With an outstretched arm, vote yes on Prop. 1

By Joel Magalnick, Editor, The Jewish Sound

When we’ve written about Metro buses in recent years, it has been about the controversial ads that appear on them. This time, I’m asking you to save the vehicles that carry those ads, and a plea to vote yes on the proposition King County residents are being asked to vote on by April 22.

As we roll into the Passover holiday, we think about welcoming the stranger into our homes. Proposition 1 asks us to do much of the same thing: To open our hearts (and checkbooks) by spending $40 more per year on our license plate tabs and approximately $11 per month on average in sales tax to maintain current bus service throughout the county.

Passage of this proposition is the difference between a job and unemployment for many of the poorer people in our region. It’s the transportation for university students who have to live far from campus because housing has become too expensive for them in the city. It’s the way a disabled person can make it to a job or a doctor’s visit. If you want to think about this selfishly, it’s the difference between bad traffic and gridlock, as the county has estimated that as many as 30,000 more cars would appear on the roads each day because of the loss in bus service. And that’s not to mention the additional pollution so many more cars would cause in a region that’s just not as clean as we believe it to be.

This proposition has been put before you not as a bailout for Metro, which has been running more or less efficiently for many years, but as a rescue due to the failure of our state’s legislature to act on a transportation bill. When members of our state’s Jewish legislative caucus reflected on the just-ended session last month, nearly all of the representatives expressed frustration that the Senate majority leader would not bring the bill, which would provide funding statewide for transit and road maintenance, to a vote.

I’ve seen arguments against the measure that use a “stick it to Seattle” theme — in essence, because the majority of bus rides happen in Seattle, it shouldn’t fall upon rural riders to subsidize them. But those critics have it backwards. Historically, when Metro has had to make cuts, the first routes to go have been the ones with the lowest ridership — the ones the farthest from the center of the city which are often where the people with the lowest incomes need it the most. Access buses, which provide necessary transportation for the elderly and disabled, would also end up on the chopping block.

Twenty mayors in King County have come out in favor of this measure, because they, as the people who must intimately understand the workings of their municipalities, understand that having less bus service will most harm their citizens with the least.

During Passover, we tell of how we were slaves, and we had nothing. Once Moses, with his outstretched arm, parted the sea and gave us our freedom, we had everything in the world.

For many of our fellow citizens, access to transportation is their ticket to freedom. As we tell the story of the Exodus at our seders next week, outstretch your own arms. Then vote yes on Proposition 1.