Transit Riders Union joins suit to overturn I-976

November 25, 2019


Access Paratransit service is threatened by I-976. Photo credit: Mohamud Yussuf

Today the Transit Riders Union (TRU), the disability rights group Washington ADAPT, and the Northwest-based clean energy economy nonprofit Climate Solutions joined the lawsuit against Initiative 976, which threatens to slash funding for voter-approved public transit service and infrastructure projects across the state.

The groups intervened in the suit filed on November 13 by the Garfield County Transportation Authority, King County, the City of Seattle, and other plaintiffs. The groups are also joining in the motion for a preliminary injunction to stop I-976 from taking effect, which will be heard on Tuesday morning at 9 a.m. in King County Superior Court.

“The voices of transit riders need to be heard in this case,” said Katie Wilson, General Secretary of the Transit Riders Union. “Our quality of life is at stake. Many people depend on public transit for their basic mobility, and we can’t let this misleading and unconstitutional measure wreak havoc on our transportation system.”

“The legal right to accessible public transit for disabled Washingtonians is in serious jeopardy,” said Janine Bertram on behalf of Washington ADAPT. “King County has threatened to cut over $12 million from Access Paratransit. Fixed route transit cuts are also planned. Disabled people will be unable to get to work, school, appointments or exercise a normal social life if these drastic cuts occur.”

“I-976 poses a profound threat to Washington’s efforts to combat climate change and give people mobility options outside of driving alone,” said Vlad Gutman-Britten, Washington Director for Climate Solutions. “We’re determined to create a broadly accessible, low carbon transportation system, and so we’re committed to fighting this illegal and harmful initiative.”

Initiative 976 annuls a revenue source that was approved by over 62% of Seattle voters in 2014. According to the City of Seattle, this will lead to cutting over 100,000 hours of bus service next year. “I am devastated by I-976 passing,” says Karen Taylor, a member of the Transit Riders Union. “I don’t have a driver’s license, and rely on public transit exclusively, because Social Security Disability does not give me enough money to take Taxis or Lyft. The bus routes that will be affected are crucial to my survival and well-being.”

Also under threat is a program that provides free ORCA transit passes to many Seattle public school students. TRU advocated alongside low-income students at Rainier Beach High School who led the campaign that won this life-changing program in 2015. “I don’t live near my school and I don’t have anyone to give me a ride,” said Sara Abraha, a 9th grade student at RBHS. “But I do live near Othello Station. If the free ORCA card went away I probably would not come to school as often or I would have to risk a fine from fare enforcement just to get to school.”

TRU, Washington ADAPT, and Climate Solutions plan to coordinate with the City of Seattle and King County in bringing their lawsuit. “Just like the last two times Eyman used deception to push this proposal, I-976 is unconstitutional and will be overturned,” said Knoll Lowney, an attorney at the Seattle law firm of Smith and Lowney who is representing the organizations.

“Rock the Bus” Happy Hour Fundraiser on December 4th

November 20, 2019

Rocket BusIt’s that time of year again! Come celebrate and support TRU’s work at our annual Happy Hour Fundraiser. There will be complimentary beer, wine, and light appetizers. We’ll have a photo booth, a silent auction, and most importantly great company.

Our theme is Rock the Bus, because that’s what we need to do to get sh*t done!

RSVP here and help us to spread the word on Facebook. There’s no cost to attend, but we will be asking guests to make a donation that is meaningful to them at the event. Or, you can make a donation online. We can’t do this work without you!

Rock the Bus Happy Hour Fundraiser
Wednesday, December 4, 5:30-7:30pm
Flatiron School @ Downtown Seattle
1411 4th Ave, 13th Floor

Thank you to our wonderful co-hosts: Speaker Emeritus Frank Chopp, Rep. Nicole Macri, Councilmember Mike O’Brien, Councilmember Kshama Sawant, Tammy Morales, Girmay Zahilay, John Burbank, Brady Walkinshaw, Mike McGinn, Cary Moon, and Kirsten Harris-Talley

Thank you to our allies who are generously sponsoring this event: ATU 587, UFCW 21, SEIU 6, SEIU 925, SEIU 1199, Transportation Choices Coalition, Teamsters 117, Protec17, WFSE 1488, Working Washington

And finally, thank you to the businesses that are donating food, drink and space: Flatiron School, Fremont Brewing Co.

We hope to see you there!

Victory for Access Riders!

November 1, 2019

Access riders and allies celebrate! Photo credit: Mohamud Yussuf

This year, Access Paratransit riders won a major victory when King County Metro signed a new contract promising higher standards of service for disabled riders who can’t easily use the fixed-route bus service.

