Thoughts on King County’s Failed Proposition 1

While most of the coverage for Proposition 1 read nice, there was not a lot of data shown to back it up the claims.

This is frustrating because once you starting digging into the data, you find things like the fact that since 2001 operating costs per vehicle hour have increased 17%1 (when adjusted for inflation).

The $19.70 difference accounts for an additional $68.95 million in operations costs per a year (assuming 3.5 million annual service hours2 ).

Why are per hour operations costs increasing by 17%?

And then there’s the fact that only up to 60%3 of the presumed $1.3 billion4 that would be raised over 10 years with Prop 1 would actually go to Metro. The remaining 40% (and potentially more!) would go to “transportation improvements and to the county for unincorporated area road purposes.”5

This wasn’t a squabble over anyone trying to save a few pennies, I think there is some serious lack of fiduciary understanding and education going on with regard to how Metro operates. After the early returns showed the measure losing, Dow Constantine put it pretty well, “The voters are not rejecting Metro; they are rejecting this particular means of funding Metro.”

Danny Westneat also makes a good observation regarding the campaign itself:

From seattletimes.com:

But I wasn’t surprised it failed. Nobody explained what positive changes you’d get for your money, only what you might lose. This was electioneering by threat: Vote yes or I’ll shoot this puppy.

Now the anti-transit crowd will spin this as proof voters have had their fill of transit. And that officials should focus on roads next time.

I don’t buy it. If anything, it was the $50 million in yearly roads repair money in Proposition 1 that had the feel of a slush fund. What would it be used for? Nobody said. It was just to be spread like political butter across 40 cities and towns. The website of the campaign didn’t list a single specific road or bridge that would get fixed using this money.

Oran Viriyincy, a frequent contributor on the Seattle Transit Blog, has provided an excellent breakdown of the actual vote by legislative district as well as a cartogram.

" Prop 1 Election Night Results  By legislative district" by  Oran Viriyincy (https://www.flickr.com/photos/viriyincy/13988403042/) CC-BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/)
” Prop 1 Election Night Results By legislative district” by Oran Viriyincy
CC-BY-SA
"Cartogram of KCTD Prop 1 Election Night Results" by  Oran Viriyincy (https://www.flickr.com/photos/viriyincy/14005019794/) CC-BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/)
“Cartogram of KCTD Prop 1 Election Night Results” by Oran Viriyincy
CC-BY-SA

Given the huge amount of support in the Seattle area, I would suspect the planned Seattle-only initiative would pass overwhelmingly.

From kuow.org:

The proposal would raise $155 million from Seattle property owners over six years. Friends of Transit said that money would be used to buy back endangered routes from King County Metro.

Buses that spend 80 percent or more of their time operating inside Seattle’s limits would be eligible for the reprieve.

If the initiative is approved by the city clerk, supporters will need to gather more than 20,000 signatures to put it on the November ballot.

As an interesting side note, if all the districts that had a majority in support of the Prop 1 had double their turnout the the measure would still have failed, but only by 36 votes (out of 512184 theoretical votes), a 0.0070% margin.

Here’s the data: Prop1Votes.xlsx


  1. http://metro.kingcounty.gov/am/reports/annual-measures/financial.html 

  2. http://metro.kingcounty.gov/planning/pdf/2011-21/2013/metro-2013-service-guidelines-report.pdf 

  3. http://your.kingcounty.gov/elections2/contests/measureinfo.aspx?cid=47942 

  4. http://kuow.org/post/new-bus-initiative-filed-seattle-only-prop-1-continues-fail 

  5. http://your.kingcounty.gov/elections2/contests/measureinfo.aspx?cid=47942