Metro money mess: Transit system’s leader makes his case

May 13, 2013 at 11:11 am | In Transportation, West Seattle news | 49 Comments

(Metro Route 21 bus traveling westbound on Avalon, past under-construction apartment building)
By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

Will Metro have to slash its services – or will some of the supplementary funding that expires next year be replaced, averting crisis?

This week might be pivotal. For starters: Today, state legislators are back in Olympia for a special session. They hold the power to give transportation-funding “tools” to local leaders – but whether they will do it is very much in question, as two West Seattle’s state legislators told the 34th District Democrats last Wednesday (WSB coverage here).

County leaders, including Metro management, hope for a show of support at a special public hearing tomorrow (Tuesday) afternoon – and through an online comment form, if you can’t make it to the hearing to speak in person.

With all this as a backdrop, the man who runs Metro, its general manager Kevin Desmond, sat down with WSB for a conversation, which we videotaped in its 48-minute entirety.

Full disclosure, it was their idea, not ours: After reading countless WSB comments about Metro, including skepticism from some suggesting the money woes are more about mismanagement than funding shortage, county Transportation Department communicators asked if we would be interested in an interview, so we worked out time to sit down at his Pioneer Square office. First, if you just want to hear for yourself, here’s the unedited video (your editor here is the voice you hear asking questions; WSB co-publisher Patrick Sand was behind the camera):

If you’d prefer to read the highlights – key points are ahead, along with more about what’s next:

Note that what follows is NOT a full transcription of everything Desmond said during our conversation – you’ll have to listen to the video (since there are no added visuals, it works as audio playing in the background of whatever else you’re doing) to hear it all. The paragraph slugs summarize our questions:

HOW DID METRO GET INTO THIS MESS? “In a certain way … it actually DID happen overnight,” Desmond contends – because of “The Great Recession” and the fact Metro has been so reliant on sales tax. “The recession resulted in a collapse of our sales tax.” But he says Metro has “taken $800 million in actions since 2009 .. to close the gap.” The Congestion Reduction Charge – about $25 million a year – is only authorized for two years, and “sunsets” next year. Even at that, he says, it only covers a third of the current budget gap.

ARE OTHER TRANSIT AGENCIES EXPERIENCING SIMILAR PROBLEMS? (5 minutes in) Again calling it “the Great Recession,” Desmond says many have, including others in the region, from Pierce County to Snohomish County to Portland. But, he then notes, not all transit agencies are as reliant on sales tax. “For example, the American Public Transportation Association (says) transit agencies receive on average about 20 percent direct funding from their states. We receive in the state of Washington about 2 percent. There’s a big difference right there.” And he refers back to Initiative 695 in 1999 – “we had a balanced portfolio of revenue,” with the Motor Vehicle Excise Tax included. “In 2000, that MVET revenue went away.” After that came the sales-tax reliance, “which is very, very volatile,” and led to problems, he says, starting with the 2001 dot-bust. “We need a more-mixed revenue source.” He believes the county “has done a good job of being focused on keeping service on the road for as long as we can,” and providing an “attractive service.” Ridership dropped in 2009-2010 along with job loss and is now coming back.

WHAT THE LEGISLATURE IS TALKING ABOUT (9 minutes in): He focused on HB 1954 (reported here when it passed the Transportation ) which would increase the gas tax over 5 years, funding a variety of transportation projects and including “a little bit of direct money for transit” while also providing for a “local-option Motor Vehicle Excise Tax” which means the County Council could ask voters to approve an MVET of up to 1 1/2 percent, with 60 percent going to Metro and the rest to county roads, which are so unfunded that some roads and bridges might wind up “abandoned” because the county can’t afford to maintain them. That MVET would bring Metro “sustainable funding through current service” at an estimated $86 million in the first year, Desmond says. But that’s current service, and as he has been saying, “real” sustainability would include growing the service, about 10 percent for starters.

DEVELOPMENT IMPACT FEES? (14 minutes in) “That’s a very, very difficult conversation, politically and economically,” Desmond said. “Can they force a developer to pay for transit service? I don’t believe so, at this point in time … but that gets to the core of what we’re facing (here) … (development) puts pressure on the road network, puts pressure on utilities … they ought to figure out ways to mitigate impacts (more broadly) on the transportation network. I think there’s a reason we should be thinking about things like that.” He then brought up the fact that many employers provide transit passes for employees and so “do have skin in the game.” (He also noted at that point, briefly, that Microsoft even has its own bus system for employees.) Sixteen-hundred businesses and other large employers (UW, governments, etc.) have pass accounts, he said. “It’s built consensus around having a very strong multi-modal transportation network.”

