Have Mercy

Have mercy
Been waitin’ for the bus all day…
Have mercy
Oh the bus be packed up tight…
Well, Ill be ridin’ on the bus till I cadillac*

An unprecedented funding gap could force King County Metro Transit to cut bus service by as much as 20 percent next year, leaving thousands of people without service and setting back the region’s efforts to relieve traffic congestion.

Because two thirds of Metro’s budget is derived from sales tax, it’s fortunes are linked to the whims of the consumer confidence index, which is currently at its lowest level since it was created in 1967.  Meanwhile, Metro ridership has risen by 20 percent over the past three years. 

Another twist:  Additional transit service is a key piece of the so-called bored tunnel hybrid solution to replace the Alaskan Way viaduct.  This fact is not lost on those who are looking for ways to shoot down the tunnel proposal because they still favor an elevated freeway solution.  And the prospect of an elevated monstrosity rearing its ugly head again is not lost on those still in the surface street camp, who, however peeved they may be that the transit component of the tunnel proposal has vaporized, are likely conflicted over how much noise to make about it. 

The deep-bore tunnel would likely cost at least $2 billion more than a surface option.  That cost difference would cover Metro’s projected 2010 deficit of $100 million for 20 years.

*Waiting for the Bus lyrics by ZZ Top

20 Responses to “Have Mercy”

  1. dan bertolet

    Can I be you?

  2. Joshua Daniel Franklin

    While the sales tax problem is true, virtually every source of transit revenue is also down; for example, Portland’s Tri-Met depends on payroll tax. So overall the problem is tying funding to economic health, not specific sources of funding. If we really wanted to provide service when it’s needed, it seems like funding should be tied to ridership or perhaps even population estimates.

  3. Matt the Engineer

    But state Senators, Govenors, and Mayors don’t ride the bus.

    Looks like somebody forgot about us
    Standing on the corner, waiting for the bus.

    -Violent Femmes

  4. Michael McGinn

    Money for buses should have nothing to do with the tunnel. Just like light rail should not have been tied to suburban highways.

    We need the bus funding.

  5. Wes Kirkman

    Meanwhile, in Olympia:

    March 5, 2009
    Highway stimulus funds on fast track in Olympia
    Associated Press Writer

    OLYMPIA — About $340 million in federal stimulus money for highways is taking a fast lane through Washington’s Legislature, with lawmakers eager to start spending…

  6. Josh Feit

    Jesus just left Chicago.

  7. JesseJB

    What happened to the immediate relief we were supposed to get this year with the passage of ST2?

  8. AJ

    JesseJB: “Sound Transit’s next service change will be in May 2009, when the first express bus service expansions included in the Sound Transit 2 Plan may be implemented. The Sound Transit Board currently is seeking public comment on a proposal to phase in the Sound Transit 2 express bus service additions over the course of 2009-10 at regular service change intervals. Targeted for expansion are key corridors with the highest ridership increases in 2008. More information about the proposals is available at http://www.soundtransit.org/sip.”

  9. cynical


    its the evil nexus of faux-environmentalists, labor, and our go-go-growth Mayor, aided and abetted by a spineless council.

    Wouldn’t that dough to build us a tine tunnel got us a long way to the mono-greenline?

  10. ktstine

    how about a state income tax???

  11. Joshua Daniel Franklin

    Yes, a WA state income tax, sales tax in Oregon, and a national VAT would instantly and forever solve all funding problems during a bad economy. Oh, or maybe you actually need deficit spending of some sort.

  12. serial catowner

    And a pony.

    I mean, seriously, the county transit cuts simply reflect the fact that buses are expensive to run. They require drivers, they need fuel. I feel a very high degree of certainty that a closer look at the cuts would show they are targeting wage and fuel costs.

    Which is to say, the transit proposed for the tunnel option is no more dead or alive than it ever was.

    And I feel equally high certainty that the money the state would pay for a tunnel comes from gas tax revenues, which is to say, it’s not going to pay for bus drivers and bus fuel anyway. If Seattle really doesn’t want a tunnel, every county in the state would be happy to take a slice for their slowly progressing part of the state highway system.

    So, what is the point of a post composed of wishes if you don’t include the pony?

  13. dan bertolet

    Poor serial catowner. Nothing riles him (her?) more than when someone dares to make a comparison that calls into question the sanity of the law that says gas taxes can only be spent on roads.

  14. serial catowner

    Poor Dan- making a judgement that is entirely bassackwards about somebody he doesn’t even know.

    Let’s see, Dan, where does your original post address the fact that gas taxes are mandated to be spent only on roads- oh, that’s right- nowhere.

    I would, in fact, get riled if you served up weak tea like “calling into question the sanity” of that law. The law isn’t just nuts, it’s criminally insane and has been used to destroy western Washington, killing the salmon and paving over the farms that once fed us. I am so beyond “questioning the sanity” that you don’t even want to hear what I would say about that.

    You may now return to your regularly scheduled preconceptions.

  15. dan bertolet

    SC, thanks for reminding me why I don’t often comment on blogs. All apologies for failing to recongize your supreme wisdom in these matters, and for misinterpreting your hissy fits over people discussing how the cost of a tunnel compares to other expenses.



  16. serial catowner

    Well Dan, you might enjoy it more if you engage directly with what is said, subject it to a little “Just the facts, Ma’am” analysis, and craft a post or response that uses sarcasm or ridicule as a light garnish for information and reason.

    If, for example, you had some actual evidence that the extra transit service that is to be initiated in 2018 when the tunnel is opened is now off the table, I think we would all be interested in hearing that.

    I simply didn’t find the anti-tunnel rant to be a very convincing follow-on to a shortfall in collecting sales tax and, as nobody else had done so, presented an alternate viewpoint.

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