Thursday, January 13, 2011

Transportation is a class issue

So I've heard a lot of middle/upper middle white people in Seattle talk about what an awesome public transportation system we have (cough, sputter, cough). I could pull out my pretentious traveler card and point out that most of Europe has cheaper, faster, cleaner transport. But fuck that.

Tomorrow I have to take a minimum of 3 buses and 1 hour 45 minutes to go to a housing interview (with Seattle Public Housing, who I've fought with in the past, and my stomach is turning at the thought, but that's another story). Metro's online trip planner is giving me a range of between $7 and $9 EACH way for bus fare. For just me. The Kid is another $3.75 each way. It would be slightly cheaper if I had a prepaid or bank funded Orca card, but the cards themselves cost $5.

It used to be that I could pay for our bus fare by scraping the loose change from my purse. Now you get super shitty treatment from the bus driver and passengers behind you if you use actual money. The price for riding the bus has so far outpaced inflation as to be comparable in increases to health care and higher education.

For the last 9 years, I have been a reasonably happy public transit rider. I gave up my car when we lived in the city because the cost was too high compared to the bus. But I lived walking distance to work, and for most of my employment I got discounted bus passes and everything I wanted to go to was within city limits, so I got the low one zone fares. The $20 I am spending tomorrow is way more than I would have spent in gas, insurance, etc, to drive a whole 15 miles and back. Not to mention the extra 2 hours of transit time that I would save.

Of course, if you work for somewhere like Microsoft (a big company that subsides bus passes and offers privately paid connector shuttles to eliminate the patchwork of city & county buses) then yes, the Metro system is a peach. If you are a poor person trying to get to poor places that are poorly served by public transit because poor people live there, then you're fucked.

If I had to make this trip everyday, for work, it would kill me both financially and timewise. A 9 hour day (8 hours plus lunch) plus nearly 4 hours of commuting, plus 14 fucking dollars a day. At minimum wage, the first 2 hours of work I put in every day would go straight to bus fare. What a waste of fucking time.

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