by Chason Gordon
– The Capitol Hill Times –
When I first started taking the bus as a kid, I would always get a little nervous about pulling that string. So many things could go wrong. I might pull it at the wrong time, and purposely get off at the wrong stop so people didn’t get mad at me. Or perhaps I wouldn’t pull it hard enough, and watch my stop pass through the rear window, waiting for the bus to go around the city until I could try again. To prepare myself for that string, I used to practice on the laundry line at home. “Wait for it,” I’d yell to myself, “now!” But you need real world experience.
Of course, once I effectively pulled the string, there was the stressful issue of exiting. I would always exit through the door at the front, because no matter how many times I studied the instructions for leaving through the back, no matter how much weight I put on the step that was supposed to activate the door, it never opened for me, and I’d stand there, too nervous to call for bus driver’s help, and slowly watch my stop fade in the distance. The stress was too much, so I got a car.
Today I have a very different relationship with the bus. When I’m driving, I look at the bus like an incoming fat guy on an airplane who I don’t want to sit next to me. Everyone on the road has to adjust. It goes slowly, it barely signals, and when I let the bus into my lane, none of the passengers give me a courtesy wave. It’s like having 30 rude drivers in one giant, awkward car.
This brings us, in a rather lackadaisical manner (I buried the lede!), to King County Metro Transit and their budget trouble. Let’s take a look at their numeric complaints. According to Metro, revenue from sales-tax fell off as the economy went south, and it was forced to dig into the cash reserves (cash reserves?) for $100 million (cash reserves?). Oh, but those aren’t the only numbers I found on the internet. The operating costs in 2011 were the nation’s ninth-highest (woohoo!), at $130 per operating hour (big cities average $119 per hour, with Atlantis and the moon coming in at the top).
To avoid mass cuts, Metro needs about $75 million a year, and since they don’t know how to produce blockbuster films, they’ve decided to push for a $40 car-tab fee, as well as House Bill 1959, which would enact a motor-vehicle excise tax of $150 per $10,000 of a vehicle’s value (what if my car is worth $150?).
If they don’t get the money, the girl gets it, but Metro also plans to cut services 17 percent, starting with the least used routes first, like the 215 to North Bend, the 314 that goes from my house to my mailbox, and the 274, which will explode if it drives below 50 miles an hour. Pretty harsh stuff.
You’ve got a lot of nerve King County Metro Transit, if that is your real name. You already have special lanes, custom traffic lights, and obnoxious advertisements that make the passengers look like they’re endorsing the product, and now you want more money? Unbelievable. I’d be feeling a little more generous if your buses hadn’t almost hit me 78 times, or constantly made me late because I got stuck behind one of them on a one lane road. Oh, I’d love to help you with some cash, but I heard you only take exact change (rimshot!).
-Eliminate non-essential stops, so the bus is more efficient. If people want to get off, they can jump.
-Go after forms of transportation that compete with buses, like rideshares, horses, hitchhiking, bicycles, rickshaws, and Falkor, that dragon thing from “The Neverending Story.”
-No more transfers. Transfers are buses giving you a free lift. You can walk the rest of the way.
-Combine Ride the Ducks with the Metro buses, assuming people don’t mind the extra time spent on the water.
-Next time I rob a bank, and offer the bus driver $10,000 in cash to “get me out of here,” just take it. No more exact change.
Any of these ideas are better than charging more money for car tabs that I already steal from my editor. The bus plays a very important role in my life, and I’d be sorry to see it go. Every time my friends ask for a ride and I tell them to take the bus, I feel like I’m helping support the public transportation system. Figure something out, Metro, because it’s “the wheels on the bus go round and round,” not “the wheels on the bus were sold for cash.”