SEATTLE — Seattle Councilmember Kshama Sawant is calling on the city and King County to make bus rides completely free during the “Seattle Squeeze” in January. It would be a first step toward her larger goal of making transit entirely free, permanently, and paid for by taxing businesses.
Not only that, Sawant is pushing back against the idea that city workers should stagger their work times to get around the coming "Seattle Squeeze," when the absence of the Alaskan Way Viaduct, with no other alternative routes, will strain Seattle traffic for three weeks starting January 11. More than 90,000 drivers will be forced onto I-5 and area roads.
“I am writing to urge you to take every possible measure to mitigate traffic during the three weeks of the Viaduct demolition, referred to as the ‘Seattle Squeeze,'” Sawant recently wrote to Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan and King County Executive Dow Constantine. “Including encouraging usage of public transit by making it free for all throughout the city during that time.”
In her letter to Mayor Jenny Durkan and County Executive Dow Constantine, Sawant argues that 27.3 percent of King County Metro's budget comes from fares. She said it would take $10 million to make public transit free over the three weeks from when the viaduct goes down, and its replacement tunnel opens. She further states that more buses and trains will be required to handle extra passengers, so drivers should be paid overtime.
The council member says that free transit during the Seattle Squeeze will help pave the way to permanent free transit, which she says could be “paid for by taxing big business.” The benefits of free buses and trains, Sawant says, would be far fewer cars on the road (leading to better road conditions), and a progress toward tackling climate change.
Via Twitter, she criticizes Democratic politicians for creating unreasonable plans during this time.
Sawant also takes issue with the idea that workers should stagger their work times — come in early, or late, avoiding peak commute times — to get around the Seattle Squeeze. She says that employers will never accept such travel plans, and that workers have recently been pushed further and further out of the city, causing them to rely on the roads to get to work in Seattle.
This is not a realistic plan for the majority of working people. Anyone who has ever held a working class job knows that most bosses are not so accommodating. Despite words to the contrary, the burden of navigating these traffic jams falls overwhelmingly on the backs of working people who have no other option.
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