By Diane Narasaki and Rich Stolz
Without action soon, King County Metro will cut 17 percent of its transit service, with the first cuts taking place as early as June of this year. As many as 74 routes, including routes critical to the mobility of Asian Pacific American communities, are slated to be completely eliminated. Another 107 routes will be restructured or reduced.
The potential cuts to transit service aren’t just about buses and routes. They represent people’s livelihoods and the connections that hold our communities together. Past cuts to service have already taken a toll. What was once a 30-minute, one-seat ride to Asian Counseling and Referral Services now takes 90 minutes with transfers and multiple buses for some riders. If further cuts take place, this type of experience would be multiplied across the county.
At stake is the ability of elders or other individuals who cannot drive to live independently or to access basic human and health services, of students scrambling to get to their college classes on time, or of workers navigating our transit system to get to work, take their children to child care and run errands at the grocery store. The Asian Pacific American community is growing across our county, and our communities would be impacted in every corner of the region.
As any bus rider who has been passed up by an overcrowded bus or forced to stand for an entire commute can tell you, these cuts couldn’t be coming at a worse time. Metro should be growing by 15 percent just to reduce crowding and keep up with demand. Instead, we are talking about more cuts.
But on April 22, we have an opportunity to prevent these cuts by voting for a ballot measure sent to the voters by the King County Council.
The measure asks King County residents to make a modest increase to taxes and fees — a $60 vehicle fee and .01 percent sales tax increase — that would cost the average household about $11/month. But thanks to the work of advocates from across the region, the proposal would also make sure that low-income bus riders and car owners can still afford to get around. Those making less than $23,000/year can get a reduced bus fare that will save bus riders between $35-54/month. And low-income car owners will pay a reduced license fee.
Furthermore, this measure will not just keep our buses running. Funds raised by the ballot measure, if it passes, will help to fill potholes, build sidewalks, fix bridges, and maintain roads neglected for too long in our county.
If we fail to pass this measure, we hurt ourselves. Drivers will face more congestion and longer commutes as 30,000 additional cars return to our already crowded roads. And our economy and our environment will suffer.
By voting yes, we have a chance to stop bus cuts, fix our crumbling streets, and make it easier and safer to get around King County.
We urge you to vote yes to preserve transit service on April 22. (end)
Diane Narasaki is the executive director of Asian Counseling & Referral Services. Rich Stolz is executive director of OneAmerica Votes.