July has been a month of traffic news and blues in Seattle. Officials have made progress on some decisions, while traffic still seems to grind to a halt whenever an accident, event or a little summer rain happens.
King County Executive Dow Constantine and the Metropolitan King County Council decided last week to reduce Metro bus service by 350,000 hours over seven months. The decision comes after a long battle between reducing service due to lack of funding and high ridership and need.
The new service schedule will fit existing available revenues. Cuts will begin to roll out in September 2014 with 161,000 hours cut and another, similar cut in February 2015. Two hundred thousand more hours could be cut with the next annual budget decision. The council has created a committee to look at new revenues and funding possibilities in February and possibly adjust cuts at that time. Projections right now show a $2 million decrease in sales-tax revenue, which is used to fund Metro services.
It is smart of the council to look at reducing routes that have empty buses chugging along the streets. But to move forward with the cuts without calling for alternative funding is irresponsible. It is important to have both an efficient and effective bus system. We cannot expect to ask people to move to our city, live in a high-rise apartment and use an unreliable, starving bus service. Until Sound Transit makes travel easier throughout the city with light rail, Metro bus services need more funding. It’s time to look at sources beyond sales-tax revenue.
Earlier this month, the Seattle City Council repealed the caps it had placed on car services like Uber. Local taxi companies had been calling for regulation of their competition, who, for now at least, seem to be winning over a majority of riders with smoother service and apps.
The decision makes for a “clean slate,” City Councilmember Jean Godden said, but taxi drivers have vowed to continue fighting. A completely unregulated system is never ideal, and taxi companies have a valid complaint. But as far as customers go, they seem to vote with their money and Smartphones, choosing the higher-caliber rideshare services.
In other traffic news this week, the Puget Sound Regional Council executive board approved $27 million in federal transportation money for Seattle. The money will go to a list of projects for road maintenance, bike lanes and the Broadway streetcar.
Transportation issues will continue to clog the headlines and the roadways until our city’s leaders address growing needs and crumbling infrastructure.