THE RECENT AUDIT (19 minutes in): For those who suggested Metro be audited now, we asked about the one that is oft-cited in response. It started in 2009, he explained, and looked at many facets of the operation – not “everything, but they looked at a lot.” He described the “interim report” a few months ago as “very positive,” saying that the audit had resulted in savings of almost $20 million. He mentioned multiple times that Metro is a “large, complex organization” and therefore, he contends, “there is only so far you can go to find belt-tightening efficiences,” though he says they are continuing to search, and are focusing right now, for example, on parts-inventory efficiencies. He also mentioned Metro “embracing … lean management” philosophy that county political leadership is stressing. We followed up to ask if management was lean enough, and Desmond contended that they do a good job in that area, while also saying that there is a lot of “behind the scenes” work that goes into offering an “attractive” service. At 23 and a half minutes in, he explains that they work hard to attract “choice” riders – and certainly they could operate more frugally if they were just putting out a bare-bones service to attract only those who NEED to ride the bus. “The total product requires spending some money to put it out there. … We have a fabulous demographic who uses the system here … all walks of life. … We are a full-service product.” He also expressed pride in Metro’s accessibility for those with disabilities, saying it was trailblazing when it started.

RAPID RIDE AND WHAT IT COSTS (27 1/2 minutes in): “A fundamental funding source … has been the federal government. There are (various federal programs) created to fund ‘bus rapid transit’.” And he says those are “our tax dollars coming back here” that otherwise would be going somewhere else outside this area – about $121 million. “That was money we worked hard to get, we competed for the money, and we won.” The overall “capital cost” including local dollars is $190 million for six lines implemented within the span of about five years. He also made a point of saying it’s cheaper and can be implemented more quickly, carrying more people, than light rail such as Sound Transit Link. And at 31 1/2 minutes in, he acknowledges something he’s acknowledged before: Metro “did too much” with the service changes kicking in last fall at the same time Rapid Ride C/D launched.

IS THERE REALLY HOPE OF BECOMING ABLE TO GROW? (33 minutes) That’s a common question, Desmond said. “I always have to have hope, because the opposite of having hope is, why would I be doing this job? … Ultimately I remain pretty confident that we’ll find a way .. I don’t know what it’ll be, (but) the political mountain we’ll have to climb, first with the legislature, then with voters, is to convince people of the multi-modal system’s value.” He then makes the case that even if you don’t ride transit, it’s important because it helps keep roads “flowing freely. … If we can keep (the major highway corridors) moving, we’ll keep this an attractive place for people to live, (and for companies to do business).” He contends that transit cuts could further jam highways and chase away business. “Part of a good quality of life is a transportation network that works.”

HOW DID YOU COME UP WITH THE LIST OF POTENTIAL CUTS, IF EXPIRING FUNDING ISN’T REPLACED? (36 minutes in) Desmond says it traces back to a regional task force convened about three years ago. It came up with guidelines, he says, and the list was a result of “running everything through the guidelines” in terms of “what cutting 600,000 hours of service might look like.” But, he says, under the “guidelines,” only about half of those hours could be cut from the lowest-performing routes. So some cuts would have to come from popular routes too – “the money’s got to come from someplace. … If we do not get a revenue tool from the Legislature in this session – our planners are going to have to … look at other restructuring, other ways to minimize, as best we can, the impact of an up to 17 percent cut,” which as previously announced would be turned into a draft plan that Metro would take to the public this fall, probably in October/November. Even with public input, Desmond believes, the eventual impact of such a cut would be “devastating.”

WHAT ABOUT SMALLER CONNECTOR BUSES FOR AREAS LIKE ARBOR HEIGHTS? (41:45 in) They’re proposing that in some Eastside areas right now, Desmond says, though it took months and months of working with the community to come up with a proposed plan. He says overall, they would like to look at doing more of that; he also points out that vanpools are an alternative, when bus service isn’t the best way to go.

WHAT CAN CONCERNED PEOPLE DO RIGHT NOW? (45 minutes in) This was a question we asked on behalf of Amanda Kay Helmick, chair of the new Westwood/Roxhill/Arbor Heights Community Council. First, Desmond brought up tomorrow’s hearing. Contacting your state legislators is good too, but he suggests that the visual impact of a big turnout tomorrow would be good too – to send a message to legislators (from outside the metro area) whose districts are not suffering the kind of impact and might not understand how hard a transit cut would hit. He says that they do have a reason to care – even from rural farming counties, for example, a strong transportation system here plays a role in helping them “get their products out” – and “the general public needs to help make that point.”