For years, TRU has been organizing with disabled riders & allies including Washington ADAPT West and Stop Veolia Seattle, and working with elected officials like King County Councilmember Larry Gossett. Together we fought for and won an audit of Access service that highlighted severe problems, and a new contract that includes improvements such as: definitions and enforcement of excessively long trips; improved standards for drop-offs; higher penalties for the contractor; and better oversight of complaints. Drivers also have a strong contract, and irresponsible contractor Veolia/Transdev is out!

Check out the new Know Your Rights pamphlet for Access riders

Access rider Harriet Williams speaks to the crowd

At the same time, we know our work isn’t done. The new contract still falls short of what’s needed to hold MV Transportation accountable and to enforce the standards for acceptable transit service mandated by the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Councilmember Larry Gossett speaks

Ultimately, we believe this vital service should be brought in-house and operated as a truly public service, rather than contracted out to a private corporation. TRU and allies will be continuing to organize with Access riders to push for better transit service for disabled riders!


TRU General Election Endorsements

October 10, 2019

First of all: Whatever else you do in this election, VOTE NO ON I-976! We can’t let Tim Eyman gut transit funding around the state. On October 7, TRU’s lead organizer Matthew Lang testified in support of a city resolution opposing I-976, with Eyman there speaking against. Learn more and sign up to volunteer:

At our September Membership Meeting, TRU made the following endorsements for Seattle City Council, King County Council, and SeaTac City Council. By the way, all of these Seattle and King County candidates (and many of their opponents) have endorsed ORCA for All!

Lisa Herbold for Seattle District 1

Councilmember Lisa Herbold has been a champion for progressive citywide policies as well as for her district. She led on bold efforts to reform our upside-down tax system, leading to an unanimous vote for the first income tax to pass in our state in over 80 years — which is looking promising as it moves toward the State Supreme Court! Lisa is a dedicated public servant, a smart and effective leader, and a strong ally to grassroots movements and groups like TRU. Vote for Herbold for District 1!

Tammy Morales for Seattle District 2

Ever since Tammy Morales came within a few hundred votes of representing District 2 in 2015, she has been doing the work. From organizing with Southeast Seattle community groups to serving on the Seattle Human Rights Commission, Tammy has demonstrated that she will show up and represent marginalized communities in District 2 and throughout the city. We know she’ll be a strong voice for workers’ rights, racial equity, and environmental justice. Tammy has also been a strong ally to TRU and the Trump-Proof Seattle and Housing For All Coalitions, and we are proud to endorse her campaign for District 2!

Kshama Sawant for Seattle District 3

Since she was first elected in 2013, Kshama Sawant has been a steadfast champion for working and poor people, and for fare-free mass transit. An unapologetic voice for socialism, she has used her council seat to open up new political possibilities not just in Seattle but across the country. Amazon and the Chamber of Commerce would love for this to be Kshama’s last term on the council. Let’s make sure they don’t get their wish.

Shaun Scott for Seattle District 4

Shaun Scott is a Democratic Socialist running on a platform including a Seattle Green New Deal, public housing, and a fair tax code. If elected, we believe Shaun will be an effective driver of progressive policies, including expanding mass transit and making fares affordable or free for all. We know he’ll be a strong ally to grassroots organizations like TRU. This could be one of the most consequential races this election. Vote Shaun Scott for District 4!

Debora Juarez for Seattle District 5

Councilmember Debora Juarez has been a strong advocate for expanding public transit and multimodal transportation, and we appreciate that — even if TRU hasn’t always seen eye to eye with her on all issues. Her opponent in this race is a Speak Out Seattle candidate who wants to step up the sweeps, round up homeless people and store them in massive warehouses. It’s a very, vey bad idea. If you live in District 5, please help make sure Debora Juarez wins another term!

Dan Strauss for Seattle District 6

Dan Strauss is a lifelong Ballard resident with deep connections in District 6, as well as knowledge of how City Hall works gained through his position as a legislative aide for Councilmember Bagshaw. We think Dan has progressive values and a strong understanding of the homelessness and housing crisis. As a council member we think he can push back against harmful narratives and policies that are hurting people and only making the problem worse. Vote Dan Strauss for District 6!

Andrew Lewis for Seattle District 7

District 7 spans the income spectrum, from well-off homeowners in Magnolia and Upper Queen Anne to low-income renters (and many people living without homes) in Downtown, Belltown and Uptown. It also includes powerful downtown business and developer interests as well as thousands of low-wage workers. We think Andrew Lewis will be able to manage these competing demands and serve as a strong advocate for low-income residents and workers in his district and citywide. Vote for Andrew Lewis for District 7!

