After the defeat of Prop 1, Eli Sanders wondered why suburban voters like light rail, but not buses.
Seattle is surrounded by a ring of voters who appear to hate the idea of funding buses. But in 2008, voters in that same suburban ring voted in favor of funding light rail. (Take the suburban city of Kent, for example. Only 27.2 percent of its voters wanted to save Metro bus service this year. But in 2008, returns showed 50.8 percent of Kent voters in favor of funding light rail.)
These were different measures, of course, but that’s very much the point. There was something in this year’s proposal — whether it be car tabs [to fix roads and fund bus service], the focus on bus transit, or Metro Transit itself — that alienated suburban voters. The result was a marked decline of support that cannot simply be attributed to anti-transit sentiments.
So what was it? The influence of the Prop-1-bashing Seattle Times on suburban voters? The weirdness of an April election? Something about the winsomeness of trains that buses just can’t match? Theories?
As a suburban voter (and a long-time Metro rider and supporter), I wish I had a better answer to this question. I was frustrated to see Prop 1 go down, but I wasn’t all that surprised. The roads near my house were littered with signs saying ‘No $60 car tabs’.
Part of the problem is certainly that trains are seen as a more efficient mode of transit than buses. But I also had a recent conversation with someone who was convinced that Metro was bluffing about the need to cancel routes, and won’t actually cancel them. They cited the Seattle Times, but I’m not even sure the Times went quite that far down the rabbit hole (or maybe it did, I honestly don’t read their shit anymore). So maybe it’s not as much a negative view of buses as it is a negative view of Metro itself.
Either way, as a suburbanite who relies on the 102 bus to get to my job downtown, I have one thing to say to Seattle with respect to preserving the regional character of the Metro system.
Save your routes and don’t worry about us.
I know that I might be fucked if things continue in that direction and Metro starts to de-emphasize suburban routes, but seriously, it would be hilarious to watch traffic go to levels of shit previous thought unimaginable as all of us bus commuters get back in our cars. Let’s bring it on! Carmageddon!