FTA response blames M’s, wants you to go screw yourself

DMZ · April 13, 2009 at 6:22 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

From the FTA, if you can manage to get their broken contact form to work.

Answer: Thanks for taking the time to share your
comments. The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) has
received a number of questions and comments concerning the
Seattle Mariners’ 2009 baseball season bus service. A lot of
these comments have come from an article published recently
in a local paper that mistakenly gives the impression that
FTA “banned” the service.

I don’t know why they’d think that. Crazy people. The FTA just enacted a regulation that made it cost prohibitive for the M’s to continue. That’s not banning it.

FTA drafted the charter regulation in response to a request
from Congress. There was a charter regulation in existence
prior to the current one that was vague, specifically when
it came to the definition of charter service. The current
charter regulation is the result of over a year’s worth of
work consulting, and negotiating with members of both
private charter companies and public transit agencies. The
result was a rule that provides clear guidelines for the
first time in 30 years, aimed at helping public transit
agencies and private charter companies figure out who is in
the best position to provide bus service for such events
conveniently, efficiently, and economically.

Do you think Metro, or anyone, signed off on this? Really? All the public transit authorities in the country were just begging the FTA “please, please, we can’t figure out what to do with ourselves, or how we can best serve our communities! Ban us from doing anything that’s not strictly scheduled, for the love of God!”

And remember how horrible life was under the previous, vague regulation. Has everyone erased their memories of the Greyhound-Sound Transit War of 2006, when buses armed with technicals ran wild through the city, the air filled with the smell of gunpowder and the chatter of small arms? When the bus barn looked like this?

pictures from an armed convoy trip in Mogadishu, ctsnow

Thank goodness that horrible time is over.

The regulation, in part, protects private bus companies
from having to compete unfairly with federally funded public
operators-a long-standing point of contention. As cities
across the country gear up for their summer festivals and
concerts, many have already successfully adjusted to the
rule. Transit agencies, in turn, are better able to focus on
their core mission-providing high quality, timely, bus
service-without sacrificing any of the services riders
expect from them on regular fixed routes.

Good of them to explain what a transportation agency’s core mission is for us.

I thought Metro’s mission was

Provide the best possible public transit services that get people on the bus and improve regional mobility and quality of life in King County.

Like, say, low-cost public transport to special events downtown.

During the negotiations on the charter rule a concern was
raised about unmet needs several times. As a result, there
are different measures in the current charter regulation
that work to prevent unmet needs, including petitioning FTA
for an exception for an event of regional or national
significance, hardship, or time sensitive events, as well as
an option for transit agency to send out notices for service
they are interested in providing. All of these tools work
together to ensure that a transit agency can work with
private operators to prevent unmet service needs.

Uh huh, uh huh. Except that clearly they do not work, since we don’t have shuttle service any more despite Metro and the Mariners both wanting to provide it.

Organizations like the Seattle Mariners are free to
contract with local companies to provide shuttle service to
baseball games. If an organization chooses not to spend
money to ensure their fans can get to games quickly and
efficiently, then the call that fans should really make is
to the organization–not the Federal government. While we
stand at the ready to explain the regulation, we cannot
explain why the Seattle Mariners organization chooses to
leave its fans out in the cold, while other sports
organization gladly spend the dollars to ensure fans have
easy access to games (the Washington Nationals pay for
shuttle service for its fans, as do the Baltimore Ravens, as
well as many others). In the end, the Seattle Mariners
baseball organization made the business decision to not
provide its fans with shuttle service this year.

Wow. Was there no ASCII art middle finger they could have included in the email?

This is, and let’s just call it what it is, a big fuck-you to anyone who writes them, and whoever came up with this answer should be ashamed of themselves.

The M’s ran, for ten years, a lovely little program with Metro which provided shuttle bus service which was cheap, convenient, got people who might not use public transit a nice introduction, and helped everyone.

As the result of this Bush regulation, they can’t. So they went to Starline, which quoted them a price hundreds of thousands of dollars more. The M’s decided not to foot that bill — which is totally understandable.

So we’re supposed to blame the M’s because the FTA wants to ban Metro from providing extra off-schedule bus service?

