On Tuesday, July 11, an estimated 700 people waited in line outside the King County Courthouse to testify in front of the County Council’s Transportation, Economy and Environment committee on the impact that possible reductions to Metro bus service would have on them personally. Hundreds were able to explain how their lives could be affected. Constituents from diverse communities voiced their opinions, and 87% of the attendees who signed in indicated support for a temporary Congestion Reduction Charge to preserve current levels of Metro bus service.
One important factor leading to the unprecedented turnout was social media outreach by a wide array of community groups. About two weeks before the hearing, concerned citizens posted the event information on their blogs and encouraged attendance in community group newsletters. By the afternoon of July 11, multiple groups had invited event attendees via Twitter and Facebook. King County tweeted bus routes residents could use to travel to the hearing, and alerted bus riders that congestion may occur near the bus routes serving the Courthouse. More than an hour before the hearing started, the line to go through a security check and enter the Courthouse extended around the block.
Originally, only fifty people were expected for the meeting, and King County’s security staff prepared for 250 attendees. While the large crowd was unexpected, security staff adjusted and were able to get citizens through the necessary screening as quickly as possible. When the Council Chambers were completely filled, security directed citizens to overflow rooms, where they could view the hearing on monitors and hear when they would be called to present their testimony. Council members listened for hours as citizens told their stories. No one was turned away. In all, the committee heard from 109 people about the issue.
The third and final hearing will be held Thursday, July 21 at Burien City Hall. 301 SW 152nd St., starting at 6 p.m.