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Originally published Tuesday, June 14, 2011 at 6:20 PM

Ruling to allow Metro to offer service to sporting, community events

The decision Tuesday overturned a 2010 ruling that deemed it unconstitutional to allow public transit to provide service to private events.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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Metro Transit will be able to offer rides to sporting and other events under a court ruling Tuesday in Washington, D.C.

The Washington, D.C., Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that a provision Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., inserted into a bill before the Transportation Appropriations Committee was legal.

Public bus service to Mariners and other sporting and community events was stopped in 2009 when a Federal Transit Administration determined taxpayer money could not be used for public transit to private events. Because of that, Metro did not offer service to Mariner or Seahawk games and other events that year.

But in 2010, Murray put a provision in a Senate Appropriations bill that specifically allowed Metro to provide the service. Private shuttle operators, including Seattle's Starline Transportation, complained. And the U.S. District Court for Washington, D.C., ruled the provision was unconstitutional. On Tuesday that ruling was overturned.

That means Metro can again provide service to the Mariners, Seahawks, Sounders, Seafair and other events.

An injunction was issued in 2010 over the court ruling so Metro had continued to provide service for Seahawks, Sounders and other events while awaiting Tuesday's decision. The Mariners did not sign up for the service.

"Now it clears the air," said Metro spokeswoman Linda Thielke. "This recent court decision gives us the go-ahead to do it." She said it's up to event sponsors whether they want to contract with Metro for the service.

"This ruling is great news for Seattle sports fans," said Murray, in a release. "Providing affordable and efficient transportation will help support our local sports teams, bolster the local economy and decrease traffic congestion in the city."

Murray said private charter buses increased fees, couldn't accommodate disabled fans and did not reduce congestion. She said she sponsored her amendment because of complaints from fans and sports organizations.

Metro doesn't make or lose money on the shuttles because event sponsors cover the costs through a fee and passenger fares.

It's unclear whether the circuit-court ruling will be appealed.

Susan Gilmore: 206-464-2054 or

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