You Wouldn't Think People Would Want This Guy's Job: KC Exec Triplett Talks Water Taxis, Cuts

These days, the Elliott Bay Water Taxi--like the job of King County Executive--is being fought over more than a VH1 dating show star. (Fortunately or not, this battle's contestants are more articulate and clothed than their TV counterparts.) Aspiring execs Ross Hunter and Larry Phillips would sink all the boats. Fred Jarrett and Susan Hutchison would keep the current service--but no more--afloat. Aspiring exec Dow Constantine, whose district it serves and with whom the service is nearly synonymous, would go ahead with year-round expansions to keep afloat two lines--West Seattle and Vashon--while cutting five others.

That proposal is the brainchild of incumbent Kurt Triplett, the guy whose job they all want. He'd take the money from the cut ferry lines and use it to fund RapidRide buses. But he's still on the hook for more cuts, if Metro and the County are going to balance their budgets. He spoke with SW about his plans:

As is often the case with county problems--and for good reason--the finger points toward Olympia. The fight over the Water Taxi wouldn't be so nasty, Triplett says, if Christine Gregoire hadn't vetoed the county's ability to use car tab fees to fund more transit. But, as Donald Rumseld once put it, "you go to war with the army you have, not the army you might wish or want to have." Thus, the blade must fall, as it will with parks and public health clinics.

The canceled ferry routes are "dead forever," given the rhetoric of the debates, says Triplett. That rhetoric, of course, is that water taxis are less efficient than buses at moving people. Which would seemingly make keeping any water taxis a bad idea. "You could make the argument to cut [the West Seattle and Vashon lines] from an efficiency standpoint, but when you look at fact that there aren't a lot of ways to get off the island--and the Viaduct's coming down--you see it makes sense" to continue them. He adds, "It's going to be critical when the Viaduct's down."

Meanwhile, Triplett says he'll propose cutting 10% of Metro bus service in each region--Seattle, East King County, and South King County. He won't propose a fare increase for 2010 (there's already a 25-cent increase scheduled), but may for 2011.

When times turn good, Triplett says he'd like to see the bus service restored to what it was, rather than added according to the 20-40-40 formula, whereby Seattle gets 20% of the new service hours and the other two regions each get 40%. But, like his proposal to take a second look at the West Seattle and Vashon foot ferries in 2015, that's something that will occur after he has any say.

And how much say he'll be able to have is unclear--the property tax proposal he supported (and which was proposed by Julia Patterson) was roundly shot down last week, and today his sales tax proposal went entirely ignored. He faces a Council stacked with political climbers and, as a short-term, interim exec, is about as lame as lame ducks get. A lot of people may want his job; it's not clear how many will want his ideas.

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