Bertha vs. The Bus

Which one gets to where it's going?
This post is 6 in the series: Metro Matters

In a few months, King County voters will be asked to invest in the future of our local roads and bus system. In particular, Metro needs additional revenue to avoid crippling cuts to its transit system.

Just a few years ago, Seattle voters had another opportunity to support local roads and buses. Instead of investing in changes to make local streets and transit function without the Alaskan Way Viaduct, voters said they preferred to dig an expensive tunnel underneath the city.

How’s that working out? Not so hot. Imagine how far that money could go if we invested it in machines that actually reach their destinations. Like buses.

Need help visualizing the costs? See (and share!) the infographic below:

Infographic: Bertha vs the Bus

Infographic by GoodMeasures.biz.

Notes: To arrive at Bertha’s per-foot tunneling costs, we divided the cost of the contract to Seattle Tunnel Partners ($1.44 billion) by the number of feet in the 1.7-mile tunnel (8976). We did not factor in costs of the Alaskan Way Viaduct Replacement Project that were not included in the tunnel contract.

To calculate bus service costs, we divided King County Metro’s 2013 operating expenses ($639.8 million)—which include everything from maintaining vehicles and bus stops to paying drivers to supporting agency overhead—by the overall number of buses in its fleet (1,400).

 

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Comments

  1. Scott Foster says:

    Flexibility in choice is important. Should I keep my clean 25-year old truck and purchase a small electric car for evening trips? Or should I let my Toyota out to pasture and purchase a larger new vehicle to handle hauling, camping, and those evening trips around town?

    It is good to have options. The bus pass my employer provides is handy for snow days, but my motorcycles allow me to stop by the hardware store and grocery store on my way home. Who wants to take a bus home just to have to get in a car and run errands?

    The motorcycles are light and fuel efficient, causing no damage to the roads compared to multi-axle vehicles and leaving a lot of room for other vehicles. Weekends I ride my bicycles to get around.

    I have a really small impact small impact on the roads, yet with a $60 proposed increase in vehicle licensing fees I would pay an additional $240 per year.

    I’ll vote “no” because the regressive fee would push me toward purchasing a single, large all-purpose vehicle. Never mind the electric car.

    Increase gasoline taxes. Fuel consumption reflects miles driven and vehicle weight. Yes, people drive less when gasoline costs more. Of course, electric vehicles do not use gasoline. Don’t worry about collecting fuel taxes on electric vehicles until large multi-axle vehicles are electric.

    Yes, gasoline taxes can be volatile, but that is why you budget for contingencies. That is why you budget for contingencies and do not pass up all viaduct alternatives on the table just to commit to a risky project even more outlandishly expensive than anything previously considered.

    • Jeremy says:

      Flexibility in Carbon is important. With each and every country showing declines in oil production, with the sole exception being a one-time binge in North America (this downward trend is easily seen in the EIA quarterly crude + condenstate production data), and rising demand from traditional powerhouses India and China, many Americans will simply not be able to afford Carbon—Eastern Washington has prices frozen on abandoned gas stations, I hear. Should you sell your car and instead buy food? Or should that money instead go to health care, housing, or education? One coworker, after selling his car (an expensive way to grow moss), studied German and then moved to Germany, where rent can be had for somewhat less than in America—three IT income streams to hold down rent on a SFH? Yeah, that’s sustainable. Not.

      I’ll vote “yes” because the ghastly carfug infesting Seattle irritates my lungs, and forces me to walk early and late to better avoid this horrid tide of pollution. My sole transportation expense in 2013 was $60 for a new pair of vibrams, though I must confess that I did climb into a vehicle a regrettably high five times that year—my goal is usually only twice per year.

      The $60 proposed will increase my food prices, indirectly, but that’s why you budget for contingencies. For example, you can look into red worm composting, compost heaps, and growing and preserving as much food as possible. Through victory gardens, and by abandoning useless, toxic, and unhealthy cars, the Carbon decline warned about in the Hirsch report can be better weathered.

  2. Scott Foster says:

    Flexibility in choice is important. Should I keep my clean 25-year old truck and purchase a small electric car for evening trips? Or should I let my Toyota out to pasture and purchase a larger new vehicle to handle hauling, camping, and those evening trips around town?

    It is good to have options. The bus pass my employer provides is handy for snow days, but my motorcycles allow me to stop by the hardware store and grocery store on my way home. Who wants to take a bus home just to have to get in a car and run errands?

    The motorcycles are light and fuel efficient, causing no damage to the roads compared to multi-axle vehicles and leaving a lot of room for other vehicles. Weekends I ride my bicycles to get around.
    I have a really small impact small impact on the roads, yet with a $60 proposed increase in vehicle licensing fees I would pay an additional $240 per year.

    I’ll vote “no” because the regressive fee would push me toward purchasing a single, large all-purpose vehicle. Never mind the electric car.

    Increase gasoline taxes. Fuel consumption reflects miles driven and vehicle weight. Yes, people drive less when gasoline costs more. Of course, electric vehicles do not use gasoline. Don’t worry about collecting fuel taxes on electric vehicles until large multi-axle vehicles are electric.

    Yes, gasoline taxes can be volatile, but that is why you budget for contingencies. That is why you budget for contingencies and do not pass up all viaduct alternatives on the table just to commit to a risky project even more outlandishly expensive than anything previously considered.

  3. Jason McHuff says:

    You could show even higher numbers if you used the incremental cost of bus service, since the overhead costs should be similar whether or not the funding for this portion of service exists.

  4. Denny says:

    Wow. Forget the numbers in this one maybe. It’s funny and all, but I also agree with Scott.

    Some constructive criticism maybe.
    Somewhere I learned two wrongs don’t make a right or something like that. But anyway, seems what I’m hearing is:

    We want better ridership, sure. It benefits the environment, it helps reduce congestion.

    We won’t be taxing gas. The one thing that people use more of when they don’t use the bus. Note: If I don’t use the bus, i don’t necessarily go buy and register more cars, but I do go and buy more gas to put into those cars, relatively speaking, so that makes sense.

    A portion of our campaign will seem mean spirited and reactionary, whether intended to or not, expecially for poorer or smaller rural areas, where we threaten to cut service completely and blame it on, are you ready, ridership.

    I’m sorry, I just don’t believe whomever is writing for these campaigns has really done much work to get my vote, even if I support the buses, and don’t get me wrong, I do, I ride them every day. And yes the little mile long flyer is cute and all, if it were a flyer for a club act I’d probably go see the show.

    I’m leaning heavily towards nay, even though our region needs this. It’s too bad it’s only a yea or nay for this one option rather than an actual open discussion of how do we support this thing.

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