Again, tomorrow’s hearing is explained here. If you can go, the location is Union Station, 401 S. Jackson Street (map), with an open house at 3:30, public testimony starting at 4 pm. Meantime, we are monitoring what’s happening in Olympia, and will report on any developments with transportation/transit funding.

49 Comments

  1. I rode the C-line the other day from downtown on third ave and entered through the front door after waiting for a handicapped lady to get off. In the meantime, while three of us where patiently waiting to get on through the front entrance, both backdoors of the bus opened to let riders off, but more than a dozen riders snaked their way on without paying. I see this happening frequently. The drive doesn’t tell them its pay as you enter first or anything. Only three of us idiots paid our fares. If you changed the pay system that was supposed to help generate revenue and lesson the confusion, and not let freeloaders have their way, it clearly isn’t working. I see no enforcement of anykind. Metro said this and that will improve, but I see no different. I say just shut it down and cut sevice completly or jack up the fares to five bucks a rider to help pay for it. Don’t give us the merry-go-round and blame the bad economy. That’s getting old and I’m tired of hearing that as an excuse. Make people pay or cut the damn service!

    Comment by jiggers — 12:00 pm May 13, 2013 #

  2. I smell a car tab increase…

    Comment by marty — 12:14 pm May 13, 2013 #

  3. Jiggers; what time of day are you talking about? entering via backdoors is the new protocol before 7pm on the C-line, in order to speed up service with faster boardings; there are Rapid Ride police on C-lines; random, so anytime night or day, riders can be checked for having paid, and ticketed if they did not; the ticket is $120+; I’ve seen it many times
    ~
    now if riders are jumping in the backdoor quickly after people get out after 7pm, those are the cheaters, and it happens every night, usually just 1 or 2 at most; I’ve seen the driver slam back doors on people while trying to get in at night
    ~
    I’ve heard from many sources, several times, the fare box only provides about 20% of Metro revenue; that will not solve the money problems

    Comment by Diane — 12:45 pm May 13, 2013 #

  4. @jiggers The Rapid Ride allows for rear door boarding when you utilize the ORCA card scanner located at the bus stop during set hours (I think 7am-7pm). I’m not a regular bus rider to know if these scanners are at every Rapid Ride stop or not. I have no doubt this privilege is abused but is it possible some or most of the people you see boarding actually did pay?

    Comment by squareeyes — 1:00 pm May 13, 2013 #

  5. @jiggers: In addition to the previous comments, we should remember that bus service is good for ALL of us – imagine what bridge traffic would be like if all the people on the C line were driving in to work! Even in carpools of 4 people (which will NEVER happen) you’d be adding hundreds of cars to the downtown commute. It’s worth devoting tax money to public transit for a lot of reasons, but not least of them are keeping buses affordable enough that people will use it.

    Comment by SEA — 1:21 pm May 13, 2013 #

  6. @Marty: WA has one of the lowest car registration fees in the nation…

    Comment by Brian — 2:05 pm May 13, 2013 #

  7. Jiggers, I see the same comments like yours over and over again, here and on other blogs, claiming that people are not paying their fare, but it’s just not ture.
    -
    First, you have no way to know if anyone paid their fare or not, they could very well have tapped their card before you got to the stop or when you weren’t looking (unless your really keeping that close tabs on all of us, which is creepy). Second, anyone transferrign from another bus or light rail does not have to re-tap their card when they change busses, and on 3rd Ave that’s a lot of people. Third, I have been on the C line when fare inspectors boarded at least once a month since they started running the C, on packed busses every time, and they’ve found exactly zero people who didn’t pay their fare any of those times.
    -
    PLEASE stop canard that people aren’t paying their fares; it is just not ture. Spreading disinformation in an attempt to discredit Metro and insult bus riders is as anti-social as it is untrue.

    Comment by Peter on Fauntleroy — 2:18 pm May 13, 2013 #

  8. These idiots wasted so much money and these stupid “bus bulbs” and the new RR. They should have left it all alone. It was working fine before. Have you heard “if it isn’t broke don’t fix it?” And this new honor system for pay is ridiculous!!