Girmay Zahilay for King County District 2

As a child of refugees who grew up in South Seattle, Zahilay has deep roots in the community and personal experience of the challenges many District 2 residents are facing. As an attorney and the founder of a non-profit that mentors at-risk youth, he’s demonstrated his abilities and dedication. He has also taken a stronger position against youth incarceration than any of the sitting councilmembers. TRU has worked closely with Councilmember Larry Gossett over the years and we have deep respect and appreciation for his long public service. But this year, we think District 2 will be best served by electing Girmay Zahilay!

Abigail Doerr for King County District 4

We don’t need to take Abigail Doerr’s word for it that she will fight hard for public transit and environmental justice; she’s already proved it by running vital ballot measures to fund transit service and infrastructure, as well as the hard-fought carbon fee Initiative 1631 last year. Councilmember Jeanne Kohl-Welles has been strong on transit issues, and she did a courageous thing when she flipped her position on the lodging tax last year. But we believe Abigail has the much-needed energy and initiative to make big waves on the King County Council, and we love her transit platform. Vote Abigail Doerr for King County District 4!

Takele Gobena for SeaTac Position 5

Takele Gobena is a Ethiopian-American immigrant, a former airport worker, a union representative and community organizer in SeaTac. He cofounded the SeaTac Community Coalition to fight against gentrification and displacement of immigrant-owned small businesses. Now he’s running for SeaTac City Council to give immigrants, working families and low-income residents a voice in City Hall. Vote Takele Gobena for SeaTac Position 5!

Liza Rankin for Seattle School Board Director District 1

Liza Rankin is a strong advocate for public education who is running to make Seattle Public Schools more equitable. She recognizes the transportation challenges that students, parents, and educators face every day in getting to school and work, and she is committed to making sure that everyone has transportation options that are as sustainable and reliable as possible. Vote Lisa Rankin for Seattle School Board!

Chanan Suarez for Bellingham City Council Ward 5

Chanan Suarez is a Democratic Socialist running for Bellingham City Council on a platform that includes free, accessible, expanded public transit for all! We love the idea of free transit and are proud to support this candidate who is furthering the cause in Bellingham. Suarez also has a strong housing and homelessness platform, and understands how affordable housing and transit must go hand in hand. Vote Chanan Suarez!

MASS Coalition is racking up the wins

October 1, 2019

In August, the MASS Coalition launched an ambitious set of  proposals to make it easier to take transit, bike, wall and roll around our city. We called it the MASS Transportation Package. Since then, with the support of elected officials including Councilmembers Mike O’Brien and Abel Pacheco (pictured here), we’ve been making progress!

Most of us, including transit riders, are pedestrians at some point during our day. On September 30th the Seattle City Council unanimously passed two resolutions aimed at making it easier and safer to walk and roll in Seattle. One directs the city to develop a new program for maintaining our sidewalks. The current system is broken: It’s the responsibility of property owners to make repairs, but this almost never happens. Sidewalks fall into decay, and too often people fall and get injured. We’re encouraging the city to work on a new program that is both equitable and effective. The other resolution directs the city to develop a consistent and safe policy for traffic signal timing. Right now, too many signals privilege car traffic over people walking and rolling. Everyone should have time to cross the street, including those of us who move more slowly, and people need to know what to expect when they get to a crosswalk.

This comes on top of three big wins for safe streets and people biking earlier in September:

  • A Bicycle Safety Ordinance requiring that when the city does major road work, it also makes any improvements listed in the Bicycle Master Plan at the same time – or explains to city council members and to the public why this isn’t possible.
  • A resolution requesting that unfunded projects in the Bicycle Implementation Plan be funded, including all south end projects and two-way bike lanes on 4th Ave.
  • A resolution requesting that SDOT request funding for additional off-sidewalk bike and scooter parking (bike corrals) to ensure pedestrian access on sidewalks, especially for those of us with disabilities.

Stay tuned as the MASS Coalition leaps into the city budget process and takes more steps towards realizing our MASS Transportation Package!

Global Climate Strike & ORCA for All

September 26, 2019

The Global Climate Strike on Friday, September 20th was amazing. In the morning, thousands gathered at Cal Anderson park to participate in workshops and take action for climate justice. We gathered petition signatures for ORCA for All and invited people to write and draw their vision of transit justice on a large canvass, which quickly filled up with color and energy.

The march proceeded to City Hall, merging with thousands of Amazon employees who walked out and rallied at the Spheres to demand that their employer step up and lead on climate. Their pressure is starting to work!

