Woes at Metro

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These days, it’s rare to find a person who has not been affected by the struggling economy.  Lay-offs, jab scarcity and budget cuts – and now public transportation issues – have touched all of our lives in some way or another.  Seattle’s public transit system, known as “Metro” is unfortunately no exception to this.  Tough decisions are just about to be made about if and how to sustain the level of transportation service Seattle offers to the public.


That is, the City of Seattle must decide

if it is going to implement a temporary $20 congestion reduction charge while it figures out how to sustain the current levels of service Metro currently provides or if is going to begin reducing Metro’s service by 17%.  This may not seem like a lot, but it’s the equivalent of 600,000 hours less service than Seattleites are getting now.  That’s 9 million rides lost.  Put another way, a “mere” 17% reduction in service would affect nearly 80% of riders (most of those who depend on the bus for their transportation needs) – that’s four out of five that would have to walk longer distances to bus stops (which poses safety issues, especially at night and in certain neighborhoods), wait longer for buses (which means getting up earlier and/or getting home later) and even watching fully loaded buses pass them by.


Of course, Metro has already done everything it can to avoid reducing services.  Because most of it’s revenue is from sales tax, and the economy has discouraged people from spending as much, Metro has had to take measures like digging into funding reserves, raising fares four times (remember when it cost only $1.50 for a ride during peak hours?) and foregoing the purchase of new, replacement buses.  These cuts in cost have put nearly $400 million towards  Metros’ 2008-2011 budget gap, but it still faces an annual shortcoming of $60 million.  So, Seattle, it’s either slash service like its another budget, or charge cars registered in King County a mere $20 a year to buy Metro some more time to figure out how to maintain its present level of service.


Obviously, neither of these are long-term solutions.  $20 a year, even should each car pay that amount, won’t solve Metro’s revenue problems, and could fuel the “cars vs. pedestrians” fire that really need not exist in the first place, but it is a positive step in keeping the level of public transportation services Seattle currently has.  Public transit cuts down on the amount of cars on the road which, in turn, decreases traffic and thus, commute times and thus, road rage.  So, it really is in everyone’s – drivers and peds alike – best interest to help Metro maintain its public transit services.

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