I don’t understand, frankly, why anyone could possibly support this. From a common-sense perspective, the service was good for the M’s, it was good for Metro, it was good for traffic. From a free-market perspective, first, why does the FTA get to decide if it’s best for Seattle to hamstring this kind of service? Why not let an existing infrastructure provide a more efficient service, “freeing up” Skyline to do whatever it is they do when they’re not lobbying. And why blame the M’s for making that business decision? And on and on and on

Unless otherwise specified, this message is being sent by
an individual employee in an effort to provide a rapid
response to an email inquiry and may not represent official
FTA or DOT policy. Individuals seeking formal
determinations or opinions are invited to submit their
requests in writing to the agency.

Oh, I will.

Federal Transit Administration
Office of Communications & Congressional Affairs
East Building, 5TH Floor
1200 New Jersey Ave SE
Washington, DC 20590

Update: Much of that FTA response, if you’re curious, is indeed stock, recycled from James Simpson’s May 27 2008 letter to the Washington Post, helpfully found here. Simpson’s a 2006 appointee and came from… wait for it… “an international transportation company.”

Comments

74 Responses to “FTA response blames M’s, wants you to go screw yourself”

  1. ivan on April 13th, 2009 6:30 pm

    Derek, don’t you mean Starline?

  2. DMZ on April 13th, 2009 6:33 pm

    Fixed

  3. Paul B on April 13th, 2009 6:43 pm

    The
    result was a rule that provides clear guidelines for the
    first time in 30 years, aimed at helping public transit
    agencies and private charter companies figure out who is in
    the best position to provide bus service for such events
    conveniently, efficiently, and economically.

    So, basically, they are saying that they spent 30 years looking at it and decided that no one is ub a postition to provide this service. We can’t let the City do it because that wouldn’t be fair trade, but the private company can’t afford to do it, so therefore the rule is that no one can do it.

    So dumb.

    We should stop the post office from delivering first class mail, because there are companies that would want to do that. Of course, those companies couldn’t afford to do it, and they would choose not to deliver it to rural areas, but clearly the public agency (USPS) should be prevented from doing it because a private agency might want to do it, or at least to wish that they could. Even though they wouldn’t.

  4. teacherrefpoet on April 13th, 2009 6:51 pm

    Wow, Derek. Thanks for printing this and saving me the time of emailing FTA. I’ll skip that step and go right to the “in writing” step. And contact my senators and congressman as well.

    I’m not an expert, but it appears that the FTA doesn’t want government to provide a valuable service because, in its eyes, it’d be better for private enterprise to do it less efficiently and more expensively.

  5. Go Felix on April 13th, 2009 6:58 pm

    Thanks Derek. I’ll be writing a few people about this.

  6. MedicineHat on April 13th, 2009 7:08 pm

    from the American Bus Association website, which explains all of this pretty clearly:

    With the passage of SAFETEA-LU the charter bus rules were mandated for reconsideration. A special committee jointly formed of 22 public and private transportation organizations (including ABA) met over the course of 8 months to revise and reaffirm the limited conditions under which transit agencies could provide services currently offered by the private motorcoach industry.

  7. don52656 on April 13th, 2009 7:12 pm

    Being a former government employee and dealing non-stop with the bureaucracy, I would humbly suggest that the place to write is not the FTA. However, the Washington State congressional contingent…Senators Murray & Cantwell, et.al, might prove to be a productive place to send feedback.

    Also, I’m wondering if this is going to affect the special Sounder trains to the M’s games on weekends. Or does this rule only apply to buses?

  8. Alec on April 13th, 2009 7:14 pm

    Was it explicitly Bush administration regulation, or Pelosi/Reid led Congress regulation?

    I honestly don’t know and am curious. Based on the clear track record of their Congress and sheer unpredictability of Bush’s actions in terms of regulation I could see either being at fault.

  9. DMZ on April 13th, 2009 7:14 pm

    Yeah, when I want unbiased, clear explanations, I go to the trade industry web site.

  10. Venezuelan Fan on April 13th, 2009 7:15 pm

    MedicineHat:

    You’re wrong. This was obviously the result of George W. personally taking action against the M’s – or so you would think from reading DMZ’s pieces about this.

  11. lemonverbena on April 13th, 2009 7:15 pm

    Amen brother. There’s a shitload of these Bush-era landmines sitting around the Federal gov… only wish the new admin would stop defending some of these bad ones.