After the march and rally at City Hall, dozens of people, including middle school students and Seattle folk music legend Jim Page, testified in support of ORCA for All in a special meeting of the Sustainability & Transportation Committee. Members of the campaign discussed our proposals with Councilmembers Mike O’Brien and Lisa Herbold. Check out the video! The first 40 minutes are public comment, and the committee discussion starts around 1:20:00.

ORCA for All is launched!

September 17, 2019

TRU is proud to launch a new campaign called ORCA for All! You can learn more and sign up to get involved on the campaign website, This fall we have five main goals:

1. Transit benefits legislation: To increase employer provision of transit benefits, especially to lower-wage workers, through Seattle legislation mandating that large employers subsidize transit.

2. Transit benefits for public contract workers: Seattle and King County should commit to figuring out how to provide transit benefits for human services workers, construction workers, and other workers employed through publicly-funded contracts.

3. Step it up, UW: Fully-subsidized transit passes for all University of Washington employees! As Seattle’s second largest employer, the UW needs to set a better example.

4. No-cost fare program: The King County Council will consider a no-cost fare program for the lowest-income riders. We want this program to be as good and successful as possible!

5. Fare enforcement reform: King County Metro has made progress decriminalizing fare enforcement. We want Sound Transit (link light rail) to step up and do the same.

Four Steps to a Transportation Revolution

July 29, 2019

Photo: Crosscut. Click to navigate to source article.

The Seattle Times recently reported that deaths and serious injuries from traffic violence are up in the first half of this year, especially collisions between moving vehicles and people walking or biking. This is unacceptable. With climate change accelerating and Seattle’s emissions rising, we need our elected leaders to take decisive action for a carbon-free transportation system with safe streets for all. The past year and a half has been filled with disappointing set-backs. It’s time to turn that around.

Last week Crosscut published a two-part article by TRU’s General Secretary Katie Wilson, calling for a transportation revolution in Seattle:

Part I: Durkan can’t make Seattle a climate leader without fixing our commute

Part II: Four things Mayor Durkan must do to spark Seattle’s transportation revolution

Here’s how you can help. The MASS coalition has just released a new package of transit, biking, walking & rolling improvements that we are asking the city to act on in the next few months. Please take a moment to send an email to Seattle elected officials:

Email Mayor & Councilmembers

TRU is working hard with our allies in the MASS Coalition and with councilmembers to turn the MASS transportation package into actionable legislation that can be passed this summer and fall. Stay tuned for further actions!

More Primary Endorsements

July 26, 2019

At our July Membership Meeting, TRU members voted to make three additional endorsements for the 2019 Primary Elections. (In June we endorsed Lisa Herbold for Seattle City Council District 1; Tammy Morales for Seattle City Council District 2; Kshama Sawant for Seattle City Council District 3; and Shaun Scott and Emily Myers for Seattle City Council District 4.) Here are our additional endorsements:

Yes on Seattle Prop 1: Levy Renewal for the Seattle Public Library

Seattle has an excellent library system and we need to keep it that way. We don’t usually love property taxes, but we do love libraries, so this one is well worth it. Vote Yes!

Dan Strauss for Seattle City Council District 6

Here at the Transit Riders Union, we will miss Councilmember Mike O’Brien. We’ll miss his leadership on public transit and sustainability. We’ll miss his compassionate and courageous approach to the homelessness crisis in the face of ugly opposition. And we’ll miss his willingness to work closely with grassroots groups and communities to get stuff done. But he’s not running for re-election, so you can’t vote for him.

There are many candidates running to represent District 6, more than in any other district, though only six of them filled out our candidate questionnaire. We decided to endorse a candidate who we think shares many of TRU’s values and also (we hope) is within striking distance of making it through the Primary: Dan Strauss, who now works as an aide to Councilmember Sally Bagshaw. Dan’s answers to our questionnaire stood out, notably his idea of indexing city fees, fines, and permits to income, like Finland does. We also like that he hasn’t been endorsed by Speak Out Seattle or the Chamber of Commerce, something we can’t say of the other front-runners in this race. If you live in District 6, we hope you’ll vote for Dan!

Girmay Zahilay for King County Council District 2

Councilmember Larry Gossett and the Transit Riders Union go way back, back to early 2012 when TRU was still just a small crew of volunteers, and he was the first county councilmember we met with to discuss our idea of a low-income reduced fare. We appreciate the many things Councilmember Gossett and his dedicated staff have done over the years to advance the cause of affordable and accessible public transit, from championing the ORCA LIFT program to pushing to improve Access Paratransit service.

