January 1, 2014
Vol: 21 No: 1

News

Metro service cuts the focus of two public forums

by: Rosette Royale , Assistant Editor

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A pair of mid-January public forums will bring together state and county officials, union leaders and college students and professors to discuss Metro’s proposal to cut bus service by 17 percent.

On Jan. 16, Seattle Central Community College will host two community forums that will examine the past, present and future of public transportation in Seattle. The forums will be held in Broadway Performance Hall, 1625 Broadway, from noon to 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. The events are free.

The college is co-sponsoring the forums with the Transit Riders Union (TRU), Seattle University’s student government and Metro.

Katie Wilson, spokesperson for TRU, said the forums come at a critical time, as riders and transit advocates assess the state legislature’s inability in 2013 to pass a statewide transportation package.

“We want to keep the heat on the state legislature,” said Wilson.

Each forum will open with a discussion of Metro’s current proposal to eliminate 74 routes as well as revise or reduce 107 other routes. The proposed cuts are the result of the transit agency’s $75 million budget shortfall.

The cuts would begin this autumn.

The panelists will include Ty Pethe, union president of WFSE/AFSCME Local 304, and representatives from Associated Students, the American Federation of Teachers, Metro and the county and state.

Forum speakers will also discuss how receptive state legislators will be to enacting new legislation that could stave off cuts. The forums take place three days after the state legislature begins its 60-day regular session on Jan. 13.

Last year, the legislature held one regular session and four special sessions. Several proposed statewide transportation packages failed to gain support.

In a radio interview on KEXP in late November, Wilson said that part of Metro’s fiscal woes is linked to the state sales tax, which is a regressive tax structure that disproportionately affects poor and working-class people.

When the recession occurred in 2008, sales tax plummeted, and the transit agency sought new funding streams, she said. It looked toward the fare box.

Between 2008 and 2013, the agency increased the one-zone, non-peak fare from $1.25 to $2.25.

In 2012, the King County Council enacted a $20 increase in car tab renewals to help offset the transit agency’s deficit. The fee expires this fall, when Metro plans to institute proposed 17 percent service cuts.

Both of this month’s forums will conclude with a discussion of options that can address the region’s transit woes. Wilson said TRU has no position on what might solve the situation, but she acknowledged that proposed cuts place riders and transit advocates in a difficult position.

“We’re being given this awful choice between massive cuts and regressive taxes,” she said.

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