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Dow Constantine New $20 Car License Fee

Here we go again.  King County Executive Dow Constantine wants to implement a $20 car license fee to fix more roads.  In the proposal he is urging the approval of the fee where 250,000 people live.  Many excuses where give why this is needed I particularly like that one about declining property values.  First there is no collation with property values and property taxes.  It nearly never adjusts and only goes up with regards to property taxes.  Don’t believe me compare your last couple years property taxes to this years.  Your home value went down and your property tax probably went up or stayed the same.  What a joke.  Next excuse was the declining population in these areas.  Well… if we have less population in these area that means we have less cars on the road causing damage.  Also means we should have less expenses when it comes to staff.  I assume staff is at a record high sitting around tables “just because”.  Give me a break this is a business so adjustments in regards to staff working, revenue, and population all need to work together.  Is this being done? I highly doubt it.

We also got to look at the county’s general fund.  73% of $680.6 million dollar budget goes to justice.  That means all the money is being spent on the Sheriffs, jails, courts, prosecutors, and defenders.  Obviously, this is the area that needs the most work so lets clean up the laws to quickly manage this better.  Dismiss the cases that obviously are losers, legalize things that should be like pot, and stream line the processes better.  Another 20% goes to the administration costs so that leaves like 10%.  This is just pathetic.

Another area of concern is the gas tax and where is that going?  Where are at an all time high right now and the city is making the most they have ever made.  We sure can come up with 50 million for a new arena tomorrow but can’t fix the roads?  Are you serious?

It seems the only solutions ever presented when financial times get rocky are tax increases.  They never cut and always pass the buck.

Perhaps if someone could figure out the bus routes more people would use them.  That is just one big cluster.

 

Seattle Metro Trip Planner – Confusion

Metro Transit has a great slogan. “We’ll get you there”. What they don’t say is you can’t find out what bus to take and where. Let me start by giving you Bus riding 101. This is so simple and easy to understand.

#1.  BE SURE YOU BUS IS LISTED ON THE SIGN.

#2.  IF YOU HAVE A PROBLEM CALL info listed on your bus schedule. Customer Service  (206) 553-3000.

Now look at the two photos of the bus signs. These pictures were taken a block apart on the same day, so I had no idea which one was right.

I don’t mean this to sound like I think Metro has a vendetta against me, but I will write my experience and it has to be happening to hundreds and hundreds of people.

My story:

I had my green bus schedule in my hand, headed to East Marginal way to catch bus 131 to Burien for a doctors appointment. But my bus number was no longer listed on the sign. Look at the picture of the two bus signs. The bus numbers on the signs had been changed. The buses that I ride are 124, 131, 132. These get me to down town Seattle on 4th and to Burien. You will see that the on the sign these three numbers have been removed. No rider alert on the post, nothing explaining anything. Remember rule #1. If your bus is not listed, it wont be coming to that stop. I was bus less in Seattle all of a sudden. Missed my appointment, walked back home and called information. Nothing but a busy signal for over ten minutes. I had relatives and neighbors try to find out for me and no one could get anyone to answer the phone but a Grandson was told to leave his number and they would call him back. THEY NEVER DID. I emailed Metro and left a comment/complaint and it said they would try to answer me within two weeks. I finally wrote a snail letter to the Mayor. The secretary had no idea what to do with it, but bless her heart she sent out an email all over the place called, How can I help an 89 year old catch a bus? I am sure there was a lot of laughs about a little senile old lady but the flood gates opened. The Mayors Secretary or whoever answered me was Becky Stanley. Without her I don’t think I would have ever got an answer about the buses.  She assured me it’s not Mayor Mcginn’s problem but she got Deidre Andrus attention at Metro and I got my answers.  These girls/woman were courteous and helpful. The message was awful but the messengers were great.

The answer I got from metro was this. THEY ARE VERY SORRY I GOT CONFUSED. well duh.  Here is why I was confused. I was supposed to just stand at the old bus stop and wait for my old bus, although it was not  listed. They are changing 50 bus routes and had to change the bus signs early to have them in place by Sept 29th. How is anyone to know, without a notice on the bus sign post? Lets say I go stand and wait for a bus that is not listed on the sign, when I get to Burien Transit station how am I going to know what sign to stand under to get home?