  12. Mat on April 13th, 2009 7:18 pm

    I don’t agree with the unfairness argument here. Public companies are certainly at an advantage relative to private companies here because the taxpayers have already bankrolled a lot of the fixed costs (like the buses and the cost to train drivers.) But however unfair that may be to the private bus companies, it seems more unfair to taxpayers that we’re now not allowed to use the buses we already paid for to get to and from Mariners games as we have in the past.

  13. floydr on April 13th, 2009 7:22 pm

    I’m going to go all conspiracy theory here, and call it a plot by the NYY, Mets, Nats, Cubs, White Sox, Padres and any other large-market team whose stadium is served by light rail/subway. It obviously discriminates against cities that have only bus routes.

  14. DMZ on April 13th, 2009 7:26 pm

    Yeah, if you can point me to an unfair assertion that I’ve made about how the Bush Administration FTA instituted this rule, let me know and I’ll change it.

  15. Alec on April 13th, 2009 7:31 pm

    My question is only whether or not it was a regulation imposed by Congress last year (led by Pelosi and Reid) or by the Presidential administration.

  16. Alec on April 13th, 2009 7:32 pm

    And if no one answers then i will assume that the usual caveats about the burden of proof resting on the reader apply, and as a non-Seattle resident, i am affected enough to go do the research myself as lazy as that is.

  17. Mat on April 13th, 2009 7:38 pm

    I think I may have been unclear–I was referring to the unfairness argument brought up by supporters of the regulation. (You’ll see some of them if you follow MedicineHat’s ABA link, for instance.) I agree with essentially everything that Derek wrote.

    I can see how private bus companies would consider it unfair that Metro gets a boost from tax dollars, but I think that eliminating Metro from competing altogether puts taxpayers in a more serious unfair position where they aren’t allowed to benefit from resources that they have helped to purchase.

  18. DMZ on April 13th, 2009 7:42 pm

    As I understand it, and people can correct me if I’m wrong, it’s an FTA regulation imposed in 2006, following a request by that tax and spend Republican Congress.

  19. MedicineHat on April 13th, 2009 7:55 pm

    The Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU) is a bill that governs United States federal surface transportation spending. It was signed into law by President George W. Bush on August 10, 2005 and will expire September 30, 2009. Congress is expected to begin working on a replacement bill for the next six-year period during its 2009 session.

  20. DMZ on April 13th, 2009 8:01 pm

    Ah, there you go. So the FTA interpretation that led to this from the request of the Act was 06, then.

  21. ceepdublu on April 13th, 2009 8:08 pm

    Screw the FTA — I emailed congresscritters. Not that they’ll do anything, but if the pressure is kept up, especially as we get closer to elections, maybe this will get some attention.

    Congress seems like it’s in the best position to do anything: FTA obviously doesn’t want to do anything, so it’s up to congress to tell them “screw you!” and pass legislation that makes the FTA rule null and void. Maybe they can provide an earmark for professional sport team enthusiast beverage procurement at the same time.

  22. lotus eater on April 13th, 2009 8:09 pm

    From the Seattle Times 5/10/08 article “New FTA rules may halt Metro’s shuttle service”

    Gladys Gillis, head of Seattle-based Starline Luxury Coaches, who was on the rules committee for the new law, said … that the 55 buses in her fleet are cheaper to operate than Metro buses because she doesn’t pay union wages to her drivers.

    Delicious.

  23. ceepdublu on April 13th, 2009 8:12 pm

    the 55 buses in her fleet are cheaper to operate than Metro buses because she doesn’t pay union wages to her drivers.

    … which is exactly why they were proposing to charge the Mariners twice as much as Metro was, and riders almost twice as much. Uhhh… yeah…

  24. everettdude on April 13th, 2009 8:24 pm

    [deleted, a political diatribe that has nothing to do with this issue]

  25. Catherwood on April 13th, 2009 8:42 pm

    *ring ring*

    Joseph Heller, you may not answer the clue phone, because the public has already paid for most of it.

  26. tomas on April 13th, 2009 8:47 pm

    This is nothing new. From big oil forcing LA to tear down their mass transit system to Seattle being about 40 years behind the times, American (yes even here) has a major problem with doing things in the legitimate public interest. Usually ideas that benefit the public are blocked by corporate interests because there just isn’t profit in it.

