Wednesday, December 22, 2010

In public transportation, the more you pay, the less you get

The current state of the economy and falling revenue has hit state and local public services hard. For myself, I observe this disturbance most personally in the public transportation sector. King County Metro, for example, has only become a more expensive option to automobiles while the quality of service has decreased. For low-income people who depend on public transportation, two-way bus fare can consume 10 percent of a day’s take-home pay. And what do you get for it? Since buses have been taken out of service, less dependable on-time arrivals and scheduled buses not arriving at all—leading to more crowded buses, and drivers with bad attitudes because of proposed pay cuts, lay-offs and fewer breaks; the attitudes of some drivers are so bad that Metro felt the need to post contact information for riders who feel they have been discriminated against.

One day at the airport, I walked outside to my usual bus stop on my way home—and it was gone. Without any warning or public comment, Metro had decided it wasn’t going have a bus stop at the terminal, and it was going to force people who needed to go to Kent and Auburn walk another 200 yards to the nearest stop on the street. Three routes that serviced Seattle and Renton were cut altogether. People who still wanted to go to Seattle had the option of taking the more expensive light rail service, but for those headed to other neighborhoods, the stops are so few and far between that many have to transfer to buses and pay additional expenses. If that isn’t bad enough, Metro has become so desperate in its seeking of additional cash that it accepted an inflammatory advertisement to be posted on the side of some buses with this catchy slogan: “Israeli War Crimes: Your Tax Dollars at Work” underneath a picture of Palestinian children looking at a demolished building; the Seattle Mideast Awareness Campaign may not be aware of this, but many of us have been paying attention to the situation in the Middle East, and apparently a lot longer than they have.

I haven’t had to avail myself to other public services (except one occasion, when I was told there was no assistance available for "able-bodied single males") but they are as in bad or worse shape. In a last minute stop gap measure the Washington legislature cut $700 million from the budget, the largest chunk from education and health care services; this, of course, is on top of similar cuts from previous years. Next year, the governor and legislature have to deal with a projected deficit of $4.6 billion over the next two years. Tax increases? Forget it. An initiative passed this year requires a 2/3 majority to raise taxes, and this on top of rejection of the modest income tax on the wealthy. Are people in this state this short-sighted? Are Republicans backwater fools? Well, yes. And they have the hypocritical media like the Seattle Times to help steer them stupid.

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