Students speak out against looming Metro Transit cuts

Transit Tour

Transit Tour -

Students and community members testify in front of state legislators about potential cuts to Metro transit service at Seattle First Presbyterian Church on Monday.

Photo by Anastasia Stepankowsky

UW senior and ASUW Office of Government Relations (OGR) assistant director Molly Smith describes her morning commute from Ravenna to campus as a mess.

“I normally take the 372 [bus] in the mornings,” Smith said. “What typically happens is that I go and wait for the bus and the first one doesn’t show up. And the second one rolls by, but it’s too full, so it always passes by my stop. So it normally takes me three tries to finally take the bus.”

Smith and a group of UW students were among the crowd of over 500 people that gathered at First Presbyterian Church in Seattle last night to have their voices heard against the possible service cuts in the Metro Transit system.

The State Legislature’s inability to come up with a transportation funding package July 1 put Metro one step closer to implementing the 17 percent service reduction for late 2014. Since then, Metro has been scrambling to find alternate funding sources to cover the projected $75 million shortfall for next year.

UW junior Chetan Chandrashekhar said he attended the statewide listening tour because he was frustrated with the state Legislature’s inability to reward the transit riders who are helping the environment and traffic.

“When you’re riding the bus, you’re giving something to all the cars around you,” Chandrashekhar said. “You should at least be able get on your bus. I was often late to classes because I couldn’t make the 70 buses [from overcrowding] and the 49 would leave me behind.”

King County executive Dow Constantine testified that cuts to services will impact 400,000 people who rely on the transit every day and bring about 30,000 cars back on the roads.

UW Director of Transportation Josh Kavanagh said that it is extremely important for the state Legislature to act as soon as possible so these changes can be implemented without having to wait through a lengthy time frame.

“Let’s assume we receive the funding package in January,” Kavanagh said. “That would mean that the changes will not be implemented before they appear in the ballot in the next election.”

Kavanagh also said that the importance of finding alternate funding source goes beyond improving Metro’s chances of maintaining the services of these bus routes.

“Keeping these services bring[s] real business results to the state,” Kavanagh said. “The U-PASS program saved about $71 million worth of land that could have been spent building additional parking lots. They’re not going to be able to continue bringing successes like that if they can’t find emergency funding relief.”

OGR Director Lucas Barash-David urged students to come to the ASUW office and reach out to the legislatures via email or postcards.

“This is not the end,” Barash-David said. “Any way we can tell the legislatures to know that the bus system is really important for us is going to be very helpful.”

Reach reporter KJ Hiramoto at news@dailyuw.com. Twitter: @HiramotoJr

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