Slog Music

Music, Nightlife,
and Drinks

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Don't Be Fooled by Seattle Times Report on Metro Opposition Group

Posted by on Wed, Mar 26, 2014 at 11:01 AM

PHILLIPS Bus warrior.
  • PHILLIPS Bus warrior.
This guest Slog post is by Larry Phillips, chair of the Metropolitan King County Council.

Our transportation system is essential to the economic vitality and quality of life in our region, and King County Metro is a critical part of that. Cutting 74 routes and reducing over 100 more at a time of record ridership is simply not an option.

That’s why the entire King County Council—regardless of party affiliation or geographic district—voted to place an emergency measure, Proposition 1, before voters on April 22. The measure would raise sales tax by .1 percent for ten years and establish a $60 car-tab fee, and then distribute the estimated $130 million in annual revenue to Metro (60 percent) and cities for road or transit projects (40 percent).

And it’s not just the county council members who agree on this measure; Prop 1’s coalition of supporters is broad and diverse. It includes labor, business, environmental and social justice groups, and leaders across every part of this county. The Sound Cities Association, a coalition of 36 suburban cities, is a partner. Nineteen mayors from cities in King County have already endorsed. And here’s just a sample of our 115 community endorsements: Puget Sound Sage, OneAmerica, King County Conservation Voters, King County Labor Council, Amazon, and Climate Solutions.

But recently, the Seattle Times covered a meeting of the single organization in the county that has officially opposed Prop 1. The Eastside Transportation Association, an unabashedly pro-highway group, claims that King County Metro could solve its problems by cutting costs, rather than raising more revenue.

This is simply a false choice.

For the last six years, as we’ve worked with the state to find a more sustainable funding source for Metro, the agency’s finances have been under a microscope. Metro has undergone a whole host of cost-cutting measures that continues to save us around $130 million each year. Those measures include implementing audit findings and reducing operating costs, eliminating staff positions, reducing labor costs, doubling adult fares, cutting capital projects, and using reserves. The county’s sound fiscal management is the reason that we haven’t had to drastically cut our bus service yet—unlike our neighbors in Snohomish County who’ve seen 35 percent of their bus service eliminated, or our neighbors to the south in Pierce County whose bus system cut 43 percent of its service and is now a smaller agency than when it was first created.

There is no more fat to trim. The choice now is to pass Prop 1 or cut service.

We can’t afford 30,000 more cars on our already crowded roads. We can’t afford to leave our students, our elderly and disabled neighbors, and working families stranded. We can’t afford longer walks and waits to get on our overcrowded remaining routes.

The Eastside Transportation Association has it wrong. This isn’t about politics or ideology. It’s about our future, economy, quality of life, and environment. Let’s move King County now.


Comments (20) RSS

Oldest First Unregistered On Registered On Add a comment
emor 1
One reason I hate groups like the ETA is that they fight light rail by saying, "Busses! Busses are better and cheaper! BUSSES!"

And then they gleefully champion the destruction of our bus system.

Fuck you, ETA.
Posted by emor on March 26, 2014 at 11:09 AM · Report this
Will in Seattle 2
Larry is right
Posted by Will in Seattle on March 26, 2014 at 11:17 AM · Report this
stonato 3
Maybe they think they can become Seattle and Olympia combined (and, the largest city in WA) if they trash our infrastructure. That ploy has worked before.
Posted by stonato on March 26, 2014 at 11:35 AM · Report this
What about cutting bus service to the eastside for a day to show how important bus service is? It would be horrible for a lot of people, but it would make people want to vote for continuing funding.
Posted by fad on March 26, 2014 at 11:50 AM · Report this
I, for one, welcome our new automotive overlords.
Posted by Hanoumatoi on March 26, 2014 at 12:09 PM · Report this
IndicaDogwalk 6
Larry - Thank you for setting the record correctly. The Stranger - Thank you for posting Larry's piece.

The Seattle Times consistently proves that it's in the pocket of the GOP and big business. The Blethen family, who owns the ST, are staunch Republicans and will always make sure that the GOP has a voice in their paper.

I'm waiting for a huge scandal to take down the Blethens and the Seattle Times. They need to fall.
Posted by IndicaDogwalk on March 26, 2014 at 12:22 PM · Report this
Perhaps it's time to think about a fee on stock trades.
Posted by RoseE on March 26, 2014 at 12:23 PM · Report this
Yippee! Another regressive tax. And who do we have to thank for it? Tim Eyman and spineless legislators like Ed Murray.
Posted by DOUG. on March 26, 2014 at 12:55 PM · Report this
Reverse Polarity 10
@9, not just one, but TWO regressive taxes. The added sales tax and the car tab, which everyone with a car has to pay the same flat amount, whether you're poor and drive a 20 year old Yugo, or a 1%er driving a new BMW.

