Sunday, April 06, 2014

The Political Desk Takes the Bus

So, this A to Z challenge thing takes a break on Sunday, so I can take the day off and not upda... what's this in my mailbox? A ballot? In freaking April? Really? How do they expect me to be a good civic citizen in bloody APRIL?

OK, everyone who doesn't live in King County can leave the room (everyone except like five people shuffle out). For the rest of us, here's the deal - King County Proposition No. 1, Sales and Use Tax and Vehicle Fee for Transportation Improvements authorizes an increase of 0.1% sales and use tax, and hiking our vehicle tabs to $60 bucks per year.

The cash raised would be used to fund the Metro and Mass Transit, with about 40% of the cash used for road improvements (as anyone who drives in the area can attest, a needed thing). And the car tabs go up to 60 bucks from a temporary 40 buck price tag that now has to be rolled back due to the bill that created IT is sunsetting.

Still, that's pretty steep, and you may wonder where the state is with all this. Unfortunately, the State Senate is in the hands of a "Coalition Majority" of every Republican and a couple no-longer-really Democrats who have managed to stall any developments (as well as funding for K-12 Education) in the name of saving cash. Part of this is typical Republican parsimony, but another factor is that the hinterlands see any spending in the cities as a threat to the largess that rains down upon their agrarian districts from Olympia, funding improvements that benefit fives if not tens of rural voters. Despite this lack of legislative progress, I got a Facebook post from a Republican State Rep about how proud they were to have wrapped up the session without having to go to a special session, which akin to an MMO publisher being proud of their game going live with half the features still uninstalled.

And its not like public transportation hasn't worked to avoid this stage of things, raising fares (done), cutting service (done), maximizing existing routes (done), freezing wages (done), and reducing overhead (done). They have not cut to the bone, but pretty soon they are going to have to start throwing away tibias.

Let me be honest with you - I'm not a bus user. The nearest bus stop is about three-quarters of a mile away over a rough country populated by wolves and ravens. I wouldn't know an ORCA card if it bit me on the back bumper. And in the month of April, as the Lovely Bride works through the tax forms, the LAST thing that is on my mind is giving the Gummint any more money, regardless of situation. But I'm supporting this for one good reason.

My commute is fairly crappy.

And it is only FAIRLY crappy. The end of the Great Recession has put a lot of people back to work, and King County is recovering better than most (actually, we're kinda booming). Which means people are getting jobs. Which means they are driving to work. And for some reason, whenever I leave the house to go to the office (and, working for a computer game company, this is NOT at the crack of dawn), it seems that EVERYONE ELSE is also trying to get to work at the same time. And I'm not even heading for Seattle. The 405 is clotted, and all the arterial routes have also coagulated. When you have lake on one side and mountains on the other, your options are pretty limited.

So the one thing I DON'T want to see is some 30,000 more users trying to crowd onto my broadband. At that point the traffic moves to regularly paralyzed and I'm listening to a lot more lectures on tape (right now, it's A Culinary History of Food). Mass transit works well for centralized areas (like, say downtown Kent), and if I can make it easier for others to use the bus, I think that's a win for me. So, for purely personal reasons, I'm going to say YES on this matter, to encourage you to do the same, and to get your ballot in (because its APRIL, and no one else is thinking about voting).

Here are some other views. For a foul-mouthed and vicious support of the measure, I can always turn to the Stranger. For a sonorous, ill-informed view from people who have personal drivers to worry about handling that traffic stuff, here's the Seattle Times. Amusingly, the Times editorial board declares that Now Is Not The Time to have this discussion, while their columnist Ron Judd (the only reason to read page 3 of the Sunday newspaper) excoriates politicians who hide behind the Now Is Not The Time excuse to avoid taking action (You'd they'd co-ordinate better on message, but actually, this is one of things I LIKE about the Times). Oh, and the Stranger of course takes the Times to task for getting stuff wrong.

Yes, it's transit (well, some roadbuilding as well, but mostly transit). Yes, it's taxes. Yes, its freakin' APRIL. But vote Yes on the Proposition. And we can get back to the discussion of alphabetized fantasy worlds.

More later,