Last year, Democratic Senator Patty Murray did local sports fans a solid when she carved out an exception to a Bush Administration policy that prohibited public transit agencies from competing with private bus companies. As a result of the exception, the Mariners were able to revive an agreement with King County Metro to give fans cheap gameday bus service. Unfortunately for them, a federal judge has ruled the "Murray Amendment" unconstitutional.
The program had been on hiatus for a year after the Bush rule went into effect, says team spokesperson Rebecca Hale. Then Murray managed to amend the federal transportation guidelines, making King County the only federally funded transportation agency in the country that was immune to the so-called Charter Rule.
That didn't sit well with the United Motorcoach Association (UMA). Shortly after opening day, the UMA filed a lawsuit against the Federal Transit Administration charging that Murray's amendment was invalid. Yesterday, U.S. District Court Judge Ellen Huvelle sided with the UMA, and ordered that the Charter Rule be enforced. The amendment "barely withstands rational basis scrutiny," wrote Huvelle in her conclusion.
Thielke says that the Mariners won't be the only organization affected by the decision. The University of Washington, the Sounders and even Seafair have all taken advantage of the discounted bus service program, she says.
On the Mariners end, Hale says that despite lower than hoped for ridership numbers, the Mariners are disappointed with the court's decision. "One of the problems with private charter services is that in the past is that they haven't been able to accommodate handicapped riders," she says.
Hale says the team hasn't decided what its next step is, or when service will ultimately be cut.The team's next home game is scheduled for June 18.