This is not a good sign. From today’s Seattle Times: “Voters rejecting new money for transit; bus cuts coming”
A list of transit cuts is headed to the King County Council this week, after 55 percent of voters were rejecting a sales-tax and car-tab increase in the Tuesday night count.
“There are no other options but to cut service,” said County Executive Dow Constantine. He said he will publish a plan to slice one-sixth of Metro Transit’s operating hours, including elimination of 72 routes. Customers on most other routes would notice fewer bus trips, or more crowding.
Transit managers have warned of this for months, even as ridership climbs to near-record levels of 400,000 passengers per weekday. …
The 10-year measure called for increasing the sales tax by 0.1 percent, or a dime per $100 purchase; and enacting a $60 annual car-tab fee. The combined revenue, just over $130 million for 2015, was to be divided 60 percent for bus service and 40 percent among county and city street departments.
The Times also provides a precedent on how the TransLink vote is likely to be treated. Here’s their editorial from April 6 opposing the proposition:
If voters approve Proposition 1, King County would have no incentive to do the hard work of bringing down labor costs that still saddle Metro with the fifth-highest driver costs in the country, behind only Boston, Santa Cruz, Washington, D.C., and Chicago.
If voters turn down Proposition 1, King County threatens a round of devastating bus-service cuts, many on popular routes including those carrying students to college. County and Metro leadership should not let that happen.
The threat ignores other options, including further fare increases and ever tighter control of administrative costs and capital expenses.
Saying no to Proposition 1 is not a message that transit does not matter. It does. The region, particularly job-dense downtown Seattle, needs reliable bus service. Nor should a no vote be read in Olympia as a sign the state Legislature does not need to pass a transportation package that includes less regressive transit tax options. It does.
Vote no on Proposition 1, and send King County government a message that Metro has more work to do on righting its cost structure before asking voters for more revenue.
Of course, Metro in Seattle’s King County has been cutting service already, as has TransLink (“service optimization” it’s called) – and it won’t matter. The opposition will go after labour costs, or administrative costs, or whatever is next in the line of sight. The argument will always be that until the transit agency demonstrates better cost control, we shouldn’t give it more money. And only brutal cuts that demonstrably hurt those most vulnerable will be a sufficient indicator.
But the most vulnerable, as likely demonstrated again in Seattle, don’t vote in numbers to make the difference.