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Metro cuts are light here, but solution is still needed
Metro bus service cuts planned for King County will hit the region hard. Some areas will see drastic cuts to service and lose entire routes. Some people will have to find new ways to get where they’re going. And some bus commuters will be forced back into cars, contributing to the Seattle area’s already bad congestion and sending more pollution into the air.
On Vashon the bus cuts, not slated to take effect until fall of next year, don’t seem quite so bad. While earlier proposals included eliminating service to Maury, the county’s detailed plan released late last week keeps Vashon’s two routes intact and includes just a few round trip cuts throughout the day. We know some of Vashon’s bus trips, particularly those not during peak commute times, are sparsely used, so it seems King County could have justified cutting more. But according to a Metro official, the county took into account that unlike other areas, Vashon doesn’t have alternate bus routes riders can turn to or other public transit options.
We’re glad King County has recognized that without other options for getting around, our already limited bus service on Vashon remains vital. However, it’s hard to tell just how significant Vashon’s cuts will be for riders. Some have suggested that since Metro service on Vashon is already sparse, any cuts will be felt. And in a place where many people don’t live close enough to town to walk there, those who rely on the bus here truly rely on it. We don’t know exactly which trips are being cut, but we also know some commute-hour buses are standing room only already.
The passage of Proposition 1 would have created funding to avoid these countywide cuts. Here at The Beachcomber we knew the measure wasn’t perfect — many have pointed out the proposed taxes were regressive and Metro could possibly do more to cut costs. However, we supported the tax and fee hike because we believe cutting bus service is just as regressive — it hits the low-income population the hardest. And in a time mounting concern over climate change, bus cuts will likely result in more harm to the environment.
Now that the proposition has failed, at least one other solution is already in the works. Though the latest idea for a property tax initiative would appear to only benefit Seattle, it could have ripple effects for other parts of the county. While we supported Prop. 1, perhaps its failure will result in an even better option for King County. Most promising, perhaps, is the prospect that the state Legislature, given another stab at it, will pass a transportation package that includes a less regressive tax to support Metro and also addresses road maintenance needs not just in King County but throughout the state. It’s unfortunate that in the meantime, some of society’s most vulnerable, those who have depended on the bus to get around, will be affected.