I recently wrote this column about my efforts to live car-free in Seattle. I argued for preserving and expanding the Metro bus network. With the August 6 primary just one week away, this is the time for us all to think about voting for leaders who understand our transportation system’s funding woes.
If you want a better understanding of where the money comes from and why Metro has reached the point of possibly cutting service by 17 percent, go to this King County Metro link. Fares increased 80 percent between 2008 and 2011. Metro’s revenue comes mostly from collecting sales taxes, which have fluctuated since the recession began. Hence the need for local option taxing authority — an argument outlined in this May 13 op-ed by King County Executive Dow Constantine.
For the upcoming primary, The Seattle Times has endorsed Constantine for re-election and Rod Dembowski for a seat on the council, partly because both have shown a commitment toward improving Metro’s finances and productivity.
During a July 18 KCTS 9 debate with eight of the nine Seattle mayoral candidates, moderators Enrique Cerna and Joni Balter (of The Seattle Times) asked the contenders to share when they last rode the bus — and how they would deal with Metro’s pending shortfall.
I put together this table with their responses and linked their names to web sites where voters can learn more about their transportation views:
|Candidate||Mode of Transport||Plan for dealing with Metro’s shortfall|
|Joey Gray||Gets around by bike, scooter, bus. Doesn’t own car.||She is more interested in flow across the city. One of the great innovations is the OneBusAway app which helps with the flow, so you can time when your bus is coming. As mayor, she’d facilitate more collaboration between city resources between city, academic and individual creativity to make things like that happen.|
|Bruce Harrell||Took bus a couple weeks ago; light rail.||Why did the vehicle license fee fail? Because we didn’t convince public we’re handling investments wisely, smartly. Need to be more efficient. People are blaming Olympia. Lack of resources not an excuse. We have to look at our general fund and spend our money wisely.|
|Kate Martin||Rode bus to the forum.||City has failed us; must have excellent. First cut should be $20 million in overtime in lieu of 400 drivers they need. “It’s a very corrupt little system that they have, and it needs to end.”|
|Mike McGinn||Mostly cycles; took Rapid Ride to Ballard||We need this system. Adding jobs downtown. Put together coalition of mayors to help Dow Constantine. Metro hit hard by recession and depends too much on sales taxes. That package passed the House; died in Senate. Cuts are bad for local economy. Will keep working. “We’re just going to have to keep working to get Olympia to fund Metro.”|
|Douglas McQuaid||Used bus once 15 years ago. Drives everywhere.||It’s up to the Legislature and the City Council to work out a budget. “I could provide the leadership to help.” He drives a car and the problems with the automobiles is more important. “We need to prioritize” and it’s more important than buses or light rail. Would make buses more available, though.|
|Ed Murray||Did not respond.||The way to win a transportation is to build bridges; not point fingers. Governor and legislative leaders are still working on a package this year; possibly this fall. Doesn’t think the Metro cuts will happen. Eastside residents know they need it. “I’m going to stay positive and I’m going to work to get that package” before this year is out.|
|Charlie Staadecker||Took Monorail; takes routes several times per week.||The more times we ride the bus, the worse the service. Seattle is generous if you think about parks, education funding. They will fund buses. “We need the collegiality in Olympia to move forward. If we don’t get funding from Olympia we need smarter lights, synchronized lights and a better bike plan.” Supports bike-ways, similar to Portland.|
|Peter Steinbrueck||Uses bus nearly every day.||Our system is one of the largest and works well, but Legislature failed us this session. Compromises economy because 300,000 people per day rely on Metro transit alone. Only way to save streets from being “hopelessly congested” is to look to new sources of revenue.|