Eight tickets to Hell in a handbasket

Just to rub a clear spot in the nacre, let me put it out there: I loathe public transportation in all its forms (except the ferry, and even then I go stand out in the wind, alone).

Strangers are untrustworthy, but I can relate to them on a few-at-a-time basis. Crowds, on the other hand, are loose confederations of mobile evil.

Lack of a crowd saps all the energy out of lynchings, witch burnings, riots, and soccer stadium beheadings. It takes but the tiniest push to transform a somewhat orderly mass into a tear gas receptacle, and when that inevitably happens to the next benighted city, I’d much rather be off riding my motorcycle on a lonely road in Montana. Though I understand they can be misused for such circumstances, I don’t expect ever to see my motorcycle participate in, say, a gang fight. Or a gang rape. Or a gang anything.

Public transport combines crowds with strangers with somebody else driving the bus. Folks, I don’t even like to ride shotgun, let alone submit to huddling in the belly of yet another bomb-attracting troop carrier…

bombed bus


OK, enough of all that. It is sufficient to note that no unhandicapped free human being would ever willingly darken the door of a public bus. Should you disagree, please feel free to step aboard and take your chances. I support you.

Literally, I support you. Between King County and the State of Washington, I pay seven bucks in Regional Transit Authority tax, another 10 in vehicle weight fees (to improve transit… yay!), a $20.00 Transportation Benefit District fee, and then another 20 bones in “congestion reduction charge” to fund King County Metro transit services — i.e. all those empty buses clogging up the road at night.

That’s the tab for one bike.

So my annual bus fare adds up to $57.00… on a custom motorcycle, mostly for show, that I ride a few times in the summer if I’m lucky. Add another $57.00 for the old bike that I ride to a couple of VME events and sometimes out to the Peninsula, and yet a third $57.00 for my go-to rider, and it sure looks like I pay about $171.00 per year for bus services that I never access.

That’s just for motorcycles. We’ll leave the cello-toting family hatchback and the rickety old firewood truck out of this equation for now.


The Issaquah Transit Center: way better than your garage.

My ten-dollar “vehicle weight fee” is the funniest. The Rotax custom that I tabbed yesterday weighs in a little under 200 lbs., which is less than a Costco-bound Rascal power scooter even before its bus-crushing rider climbs aboard. A greenish-tinged, hybrid city bus pounds the pavement to the tune of 30,800 lbs. empty. That’s more than 150 times the unladen weight of my little pothole hopper. Put 22 average-sized people aboard (if you can find “average-sized” people anymore), and you add about 3,300 lbs., which ~= (me)*16.

So it’s fair to say that I pay for a fair number of ride shares in my chosen dwelling county. In itself, that doesn’t annoy me because I’ve ridden the bus. I’ve met the passengers — see “I loathe public transportation,” above — and am generally overjoyed to know that, for the most part, they’re not out there on those roads that I pay for, independently piloting 3,500-lb. wheeled SCUDs. It’s bad enough trying to negotiate the sidewalks of downtown without losing an eye to a Rascal-mounted orange safety flag.

What ticks me off is the badly exectuted PSYOP of Metro marketing. Whether you re-up King County-based license tabs online or pay in person with my favorite gals down at the Bill Pierre License Agency, you will receive a form for FREE! FREE! FREE! Metro bus tickets. These tickets are totally unrestricted, provided that you:

1. live in King County;

2. don’t use a P.O. Box;

3. haven’t received this offer for any other overtaxed vehicles in your household;

4. use them before their expiration date of 90-120 days;

5. are willing to wait 4-6 weeks for processing (lessee, that’s… 30-60 days out of my 90-120?!);

6. fill out the form, fold the sheet in thirds, secure open edge with tape, place first class postage stamp HERE;

6. agree to actually use rather than resell or gift them, which is illegal.

…and maybe some other fine print. Basically, unless you’re already strapped into the Metro lifestyle, you won’t find these useful.

That fails their purpose completely.

See, this program is called TIP, which stands for “Transit Incentive Program.” It’s supposed to make unreconstructed Cro-Magnon earth burners like me, and perhaps like you, feel good about our stout subsidies to bus service by convincing us to try greencycled eggs and ham.

I do not like them on my roads. I do not like to sit with toads. I do not like these prison cans. I do not like them, Spam-I-Am!

So convince me…?

No. Instead of making bus ridership an easy or perhaps even pleasant experience, Metro’s chosen marketing contractor — PMA Direct Marketing (slogan: “Using Technology to Win Hearts, Steal Share, and Build Brands”), because Heaven forbid we miss an opportunity to spend even more Metro money on bullshit — makes it practically impossible to actually collect and use said tickets which, if I remember correctly, I never asked for in the first place.

I mean, why not just hand the happy taxpayer eight tickets, tell him to have a nice day, and remind him to watch out for aggressively negligent bus drivers swinging into traffic against right-of-way? You could hand them out to whomever you wished: a student in your household, your synagogue’s H2R program, or the guy with the cardboard sign asking for bus fare.

Oh, well… at least the handout looks expensive and poorly designed.


Where the magic happens!


But wait; there’s LESS! As a fallback position for cynical cranks and anyone else too sensible to commit years of life to weaving, heaving Petri dishes of human despair, taxpaying independent citizens can tick an alternate box: “Please donate the value of eight (8) free ride tickets to King County’s human services ticket program.”

Alrighty, then. I’m down with helping get people to work (see “Literally, I support you…,” above).

And just how are we noxious internal combustion climate killers empowered to support human services? Can you simply smile, hold up your hand and say,”Hey, no — give those to the needy”?

Of course not! That would be too simple, and make too much sense. Also, it would be subject to ticket-diverting corruption, making it an ideal fit for King County bureaucracy, but I digress…

Instead, you must take the flyer with you to fill out, off-site. PMA Marketing (actually, now the “Brand Activation Association”) will need all of your personal contact information in order to verify your eligibility to donate the passes for application to human services — and perhaps, also, to share that information broadly among its membership of “more than 330 companies nationwide and from around the world.”

The passes that you never never asked for, never received, and will never see. Make sure to include first class postage.

Is anyone in this program — other than those cheerful brand activators, now working their magic on we wicked proponents of auto-transportive asphyxiation — not being taken for a ride?

I’m thinking that Metro’s slogan — “We’ll get you there” — could be shortened by one word.



Next Post


  1. Bernice says

    Nicely said.

  2. The Vogons have set up shop in Worshington State.

    When somebody was setting up the bureaucratic farce you described so well, there was one false premise they included in their logic: that the tickets were a potential source of financial loss. I am sure that most of the tickets filled seats that would otherwise have been empty and went to people who would not otherwise have bought tickets. Beethoven’s “Rage Over a Lost Penny” comes to mind.

    I used to think the opposite of a motorcycle was a Volvo. Then I changed it to a carpool in a minivan. Now I’m thinking maybe it’s a public transit bus. We have one of the world’s best transit systems here in Utah, and there are times when it fills my transportation needs wonderfully, but at some level it still makes my skin crawl.

Speak Your Mind