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Overflow audience calls for preservation of Metro service


700 attend committee meeting on service reduction


The audience who came to the meeting of the Metropolitan King County Council’s Transportation, Economy and Environment Committee sent a clear message to everyone in the County Council chambers: the impact of a reduction in Metro Transit service will be felt throughout the region and should not be allowed to happen.

Courthouse Security estimates that up to 1,000 people lined up to enter the King County Courthouse, a line that stretched south from the Third Avenue entrance of the Courthouse and extended east up Yesler Avenue. Seven hundred people filled Council chambers and three overflow rooms. Of those who signed in, 87 percent indicated support for preserving transit service through Council enactment of a $20 Congestion Reduction Charge.

“The public displayed urgent and overwhelming support for their public transit system,” said Committee Chair Larry Phillips. “People put up with long lines, long waits, and crowded conditions knowing that is what they would face on a daily basis if the King County Council votes to cut bus service by 17 percent.”

“The diversity of last night's large crowd - people from all across the county and from every race and income level - showed how important transit service is to everyone in our community,” said Council Chair Larry Gossett. “Hearing so many of our neighbors share how drastically their lives will be negatively impacted by a 17 percent cut in bus service just reiterated for me the importance of the County Council voting to enact the CRC as soon as possible.”

“The number and diversity of people who attended the public hearing in support of preserving bus service demonstrates the widespread impact of transit in our community,” said Councilmember Bob Ferguson. “As a regular bus commuter on the #41 from Northgate, I share their concerns regarding the potential 17 percent cut to bus service countywide.”

“Students, employees, employers, retirees and traditional adversaries like business and labor groups from across King County rallied together to make it clear that they depend on reliable transit,” said Councilmember Joe McDermott. “I thank them for making their voices heard and urge my colleagues to pass the temporary Congestion Relief Charge.”

Committee members heard testimony from 109 people at the 4 hour meeting. They came to speak and receive more information on the proposed transit service cuts sent to the Council by the County Executive. 100,000 service hours—part of a 17 percent cut in Metro service hours in the next two years—would begin in February 2012 if a proposed temporary $20 Congestion Reduction Charge on vehicle licenses for each of the next two years is not adopted.

Due to the dramatic recession-driven drop in sales tax revenues, Metro Transit is facing a $60 million annual deficit between revenues and the cost of providing current levels of transit service. That shortfall would require Metro to shrink service by 600,000 hours of annual bus service over the next two years, or 17 percent of the entire system, which is the equivalent of cutting all weekend transit service or all weekday commuter service.

The State Legislature authorized a tool that is available to King County to help maintain Metro service at its current level: a temporary $20 Congestion Reduction Charge on vehicle licenses for each of the next two years. County Executive Constantine has sent that proposal to the County Council as well as two other pieces of legislation:

• An ordinance approving a Congestion Relief Plan, a prerequisite for Council action on a Congestion Reduction Charge.
• An ordinance cutting 100,000 hours of Metro bus service effective February 2012, the first step in reducing bus service by 600,000 service hours.

The Transportation Committee will hold one more public hearing on the proposed legislation on Thursday, July 21 at Burien City Council Chambers , 400 S.W. 152nd Street starting at 6:00 p.m.

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