There are a lot of ideas floating around Seattle right now. From the expensive Ballard Bridge expansion to a simple reimagination of Dexter, infrastructure improvements show promise for transit, cycling, and pedestrian travel in Seattle. Check out some of the recent news:
Today I attempted to ride my bike to Convention place where I planned to catch the 41 northbound to Northgate. Normally I might ride directly from work, but I broke a spoke yesterday and I wanted to avoid riding too much. As it turns out, I barely needed to ride at all. Despite the very nice three-bike racks on the front of all Metro buses, bikes do not mesh well with the bus system in Seattle. It takes time to load your bike and too often during high traffic times the bus is full by the time you get your bike loaded. Then what? Do you take it back off? How many times does one put a bike on and off before calling it quits?
Today I tried a different approach. There was a Metro employee facilitating boarding at Convention Place in order to maximize the number of people on each bus. I explained the difficulty of boarding with a bike and he said “Yeah but we’ll get you on.” About 35 minutes and 3-4 buses later I was still standing there and the line was getting no shorter. There simply is not enough room for everyone and holding up the line so someone like myself (a young male who clearly has access to different transportation) was not an easy task to do. So frustration gave way to impatience so I turned around and left. Modal interconnection is terrible in Seattle and must receive serious attention if the city is to encourage more cycling from a larger variety of riders. Add that to the laundry list of things to be done to improve the city’s failing transportation – bike infrastructure, transit service, light rail, congestion pricing!
As luck would have it a security guard was on the platform and had no shortage of words for me as I took my bike up the escalator. Safety. Danger. Disrespect. No officer, none of those are the right words. Try inefficient, failed, frustration. Explaining myself was pointless: he did not care that I was frustrated with poor service or that I find rules against bicycle on escalators to be outlandish. All he heard was I am a cyclist and I can do whatever I want. That is Seattle – people seem to assume cyclists are all terrible people. I admit, we are often guilty of bending and even breaking traffic laws. But so are drivers and pedestrians. Yet we are unfairly targeted – just this morning I treated a deserted red light as a stop sign seconds after a pedestrian did the same. We both came to a “rolling” stop and carefully looked both ways before crossing. The police officer a few feet away nodded politely at the pedestrian but briefly chased me and yelled. We both broke a traffic law. Why was I singled out for enforcement?
People should fit easily onto buses. Pedestrians and cyclists should be free to move about, not be limited by traffic laws designed for and heavily favoring vehicles. Cars are a privilege not a right. As a country, the United States needs to change the way it looks at transportation. Seattle could and should be at the forefront of that change with it culture of innovation and plethora of pedestrians, cyclists, drivers, and transit users. Unfortunately Seattle is not.
Yesterday Seattle’s Proposition 1 failed to receive a majority of votes, meaning King County Metro will face severe cutbacks (the count is not yet final but a reversal is unlikely). Many routes will be eliminated or consolidated, and overall service levels will be reduced when buses are already overcrowded. As a whole, this cut means fewer options, less accessibility, and longer travel times. According to figures from Commute Seattle’s 2012 Center City Commuter Mode Split Survey Results 2012 bus travel accounted for over 35% of work commutes to Center City Seattle (loosely contained by I-90, Broadway, the Sound, and stretching into Uptown & Capitol Hill). This 17% cut is bad for business.
Opponents of Proposition 1 shot down the ballot with short-sighted and single-minded intent that will ultimately bring negative consequences to all Seattleites, regardless of their perspectives on Metro.For transit riders, cuts mean fewer buses, longer waits, and more uncomfortable rides as resources are stretched to new limits. For drivers, fewer buses will likely mean more cars as a segment of transit riders substitute private vehicles for now unavailable or untimely transit trips. The already bad and at times terrible congestion will only increase.
Of course, the populations that will suffer most are the low-income, disabled, and elderly populations in which many rely on buses for transportation to work, medical facilities, and other essential services. Yes, the proposed car tab and sales tax increase were regressive – but reducing or even eliminating mobility for at-risk populations is even worse. For those who cite inefficiency, poor service, rising costs, and drivers’ wages – yes, these are legitimate discussions to be had. But to vote for massive cuts – that is a privilege not everyone can enjoy.
The cuts will begin to go into effect shortly and are expected to last at least until the fall. Until the state legislature fulfills its responsibility to fund transportation (2015, maybe) there is little Metro can do to sustain its current service levels. Meanwhile, Friends of Transit has proposed a small property tax increase to be placed on the November ballot. Even if such a measure were to pass, as I hope it will, it is going to be a long summer.