I'll vote for this reluctantly, because gutting transit is dumb. But this taxing structure is fucked up. I realize that it is the only option the county has on its own. Rodney Tom and the morons in the legislature are to blame for this fiasco.
Posted by Reverse Polarity on March 26, 2014 at 1:49 PM · Report this
One-tenth of one percent more sales tax. On a $20 purchase, that amounts to another 2 cents; on a $200 purchase, $2. Very few poor people buy things costing $200; those who can afford to pay $200 for something can afford another $2. Whining about this being "regressive" is using poor people as an excuse to be anti-tax.
Posted by sarah70 on March 26, 2014 at 6:58 PM · Report this
why does metro continue to need more and more funding but sound transit operates at a profit? Is metro having a hard time making ends meet to pay for pensions?
Posted by othersideoftown on March 26, 2014 at 9:57 PM · Report this
DOUG. 13
@11: I'm not sure you understand how sales tax works. It's on all items purchased, not just a single, high-priced item. And as @10 points out, the MVET is also regressive.

When I moved here in 1992, Washington state had a very progressive MVET, tied to the value of the automobile. Then along came Tim Eyman, a spineless legislature and compliant "Democratic" governors.

So to label the regressive mess we find ourselves in now as "anti-tax whining" is to not understand the recent history of taxation in this state.
Posted by DOUG. on March 27, 2014 at 9:05 AM · Report this
stonato 14

That is a very concise history of Seattle in the 21st century, though it excuses mayors/council members. Kudos, #11.
Posted by stonato on March 27, 2014 at 11:14 AM · Report this
cressona 15
The taxing sources aren't great, but those are the choices Olympia left us with. If I recall correctly, the Republicans in the state legislature would only go for an MVET increase if the Metro funding was accompanied spending on some frivolous new highway projects. Never mind the highway projects underway already that we haven't paid for, or the backlog of highway repair work being left undone.

I'm nervous myself about Prop. 1. The bus I normally take to work would be eliminated if this funding doesn't come through.

But looking beyond my own narrow interests... I'm not exactly a Metro fan, but then I look at the people who want to see this measure fail--the same people who never want any funding for any transit--and I think, "According to these morons, I'm never supposed to trust Metro, but I'm supposed to trust them instead?!" These are the sorts of folks who would just as well see our economy and our civilization unravel bit by bit, and make everybody's lives become that much more difficult and uncertain, and for what? So they can stick it to the man? So they can save some money on their tax bill? Meanwhile, they're happy to throw mud in the gears of the local economic engine that enables us to have jobs by which we can continue to pay taxes.

While they're at it, maybe they can try to reduce their property tax bills too, see their neighborhoods turn into slums as a result, and then see their property taxes go down even further as a result of the result. What more far-sighted people would see as a vicious cycle, these nihilists probably see as a virtuous cycle.
Posted by cressona on March 27, 2014 at 11:41 AM · Report this
Sounds like a tea party based group. That right there makes them scary and out of touch with reality.

Posted by eric1972sea on March 28, 2014 at 6:53 PM · Report this
Thanks to my Councilman Larry Phillips for concisely laying out the "there is no more fat to trim" argument that stands behind pushing for every car owner in King County to shell out $60 per year in an additional car tab renewal fee [with a $20 break if you fill out the right forms], plus paying a bit more in sales tax throughout our county.

As a former operations analyst for a municipal government, I can report confidently the "no more fat" argument is very well known when it comes time for agencies to justify revenue hikes to cover rising operational costs. I don't buy it without more evidence than Mr. Phillip's paragraph.

While there may be no more easy, squishy fat to be found in the current operations of King County Metro, often there are savings to be found as organizations mature and grow bigger, obtained through restructuring of complex operations to do things in fundamentally different ways that cost less, often with employee involvement. This is what outside process improvement engineers look for, and different ones can be brought in for a fresh look every year. Graduate business and engineering students in universities can often provide help to taxpayers in this kind of work.

I sense from reading the Muni League Committee report on the April 22nd Prop 1 tax ballot that there is more to be done in improving how Metro does its work. The Muni League tells us "much progress had been made on issues of service allocation, performance measurement and transparency. However, in both reports [done in 2008 and 2013] we expressed concerns about a continuing problem with Metro’s cost structure. Metro has a relatively high cost structure and it also has a long-time problem generating adequate operating revenue."