  27. PhinneyFan on April 13th, 2009 9:16 pm

    Metro charged less because of subsidies and my guess is that Metro lost money on the operation.

    Truth be told, with the county budget cuts, Metro might be happy to give up the service.

  28. coasty141 on April 13th, 2009 9:18 pm

    Whats the amount of money we are talking about? Is it the difference between the $159,000 subsidy the M’s paid last year and the $300,000 they estimate they would have to pay this year?

  29. djw on April 13th, 2009 9:41 pm

    [more off-topic political commentary]

  30. Colm on April 13th, 2009 10:36 pm

    coasty141 – yes, I believe that’s correct.

    The Mariners paid Metro a $159,000 subsidy to offer the service last year. This year Starline asked for $300,000 for a similar service. I don’t know what the differnce would have been in the level of service offered or in the cost to riders.

  31. Colm on April 13th, 2009 10:38 pm

    And thanks to Derek for posting this. I got the exact same FU response from the FTA, and it got right up my nose too.

  32. Wyatt Wood on April 13th, 2009 10:50 pm

    It is my understanding that Starline would charge $5 for the ride and bill the M’s around $15 per rider. This rule messed up UW football games this last fall, well it made it difficult for the people to get there, Huskies messed up the games by themselves.

  33. Dave in Palo Alto on April 13th, 2009 11:03 pm

    Can we get a moratorium on pandering acronym-labeled statutes? This particular aspect of SAFETEA-LU is particularly noxious — a statutory remedy to save communities from finding common solutions to transportation needs where others are prepared to provide the service for personal benefit and higher cost to the community.

    However, SAFETEA-LU’s most famous accomplishment was appropriating over $200 million for the Gravina Island Bridge.

    Great work on this, Derek!

  34. gag harbor on April 13th, 2009 11:04 pm

    Just keep in mind that there is some American citizen sitting in his/her chair at the FTA (either a Republican or Democrat) that is responsible for putting forth the responses to all the email contacts we make. He/she is doing what they think is correct and choosing the words to reflect the understanding there. I got the exact same form response as Derek when I wrote but just because Congress passed a bill that probably needed a whole lot more reading than our senators put into it before they voted doesn’t mean the people at FTA are waving a middle finger at us all. Why do divisive about things that are a part of everyday life? Write to the folks that voted for this and hope someone pays attention to non-donating peons like us.

  35. Evan on April 13th, 2009 11:08 pm

    While I’m sympathetic to the suggestion that the government shouldn’t compete unfairly with private enterprise, isn’t that the whole point of public transit? And given that, wouldn’t you want the decisions about your public transit system’s scope of service to be made somewhat closer to the people than at the federal level? Is it reasonable for the central national government to believe that one rule will best suit every community in the entire country?

    You should absolutely be up in arms about this. You had a great service that the people liked, and now your strong central government is telling you you can’t have it because it’s unfair to you (because prohibitions on government constraint of private enterprise is ultimately supposed to protect the consumers).

    I’m probably the most pro-free market person you know, and there is no world in which this FTA restriction makes any sense.

  36. showmethepennant on April 13th, 2009 11:09 pm

    including petitioning FTA
    for an exception for an event of regional or national
    significance, hardship, or time sensitive events,

    Does reducing traffic congestion count as an event of regional significance?

  37. showmethepennant on April 13th, 2009 11:15 pm

    I missed that Derek previously reported that they had a waiver the previous year. I guess we don’t have traffic congestion anymore.

  38. domovoi on April 13th, 2009 11:39 pm

    I’m having a hard time engendering sympathy to middle class baseball fans who no longer receive government-subsidized transportation for their middle class leisures.

  39. Breadbaker on April 13th, 2009 11:51 pm

    I’m having a hard time engendering sympathy to middle class baseball fans who no longer receive government-subsidized transportation for their middle class leisures.

    Why? The middle class, particularly in Washington, pays the lion’s share of the taxes. The stadium was built with sales tax revenue, which is mainly paid by the middle class. So why shouldn’t the middle class use its tax money (whose else is it?) to pay for a means of getting to and from the games and in turn reducing congestion around the stadium (which we are endlessly told is in the middle of the port)?

  40. DMZ on April 13th, 2009 11:57 pm

    Yeah, no one poor ever goes to the M’s games. What a crock.

