King County Councilmember Joe McDermott spoke at a press conference/rally held by the West Seattle Transportation Coalition on Nov. 18. Potential cuts to Metro bus service will have potentially dramatic impacts on West Seattle and the region if a funding solution is not found.
West Seattle Transportation Coalition rallies officials and the public to prompt action on legislation
Amid honks of support from passing car and bus drivers, the West Seattle Traffic Coalition (WSTC) held a press event near the bus stop on 35th Ave. S.W. and Avalon Way S.W. Nov. 18 to highlight the issue of transportation funding.
The event brought together King County Councilmember Joe McDermott, Seattle City Councilmember Tom Rasmussen, 34th District Representative Joe Fitzgibbon and about 30 members of the WSTC with signs with transportation issue data points.
Recently announced serious cuts to King County Metro Bus service should a funding solution not be found motivated the group to action. The cuts would amount to 17% resulting in the loss of several important bus routes serving West Seattle.
Cuts will affect eight out of every 10 riders, with more than 70 routes eliminated completely. These transit reductions will place an estimated additional 10,000 cars on our overtaxed West Seattle roadways.
The coalition points out that since 2009, West Seattle daily transit ridership is up 10,000 riders while SR 99 traffic is down 25,000 vehicles a day. They expect that many of those riders will be forced back into their cars, causing a dramatic increase in traffic.
Representative Fitzgibbon said that the "transportation system across this state is really deep trouble. We are facing some of the worst impacts in West Seattle because of the bus cuts and the reliance of this community on transit but we have ferries that are long past their useful life, we have roads in unincorporated King County that are going to gravel, we have roads in King County that the County says are not going to see any snowplowing this winter and we have bottlenecks in key freight mobility corridors that make it harder for us to grow our economy... In response to that the House of Representatives passed a transportation package back in June to invest in our roads to invest in our ferries, and to give King County voters a local option to ask themselves, 'do they want to invest in our transportation system?' but unfortunately the state Senate chose not to take action on that. They said they would like to hold King County bus riders hostage in exchange for weakening our environmental laws, weakening protections for working families and long held political ideologies that have nothing to do with whether or not King County bus riders should have a way to get to work."
Councilmember McDermott said, "The cuts to King County Metro's bus service will impact West Seattle even more severely that the city and county as a whole. In addition to the 17% cuts Metro is facing throughout the county -- West Seattle will also lose more service as the mitigation money from construction of the Alaskan Way Replacement Program dries up."
Seattle City Councilmember Rasmussen said, "We simply cannot let these cuts happen," and pointed out that while the City of Seattle has fared better than other places in the recession we will, "threaten that growth if the legislature doesn't step up to pass a balanced package that saves Metro."
Chair of the coalition Amanda Kay Helmick suggested that the funding solution was not to raise fares since that would place the burden on those least able to afford it. She favors a mixed funding solution that might include a mix of a Motor Vehicle Excise Tax, gas tax and property tax measures. She said, " We need to get House Bill 1959 passed to create a sustainable transit system that can grow service and not see future reductions."
A special session of the legislature is being called by Governor Jay Inslee with the purpose of passing a statewide transportation package.
The public will have a chance to talk to Metro directly about the potential cuts in a meeting at the Youngstown Cultural Arts Center Dec. 3. Here are the details:
Visit the West Seattle Transportation Coalition at http://www.westseattletc.org/