    Comment by S. — 2:34 pm May 13, 2013 #

  9. Recently saw an “enforcer” engage a person of questionable hygiene that was using the bus as a place to finish their alcoholic beverage and nap. The result of the conversation was “I misplaced my transfer” and “OH! sorry about that, make sure you have it next time.” The “enforcers” need to be trained to actually enforce the rules. Have the gentleman kindly exit the bus and locate his transfer and catch the next one – no excuses.

    Comment by WS Taxpayer — 2:40 pm May 13, 2013 #

  10. @Marty & @Brian

    “I smell a car tab increase…”

    “WA has one of the lowest car registration fees in the nation…”

    That’s the problem; this is Eyman’s destructive legacy, crippling needed services for all levels of community. In the end, funding for a lot of services needs to be decoupled from sales tax. It’s impossible to run an actual society with that sort of taxation ponzi scheme.

    Maybe it’s time Seattle voters had the option to raise our taxes to increase just our own bus services.

    Comment by Joe Szilagyi — 2:41 pm May 13, 2013 #

  11. How about a bike registration fee and tabs? I’ve seen bike lanes on roads. Why not $5 peak bus fares? Raise car tabs fee’s. How about a breathing levy too.

    Comment by Dunno — 2:43 pm May 13, 2013 #

  12. Peter… you must work for Metro or are just a blind person. Which one is it? I ride Metro a lot more than you do I’m sure of it, and I see and know that a lot of them don’t pay and just hop on thru one of the backdoors. Point out to me where the Orca card tap station is in the front of Walgreens on third ave. So they’ve already tapped their card at that invisible tap station? Maybe I’m blind and never saw it. Someone point out where it exactly is in front of Walgreens?

    And other blogs Peter? please tell me what other blogs? Don’t BS me and us here..

    Comment by jiggers — 3:07 pm May 13, 2013 #

  13. when I moved here from California in 98, total shock at super high cost to register car; it was 4 times CA
    ~
    we need a state income tax

    Comment by Diane — 3:13 pm May 13, 2013 #

  14. Who really cares if Metro goes broke… perhaps they should not have spent all that money to develop the Rapid Ride lines and institute “curbing” at the Morgan junction. If they want more money, take it up with the city/state budgets as I have no sympathy for this inept group.

    Comment by John Walker — 3:21 pm May 13, 2013 #

  15. That’s addressed in the story. The majority of it, Desmond says, is federal money that is specifically for “bus rapid transit.” Not money that could have gone to something else. – TR

    Comment by WSB — 3:25 pm May 13, 2013 #

  16. Hmmm. Thank you for the information. I’m disappointed to hear that increased Rapid Line bus service is a less expensive investment than light rail. As I think light rail is a more flexible and can better accommodate future density. I understand it’s a complex system I just believe buses as the primary form of public transit for this area was the wrong decision.

    Comment by Heather — 3:35 pm May 13, 2013 #

  17. I am so tired of people complaining about decreasing services and refusing to pay for them. We need a state income tax and other fees that pay for services we expect from the government. That is the meaning of commonwealth and though washington isn’t officially a commonwealth, we should have that concept (or a clew).

    I’m sure if Metro had not instituted curbing at Morgan Junction, they would still have a deficit.

    Yes, public agencies do make mistakes — as do we all. But they do a hell of a lot more due diligence than most businesses and individuals–you all complain about that too. Because it costs money.

    Comment by charla — 3:36 pm May 13, 2013 #

  18. Diane,

    I just paid $100 to register a 2003 Liberty Jeep down here in LA…how does that compare with Seattle (haven’t registered for a while up north)?
    California has fees for everything and every time you turn around. It’s scandalous. Everything, including professional licenses are more of a hassle down here.

    Buses/subway is cheaper. Pick your poison I guess.

    Comment by G — 3:40 pm May 13, 2013 #

  19. I think blaming the recession is a bit played now. I mean, seems like things are well on their way to recovery. And houses around here are certainly flying off the market due to the artificially low interest rates (that’s going to come back to bite…) So the sales tax should be picking up… Also, charge users more.

    People LOVE to cry poor… unless there is a union negotiation, then people will be screaming about how flush Metro is and that they can AFFORD to pay. It’s all so much drama. We’re going to give MORE money to the people that brought “Rapid Ride” in?

    There are just so many bad ideas rolling around, it’s not even funny.