This is not only unnecessary, but is actually cruel.

I have now heard the information that my bus 134, will not exist anymore. To get the 131 I would need to walk from Corson to past 4th and Michigan, and it would take me to town, NOT TO BURIEN like it always has. The 124 bus I can catch on Carlton and it will go down airport way to 2nd and Jackson.

To sum up what these changes did for me (and many many hundreds of riders) was to take away my independence completely. I have rode the buses 66 years from this same address. I could take a bus that would go by here to town and all the way to Federal Way. I could ride it to the Grey Hound bus station and see the Christmas lights along 4th and get to the Monorail. Its gone. The 131 took me to Burien and downtown. My doctor and hearing aide office is in Burien. They tell me I need to take the 124 either to South Park or Tukwila Link and catch a bus to Burien. Every time you change buses you can count on an extra half hour. I would be afraid to stand in South Park. So the new BIG change just ruined the bus service for Georgetown completely. We have no buses that we can take to Costco, Food bank of the businesses along 4th. Can’t get to Burien without a major mess. Think of the millions they spent to give us this NEW AND IMPROVED SERVICE. I asked the Mayor if he was able to get me a three wheeled bike but did not get a response. Before you ask, age does not qualify me to get a senior shuttle. I would need a doctors slip saying I have trouble walking. I can walk a couple blocks fine, can climb on to a bus fine, but first I need THE BUS.

Now look at the 2013-2014 Transportation Budget Highlights below. This is from the Mayor that didn’t have a clue about how I could get a bus. Look what they spend for studies and analysis and planning. They want funds to get a 4th street car to Paul Allen’s Vulcan spread. We can’t even get a bus in Georgetown.

My neighborhood has lots of woman and little kids, guys in wheel chairs and we just don’t count in the scheme of things. He talks in some of his other plans how he will have well lit places for people to wait for their buses. WE DON’T EVEN HAVE A BENCH, but heck we don’t have a bus either. Call the information number and let them know what you think, or better still go to the comment section of Metro Transit and tell them. While you are at it leave a comment on our Journal.

2013-2014 Transportation Budget Highlights

FAST AND RELIABLE TRANSIT
Nearly $6 million to connect our neighborhoods with high capacity transit

  • $2 million      for a corridor analysis of a high-capacity transit line from downtown to the University      District, via Eastlake. If approved by the council, this      work would begin next year.
  • $850,000      for a corridor analysis of a bus rapid transit line on Madison Street,      starting at Colman dock downtown.
  • $500,000      for a study of a pedestrian,      bike, and transit crossing of the ship canal. Identified      as a need in both the Bicycle and Transit Master Plans, a north/south      crossing of the ship canal between the Ballard and Fremont bridges would      allow transit to flow more freely past this obstacle without getting stuck      in traffic.
  • A $2.5      million Transit      Master Plan Reserve fund to help pay for the next phase of      design work on these corridors, starting in 2014

At Metro, we’re working hard to give you easy, convenient access to the places you want to go, while helping you save money, control stress and protect the environment. So when we say, “We’ll Get You There,” we mean it!

If you have questions or need help planning your trip, call Metro Customer Information at 206-553-3000 (TTY Relay: 711) or visit our Trip Planner.

– This really meaningless.

520 Bridge Toll Is Here

Hope you’re ready to pay the man more because the 520 bridge toll will be starting on the 29th of December. Just another example of “thinking stuff up” to generate more revenue for the state and it’s financial troubles instead of actually fixing the root of the problem – spending. It’s been discussed on this site over and over again from different angles but it’s the norm when it comes to financial troubles. It’s just an easy fix and sell to the public I guess. I honestly believe most people are sheep and follow the crowd anyway and that is how most of this stuff is passed. With some TV ads and the use of scarcity the crowd falls for it.

If you commute and use the 520 bridge regularly like going to work daily you can expect to pay around $1,600 per year. I wouldn’t call that pocket change. It’s about $160 a month.

I guess toll are one of the new avenues for generating more money. It’s not enough that we pay for the roads with our taxes and almost 50% of your car gas is taxed. Parking in Seattle will cost you $8 dollars an hour! I predict we’ll see a lot more down the road and maybe even the viaduct when that project is completed. That would be an easy approval for the Seattle council members. Add in the HOV lane fees they are collecting now. If you’re not connected with the Good To Go program (to debit your account automatically), even more fees are applied. It’s all just crazy.

