In Michael Crichton’s”The Lost World,” a “Jurassic Park” follow-up not to be confused with the “Jurassic Park” film sequel of the same name and not one of the writer’s best, there is an interesting discussion of how some species of dinosaurs may have caused their own eventual extinction by developing toxic habits, like not caring for their young. It was the first thing I thought of when I read about the ridiculous transit system crisis in Seattle.
It shouldn’t be surprising, I suppose, that the city that encouraged woke support for the destructive George Floyd riots in 2020 has adopted other unethical policies that make the Left’s anointed feel good even though the policies can’t possible work and constitute irresponsible leaps onto ruinous slippery slopes.
The Seattle light rail public transit system has no turnstiles: passengers are supposed to buy a ticket or tap their pre-paid card. It’s an honor system, but in woke Seattle, the ideal purpose of government is to for almost everything, so 70%—Seventy per cent!!—of the riders are freeloaders. This means that fares cover just 5% of the system’s operating costs. 40% was the minimum Sound Transit set as a requirement.
All public transit systems lose money (though they are approved after estimates that routinely overstate likely ridership), but they will help us avoid death by climate change, see, so they are essential and wonderful per se. However, if a city just lets riders cheat, such systems cause wider problems in the social contract.
(Do we really have to keep explaining this?)
Seattle’s Sound Transit stopped even minimal enforcement of fare requirements after a study revealed that blacks were disproportionately getting fined. Ah HA! The system was racist then! How far a jump is it to apply the same logic to other laws? It is how San Francisco. ended up legalizing shop-lifting.
I’m sorry: my tone is snarkier than usual this morning. But this is all so infuriating. And unethical. And stupid.At a recent Sound Transit Board meeting, the outgoing CEO said, “Our fare collection system relies overwhelmingly on an honor system and our increasingly acute problem is that our riders aren’t honoring the system.” Next up for Seattle: an “honor system” in grocery stores and gas stations. I wouldn’t bet against it; I bet AOC would favor it, and the NY Communist rep has fans on the King County Council. Honor systems work when the culture values ethics and honor, and, I should add, know what the hell they are. Seattle endorsed chaos and flaunting the law for months to signal its disapproval of a single police officer accidentally killing an over-dosing perp in another state. Ethics? What’s that?
Back to that racist enforcement thingy…There are other transit systems that rely on the honor system, including those in Portland (of course), Denver (woke) and Dallas (getting woker by the hour). But they all issue serious fines to fare evaders the first time they are caught. This is called “a deterrent,” like the tough penalties for violating the honor codes at the military academies are deterrents. Honor systems don’t work without enforcement.
Hold on to your heads: Seattle’s system now relies on what they call “fare ambassadors” and there are only a small number of them so free-riders seldom have to deal with them. The estimate is that 2% of all riders encounter the “ambassadors.” They politely ask passengers if they have paid their fares. (This is reminiscent of the pre-9/11 trick questions passengers were asked at airports, like, “Did anyone hand you anything that’s in your luggage?” “Are you a terrorist?” was too direct.) Most have not, and if they say, “yes, I’ve paid,” there is no way to prove otherwise. If they are not willing to lie (though willing to steal rides) and answer, “No, ya got me!,” a fare evader still won’t be removed from the from the train. That would be mean and probably racist. No, fare ambassadors then ask a series of questions starting with a request for identification. Most of the scofflaws refuse to produce valid ID, so they can’t even get an official “warning.” Otherwise, Sound Transit will issue two warnings to a cheater before a fine is issued—the odds of a cheater being caught twice in the 2% the ambassadors question are much worse than the odds of drawing to an inside straight in poker. You will perhaps not be surprised to learn that there is also lax enforcement of the fines when they are issued. Mostly, the “fare ambassadors” collect data on the race and gender of the cheaters, just to make sure its the “right” demographic.
No, I am not making this up.
King County Council member Reagan Dunn has figured it out, telling Fox News,
“What we’re seeing here in Seattle is the systemic decriminalization of everything, all the way from fare box recovery to failure to register as a sex offender, and using the guise of equity and social justice so that there isn’t any enforcement of laws. And what you get is higher crime and more evasion.”
Ya think? But we all know that Seattle’s residents will vote overwhelmingly for Democrats locally and state wide. So will the dinosaurs there, presumably.
Sound Transit Board members Claudia Balducci is more typical of the residents of “The Lost City,” explaining, “People are feeling more welcome on our system and less afraid to use it because there’s less of a fear of fare enforcement.”
Meanwhile, the system has cost over $168 billion. Sound Transit collects money from most taxpayers in Pierce, Snohomish and King counties, and everyone pays an additional 1.4% on their sales tax to fund the light rail.
Is this a great country or what? The Seattle strain of The Great Stupid, which can be counted upon to spread if voters don’t start paying attention, is likely to make the answer in the very near term, “It’s what.”