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Metro announces proposed bus service cuts


News Release: The consequences of inaction to date on stable and sustainable funding for public transit were spelled out today, as King County Metro Transit detailed drastic cuts to bus service that must be planned now in the absence of funding.


Upon expiration of temporary funding and draining of reserves, Metro would have to cancel 74 bus routes, reduce or revise 107 others, starting June 2014

The consequences of inaction to date on stable and sustainable funding for public transit were spelled out today, as King County Metro Transit detailed drastic cuts to bus service that must be planned now in the absence of funding.

“The time for action is now, with the Legislature in special session, to avert cuts to bus service that would be without precedent in the 40-year history of Metro,” said King County Executive Dow Constantine. “At a time when riders need more bus service, it is unconscionable to be compelled to cut it.”

Temporary funding dedicated for Metro Transit expires next year, and Metro has exhausted its reserves and implemented many efficiencies and cost-savings. Metro’s service guidelines identify the need for increasing service by 15 percent – but without funding in place after next year, Metro today released a proposal that details up to 17 percent in cuts to bus service. Another 150 daily bus trips between West Seattle and downtown Seattle – buses that ease construction congestion during the Alaskan Way Viaduct project – also are at risk of being canceled in June when state funding ends.

The state legislature is again considering statewide transportation funding during a special session. But until a solution is finalized Metro Transit must take steps to prepare to cancel 74 bus routes and reduce service on another 107 routes starting next year. The proposed cuts are needed to reduce Metro’s costs and would affect riders and communities across King County beginning as soon as June 2014.

“Buses are on the chopping block throughout King County, severing people’s lifelines for getting to work,” said Councilmember Larry Phillips, Chair of the Transportation, Economy, and Environment Committee. “These drastic transit cuts move King County in the worst possible direction for mobility and a prosperous economy. Voters deserve to have a say about this, either by the State Legislature coming through on a transportation package in the current special session, or by King County finding other funding options.”

The proposed cuts would revert Metro’s service to levels not seen since 1997 – even as ridership nears all-time highs. Ridership is up 40 percent on SR 520, and RapidRide growth continues. Traffic is down 25,000 vehicles a day on SR 99 while bus ridership from West Seattle is up nearly 10,000 riders – 42 percent – since 2009. Metro provides about 400,000 rides each day and is nearing the annual record of 119 million riders reached in 2008.

“The Legislature must use today's special session to give King County the tools we need to stave off these draconian bus cuts,” said Larry Gossett, Chair of the Metropolitan King County Council. “The drastic bus cuts we are facing are going to disproportionately affect those in our community who can least afford it.”

"We are the economic engine of the state and have a need for stable and on-going transportation funding," said Councilmember Jane Hague. "It is essential that we receive funding tools from the legislature so that voters are able to choose the levels of service they are willing to support."

Metro must plan service changes and notify the public months in advance of potential implementation, and will launch a wide outreach effort to inform riders of any such changes. Three months of public meetings are planned prior to the King County Council’s consideration next spring of the proposed service cuts that would have to begin as soon as next June, with more cuts to follow through 2014 and 2015.

“Riders already face crowded buses, and our growing county and economy needs more bus service, not cuts,” said Metro Transit General Manager Kevin Desmond.

The proposed cuts could mean a loss of an unprecedented 14 million rides annually, Desmond said.

“Temporary funding and reserves run out next year – and those were part of how we kept service running through the weak economy after the Great Recession,” Desmond said. “Recent economic growth is good news but doesn’t rescue us, as sales tax receipts are still below 2008 levels and remain a volatile source of Metro’s revenue. We’ll continue to push for stable funding to keep King County and the state’s economy moving forward, but time is running out. Metro must plan for service cuts to reduce costs and operate within our adopted budget.”

Metro is launching a public outreach effort to inform tens of thousands of riders who face the prospect of losing transit service. Metro plans a series of public meetings in November, December and January to explain the proposed cuts and answer rider questions. King County supports a comprehensive state transportation package to address highway issues in our region and provide a local funding option for Metro.

The King County Council will consider finalizing the proposed cuts in spring, to be reviewed in light of updated financial forecasts available in March. Cuts in Alaskan Way Viaduct mitigation service would begin in June unless state funding becomes available; other cuts would follow beginning in September.

Routes to be canceled, reduced, revised
Planners worked to balance cuts across the county. Using its guidelines, Metro’s proposal takes steps to avoid harming those people most dependent on transit while reducing operating costs.