And yet… TRU is endorsing Gossett’s opponent, Girmay Zahilay. The King County Council is often a sleepy body, with rarely-contested elections. That’s not healthy for democracy. In today’s rapidly-changing world, this council needs members who are there on a mission, willing to shake things up, coming with bold ideas, prepared to challenge their colleagues and fight hard for their consituents. When a candidate like Girmay Zahilay comes along, it’s really hard to say no.

As a child of refugees who grew up in South Seattle, Zahilay has deep roots in the community and personal experience of the challenges many District 2 residents are facing. As an attorney and the founder of a non-profit that mentors at-risk youth, he has demonstrated his abilities and dedication. He has also taken a stronger position against youth incarceration than any of the sitting councilmembers, including Gossett. We think King County District 2 will be best served by electing Girmay Zahilay.

Exciting Court Ruling on Seattle’s Tax on the Wealthy

July 17, 2019

Two years ago, the Seattle City Council unanimously passed a tax on high-income households championed by the Trump-Proof Seattle Coalition, which TRU co-convened with the Economic Opportunity Institute. We knew this tax would be challenged, and that was the point: We wanted to give the Washington State Supreme Court a chance to overturn flawed 1930s rulings that have stymied efforts to fix our state’s upside-down, regressive tax system for generations. Venture capitalists and other members of Seattle’s wealthy class immediately sued the city, and since then the tax has been winding its way through the court system.

On Monday, the Court of Appeals handed down its ruling. While as expected it didn’t uphold the tax— only the higher court can overturn its own previous decisions— the ruling was extremely favorable for us. It affirmed Seattle’s authority to tax income, and opened the door for the State Supreme Court to address precisely the question we want them to address: Whether income is a form of property (we say not!) and thus, according to our state’s constitution, only taxable “uniformly,” not in a graduated or progressive way.

If the State Supreme Court upholds Seattle’s tax, our City will have a robust, progressive, revenue source, revolutionizing our ability to provide essential public services and guarantee a dignified standard of living for every Seattle resident. Even if the higher court strikes down Seattle’s specific tax, its ruling could still open huge new possibilities for state and local tax reform. This decision from the Court of Appeals is extremely encouraging, and while we are trying not to get our hopes up too much, we are thrilled and our opponents are “dumbstruck”!

Next stop: On to the State Supreme Court!

TRU’s Primary Endorsements

July 2, 2019

At our June membership meeting, TRU made primary endorsements in four of the seven Seattle City Council districts. Our endorsements are below. It’s possible we will revisit the other three districts this month. You can read all the candidates’ responses to our questionnaire here and watch the MASS Coalition’s five candidate forums here.

District 1: Lisa Herbold

Councilmember Lisa Herbold is a champion for progressive citywide policies as well as for her district. She has led on bold efforts to reform the most regressive tax system in the country. She’s a dedicated public servant, a smart and effective leader, and a strong ally to grassroots movements and groups like TRU. Also, her two challengers are people we really, really don’t want on the city council. Vote for Lisa Herbold for District 1!

District 2: Tammy Morales

Ever since Tammy Morales came within a few hundred votes of representing District 2 in 2015, she has been doing the work. From organizing with Southeast Seattle community groups to serving on the Seattle Human Rights Commission, Tammy has demonstrated that she will show up and represent marginalized communities in District 2 and throughout the city. Tammy has also been a strong ally to TRU and the Trump-Proof Seattle and Housing For All Coalitions, and we are proud to endorse her campaign for District 2!

District 3: Kshama Sawant

Since she was first elected in 2013, Kshama Sawant has been a steadfast champion for working and poor people, and for fare-free mass transit. An unapologetic voice for socialism, she has used her council seat to open up new political possibilities not just in Seattle but across the country. Amazon and the Chamber of Commerce would love for this to be Kshama’s last term on the council. Let’s make sure they don’t get their wish.

District 4: Shaun Scott and Emily Myers

Shaun Scott and Emily Myers impressed us with their energy, progressive values, and strong positions on transit and transportation. Both are renters and will make the housing affordability crisis a top priority. Among a surprising number of good candidates in District 4, we also think Shaun and Emily have the strongest chance of beating the Chamber of Commerce pick in this race.

Hundreds Rally & Ride for Safe Streets

June 17, 2019

Credit: Brock Howell

Six months into the Seattle Squeeze, with carbon emissions rising and Vision Zero a still-distant dream, Seattle families and residents gathered at the Ride for Safe Streets on Father’s Day to urge City leaders to more decisive action.

