Crowd lines up to oppose Metro bus cuts
More than 400 people showed up for a Metropolitan King County Council committee meeting to protest proposed cuts in Metro bus service. Some urged the council to adopt a $20 car-tab fee that would forestall cuts for two years.
Seattle Times staff reporter
The next hearing is scheduled for 6 p.m. July 21 in Burien, in the City Council chambers, 400 S.W. 152nd St.
The line in downtown Seattle on Tuesday night stretched for a full block.
More than 400 people showed up for a sweltering Metropolitan King County Council committee meeting to protest proposed cuts in Metro bus service.
Some urged the council to adopt a $20 car-tab fee that would forestall cuts for two years.
The crowd crept into the county courthouse as people snaked through a single security checkpoint. The overflow spilled out of council chambers and its balcony into two rooms equipped with TVs so people could view the testimony.
"This line is going to mirror lines we face in the future if these cuts go through," said Michele Witzki, who rides the bus from her West Seattle home to her downtown job every day. Witzki said she was alerted to the hearing by a neighborhood blog.
Corey Ball, of Seattle's Eastlake neighborhood, who waited almost two hours to get into the courthouse, said he never expected such a throng on a Tuesday night. "But I hoped for it," said Ball, who was prompted to come to the hearing by what he called a "Facebook grass-roots" organizing effort.
Seattle City Councilmember Tom Rasmussen stated the obvious in his testimony to the council: "People are voting with their feet."
Transit advocates and organizations worked to turn out bus riders for the event. But so did retiree, neighborhood, student and business groups.
By 7:30 p.m., 363 people had signed up to testify, according to Betty Gulledge-Bennett of the King County Transportation Department.
Four County Council members attended the transportation committee hearing: Bob Ferguson, Larry Gossett, Joe McDermott and Larry Phillips.
"That's not right," said Kate Joncas, the Downtown Seattle Association president, stressing more members should have attended.
The council is considering a $20 car-tab fee for each of the next two years. Without it, Metro says it would need to cut service 17 percent by eliminating some routes and reducing trips.
Metro's main revenue source is sales tax, which has declined in an economic downturn. The agency has cut about 100 jobs, raised fares and dipped into reserves; and employees have given about $17 million in pay concessions, according to Phillips.
In Pierce County on Tuesday, Pierce Transit began issuing layoff notices to 150 employees as it continues to struggle with a $51 million shortfall.
State lawmakers gave county officials the authority this year to charge an extra $20 for car tabs — which would provide $50 million over two years — to help Metro. When combined with reserve funds, it's enough to largely maintain existing service, Metro says.
King County's nine-member council has two options. By a simple majority vote, it could put the car-tab request before voters. Or, a supermajority of six could enact the new fee without going to the voters.
Staff reporter Mike Lindblom and The (Tacoma) News Tribune contributed to this report. Bob Young: 206-464-2174 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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