    Comment by Tuesday — 3:47 pm May 13, 2013 #

  20. I agree with Jiggers that it seems like plenty of people are getting away without paying their fare. There isn’t an ORCA reader at every single bus stop — in fact, I’m always kind of surprised when I actually find one. To my knowledge, there isn’t an ORCA card reader at the 3rd & Seneca bus stop (and if there is, please, somebody point it out to me because I would LOVE to be able to tap my card and board faster) and, on a daily basis, I see tons of people board from the rear doors while the rest of us tap our cards while entering at the front. (For reference, I’ve seen this happen on weekdays during the post-work rush hour, anywhere from 4:30 to 6:00.) It’s possible, as Peter suggested, that some of these riders already tapped their card because they transferred from another bus or the light rail, and therefore don’t have to tap their card again, but I highly doubt that’s the case with every single one of them.

    Every day, at the 2nd & Columbia stop, I see a fare enforcer (or two) standing there with an ORCA hand scanner, making sure every passenger is scanned before boarding, and then signaling to the driver when the back door is clear. However, at 3rd & Seneca, I’ve never seen this happen.

    Oh, and in the past six months of RapidRide, I’ve ridden the bus every single weekday during commuting hours and have only been checked ONCE for paying my fare. 1 in about 70 trips doesn’t seem like very strict fare enforcement to me…

    Comment by KJ — 3:49 pm May 13, 2013 #

  21. Jiggers,

    I have a pre-paid unlimited yearly pass that my employer purchases for all its employees so sometimes I don’t tap my card when I get on in the afternoon at 3rd and Seneca, I’d rather get a seat and therefore enter at the back sometimes. My card doesn’t deduct a fare since we’ve already purchased the cards through the business program before the year starts. It just registers as pass when I scan it. My husbands card is also an unlimited pass. I’m sure we’re not the only ones.

    Comment by natinstl — 3:57 pm May 13, 2013 #

  22. @ Peter – You are very mistaken that there are no fare non-payers, I have seen it many times on the C Line in the junction heading to downtown, on the #21 on 3rd Ave heading to West Seattle.

    One rider on the #21 got on the bus without paying and refused to answer the driver when asked where her fare was, she just sat there looking straight ahead. The driver made the decision to not leave without the her fare.

    Finally after 10 minutes of waiting for a response the driver started the bus and continued on his route.

    Several people board the bus via the back door and never pay. I have only seen the Metro security on the bus 2 times to check for fares.

    Also there have been many times I have seen people drinking vodka, rum or whiskey on the C Line heading to Westwood and the driver does nothing about it. Calling Metro is a joke.

    Comment by Lisa — 4:14 pm May 13, 2013 #

  23. Metro gets 20 to 25% farebox recovery. One of the best in the nation. It would be better, but access vans are costly. As far as skipping on fares, I have seen fare-checkers on C-line buses often and even took one guy off once because he had someone elses orca card. Who wants higher fares or taxes to pay for more fare-checkers? Who knows what the break even amoung is?
    By the way, SDOT designed and built the curb bulbs. Metro doesn’t design or build city streets.

    Comment by planenut — 4:39 pm May 13, 2013 #

  24. I agree with jiggers, Almost every bud I ride someone does not pay. Many tines the driver will give a non paying person a transfer to let them ride free again!! Rapid Ride does not have card readers at all of it’s stops, many in downtown. The deadbeats are in control!!

    Comment by dwar — 4:40 pm May 13, 2013 #

  25. Some of y’all complaining about Metro misusing its funds to implement Rapid Ride need to read the rest of the article. It was paid for with federal money that could ONLY be applied to that type of project. What about this is so hard to understand?

    Comment by datamuse — 4:54 pm May 13, 2013 #

  26. My world for a state income tax. This regressive junk has got to go.

    Comment by JRR — 5:06 pm May 13, 2013 #

  27. Jiggers has a valid concern. Not long ago I boarded the # 21 with Mrs. Hipster and the little Hipsters, and each of us paid the full fare. At the bus stop just past Morgan Street, a man, a woman, and a toddler got on the bus. When asked to pay the fare, the man gave multiple excuses why the adults could not pay the fare, practifally begging to be let on. Taking pity or just wanting to shut the guy up, the driver allowed them to board. As soon as the scofflaws sat down, the man regaled the woman with colorful stories of how he spent his previous day, with the F word liberally used. Not only was I with my small children, there were also several more within earshot.
    I politely but firmly asked the man to stop with the swearing, which of course had the opposite effect. The bus driver then stopped the bus and suggested that my fare paying family and I remove ourselves from the bus, while allowing the scofflaws to remain aboard. Of course I refused, but it made for an interesting trip downtown.

    The scofflaws still take advantage of the new system, but the resources to enforce it are not there.

