I agree with Atrios, this policy is nuts:
King County Metro Transit won’t run extra buses to Major League Baseball games this year, forcing hundreds of fans to rearrange their travel plans.
The buses went to and from weekend games, and left Safeco Field after weeknight games—when regularly scheduled transit was unavailable. They carried 300 to 500 passengers per game last season, said Rebecca Hale, spokeswoman for the Seattle Mariners. That included special service to 13 outlying park-and-ride lots.
But the “Metro to the Mariners” service has been banned by the federal government, which ruled a public-transit agency cannot operate a sports charter if private operators are available to do so.
Right-o, a private operator that will charge $15 to $20 per trip (split between riders and the M’s) is available to provide limited service to ballgames. So we have hundreds of riders traveling at predictable times to a central congested area near first-rate transit infrastructure — precisely the sort of rides that a public transit agency should be serving—but no legal authority to run buses because a private operator is in the mix. Wow.
If this ruling doesn’t get overturned, I’m going to start a private commuter service in my car from Ballard to downtown Seattle. It willcost $50,000 per trip, but I don’t want Metro buses competing with me. Sorry Ballard bus commuters: if you can’t afford it, you can hoof it!
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In seriousness, this isn’t good public policy. But I want to take a moment to forestall a potential objection, one floated by the private bus operator. It’s true, of course, that public transit is subsidized with public money, but that’s largely irrelevant. We subsidize transit because it provides significant social and economic benefits, including moving large numbers of people in congested areas. And there’s no reason I can see to treat a Mariner’s game different from any other popular destination, whether it’s public or private in nature. After all, commuter bus service to downtown Seattle uses public funds mostly to serve trips to private employers. That’s doubly true for bus service that travels outside the downtown core to the front door of Microsoft, Starbucks, and Amazon. Same with bus service to the airport, which serves the interest of private airlines. What’s so different about a baseball game?
Ballard bus service: Ha! Good call.
Is this law only for sports charters? Even if it is, it makes no sense. It’s a proven fact that having people come to a sports stadium or arena district of town improves the amount of money that businesses in the area make – thus the use of public transit to get people to a game cheaply would benefit every business in the area, not just the sports team.
Good story, Eric. Hopefully it gets overturned. FYI, I often ride my bike to Safeco and park in that big garage south of the stadium. It’s free and easy to get in and out of.
furthermore, because the baseball fans will still be using the available metro, that means that regular commuters will be crowded out until well after the game. this law makes no sense to me.
What is the law’s name or number? That way we can call our elected officials.
Eric de Place
Good question, Mike!It’s not a law, it’s a ruling by the Federal Transit Administration, which lives within the US Department of Transportation. The policy was developed under Bush/Peters, but hasn’t been repealed under Obama/LaHood.Here’s contact info for the NW regional office of FTA:http://www.fta.dot.gov/regions/regional_offices_918.htmlHere's email info for US DOT:http://ntl.custhelp.com/cgi-bin/ntl.cfg/php/enduser/ask.php
You write: “…commuter bus service to downtown Seattle uses public funds mostly to serve trips to private employers…. What’s so different about a baseball game?”One difference is that one’s a necessity, and the other’s a luxury. I’m happy to pay tax dollars for programs that attract good employers to the area. I’m not as happy to subsidize professional sports.
The FTA’s charter bus rule was first promulgated under the Reagan administration. The Bush II administration adopted various amendments. Notably neither the Bush I administration nor the Clinton administration amended or repealed the rule.Here are the details:http://www.fta.dot.gov/laws/leg_reg_179.htmlJudging by what happens in this part of the world (the Skagit Valley) the rule basically has the effect of making any bus service to specific events impracticable. The public bus service is banned. The private bus service is too expensive. Congestion, pollution, global climate change, and danger on the streets are all increased. The subsidy to the car companies and oil companies is increased.
I don’t agree to having my tax money subsidize the sport venues, and I don’t agree to subsidizing the transportation to get the sports fan to the game. How about let the people going to the game pay their own transportation costs. Let the businesses that supposedly benefit from the extra traffic foot the bill. Or make the private sports teams pay the bill and wrap it up in the ticket costs.
You don’t want your money supporting people pursuing luxury activities? So we are going to start prohibiting people from using public transit to go out to the movies, go bowling, visit a community pool or park, the library, their child’s recital or debate, and other “luxuries.” I guess that will result in a huge spike in demand for transit police, and an increase in car traffic. More jobs and congestion, so it must be a good policy, eh?Our truest self interest must lie in promoting and nurturing the whole community, not merely our desire to have our personal dollars benefit us alone. Our merged tax monies provide us all with benefits no one of us, no matter how wealthy, could provide alone. We disregard that simple premise at our peril.