King County is coming to the voters once again, hat in hand, crying crocodile tears about having to lean its Metro Transit operations if the voters won’t once again provide them with a windfall of taxpayer dollars. Well, all I have to say is: lean them.
We have approved hikes for the last 15 years, and Metro has failed to deliver on its promises. In 2000, we approved a 0.2-percent hike in the sales tax. Metro said it would add more than a half-million bus hours within six years; it didn’t happen. It upped it to just more than 200,000 hours, missing its goal by nearly 70 percent.
In 2006, we approved another 0.1-percent sales-tax increase, with Metro promising to up service by 700,000 hours within 10 years. At the eight-year mark, it has only managed 300,000 hours, less than half of what was promised.
Again, in 2010, the Metropolitan King County Council gave in to Metro by diverting $22.9 million in property taxes to head off Metro threats of diminished services.
In 2011, the council passed a $20 “temporary” car-tab fee under the threat of ending free service downtown and cutting services across the board; Metro got its money and cut services anyway. At the same time, Metro raised bus fares in 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011.
Now, it wants us to tax ourselves again: another 0.1 percent in sales tax, and pony up a $60 fee for car tabs.
Remember that temporary $20? It’s now in there as part of the $60, with absolutely no end in sight.
I am not voting one more dime to Metro until it cleans up its act. By that I mean lean that organization: Get rid of waste; stop running empty buses. If it were a for-profit company, it would have gone bankrupt years ago.
Right here in Magnolia, can someone tell me why we have not one but two double-buses running around the streets of Magnolia, empty, at all hours of the night? Sit at one of the restaurants facing Market Street in Ballard and count how many people are on the three, four sometimes five buses going by the window at 9 p.m. on any given night? I venture to say the average will be about six people.
If you are a conservative (I’m not) who rages against the “welfare” state, then look no further than Metro and other government agencies that are draining taxpayers’ wallets while doing little-to-nothing to make their operations more efficient.
Park those behemoths after rush hour and use shuttle-type buses on routes in neighborhoods like Magnolia. Start a program to let attrition begin reducing the number of drivers on the payroll as the routes are reduced or even eliminated in some cases, based on running empty.
I don’t blame the drivers. They are simply people who responded to the call for more drivers. They needed work, and Metro offered it. I blame management in and outside of Metro (our elected representatives): They have let that system balloon into a money pit that can’t deliver on the services they keep promising.
It’s time we the voters stand up and tell government at any level that enough is enough. We absolutely need a transit system, but when I look around at services like the fire and police departments, as nearly as I can tell, they operate pretty darned efficiently.
Then I look at the boondoggle that is our Department of Transportation (DOT) at just about every level of the government: the tunnel project, the state Route 520 bridge, the condition of our roads and highways, our crumbling bridges and city streets that are becoming impassable. I’m tired of listening to the politicians and bureaucrats whine about needing even more money.
If you took all the money for the DOT budgets at state, county and city over the last 10 years, if it doesn’t reach into the neighborhood of $200 billion, I’d be surprised, and yet what is getting done? It’s time for our elected representatives to get tough with the various departments and demand more efficiency and more accountability.
I will vote a resounding no on April 22, and I’ll continue to vote no until I see some evidence of real reform in our local governments to deliver quality and efficiency to the people who are paying their salaries — that would be you and I.
MIKE DAVIS is a longtime Magnolia resident. To comment on this guest column, write to QAMagNews@nwlink.com.