    And kudos to WSB for interviewing Mr. Desmond. Not matter how they spin it, I still feel that they are extremely wasteful with taxpayer dollars and don’t deserve any more until they operate more efficiently.

    Comment by West Seattle Hipster — 5:16 pm May 13, 2013 #

  28. A lot of you here see the problems that Metro still has and nothings been done to solve them. Last year they where promising more enforcement on all levels from making sure people have paid their fares to providing security on the new bus lines which I never see. And why is there only enforcement on second & Columbia? They should be in front of Walgreens on third during peak times where the majority of riders get on and also at stops that don’t have Orca readers. Metro certainly is losing money by letting those freeloaders continue to get their way. Don’t tell us that you’re improving things when they clearly aren’t. And yes.. a state income tax is long overdue here…

    Comment by jiggers — 5:18 pm May 13, 2013 #

  29. It was also paid for from Transit Now funds that we pay for and cuts in other service in West Seattle and Ballard. NOT ALL FEDERAL FUNDS!! We also pay the federal taxes that create the federal funds!!

    If you have any question about misuse of Metro funds see seattletransitblog.com Explainer: 2014 Metro Budget Cuts. May 2, 2013

    Comment by dwar — 5:19 pm May 13, 2013 #

  30. I wonder what the differential would be between paying salaries for more card-scanning people and fare enforcers, and fares that don’t get paid when there is a shortage of people doing these jobs. I have no idea, but it might not be that much.

    Comment by West Seattle since 1979 — 5:41 pm May 13, 2013 #

  31. Lisa, that’s a lie, you’re putting words in my mouth and that is extremely offensive. I never said there are no non-payers, I said fare enforcement has not found any despite the many times busses I’m on have been checked by fare enforcers. I am awaiting your apology for your lie.

    Comment by Peter on Fauntleroy — 5:56 pm May 13, 2013 #

  32. Jigger, nobody who rides the bus, by necessity or choice, would ever dream of suggesting “just shut it down and cut sevice completly (sic) or jack up the fares to five bucks,” as you did, because on a handful of fare dodgers. I don’t believe for a second that you ride the bus; you’re just trying to disparage Metro and bus riders.

    Comment by Peter — 6:04 pm May 13, 2013 #

  33. Kevin Desmond also said in the briefing we covered on April 1st – I apologize that the text of this isn’t as link-rich as our stories usually are, but here’s our report from the front row at that briefing:
    .
    http://westseattleblog.com/2013/04/potential-metro-transit-cuts-65-bus-routes-face-elimination
    .
    …that they cannot raise the fares much more, without rendering it unattractive to a wide variety of riders for a wide variety of reasons.
    .

    Comment by WSB — 6:17 pm May 13, 2013 #

  34. As far as I can tell, the 2nd and Columbia Human ORCA card reader is the only one I’ve seen away from the costly stops in West Seattle. None of the yellow swipe boxes from Belltown to 2nd and Columbia. One wonders why this is the sole mobile card reader when we all could benefit.
    -
    I think the idea for riding is this: If you haven’t swiped at any reader *specific for that route* you have to enter at the front. Transfer or not. If you are a transfer, get in the line with the rest of the sheep, because the only advantage is that you won’t be dinged twice for the trip.
    -
    I have one of the “passport” bus passes meaning I can ride any route any time without being debited (part of the yearly cost) but I still have to swipe to be be valid. If someone knows better, I would love to join the others entering through the back without a swipe.

    Comment by JayDee — 6:42 pm May 13, 2013 #

  35. Get rid of the Orca card tap stations.
    Let people get on and tap only at the front of the bus.
    Give the C-line a time schedule.
    My bus is not a rapid ride bus.
    My bus comes at 8:36am.
    If it is early it leaves at 8:36am.

    I don’t have to worry if my bus comes in 30 seconds, 10 minutes or did 2 come on top of each other and the next one arrives in 20 minutes making me late for work.
    There is enough insecurity in the world without adding the C-line to it.
    What a way to start a day.

