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Why Didn’t More People in Transit-Rich Seattle Vote for Prop 1?

Voters in Seattle's distant suburbs went to the polls in far greater numbers than city residents in the special election on Prop 1. Image: ## Viriyincy##

This week, King County voters decided 55 to 45 to defeat Prop 1, a ballot measure to impose a $60 vehicle fee and a 0.1 percent sales tax hike to avoid deep and painful cuts to Metro Transit bus service.

Because of the failure of the initiative, legislation is already moving through the County Council to eliminate 72 Metro Transit bus routes and reduce service by 550,000 hours -- shrinking total service by about 17 percent.

And why did that happen? Apparently, because Seattle voters didn’t vote. The map above was created by Oran Viriyincy, a contributor to the Seattle Transit Blog. It shows that the people who had the most to gain from Prop 1’s passage -- those closer to the urban core, where more people use transit and where the cuts would hurt the most -- didn’t mobilize to vote. Maybe they were swayed by the “support Metro by rejecting this measure” line taken by the Seattle Times.

If it were just up to Seattle, the measure would have passed overwhelmingly. The blue and red colors on the map don't indicate party affiliation; they indicate vote strength. The darkest blue district -- District 43 in Seattle -- approved the measure with a vote of 78 percent in favor. Districts 26 and 37, to the west and south, each voted 63 percent in favor. But all that dark red to the right didn't top 23 percent approval.

And the people in those deep red pockets in the far eastern suburbs were the ones who voted in large numbers, as evidenced by the swollen red blob like some cancerous organ on Viriyincy’s map. The people who turned out for the special election -- conducted entirely by mail, in which Prop 1 was the only contest on the ballot -- were car drivers in the suburbs. Those voters just weren’t willing to pay higher car tabs and sales taxes for transit service they didn’t use.

Perhaps they’ll reconsider when they find themselves behind more single-occupancy vehicles on their next trip into Seattle. Another stunning Viriyincy graphic shows just how much transit service the city is losing. The people who used to ride it are going to need to get around somehow.

Meanwhile, a new ballot measure is already in the works for November, which would raise property taxes in the city itself to restore bus service within the city limits. While Seattleites who voted this week tended to favor the ballot initiative, three years ago they voted against a similar transit measure. Will they raise their property taxes to preserve transit service this time around?

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