Metro’s Victory is a Pedestrian’s Victory

King County has moved one step closer to saving Metro’s current level of public transportation service – a city council-approved VLF that will bring in much-needed revenue, not only for Metro, but for ped projects around the city!

Recently, community members, activists and metro riders came together to stand against proposed service cuts to King county’s public transit system, Metro.  The morning of August 11 brought brought community members to the  transit station at DOWNTOWN SEATTLE’s Convention Place to push for congestion reduction (and an increase in Metro’s revenue) by approving the Congestion reduction charge of $20 annually to cars registered in king county.

Posted by Megan RisleySept. 1, 2011

“As a daily bus rider I can tell you that Metro service is critically important to Downtown employers and employees,” said Kate Joncas, president & CEO of the downtown Seattle Association. “More people commute by bus to Downtown on a daily basis than drive, and cuts to service will harm employers and employees alike.”

These worries were echoed by Virginia Mason Medical Center Vice President Katerie Chapman and Seattle Hotel Association President Howard Cohen.  Many who work downtown have no other way to get to work (as owning a personal car costs over $100 a month even if nothing goes wrong with it).  Reducing Metro services by as much as is suggested could cut many living-wage workers off from their only way of getting to work, which could lead to them losing their jobs.   Additionally, nearly 40% of UW students rely on Metro’s services to get to and from school each day that classes are in session. 

There is a strong correlation between bus-dependence and walking.  The majority of transit riders don’t own and can’t afford to own a car.  So, they bus, bike and walk to where they need to go.  A vote for public transit is a vote for walkability – it supports those who don’t own personal cars and thus must walk, bike or bus everywhere, and it encourages less driving (making roads safer for pedestrians and cyclists).  It is important to keep public transit available as an option if the city is serious about sustainability and walkable communities.

The gathering paid off.  Not only were the many who gathered (enough to form a line that stretched from the doors of the courthouse up to Yesler Way and up the hill) thanked by King County Executive Dow Constantine, but the fears of losing 600,000 hours of Metro services were assuaged: the council approved the $20 Congestion Reduction Charge at their meeting on August 15th.  The rally on August 11th caught the attention of city policymakers: Dow Constantine writes, in a personal thank-you note to all who attended the conference on the 11th, “No one at the Council had ever seen that kind of response, and your efforts clearly made the difference in the outcome.” 

This means, among other things, more revenue – an extra $20 million in city revenue a year.  This funding is only for the interim of two years, so our work, as Constantine writes in his thank-you, is not done.  A statewide transportation solution, complete with adequate and permanent funding for all types of transit including pedestrian and cycling, is needed.  But Constantine assures citizens that he is behind them all the way.

Sustainable communities are ones in which everyone can easily and safely get to and from places they need to get (work, grocery stores, recreation), and those communities aren’t built by just focusing on improvements for motorized vehicles.  Encouraging public transit by continuing to offer it as an option over and against driving a personal car runs in the same vein as advocating for more walkable communities: people can’t or won’t see walking or cycling as an option if conditions aren’t safe and enjoyable.  So, supporting public transportation is one way to show a commitment to sustainability and the Congestion Reduction Fee is one step in the right direction.

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