The Homeland

Two signs that the mother country is not safe appeared in the same edition of The Seattle Times last Saturday, May 8. Officials seem confounded by two unrelated problems. Item 1: "A 37-year-old Kent man drove a blue Cadillac into Metro's downtown bus tunnel Wednesday and traveled the length of it before being stopped by Metro police." This is a rare occurrence, Metro spokesperson Linda Thielke told the Times, but it wasn't the first time. She said security guards at both ends of the tunnel are supposed to stop cars from entering. "We're trying to figure it out." Allow me to help: Bus tunnel security is a joke. (So what? Go to Google, type "sarin cdc," and click on "I'm Feeling Lucky.") At the Convention Place station, where buses enter from Interstate 5 or from Olive Way, there is often but not always a Metro Transit Police car stationed off to the side of the supposedly bus-only freeway ramp. The Olive Way entrance is wide open and unattended. There is also a guard shack, where a Metro worker used to be stationed, presumably to look into the eyes of bus drivers to make sure everything is OK. But on Monday morning the shack was empty, and the Metro policeman in the patrol car had his head down. Meanwhile, there are no security guards in the tunnel stations, as you would find in D.C.'s Metro system, for example, and if there is video monitoring, it isn't obvious, as it should be. Item 2: The Transportation Security Administration relieved of duty four top security officials at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport in the midst of a months-long investigation of management and leadership problems, the Times (and the Seattle Post-Intelligencer) reported. Coincidentally, last Friday, May 7, I took Alaska Airlines Flight 2 to Reagan National Airport in Washington, D.C., and here's how my journey through Sea-Tac went. I printed out my boarding pass at home, since I wasn't checking

any bags, and proceeded straight to the D and N gates security checkpoint. One woman glanced at my driver's license and homemade boarding pass, which I could easily have forged, and that was the only time my identity was scrutinized. At the X-ray machine and metal detector, an overly relaxed, joking-around demeanor prevailed. This security checkpoint would intimidate no one. At Gate D5, where Alaska's nonstop D.C. flights depart—and where, in the days after 9/11, there was a second security phase, including random searches and one or two more ID checks—they only wanted my boarding pass. No one checked my ID. CHUCK TAYLOR


The Seattle Monorail Project's good news is that in the first 13 months of existence, operating expenses came in $4.7 million under budget. The bad news: Revenues were $14.1 million under budget—a nearly $10 million shortfall due to overblown projections of a car-license-renewal tax. According to a new financial audit by Moss-Adams, the license-plate tax base was originally predicted to be $4.5 billion over time, but "based on actual collections and information," it turns out to be closer to $3.1 billion. That lost projected income has led to downsizing of SMP's rail miles, services, and station sizes, and upsized travel times and overhead switching platforms. The audit, seen by monorail officials as a thumbs-up review, expensewise, notes that the tax collections pose "some unique challenges for budgeting." Like, not ever knowing what your bottom line will be, perhaps? RICK ANDERSON

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