Proposition 1, which proposed to save Metro Transit service and fund road repairs, failed to get support from King County voters in a special election this month.
While not surprising, it is disappointing that voters would fail to support this necessary funding. Voters in Seattle supported the measure, but those elsewhere in King County did not — most likely because the initiative was marketed as one to save Seattle’s buses, which hardly serve the rest of the county.
Many voters said their decisive “no” vote was a clear message to Metro to clean up its act and run its system more efficiently. Many called for a self-sustaining bus system, but public transportation systems have always relied on some form of funding, and Metro is currently operating below the services it should provide. There are always ways to make the system more efficient, but ridership is up and service hours aren’t. Now, services will be slashed by 600,000 hours.
Voting no doesn’t harm those who have failed to make Metro more efficient or secure funding at the state level. It harms the hundreds of bus drivers who will be laid off, those who work at night when nighttime service is cut and those who live or work in areas that already have limited bus service.
There is a real dichotomy between high-density, high-rent apartment buildings that offer limited parking spaces and the lack of funding for citywide transportation services. We cannot expect people to live a car-free lifestyle in aPodments but not offer the services needed to navigate the city. The population boom we’re expecting within the next few decades only compounds these problems.
It also comes at a time when the city is pushing bike lanes. The City Council is proposing to spend $20 million each year for the next 20 years to install or update 474 miles of bike routes, but only 4 percent of Seattle currently commutes by bike each day. The city should shift its focus to supporting all forms of green and efficient transportation, including public transportation.
Because of the failed proposition, bus riders will now be forced to deal with more crowded buses, longer commutes and less access. Many will turn to getting back on the road among the expected 30,000 additional cars.
All hope might not be lost though, as the group Friends of Transit announced the day after the vote that it is filing a city initiative for November to save Metro service inside Seattle city limits. The proposal would raise property taxes to stop the cuts but not raise car-tab fees, which has already proven to be kryptonite for Seattle voters. It also works to save bus service within the city, where people are using it.
We cannot lose services that are so vital to our city’s economy. Let’s hope voters get it right in November.