The Elephant in Metro’s Room

Last Tuesday’s election was not a vote against “transit”; it was a vote against Metro and the status quo. The King County Council, the City of Seattle, FUSE, business communities, labor communities, social justice communities, transit advocates, Seattle Subway, STB, myself, and many, many others asked our neighbors to keep funding Metro near the level it had been. All of us highly engaged, knowledgeable, and involved community activists knew how drastic the cuts to Metro would be; we tried to communicate how that pain would be felt by rich drivers and poor bus riders alike. But we missed – or intentionally ignored – the issue our larger community has always focused on. The bus service Metro provides kinda sucks.

Multiple transit, cycling, and pedestrians advocates I’ve spoken with over the last four years hold Metro in mild contempt. And we’re the people fighting for transportation and housing options that would make us MORE dependent on Metro’s services. Just look at the time Bruce Nourish has spent studying and writing about possible improvements or shortcomings. How many maps has Oran created that rock everything Metro publishes? Oy, even One Bus Away was created by grad students. Students … in school … doing FUCKING HOMEWORK … hacked code the County government for Microsoft, Amazon, Valve, Expedia, RealNetworks, et al. didn’t hack! And we’re surprised a good friend of mine – a bus-riding, medicine researching, self-described “tax and spend liberal” with a UPass – and at least 235,230 others voted to let Metro hang?

*facepalm*

Look, let’s get one thing clear; these failures are not the fault of Metro employees. Maybe … MAYBE … General Manager Kevin Desmond, but he’s the boss and it comes with the job. Every staff member I’ve spoken with has been open and willing to make improvements. But the staff’s hands are tied by their political overseers; the Route 42 saga is Exhibit A. The root cause of Tuesday’s defeat is the simple fact that for years, the King County Councils and the King County Executives have not provided the citizens a good service. They’ve defended Metro’s status quo ante with vigor and aplomb, but they haven’t taken the risks necessary to deliver what the voters need. Now the risk and the money is gone and citizens across the county will pay with hours instead of dollars.

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