  41. domovoi on April 14th, 2009 12:09 am

    Why? The middle class, particularly in Washington, pays the lion’s share of the taxes. The stadium was built with sales tax revenue, which is mainly paid by the middle class.

    Actually, a significant majority of taxes is paid by the upper class, and almost nobody except a few rich people would argue that they should be the beneficiaries of most of the government’s services.

    So why shouldn’t the middle class use its tax money (whose else is it?) to pay for a means of getting to and from the games and in turn reducing congestion around the stadium (which we are endlessly told is in the middle of the port)?

    There is simply no good reason to use tax money to subsidize this particular middle-class leisure. It’s certainly not justifiable under modern progressivism. Nor is it justifiable from a utilitarian standpoint; there are no obvious beneficial externalities that need to be encouraged, save for perhaps “traffic congestion,” a suggestion I have yet to be seen even quantified, much less proven. Moreover, the most significant benefits of traffic congestion probably occurs around the stadium, as you pointed out, and the main beneficiaries of that are baseball fans. Reduction in traffic congestion can and should be paid by them, perhaps through the Mariners.

    In other words, the benefit of buses to Mariners’ games are felt entirely by Mariners’ fans, not to society as a whole. No reason to have society pay for it.

  42. domovoi on April 14th, 2009 12:11 am

    Yeah, no one poor ever goes to the M’s games. What a crock.

    That statement certainly is a crock, good thing I didn’t say it.

  43. DMZ on April 14th, 2009 12:15 am

    Good point! You only said people complaining were “middle class baseball fans who no longer receive government-subsidized transportation for their middle class leisures.”

    I don’t know how I could have read that as “middle class baseball fans who no longer receive government-subsidized transportation for their middle class leisures.” Please, forgive me.

  44. kenshabby on April 14th, 2009 12:38 am

    I had never used the Metro shuttle service, but those I know who did said it was a great deal (for both M’s and Seahawks games). I’m glad I live close to the Sound Transit 550 route, which has a convenient stop in the International District–a bit of a walk to Safeco, though hardly an exhausting one.

    In lieu of the shuttle service, any Metro/Sound Transit route that runs through the new bus tunnels (and hence stops in the Int’l District) is a good bet.

  45. John D. on April 14th, 2009 2:15 am

    I understand that the reason this service got a reprieve last year is that STARLINE didn’t provide handicapped access.
    Do they now ?

    BTW, it seems that a simple solution–as the previous writer suggested–is to establish a few new routes.

  46. DaveValleDrinkNight on April 14th, 2009 2:24 am

    When Tax-Payer Dollars paid for the Stadium this Team plays in, we have an absolute right to complain when the Public Transportation we also paid for is put aside for the consideration of private companies that will charge what they see fit.

    At some point the strategy of taking advantage of our good faith by claiming it’s just Capitalism has to be called on it’s bullshit.

    I already wrote our Senator, do the same.

  47. litlnemo on April 14th, 2009 2:24 am

    “In other words, the benefit of buses to Mariners’ games are felt entirely by Mariners’ fans, not to society as a whole. No reason to have society pay for it.”

    This, sir, is a quantity of bovine excrement. As someone who lives and works relatively nearby, and needs to pass through that area almost daily, I can tell you that there are thousands of people who are affected by the traffic brought in by events at the stadiums. Sure, some are going to the games, but others are trying to get home, to work, to the ferries, etc. When shuttle buses take game traffic off the road, it benefits all of us in the area, including those who need to use the freeways and bridges to and through downtown, which are overly clogged as it is.

  48. Graham on April 14th, 2009 5:27 am

    There is simply no good reason to use tax money to subsidize this particular middle-class leisure. It’s certainly not justifiable under modern progressivism.

    How do you afford a computer?

  49. Eleven11 on April 14th, 2009 8:02 am

    Interesting that the change was made at the request of Congress. That is not the administration. Might be worth your while to see who made that request rather than beat up the FTA (Which meant something rather rude when I was in the Army).

  50. coasty141 on April 14th, 2009 8:43 am

    DMZ- or anyone who has some insight please point me in the right direction.

    You said a couple things I’m having trouble following. Why does metro want to provide this service? Also, why is it good for metro to provide the service?

  51. DMZ on April 14th, 2009 8:51 am

    You’re having trouble with those, huh? Yeaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah.

