Patrick Robinson
Metro Transit had charts, graphs, handouts, and a powerpoint presentation they shared at a public outreach meeting at the Youngstown Cultural Arts Center in West Seattle on Dec. 3 all meant to explain the details of proposed dramatic cuts to Metro bus service if a permanent and adequate funding solution is not found before next spring.

Metro reaches out with the facts on the proposed transit cuts

Metro Transit held the first of its public outreach meetings on the proposed drastic cuts to service at the Youngstown Cultural Arts Center Tuesday, Dec. 3

Metro has said that service cuts could begin next fall as other funding runs out, starting in June and would be phased in over time unless the legislature takes action to pass a transportation package. The special session that would have addressed the issue did not happen so the next opportunity to address it will come when the state House and Senate return to work in January. Without a long term solution to the $75 million annual funding shortfall, King County Metro will be forced to cut 17 percent of its services.

74 canceled bus routes and revision to 107 other routes would be phased in, based on a sophisticated weighting system that evaluates multiple factors. The public outreach period is planned to extend through next February. In March, the King County Council would then consider and adopt phased service cuts with the first ones taking place in June with the loss of 150 daily trips of the Viaduct Construction bus service. The more serious cuts would begin Sept. 27. Phase 2 would begin in February of 2014, Phase 3 in January of 2015 and Phase 4 in September of 2015 with the total reductions amounting to a cut of 600,000 service hours or 14 million rides annually. The full range of cuts, where and when are posted online on Metro's website but the overview is this:

  • 74 routes would be deleted.
  • 107 routes would be changed.
  • 33 unchanged routes would likely become more crowded.

During the presentation Route 37 along Beach Drive S.W. was used as an example of a route that would be cut early in the process since it carries fewer riders and did not meet other high need priorities. Metro notes on its site these Rider options:

  • On Beach Drive SW, Metro’s RideShare, VanPool, or Hyde Shuttle programs may be options.
  • On Alki Avenue SW and Harbor Avenue SW, use Water Taxi shuttle routes 773 or 775 (both unchanged).
  • In the Alki neighborhood, use revised Route 56 Express.

This is happening against a background of increased demand. Traffic is down by 25,000 vehicles a day on SR 99 and the Alaskan Way Viaduct while bus ridership from West Seattle has increased by close to 10,000 riders, a 42 percent increase since 2009. Metro provides about 400,000 rides each day and is close to the annual record of 119 million riders reached in 2008.

The funding shortfall is as a result of multiple factors including the 2008 recession and lingering effects since sales tax receipts are below necessary levels. When the loss of temporary funding from Alaskan Way Viaduct construction mitigation is factored in, Metro faces a $75 million dollar shortfall.

The next opportunity to pass a transportation package in January will still likely face the opposition of four Republican senators. Senators Andy Hill (R-Redmond), Joe Fain (R-Auburn), and Steve Litzow (R-Mercer Island) and the leader of what they call the Bipartisan Majority Coalition Caucus, Senator Rodney Tom (R-Bellevue) blocked action on the Transportation package that was passed by the house in the last session, thus preventing its consideration.

In light of the state legislature to take action, King County Executive Dow Constantine has proposed a "Plan B" in which the citizens of King County would pursue the authority to tax themselves in a Transportation Benefit District approach and the County has reached a labor agreement with Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 587 which calls for a one-year wage freeze followed by a 2 percent fixed-rate wage increase in each of the remaining two years of the contract – a wage structure that may serve as a model for other County labor contracts.

The next public meeting is set for Thursday, December 5th and will take place at North Seattle Community College, from 6-8 p.m.

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