The 520 bridge toll is a slap in the face to so many people. We’ve talked about the financial planning at the Washington Department of Transportation and have proven that they can’t manage a dollar. They are worse than the USPS. This will only put more money in their pockets and even less on the roads. 1,000,000 dollars a week in fact.

What I find even more sleazy about the 520 bridge toll is that the state received a federal grant. It was a $123,000,000 million dollar payday grant that pays for helping subsidizing buses, toll equipment and other expenses related to the new toll. Public transport, van pools, are already except vehicles etc they don’t have to pay the toll anyway (or tabs) so really it’s just a incentive to start a new toll! Gosh $123 million dollar paycheck is a sleazy incentive to start a toll don’t you think?

Here is a good question, living in Seattle, why would anyone want to go the east side to do any shopping anymore? The reality is businesses and local sales will only decrease hurting the situation even more. If you’re from Seattle or the east side and want to shop – it’s going to cost you an extra $7 dollars. It’s almost not even worth leaving the house anymore. You can get a better deal online, pay no sales tax on it, and get free shipping.

Transportation Funding Package

Hold on to your wallets. Seattle has created a “Seattle Transportation Benefit District”. This will consist of 9 Seattle city council members. One thing they are tinkering with is raising car tab fees. It will be divided up as follows.

  • an $80 vehicle license fee, with: 
  • 50% of the revenue would go to transit
  • 30% of the revenue would go to street maintenance 
  • 20% of the revenue would go to pedestrian, neighborhood, and bicycle improvements.

This message came out in “The Reader” that Mayor Mike McGinn sends out which is very informative but which I seldom agree with. The Mayor is blaming the recession AND the Eyman initiatives for all the money problems. He says he has no money for basic street maintenance. How can that be? Look all over the city at the projects going on. These are not basic maintenance. They have torn up my whole street and re-doing it when it did not even have a pot hole. They must have a list or plan to tear up a street every few years or who knows if they even have a plan. But the money the transportation department squanders would pave a yellow brick road most anyplace. Instead it just raises our property tax, car license fees and anything else they can sqeak through without a vote. Look what the city council did with the tunnel that no one wants, no one can afford, and will be so dangerous only a fool would go in it. Not sure if they are putting a bike lane in it for the Mayor or not.

When you count on the government to fix the problem that the government created, it will never work. I am not against future planning, I am not against rebuilding things that need rebuilding but we have a bunch of buffo’s that seem to just sit and make a plan and then tell us “worker bees” we are going to get a new road, a new bridge, a new tunnel and it wont cost us a thing. The city will pay and X amount, the state will kick in a few millions, then the good old Federal Government will surely write a check for the rest. They have not told most of the sheep out here that the money tree is really their own pocket. They count on you being so busy with going to work, and your family that you just pay your taxes and stay quiet. BUT right now people have lost their jobs, taxes are maxed but the planners are still planning away.

We need 9 council members that think like Tim Eyman and Elizabeth Campbell and there would be some changes in the city’s spending. The transit drivers are the third highest paid in the nation. That should change. The salaries they pay the people in the transportation department are obscene. Top dog at DOT has a salary of $600,000 and picture what the whole department squanders away. The more they raise the taxes the more raises and bonuses they will get. They muddle it by saying that appropriations committee set the funds aside, or they have to spend millions of city/state dollars to get federal funds but you never hear a thing about government efficiency.

“The Reader” said the Mayor and City Council members want to hear from you. Please contact them. Their addresses are on our website for your convenience here. If enough people start to complain someone will hear about it. Right now any letter I have written to the council members or my congressman had resulted in a boiler plate answer, one size fits all. I could have written a letter saying the “neighbors hamster peed on my lawn”, or tell them to put aside their “funding packages until the recession is over’, and I would have gotten the same answer from them. I want to give credit where credit is due. Mayor McGinn sends a boiler plate letter first but you do get a personal e mail that mentions what you had written him about.