  52. coasty141 on April 14th, 2009 8:58 am

    Is that hard to believe? Am I overlooking something you’ve spelled out or are the answers I’m looking for blatantly obvious?

  53. BoiseMoose on April 14th, 2009 8:59 am

    Quick question from an “out of towner”… does this impact the cheap and/or free buses that run along the waterfront? Say, from the Edgewater towards the stadium?

    If so, bummer. Guess I’ll have to make the treck on foot this year. Not too bad of a walk when the weather is nice.

  54. PaulMolitorCocktail on April 14th, 2009 9:15 am

    I can’t wait for Obama to take office and undo this.

    Oh wait.

    Hope and change!

  55. hark on April 14th, 2009 9:16 am

    BoiseMoose–

    The buses that run along the waterfront to the Edgewater are regular Metro routes in the “free ride” zone. Basically anyting in the city south of the U District and north of the stadiums is free. Some of these shuttles are even private businesses running Mariners shuttles. I know a few waterfront restaurants run pregame lunch followed by a shuttle to the game.

    Also, Happy Opening Day everybody! See you in section 108. =D

  56. djw on April 14th, 2009 9:25 am

    Coasty, Derek quoted Metro’s mission statement in his post. It seems to speak directly to this point.

    In other words, the benefit of buses to Mariners’ games are felt entirely by Mariners’ fans, not to society as a whole. No reason to have society pay for it.

    The 545 benefits Microsoft employees rather than society as a whole. the 28 express benefits people who live in East Ballard and work 9-5 jobs downtown and not society as a whole. Etc etc etc.

    Furthermore, Derek is clear that this benefits non-M’s attendees in that it reduces congestion and traffic, which under normal circumstances most people seem to treat as a pretty central function of local government.

    Clearly, there are general benefits from having a more flexible public agency that can shift their service to meet substantial changes in demand on a flexible basis. To the extent that these rules make Metro less flexible to demand changes, they prevent Metro from fulfilling the mission which they were democratically created to fill. If you have philosophical objections to the very idea of public transit, you probably won’t find this persuasive. But for the rest of us, it sucks.

  57. PaulMolitorCocktail on April 14th, 2009 9:27 am

    And it doesn’t impact busses like 550 and others that run to the ID – really guys, it isn’t that long of a walk. If you drove, you’d be walking that far for parking.

  58. coasty141 on April 14th, 2009 9:37 am

    Thanks djw,

    I most certainly do not have “philosophical objections to the very idea of public transit.” I’m just an outsider to the Seattle area trying to learn more about what you are discussing.

  59. PaulMolitorCocktail on April 14th, 2009 10:11 am

    When Tax-Payer Dollars paid for the Stadium this Team plays in, we have an absolute right to complain when the Public Transportation we also paid for is put aside for the consideration of private companies that will charge what they see fit.

    Strictly speaking, they can’t charge “what they see fit” – they’ll charge what the market will pay. If they charge $30 for a one-way ride to the stadium, they’ll have empty buses and won’t make any money.

    Seeing as how we are already subsidizing the Ms millions of taxpayer dollars, it’s very shortsighted of them not to pay the extra cash to Starline. They’ll see increased attendance, and (since people won’t be fighting as much traffic and will get there earlier) probably more sales of merchandise and overpriced food and beverages.

    Granted, maybe I’m taking this out on the Ms after the whole Sonics fiasco, but they’re making a very nice profit, and being stingy with the goal of getting the fans riled up enough so they can be even further subsidized is scummy.

  60. Gregor on April 14th, 2009 10:12 am

    I just called both of our Senators’ Seattle offices about this. The guy at the Cantwell office had at least read about it in the paper. The woman who answered in Murray’s office hadn’t heard about it at all (clearly, they don’t read the news there). Make sure you call and let them know that this is an important issue …

  61. ceepdublu on April 14th, 2009 10:34 am

    I think we all need to stop to think about this for a bit: Starline could be providing a valuable service to the Mariners. Washburn might have to walk a bit farther before shoving his teammates in front of a bus.

  62. DMZ on April 14th, 2009 10:41 am

    The M’s costs to provide the service, having done it for ten years, pretty much double as a result of this regulation. The M’s clearly figured that the cost to provide the service paid for itself in attendance + good feelings + civic duty and at double the cost it’s not worth it. I don’t see how you can claim that it’s shortsighted of them to cut Starline off — the M’s have been doing this for a decade, if they were going to make money at doing it themselves you’d have Mariner-branded buses on the street right now.