    Comment by patt — 7:07 pm May 13, 2013 #

  36. The product is complicated? Maybe that’s the heart of the problem. Choice riders? What the hell does that mean? This is absolutely ridiculous. Again, he is driving the FEAR factor. We could clean less, we could take less care of things? Transportation is not a PRODUCT, it is a service. I can’t believe this is the line that Kevin Desmond is feeding us.
    *
    Tracy, you are awesome. Thanks for this

    Comment by Amanda — 7:17 pm May 13, 2013 #

  37. It’s this kind of petty, myopic thinking that keeps this city mired in the 1970s with a rapidly declining transit system, pathetic unrepaired roads, and entire communities about to be stranded with little or no service.
    .
    Look beyond the end of your nose. Tim Eyman’s hijinx have tied the state’s hands. A sales tax is NO WAY to run a government—it’s regressive and unsustainable. Federal funds are drying up, especially since the sequester. Less money means LESS SERVICE. Not magical efficiency. LESS SERVICE. That means you get less stuff while you are being all smug about the “waste” that has already been audited out.
    .
    Keep worrying about that smelly guy that didn’t pay his $2, though.

    Comment by Kayleigh — 7:59 pm May 13, 2013 #

  38. @ Peter an apology is something you will not be getting from me. Reason for fare enforcers not finding non payers is because there are so few fare enforcers. I am on the C Line almost on a daily basis and many times have witnessed non payers. I too have been asked to provide my ORCA card only 2 times I all my bus rides to a fare enforcer, but the guy sitting next to me who can not provide a transfer or an ORCA Card is allowed to stay on the bus. This guy ran on the bus through the open back doors.

    The woman or man who jumped on the bus via the open back doors on 3rd Avenue and Seneca and did not pay a fare tell a story they just lost and are allowed to stay on the bus.

    The young guys drinking whiskey and rum and cokes in the back of the bus on the C Line to Westwood who jumped onboard the bus on 3rd Ave & Seneca via the back door did not pay a fare but nothing is done even though many other riders are aware they did not pay and now the driver knows, he does nothing.

    Peter, you will be waiting a very long, long time for an apology from me, like I am waiting a very long long time for Metro to get their act together, provide us all with the service our tax dollars provide, regardless of the tax increases.

    Comment by Lisa — 8:30 pm May 13, 2013 #

  39. The card tapping outside the bus is a stupid system!!!
    But unless one is psyche and knows what people have done out of their sight, one can’t say where or when the card was tapped. So stop guessing.
    and
    “young guys drinking whiskey and rum and cokes in the back of the bus” is a job for the police not a card checker or the bus driver untrained in combat. Call them.

    Comment by patt — 9:44 pm May 13, 2013 #

  40. G; when I moved here in 98 from California, it cost more than $400 to register my 95 Toyota Corolla in WA; seems everything was getting dumped into car registration, because we have no state income tax; they have to find some way to collect money
    ~
    then after the 1st Eyman initiative, it went down to around $35
    ~
    in the years since, fees have been added and added, so now, with the same car that is 18 yrs old, my current registration is $115 here
    ~
    we REALLY need a state income tax

    Comment by Diane — 10:50 pm May 13, 2013 #

  41. I agree that we need a state income tax now. We live in the most regressive tax state in the nation. When is it going to be 15 to 20%?

    Comment by MK — 2:35 am May 14, 2013 #

  42. I can’t see how an increase in personnel to carch those who don’t pay would cover the cost of additional employes. There will always be people who break the rules, or figure out why they dont apply to them.

    Lisa & Jiggers-
    Some content of your posts is offensive and discredits anything you write; if you just stick to the facts, they should speak for themselves. Your personal attacks are sophomoric and don’t contribute to productive discourse.

    Comment by T — 5:46 am May 14, 2013 #

  43. The problem with a state income tax is that it was tried and rejected. Nobody trusted the state to impose an income tax on top earners and not eventually change the rules to affect everyone.

    I think unless the sales tax were removed at the same time, it would never happen.

    Comment by Civik — 8:00 am May 14, 2013 #

  44. I am glad Kevin Desmond did this interview. I have rode many bus systems in this country and I think Metro is better than most. I do know from working downtown that Metro will have Orca machines downtown next year. They had to wait due to city fiber optic conflicts. That is why they are using the loaders.

    As for the fare enforcement folks, they are based on the theory that if you cheat every day, you will get caught. It is very expensive to have a checker on every bus. Bus drivers are instructed not to hassle people too much about a fare because a dangerous conflict could interfere with passenger safety.

    Comment by westside bus rider — 10:18 am May 14, 2013 #

  45. @Kayleigh: Well put.

    Comment by Ms. Picky — 10:19 am May 14, 2013 #

  46. Ignoring all the hyperbole above, I am a fairly regular bus user (I have no motor vehicle), walker and cyclist. The bus service is essential for those of us who choose not to own a car. It IS possible to do so because of the bus service. If bus service is cut, those of us without motor vehicles will feel the impact first, by causing multiple complications for getting around.