Finding improvements is also the reason for the Lean Management Process that King County Government is famous for in professional circles.

For example, quoting the newsletter of the National Association of Counties on May 7, 2012, "Dow Constantine ran on a reform platform when he campaigned for King County, Wash. executive in 2009. After nearly three years in office, the changes he ushered in are achieving positive results through employee-led process improvements and using techniques borrowed from the world of manufacturing called 'Lean' management."

Curiously, I've been unable to find any references to how the Lean Management Process has been applied to find new ways of delivering service by King County Metro.

I am hereby asking Councilman Phillips to inform those of us in the hard-nosed efficiency camp to explain how the Lean Management Process has been applied to King County Metro so far, and what has been achieved.

There certainly is nothing lean about the tax revenue aspirations of King County Metro, as illustrated by the past, present, and future revenue curve for this agency if the general sales tax bump and $60 car tab tax passes on April 22. Take a look:… .
Posted by Jniles on March 29, 2014 at 6:09 PM · Report this
Councilman Phillips wrote me April 4 with the following reply to my open letter question about how the Lean Process is being applied at King County Metro:

Dear Mr. Niles,

Thank you for your question about how the Lean Management Process has been applied to King County Metro so far, and what has been achieved. Metro has undertaken efforts to improve business processes and to increase productivity and efficiency. Several of the Lean initiatives have just begun a multi-year process.

Lean process improvement efforts include:

• Created new workers compensation claims procedures and an online system that enables managers to track and share information about injured workers. This 2012 Lean event was part of an ongoing effort that Metro started in 2005 that is intended to control workers comp costs. It is profiled on the County’s Lean website.

• Made Family Medical Leave Administration process improvements, such as eliminating paper attendance cards and instead using the Hastus transit management software. The improvements have resulted in time savings for staff.

• Improved ORCA Business Passport contract renewal processes for more than 800 businesses that sell ORCA passes. This project resulted in a 20% reduction in renewal cycle time.

• Recently started a Lean project for Metro’s Vehicle Maintenance section that has the goal of reducing bus parts inventory and inventory costs.

I hope this information is helpful.

Larry Phillips, Chair
Metropolitan King County Council, District Four
King County Courthouse
Posted by Jniles on April 7, 2014 at 12:08 AM · Report this
Looking at Metro's Accountability website, here are a few of the other actions they've listed as cost-savings/efficiency measures.

• Changed the way buses are scheduled so fewer buses deliver the same amount of service. Ongoing annual savings: $13 million.

• Eliminated 125 "backup" operator positions from the 2008 level and increased the use of part-time drivers or full time drivers working overtime to fill absences. Ongoing annual savings: $1.45 million.

• Expanded Metro's Community Access Transportation (CAT) program as part of an ongoing effort to contain the costs of paratransit service-federally mandated door-to-door service for people with disabilities that is costly for Metro to operate. CAT provides vans and support to partner community organizations that offer rides as an alternative to Metro's Access service. CAT trips are less expensive and fill service gaps as well. Metro has doubled the number of CAT trips since 2008, and plans to continue expanding this program. Savings in 2013: $5 million.

• Extended the inspection interval for buses. Ongoing annual savings: $450,000.

• Using the service guidelines adopted in 2011, cut 75,000 hours of the least productive bus service and reallocated those service hours, along with hours gained from more efficient scheduling to more productive service. These actions have resulted in higher ridership and fare revenue. Ongoing annual savings: $8 million.
Posted by ap on April 7, 2014 at 10:25 PM · Report this
That would be .20cents not two dollars. Get it right if you going to post a math calculation.
Posted by A real live employer on April 8, 2014 at 9:41 AM · Report this
Your Math is Regressive.. And I am going to vote no just because of you. Metro can make cuts elsewhere they are not going to reduce their buses. On Principle I am just fine with a .01 Sales Tax and Car Tabs. But it gives Metro a quick fix without actually being forced to run their operations better. Come back to the voters with a fix for all of the waste and misuse of funds and this should pass no problem
Posted by A real live employer on April 8, 2014 at 10:00 AM · Report this

Add a comment

Commenting on this item is available only to registered commenters.

All contents © Index Newspapers, LLC
1535 11th Ave (Third Floor), Seattle, WA 98122
Contact | Privacy Policy | Terms of Use | Takedown Policy