  63. JenV on April 14th, 2009 10:55 am

    I suppose next the FTA will decide that cities, counties, and states cannot provide their own transit service at all, since there are private companies that may be interested in submitting bloated bids to do a much poorer job providing those services.

  64. eponymous coward on April 14th, 2009 11:00 am

    Actually, a significant majority of taxes is paid by the upper class, and almost nobody except a few rich people would argue that they should be the beneficiaries of most of the government’s services.

    The government provides a pretty significant service to rich people: systems of laws and force backing them that allows people to accumulate property. If you’d like to see what life would be without this service, I’d recommend going to a Third World country dressed in a suit made of hundred dollar bills, walk through some of the slums you’ll find there, and see what ensues.

    It’s certainly not justifiable under modern progressivism.

    Really? Public transportation to something the public wants to attend in large numbers, in a publicly financed stadium, isn’t justified under “modern progressivism”? Just what’s your definition of modern progressivism? Consciousness-raising sessions?

  65. Breadbaker on April 14th, 2009 11:49 am

    Perhaps I missed something here, but I seem to recall that we don’t have a state income tax in Washington. Thus, rich people are taxed on their consumption the same as middle class people. There are far more middle class people and they tend to spend a far higher percentage of their income (which is nearly all salary and not capital gains, which aren’t taxed in Washington at all). Thus, the comment that “a significant majority of taxes is paid by the upper class” is ignorant.

  66. RustyJohn on April 14th, 2009 11:51 am

    Holy class warfare, Batman!

    You mean the FTA is blaming Congress and the Mariners? Wow, couldn’t see that coming. I think I know what will happen when I write to my Congress person…they’ll blame the FTA (and the opposing political party) and the Mariners. Then, when I complain to the Mariners, they’ll blame the Congress and the FTA.

    I actually send e-mails to my congressman and senators full of expletives, rude comments and insults and get a kick out of the generated responses- “Thanks so much for contacting me about yor concerns involving (fill in the blank so it mirror sht esubject line of the email). We are working hard to (fill in blank so it mirrors subject line of email). In recent months I have (fill in blank with mindless proposed legislation, half of which is off-topic). Hope all is well in Tacoma (Patty Murray signs off her generated e-mails by hoping all is well in the city the e-mail originated in. Gives it a personal touch to deceive the reader into thinking someone actually read the e-mail.)”

  67. RustyJohn on April 14th, 2009 11:53 am

    Holy typos, Batman! What’s wrong with my keyboard * should have read “mirrors the subject line of the email” not whatever jibberish that was…I can type…really, I can.

  68. coasty141 on April 14th, 2009 12:42 pm

    Alright- I don’t think this has been brought up yet.

    The metro for the last few years, has provided a alternative to keep people who have consumed to much booze off the road. That seems like a “society” issue. “Society” best interest = metro transit

  69. domovoi on April 14th, 2009 1:52 pm

    When shuttle buses take game traffic off the road, it benefits all of us in the area, including those who need to use the freeways and bridges to and through downtown, which are overly clogged as it is.

    Derek is clear that this benefits non-M’s attendees in that it reduces congestion and traffic, which under normal circumstances most people seem to treat as a pretty central function of local government.

    Yes, but by how much? I think you guys are overestimating the marginal external benefit of subisdized bus service to Mariners’ games. The key terms being marginal and external. And the next question is whether or not the subsidy amount matches this external benefit. Perhaps it’d be better to say the answer is not as clearcut as how I or Derek have argued.

    The 545 benefits Microsoft employees rather than society as a whole. the 28 express benefits people who live in East Ballard and work 9-5 jobs downtown and not society as a whole. Etc etc etc.

    The existence of one special interest subsidy doesn’t justify the existence of others.

    If you have philosophical objections to the very idea of public transit, you probably won’t find this persuasive. But for the rest of us, it sucks.

