[ Susan Hutchison and Dow Constantine facing off at the Seattle Aquarium last night. ]

Did I forget that I had just taken a hit off the crack pipe, or did I actually hear Susan Hutchison say that Metro’s $100 million plus projected annual budget shortfall should be addressed by cracking down on unpaid fares?  The latter, I’m afraid.

Such a befitting position for Susan Hutchison to take, laying the blame on all those untrustworthy, unwashed bus riding types from the big scary city. Gotta play to your base.

Never mind that unpaid fares are a complete non-issue. Though for sure, it’s just the kind of overblown, pseudo-controversial story that would be a perfect fit for an anchor-model to read on the local TV evening news.

From 2005 to 2008, Metro estimates that about one percent of riders didn’t pay or paid partially.  That probably amounts to around $2 million per year, or just two percent of Metro’s deficit.   But then you have to factor in how much it would cost to reduce the unpaid rate, how much it would delay service, and the extra risk to which it would expose drivers.

Of course, the professionals who run Metro already understand these issues and their costs/benefits, and they operate the system accordingly.  No, scratch that.  The Hutch knows better.