Over the past year we’ve seen frustrating delays and cut-backs to plans for important biking, walking, transit, and safety projects. Compared with the 2014 Bicycle Master Plan, SDOT’s current pace of bikeway development is less than half of what’s needed, and 27% lower than what the Move Seattle Levy funded. At the same time, major transit projects have been shelved, pedestrians are being deprioritized at major intersections, and sidewalks and curb ramps aren’t being built nearly fast enough.

Councilmembers Mike O’Brien and Lorena González

City Hall Plaza was packed to overflowing on Sunday afternoon as residents of neighborhoods throughout Seattle converged on downtown, bringing a message to Mayor Durkan and other city officials that they expect bold action. The MASS Coalition announced a Green Transportation Package that the coalition hopes to move forward this summer. Seattle City Councilmembers Lorena González and Mike O’Brien spoke at the event and voiced their support for the initiative; Councilmember Sally Bagshaw and a number of city council candidates were also in attendance.

Councilmember Sally Bagshaw

“We’ve spent the last fifty years prioritizing and subsidizing driving,” said Jeanna Wheeler, a scientist and member of the Seattle chapter of 500 Women Scientists. “It’s time for us to join cities across the globe in rejecting this harmful dead end. Energy systems change; our energy future isn’t fossil fuel, in the same way that our energy future isn’t whale oil. Rather than building our city’s infrastructure around cars (or whaling ships), we must begin building them around people. No elected leader in Seattle denies the science of climate change publicly, and yet far too many deny that the public is ready to make hard choices to address it. This is the new face of climate denialism in our Emerald City.”

Rich Brown of Duwamish Valley Safe Streets and several other speakers pointed to historic underinvestment in South Seattle’s transportation infrastructure. The Rainier Ave Safety Corridor Project, which promises to transform Seattle’s most dangerous street, has seen years of delay. South Seattle lacks the connected network of bike lanes and paths that makes biking a safe and comfortable option for many in North Seattle. As Jennifer Grant of Familybike Seattle said, “Fathers shouldn’t have to drive across the city to teach their children to bike.”

Credit: Mark Ostrow

“The fact that so many people are willing to spend a weekend day on the streets shows that people are dissatisfied,” said Vicky Clarke, Policy Director of Cascade Bicycle Club. “We’re one of the most economically prosperous cities in the nation; there is no reason we shouldn’t have safe infrastructure for all people, across the city, including for those who need or choose to bike. If the Mayor is serious wanting to achieve Vision Zero it’s going to need more action than we have seen so far. We need to do better and we will continue to hold the city accountable to do just that.”

“When commuting by public transit takes so much longer than commuting by car, it’s no wonder people choose to drive,” said Katie Wilson, General Secretary of the Transit Riders Union. “Buses carrying scores of people shouldn’t get stuck in a sea of single-occupancy vehicles— and they don’t have to. With commitment from City leaders, we can create a robust network of bus priority corridors connecting Seattle’s neighborhoods, allowing all residents to travel rapidly and reliably around our city by bus and train.”

Credit: Mark Ostrow

A common refrain at the event was that the City already has many good plans: Vision Zero to eliminate traffic fatalities and serious injuries by 2030; a Climate Action Plan to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050; and Transit, Bike, and Pedestrian Master Plans to build out our city’s multi-modal transportation infrastructure. But the City is not on track to fulfill the commitments outlined in any of these plans. The MASS Coalition has designed a Green Transportation Package to try to get the City back on track. Participants at the Ride for Safe Streets had a clear message on Sunday for the Mayor: Find the political will, use existing funding strategically, and seek new funding if needed. We can’t compromise on the safe, green transportation system that’s needed today and for future generations.

After listening to speeches the crowd poured into 4th Avenue. Fathers biking with their children, people with wheelchairs and others with canes, and parents with strollers, all proceeded down the street together to Westlake Park, where the event concluded with music and activities for kids.

Riders with Disabilities Win Major Improvements in New Access Paratransit Contract

May 30, 2019
Harriet Williams rides on a King County Metro paratransit bus Seattle, Sept. 2, 2018. (Matt M. McKnight/Crosscut – source article here)

For years, TRU has organized with riders who use Metro’s Access Paratransit vans and allies including Stop Veolia Seattle, Washington ADAPT West and Disability Rights Washington, to demand higher standards of service so that everyone can get where they need to go reliably and with dignity.

A 2017 audit showed what we already knew: Access riders are often picked up and dropped off excessively late or early, and what should be a short ride can turn into a long, winding, exhausting trip around King County. Why? Because the private transportation companies Metro contracts with to provide this service too often put profit over the needs of transit riders and workers.

