Schoesler says it’s unfair for rural families to help pay tab for free rides

The statewide transportation package passed primarily by Puget Sound-area Democrats in March is now fully subsidizing public-transit and state-ferry travel in some parts of the state for anyone 18 or younger. An eastern Washington legislator, 9th District Sen. Mark Schoesler, says the free-rider program discriminates against kids in rural Washington.

“Unfortunately, this is another example of how the Democratic majority preaches about ‘equity’ without truly practicing it,” said Schoesler, R-Ritzville. “They had to know offering free transit and ferry rides would benefit primarily kids in populous areas, rather than kids in rural counties, even though rural families help pick up the tab.”

Eight Puget Sound-area public-transit agencies began offering free youth fares last week. Other agencies statewide that implement a zero-fare program for riders 18 and under by Oct. 1 will also receive subsidies in the form of grants under the so-called Move Ahead Washington transportation package.

Schoesler also said most Washington motorists won’t be able to benefit from maintenance projects that are underway on parts of Interstate 5, I-405, I-90 and several state highways in King, Snohomish, Skagit and Whatcom counties, even though they are helping to pay for the projects through the Move Ahead Washington package and the “cap-and-tax” legislation approved by Democratic majorities in the Legislature.

“I know the Puget Sound counties have important highway maintenance needs, but so do other parts of our state. I’d like to see the Department of Transportation be as committed to completing highway projects in eastern Washington as it is for the Puget Sound region. We pay taxes and fees, too,” said Schoesler.

“Governor Inslee has been playing up the free transit rides to kids and the Puget Sound-area highway projects. Instead of focusing on programs and projects that mainly help out his supporters, the governor should focus more on the transportation needs of the entire state,” added Schoesler.