    None of my objections are grounded in philosophy, which I hope is clear. My purpose in providing a (lone?) dissenting voice is to get the fine readers of ussmariner.com to look beyond their own self-interest when discussing policy, as such thinking poisons typical discussions of how governments should allocate tax revenue. Yes, it sucks for Mariners’ fans who ride buses (a group in which I belong), as did the city’s refusal to fund the Sonics’ new stadium sucked for Sonics fans. But we need to look beyond that.

    The government provides a pretty significant service to rich people: systems of laws and force backing them that allows people to accumulate property.

    Yes, but property rights enforcement is a small portion of governmental appropriations. And even then, most beneficiaries of our system of laws are the middle class. Anyway, it’s still a bogus argument to say that the middle class should be the beneficiaries of tax money since it’s “their” money. For one, it’s not “their” money. For two, it’s the upper class that pays most of it. For three, most people would find it an injustice if the upper class received most of the government’s subsidies, despite most of the money originating from them.

    Public transportation to something the public wants to attend in large numbers, in a publicly financed stadium, isn’t justified under “modern progressivism”? Just what’s your definition of modern progressivism? Consciousness-raising sessions?

    Progressivism emphasizes redistribution from the upper/middle class to the lower class. The subsidies being discussed here are clearly not that.

    Thus, the comment that “a significant majority of taxes is paid by the upper class” is ignorant.

    Rich people consume more than middle class people. Also, property taxes. Also, gross receipts taxes. Also, it’d be better to look at the numbers: http://www.itepnet.org/wp2000/wa%20pr.pdf . After some calculations, I find that the top 20% pay 42% of Washington’s sales and property taxes. The top 40% pay 64%. This doesn’t include gross receipts taxes, which are paid by corporations. Not a “significant majority,” but I had in mind federal income tax when I said that phrase, not Washington state tax; regardless, the point still stands.

  70. DMZ on April 14th, 2009 2:49 pm

    So you’re arguing that instead of the Mariners doing something that benefits public transportation, traffic, the city, and their business, they should… what?

    This isn’t a public subsidy. It’s the M’s paying, out of pocket, for something that does wider good. I don’t see how this is particularly applicable in a social justice debate unless you’re saying that… well, again, I’m not sure how this is applicable.

  71. PaulMolitorCocktail on April 14th, 2009 3:03 pm

    I don’t see how you can claim that it’s shortsighted of them to cut Starline off — the M’s have been doing this for a decade, if they were going to make money at doing it themselves you’d have Mariner-branded buses on the street right now.

    Except it was partially subsidized by the government. Basically, the Ms were getting a sweet deal. The profitability of this program was likely quite nice. (Remember, less money spent on parking = more money spent on Ivar Dogs.)

    Not willing to pay what is probably a rounding error on their budget smacks of “we’re taking our ball and going home, unless we get more subsidies” – either directly through Metro, or having the city/county/state government subsidize a (different) commercial enterprise.

    Then again, I’m not planning on attending any games this year, so the lack of a shuttle doesn’t affect me.

  72. payday0023 on April 14th, 2009 4:07 pm

    The Mariners paid Metro a $159,000 subsidy to offer the service last year. This year Starline asked for $300,000 for a similar service. I don’t know what the differnce would have been in the level of service offered or in the cost to riders.

    So according to this poorly spell checked PI blurb, “up to 1000 fans” would use the service, and the Times has it as low as 300 passengers per game.
    Call it 500 per game. 82 homes games means 41000 passengers hauled over the year. They can’t all sit in the $8 seats, but let’s say they all pay no more than $16 for a seat, average it out to $12 per passenger and assume they spend $0 while at the game (they don’t even buy Dippin’ Dots!).
    The Ms will be making nearly half-a-million dollars off of their converted Starline fans. Minus the subsidy of $300000, then I guess it’s less.
    Is this a situation of “we’re not happy unless we make a bunch of money, and if we don’t, it ain’t worth it” for the Mariners’ behalf? I mean, yes it is lame that the Ms were forced between a rock and a hard place (and that the fans and surrounding commuters suffer) but could they not pick up the Starline contract, bite the bullet, and at least offer something? Not ideal, but making the best out of a crap situation. Or do the dollars and cents not lineup enough in their favor? The sucky part (one of many) would be the cost to the riders, though.

  73. payday0023 on April 14th, 2009 4:08 pm

    [fixed, I think]

  74. payday0023 on April 14th, 2009 4:33 pm

    Cheers, mods!
    GO Ms!!!!!!

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