines C and D, 5, 8, 15X, 16, 18X, 28, 40, 41, 44, 48, 70, 71X, 72, and 74X.
  • Fix 48 unreliable bus routes such as:
    Rapid Ride Lines C and D, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 10, 11, 14, 16, 17X, 18X, 21X, 21, 24, 25, 26X, 27, 28, 28X, 29, 31, 32, 33, 37, 40, 41, 43, 44, 48, 49, 55, 56, 57, 60, 64X, 66X, 70, 71, 72, 74X, 76, 83, and 99
  • Increase frequency on 28 bus routes such as: 
    Rapid Ride Lines C and D, 2, 5, 7, 8, 9X, 10, 11, 14, 16, 24, 25, 27, 30, 31, 32, 40, 41, 48, 49, 60, 66X, 67, 68, 70, 120, and 125.

This list of key Seattle fixes—and SDOT's role in naming them—brings us to the other big difference between April's vote and today's vote, a difference that should inspire Seattle voters. This is a Seattle-only measure. Putting a Seattle imprimatur on Metro does two awesome things. First, it forces Metro to anchor the region-wide system to the Seattle system which will have the compounding effect of making Seattle the economic Mecca of the region. Watch for more of the Weyerhaeuser effect.

Putting a Seattle imprimatur on Metro does some awesome things.

Second, putting Seattle skin in the game to energize the regional system will empower the new SDOT transit division (and the mayor and city council) to have more say about Metro. The measure already hints at the implications of that equation. Of the $45 million, $3 million is set aside as matching funds for other regional cities to buy customized bus service as well. In other words, we're using our clout to nudge the region to support transit. Second, the remaining $2 million goes to helping Metro's low-income fare program. Again, Seattle money is being used to ensure that the system is infused with progressive values.  

Opponents of the measure who came in to Seattle Met's offices earlier this month didn't like that Prop. 1 sends Seattle tax dollars off to a county system. (By the way, Seattle currently accounts for about 53 percent of Metro's revenues and Seattle gets about 60 percent of the service.) While we're not happy that Seattle has been forced to take matters into our own hands either—though, context, Olympia and then the county failed to step up first—we see it as a way to define the system to our liking. 

PubliCola Picks Yes on Seattle Transportation Benefit District Proposition No. 1 Transportation Funding

We recommend voting 'No' on I-1351. And we recommend choosing Prop. 1B for preschool funding over Prop. 1A.  


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