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Northwest Voices

Seattle Times letters to the editor

June 25, 2013 at 8:00 PM

King County Metro is in a bind

Sound Transit is the biggest problem

Transit riders walk off the Sounder train near Safeco Field, cross 4th Avenue S. and the plaza, and then descend a staircase (in building at left)  into the International District station (between Sound Transit HQ and 5th Avenue South).  There, they catch a bus and continue on their way. [Ellen M. Banner, The Seattle Times.]

Transit riders walk off the Sounder train near Safeco Field, cross 4th Avenue S. and the plaza, and then descend a staircase (in building at left) into the International District station (between Sound Transit HQ and 5th Avenue South). There, they catch a bus and continue on their way. [Ellen M. Banner, The Seattle Times.]

While Steve Marshall’s piece was little more than a pitch for more van pools, he also laid out what he felt are the four biggest problems facing Metro Transit. [“Guest column: King County Metro is in a bind,” Opinion, June 24.]

Marshall outlined the following problems: fares that cover less than one-third of operating costs; flat sales-tax revenues; routes that serve low-density areas; and high labor costs.

I would argue that he omitted the largest contributor to the Metro’s financial bind: Sound Transit. Sound Transit got started in express-bus routes by co-opting popular, high-ridership routes from Metro, Pierce Transit and Community Transit. As for subsidies, you won’t find them any higher than on Sounder Rail service.

In tax revenues, Metro and the other country-run transit agencies are forced to compete for the scraps because Sound Transit has exhausted the public’s appetite for taxes, collecting both sales tax and vehicle excise taxes while never delivering anything on-time (unless one believes in their umpteenth revision of the original proposal, the one that called for light rail from Sea-Tac Airport to the University District by 2007).

We’ve destroyed efficient bus service with all of the multimodal diversity forced upon the public. Seattle’s South Lake Union streetcar is subsidized by Metro to the tune of $2 million per year. Now Mayor Mike McGinn wants more streetcars.

How about monorail? No, not that aging relic from the World’s Fair, but the one that was supposed to go to Crown Hill. Taxes were levied. Property was condemned and acquired. Pockets were lined with our money. No monorail.

Transportation needs fewer “big thinkers” like Marshall, people who just advocate for “more, more, more,” and needs some efficiency experts who will bring focus and fiscal responsibility to public transit.

Bruce Haigh, Kirkland

0 Comments | More in Seattle, Transportation | Topics: funding, king metro, metro

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