Well, last Friday we won a major victory when Metro signed a new Access contract that will go into effect on November 1st. Most critically, the new contract will more strongly enforce pick-up and drop-off time windows and the time riders spend on board. Customer service will be handled directly by Metro, instead of by a private corporation with clear conflicts of interest.

We are thrilled that Veolia Transdev, a notorious corporate bad actor that profits off of privatizing transportation and water systems around the world, lost their bid to continue operating Access service in King County. Instead of Metro dealing with three separate entities that are often at odds with each other, there is now just a single contract with MV Transportation, enabling better transparency and accountability.

We’re not totally satisfied, of course. We wish the contract were still stronger, and ultimately we believe Access service should be brought in-house and run directly by a public agency, with higher service standards for riders and higher labor standards for drivers. We will continue to monitor performance and organize with Access riders, especially to achieve equity for riders who are nonverbal or speak English as a second language. But all told, the new contract is a big step forward, and one that would not have happened without persistent effort and pressure from Access riders and allies. So let’s celebrate this victory!

Hear from Seattle City Council Candidates on Transportation, Housing, & Sustainability

May 22, 2019

TRU, the MASS Coalition, and allies are hosting candidate forums in five of the seven Seattle City Council districts* this month. We’ll hear from candidates as they answer questions about mass transit, housing, ensuring everyone is able to use our streets safely, reducing carbon emissions, and centering racial equity in all of this work. The first two forums will be moderated by Heidi Groover, and the last three will be moderated by Erica Barnett. All forums are wheelchair-accessible and CART services will be provided:

District 6 Candidate Forum
Tuesday, May 21, 5:30-7:30pm
Phinney Neighborhood Association, 6532 Phinney Ave N

District 3 Candidate Forum
Thursday, May 23, 6:00-7:30pm
Washington State Labor Council, 321 16th Ave S

District 2 Candidate Forum
Tuesday, May 28, 6:00-7:30pm
New Holly Gathering Hall, 7054 32nd Ave S

District 7 Candidate Forum
Wednesday, May 29, 6:00-8:00pm
SEIU 775 Auditorium, 215 Columbia St.

District 4 Candidate Forum
Thursday, May 30, 5:30-7:30pm
Cascade Bicycle Club, 7787 62nd Ave NE

* Why aren’t we doing all seven districts? It takes a lot of work to organize forums, so we decided to focus our energies on the districts with the most competitive races. TRU and MASS are also doing candidate questionnaires, so before the primary elections take place in August, you’ll be able to read what D1 and D5 candidates have to say about many of these same issues.

Sound Transit Backs Off Privatization Plan, For Now

March 26, 2019

On Thursday, March 14, we learned that Sound Transit has quietly been taking steps to contract out their bus service to a private, for-profit corporation. This is unacceptable for so many reasons. Privatization of public transit is a profit-grab that in other cities has led to eroding service and safety standards, not to mention that any “savings” usually come from turning middle class union bus driver positions into lower-wage jobs with worse benefits. Contracting out to a private company also undermines public oversight, transparency, and accountability. TRU and allies sounded the alert and hundreds of people emailed Sound Transit Boardmembers urging that they halt the privatization plans. Guess what? The board listened.

Sound Transit has agreed to “pause” the RFP (request for proposals) to allow for a thorough discussion among boardmembers and with King County Metro, which currently operates the Express service; labor partners like ATU 587, which represents Metro drivers and mechanics; transit rider organizations like TRU; and the public. We are hopeful this pause will allow for a productive dialogue and a better outcome. We believe that together we can tackle challenges like the need for additional bus base capacity, while keeping public transit public, maintaining transparency and accountability, and without eroding service and labor standards.

We will stay vigilant and keep you informed as this conversation continues. The next public discussion will be at the Sound Transit Board’s Operations Committee meeting on April 4, 1-3pm at Union Station. Again, THANK YOU to everyone who took action. When we organize, we win!

TRU’s Annual Event asks: Whose City Is This?

February 8, 2019

Who really holds power in Seattle, King County, and our region? How do they wield it? How can we act strategically to win as much as we can, while also building new democratic, accountable power for people-powered movements? Join us at 1:00pm on Saturday, March 2, to explore these questions at TRU’s Annual Event & Meeting. We’ll draw some lessons from recent victories and defeats and discuss what comes next.

RSVP for the Annual Event: Saturday, March 2, 1:00pm

The event will take place at the Seattle Labor Temple, Hall 8, 2800 1st Ave. First there will be a public event, open to all, 1:00-3:00pm. Speakers and details TBA. Then, after a short break, TRU will hold our Annual Meeting from 3:30-4:30pm. The meeting part is members-only.