Metro Transit Doesn’t Make It Easy To Ride The Bus In Georgetown

Metro Transit does not care about their people who depend on buses to be independent and get to doctors or grocery shopping. In Georgetown metro has closed our bus stop. It is what they call the Carlton Ave Stop. I have caught the bus there for 45 years, but the other day when I went to that stop a bag was hanging over it, saying stop closed. There was no sign telling me where to go or what to do. That was a real shock. I came home and got on their website and it showed it was open. Two different people that answer the phone insisted it was open. See picture below. One girl said well just walk down to Brighton. From Corson Ave to Brighton is 2/10ths of a mile or more. I am 87 and after walking 2 ½ blocks to the bus I really cant walk 3 or 4 more blocks and still feel up to getting on the bus. The 124 from Federal Way to downtown on 4th, the 131 and 134 that go to Burien(because the South Park Bridge is closed), the 60 bus that goes to White Center all stopped there. It is the only stop that serves the residential portion of Georgetown. Brighton is the stop for the South Seattle Community College. There is no reason why that stop is closed. We are not asking for a new bus stop. There never has been a bench or shelter, so we are not asking for that, there is no business that the stop is bothering. It is a real hardship for me, for my neighbors in wheel chairs, Mothers with babies in strollers and toddlers walking along beside them are having a terrible time. We don’t have bus service anymore. The same buses go right by so we are not asking for a thing except just stop and pick us up. They can’t say its cost saving. Wouldn’t it be better to stop and pick up a few paying customers than just pass us by?  In the afternoon a lot of workers from the factories around here use that bus stop.  This is plain crazy. I used to ride to Federal Way with my children who live there and then take the bus home to save them a long drive back and forth, but now the bus goes right by Corson and takes me almost to 4th and Michigan and I have to walk back home with my shopping. Well they can’t blame Bush for that.

Washington State Department Of Transportation – Failure Analysis

With all the media attention on the Washington State Department of Transportation (tolls, ferries, traffic, road work) recently, I wanted to dive into the actual financial figures and “try to figure out the system”.  We are all constantly hearing about the ferries losing money or the new 520 tolls starting soon.   It’s on every news channel and it’s a constant reminder of how much we’re losing and how we are going to need to generate more money to make all this work.  The question is, however, do we really need to generate more money?  Are the money problems with management or the process at which communication takes place?  It’s about time we give it a quick analysis to see what is happening. 

First, I am not claiming to know the transportation system in Washington State.  I am just looking at one official financial report (most recent I could find) and giving my honest opinion.

The report is for November 2010 and is based on approx figures.  It states for November 2010 our total revenue was 4.06 billion dollars.  From the pie chart at the top you’ll notice 49% off that revenue is from tax generated from fuel. 

49% of the Washington State Department of Transportation revenue is generated from Gas/Fuel – lets discuss this first.

I am going to jump right to the long term problem with this revenue generating business model.  As a state/country we are pushing for greener operations.  We see it everyday on the TV and new laws are being created to force companies to participate.  New electric vehicles are being manufactured and sold everyday and it appears to be a positive change.   However, this change means that the more we push for green and embrace it the less revenue we are going to have.  Less money goes to must have road repairs and that means less jobs.  I am and I hope you are for a more greener planet.  It provides less pollution and gives us more control over oil but do you see the problem here?  The faster we embrace a change for better (green) the faster revenues will drop.  If this is our biggest transportation revenue source and the Washington State Department of Transportation cannot make the budget work now – how is going to work when this revenue source drops to 25% or less?  That’s a problem and huge transportation financial gap.

Ferry Revenue

From the November 2010 report, it says we generated 301.3 million in revenue from the ferry system (good).  It also says we spent 359.2 million to support the ferry system (bad).  My math says we lost over 50 million for the month of November.  I’m disappointed the report doesn’t provide more details as to where that money was spent exactly (gas/management/repairs etc).  The public needs to know the details so change can be made to support the ferries.  It generates a good amount of money and we need to figure out where that money truly is going.

Rental Car Tax & Vehicle Sales Tax (Revenue)

The rental car tax revenue came to 43.7 million and our total vehicle sales tax revenue came to 54 million.  I didn’t expect these figures to be almost the same since when you buy a car the sales tax is usually thousands of dollars and rental car tax is under $10 dollars. 

In our next report we’ll discuss where our revenue is going.

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