    Second, everyone who does drive will feel the impact as those who do own cars could choose to drive, putting more vehicles on the road. The traffic jams are caused by cars. Too many cars. Not having a good transit system, or decreasing the service that we have now (which has been decreasing steadily year by year), will not solve any problems. Roads in this country are underfunded. Period. Anyone can look this information up – the federal and state and city governments subsidize road costs at a high rate. Taxing those SOV users is a double-edged sword, as is inventing new taxes for those who may use the roads but don’t contribute to congestion (bus users, cyclists, pedestrians).

    Comment by Al — 11:17 am May 14, 2013 #

  47. Civik; we need a state income tax, and a sales tax; we need to stop trying to tack every tax/fee increase into just sales tax, car registration, and property taxes
    ~
    I did not mention the most recent attempt to get a state income tax on millionaires/billionaires, which was tried once so far; I worked hard on that initiative, and there was lots of support; it would be the smartest and fairest way to implement a state income tax; and could save Metro; in fact Metro could grow, perhaps even thrive; and it’s true that the main argument made by opponents was fear of government, that rules would change to affect everyone; so, why not? nearly every state in this country has a state income tax; maybe we should try again, with income tax for everyone, and then revise the rules to have much higher rates for the super wealthy (and btw, many local super rich were in favor; they get that current tax structures are unfair, costing the poor and middle class more than the wealthy)
    ~
    I did say in previous comments that we need a state income tax, like most other states, to tax everyone; our state legislators waste so much time trying to invent other ways to get funding for all that we need in WA; it would be simpler and tons more funding available for all that we need if we just got a state income tax

    Comment by Diane — 11:29 am May 14, 2013 #

  48. Good information, and corrects a bunch of misinformation that is spread in comments (much of which is sadly repeated again in the comments above).
    .
    Just to be clear:
    .
    * Metro isn’t asking for more money, it is asking for the same amount of money from before the sales tax drop and the end of the congestion reduction charge
    .
    * Metro isn’t wasting money – they have been thoroughly audited and made significant improvements over the last few years
    .
    * RapidRide capital improvements didn’t come from Metro money, it came from Federal bus rapid transit grant money
    .
    Since buses are a vital part of the city, and cost money to run, it is clear we should fully support the request to restore funding to the level needed to run the current service – and if possible increase and improve it.

    Comment by Moose2 — 10:02 pm May 14, 2013 #

  49. Just to correct some of the arguements going on in here.

    -Many are worried about the passengers sneaking on the back doors without scanning their ORCA passes. But nobody has mentioned that passengers with valid paper transfers can still board the bus through any door at any stop. Just because they haven’t paid cash or scanned their ORCA card doesn’t mean their not paying. Large percentage of riders still show paper transfers when boarding. But yes, at the same time, some don’t pay and they run the risk of citation. Also, keep in mind, bus fares only make up 30% of operating cost at Metro, and it’s estimated, the not payment problem only makes up one million of the 75 million shortfall.

    -Those stating that if you transfer from another bus or light rail, that you don’t need to tap your ORCA card prior to boarding Rapid Ride is wrong. You must tap on at either the ORCA reader at the bus stop or at the front door before every trip. It will say “XFER” and not charge if within 2 hours of your first ride, but it must be tagged. Citations will be issued for failure to do so.

    -Those of you with unlimited ORCA passes from work or school are also required to tap your ORCA card prior to boarding at the stop or at the front door. Even if it doesn’t deduct money, Fare Enforcment will cite you if your ORCA card doesn’t show you’ve tapped on. Fare Enforcement, which is a contracted security company for Metro, has even started citing Metro employees (in uniform) for failing to tap our unlimited passes, so don’t think they won’t mind if you don’t.

    -And to cover the issue of the fare enforcment at 2nd/Columbia, making sure people pay with the OCRA readers, but never at 3rd/Seneca…. Those are actually Metro employees at the back door, not fare enforcment. They’re scanning ORCA cards at the back door to speed up loading and get the bus moving, due to the limited space the bus stop has to offer with so many buses stopping there during peak hour.

    Comment by Casey — 12:42 pm May 16, 2013 #

Sorry, comment time is over.

All contents copyright 2014, A Drink of Water and a Story Interactive. Here's how to contact us.
Header image by Nick Adams. ABSOLUTELY NO WSB PHOTO REUSE WITHOUT SITE OWNERS' PERMISSION.
Entries and comments feeds. ^Top^