MASS Report on Lessons from “Viadoom”

February 8, 2019

The closure of the Alaskan Way Viaduct was hyped as a potential traffic disaster that Seattle would have to endure for three weeks. Instead, we saw more people biking, walking, and riding transit, and a wonderfully quiet downtown.

This Tuesday the Move All Seattle Sustainably (MASS) Coalition, of which TRU is a member, released a report that draws lessons from the past three weeks. “Viadoom turned out to be a wildly successful experiment in how to reduce emissions, improve mobility, and better our quality of life,” the report states. “Understanding why Viadoom didn’t happen can help us make future transportation policy decisions with equally happy results.” READ THE REPORT

Microsoft Steps Up… Because We Did

January 24, 2019

From Geekwire: click to go to source article

You probably saw the big news last week: Microsoft has pledged $500 million to tackle the housing crisis in King County, after discussions that began in the wake of the big business tax repeal last spring.

How should we feel about this? On the one hand, this is a lot of money, and although much of it is in the form of loans, it should speed up the production of affordable housing and help a lot of people.

On the other hand, as our friends at the Economic Opportunity Institute have explained, relying on philanthrophy to solve social inequities is deeply problematic, undermining democracy and giving wealthy individuals and corporations far too much power over all of us.

Third, and perhaps most important as a lesson for us: As the news coverage makes clear, this happened because of the “head tax”— because of the work that TRU and Housing for All and many others did last year pushing for a tax on big business. Deep-pocketed corporate opponents successfully fought to kill the tax, but we successfully built up a public expectation that they do more to address the housing and homelessness crisis that their growth is driving.

So let’s take this as a victory, even as we recognize that corporate largesse is not the ultimate answer and it’s our job to figure out the next step forward!

Seattle Mariners Respond to Public Pressure With Eviction Prevention Fund

December 14, 2018

Today the Seattle Mariners announced the “Home Base Partnership” to create a several million dollar revolving fund for eviction assistance and prevention, a move housing advocates say is a response to public pressure and a victory for community organizing.

The billion-dollar corporation’s newfound interest in the housing crisis emerges in the wake of a pitched battle with affordable housing advocates over the disposition of the county’s lodging tax revenue earlier this year.

In May, County Executive Dow Constantine proposed that $185 million in lodging tax funds be spent on maintenance and upkeep of Safeco Field, the Mariners’ stadium. The proposal sparked an outcry from King County residents and advocates who argued that this public money should instead be used to address the region’s deepening housing and homelessness crisis. Over 80 organizations signed a letter to County Councilmembers urging them to prioritize basic human needs over stadium improvements that amount to subsidizing a profitable private corporation.

In September, after several overflowing public hearings, the King County Council voted 5-4 to allocate $135 million to Safeco Field. In a partial victory for the housing movement, the compromise bill also directed $165 million more to affordable workforce housing and services for homeless youth than the Executive’s original proposal.

In the course of this multi-month public debate the reputation of the Seattle Mariners and its billionaire and millionaire owners took a beating. Continue reading

Major Progress on Affordable Transit: King County Council approves plan for no/low-cost transit fares

November 16, 2018

What happens when you can’t afford a transit fare and you need to get to a doctor appointment, a job interview, or a shelter? Maybe you pray that the bus driver will be kind and let you board. Or maybe you get caught by fare enforcement, slapped with a steep fine and kicked off the train far from your destination. Maybe you ask passers-by for change and bear their suspicious looks. Maybe you’re lucky enough to find a service provider to give you a free ticket or two. Or maybe you just end up walking for hours.

Thousands of King County residents face these tough choices every day. The stress and time wasted when you can’t reliably get from A to B make it extremely difficult to overcome the many other challenges that people with very low incomes face in our increasingly unaffordable region. As wonderful as the ORCA LIFT reduced fare program is, it doesn’t meet the needs of riders who can’t easily pay $1.50 per ride or $54 per month for a transit pass.

Here at the Transit Riders Union, we are celebrating because this week we took a major step towards making our public transit system affordable for all. The King County Council voted to take steps to implement low/no-cost transit fares for Metro’s lowest-income passengers, with the goal of having this new program in place by 2020! Our big job next year, 2019, will be to work with King County Metro and elected officials to create a robust and well-designed program.

This is a huge deal and a great way to end 2018. (Not that we’re done yet… stay tuned for some big news next week!) Want to celebrate with us? Come enjoy music, food and drink, and great company at TRU’s happy hour fundraiser on Thursday, Nov. 29 —RSVP here.