Upthegrove Calls for Free Drunk Buses On Boozy Holidays

The wheels, and riders’ perception of gravity, will go ‘round and ‘round.

A King County Metro electric trolley. Photo via KingCounty.gov.

Drinking without driving may be about to get a little easier for King Countians, at least during some holidays. King County Councilmember Dave Upthegrove has introduced legislation that would make late-night Metro transit go later and farther, for free, during the Fourth of July and New Year’s.

Both holidays, of course, are associated with ritual bing drinking—and therefore, thanks to car-centric transportation infrastructure, are also associated with drunk driving. According to Upthegrove’s proposed legislation, in King County the Washington State Patrol typically arrests dozens of drunk drivers during New Year’s festivities and hundreds during the week of Independence Day. While sober drivers cause the vast majority of accidents (fatal, injurious or otherwise), a recent statistical review of crash data by the U.S. Department of Transportation found that driving while boozed exponentially increases the likelihood of a crash. (Driving stoned, on the other hand, had little or no correlation with increased crash risk, once demographic variables were adjusted for.)

How do you get drunks out of the driver’s seat? Put them on buses, says Upthegrove. From his motion: “Because of the benefits to public safety and personal mobility, King County Metro should explore options for providing free late-night service on the Fourth of July and the evening of New Year’s Eve and early morning of New Year’s Day.” The motion goes on to request that County Executive Dow Constantine’s office come up with a plan for how to do so by June 1.

Upthegrove’s proposal is in addition to, and seperate from, proposed legislation from Constantine and Seattle Mayor Ed Murray that would add about 11,000 hours of late-night transit service to the greater Seattle area starting in September. Seattle will pay for most of that expansion, which according to a press release would add late-night (from 2:15 to 4:30 a.m.) service to existing bus routes 3, 5, 11, and 70 and expand late-night service on routes 65, 67, 44 and 48. Upthegrove says he’s still talking to colleagues about his drunk bus proposal and doesn’t yet know how much support there is for it. His motion is tentatively scheduled for a hearing in the county council’s Transportation, Economy and Environment committee on March 7.

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