“We know any cut to transit service hurts people who depend on transit, and potentially sends thousands of other riders back into their cars to clog highways,” said Metro Service Development Supervisor Victor Obeso. “To the degree possible, our proposal maintains target service levels in areas with high percentages of minority and low-income residents who use transit, while taking a hard look at performance data on routes and segments.”

Metro’s strategic plan and service guidelines direct where transit service is prioritized. Transit planners analyzed spring 2013 ridership and route performance data to identify specific routes for cuts and revisions. Routes, trips or parts of routes up to the 50th percentile of performance were considered for deleting or reducing. If a route duplicates other service, meaning it runs along common segments or to the same destination(s), it also is more likely to be cut. Peak-period routes were considered for cuts by comparing travel time and ridership performance to the all-day service.  Even routes that carry lots of riders are subject revision or consolidation with other routes to common destinations, to more efficiently operate with fewer resources.

Routes were less likely reduced if existing service already was below target service levels, determined in part by weighing the number of homes, jobs, and colleges nearby, and the number of people who rely on transit in areas that have high percentages of minority and low-income residents. In recent years, Metro has shifted resources from less efficient transit service to buses that travel where riders need them most.

Route details
Proposed cuts of up to 600,000 hours of service, or about 17 percent of Metro’s current service, and 45,000 hours of Alaskan Way Viaduct construction mitigation service, are posted online.

  • 74 of Metro’s 214 routes would be deleted: 4, 5EX, 7EX, 19, 21, 22, 25, 26, 27, 28, 30, 31, 37, 47, 48EX, 57, 61, 62, 66EX, 67, 68, 72, 82, 83, 84, 99, 110, 113, 139, 152, 154, 158, 159, 161, 167, 173, 178, 179, 190, 192, 200, 201, 202, 203, 205EX, 209, 210, 211EX, 213, 215, 217, 237, 238, 242, 243, 244EX, 250, 260, 265, 277, 280, 304, 306EX, and 308; and DART routes 901, 908, 909, 910, 913, 916, 919, 927, 930, and 935.
  • 107 routes would be reduced or revised. Examples of changes are fewer trips, service ending earlier at night, deletion of the tail-end of a route, and combination of routes. C Line, D Line, 1, 2, 3*, 5, 7, 8, 9EX, 11, 12, 13*, 14, 16*, 17EX, 18EX, 21EX, 24, 26EX*, 28EX*, 29, 32*, 33, 36, 40, 41, 43, 44, 49, 50*, 55, 56EX, 60, 64EX, 65, 70*, 71, 73*, 98**, 105, 106*, 107, 111, 114, 116EX, 118EX, 118, 119EX, 119, 120, 121, 122, 123, 124, 125, 128, 131, 132, 143EX, 148, 150, 156, 157*, 164, 168*, 177*, 180, 181*, 182, 186, 187, 193EX, 197, 204, 208, 212*, 214, 221, 226, 232, 234, 235*, 236, 240, 241, 245, 248, 249, 252, 255, 257, 269, 271, 311, 331, 342*, 346, 348, 355EX*, 358EX* (E Line), and 372EX; and DART routes 903, 907, 914, 915, 917, and 931. (*Routes have additional service, trips as a result of a revision; ** South Lake Union Streetcar)
  • 33 routes would not be changed, but would likely become more crowded as they absorb riders who lost their service. A Line, B line, 10, 15EX, 48, 74EX, 75, 76, 77, 101, 102, 140 (F Line), 153, 166, 169, 183, 216, 218, 219, 224, 246, 268, 301, 303EX, 309EX, 312EX, 316, 330, 345, 347, 373EX, 601EX, DART 906
  • ADA paratransit services – If the proposed 17 percent service reductions are imposed on the fixed route system, ADA paratransit service may also face reductions.

“Each day thousands of King County residents depend upon Metro buses to get to work and school and to access goods and services," said Council Vice Chair Julia Patterson. “These service cuts would be devastating to our communities and our economy, and I hope the legislature will act to give Metro the tools to avoid service cuts.”

“Saving Metro service is a top priority for a broad coalition comprised of citizens, business, environmental advocates and local government. That’s because our buses are critical to our region’s economic health,” said Councilmember Joe McDermott.  “We are simply asking the Legislature to give us a chance to decide. The time to act is now.”

“It is essential that we make the necessary investments in our roads and transit system that are necessary to ensure continued economic growth,” said Councilmember Rod Dembowski.  “As Chair of the Regional Transit Committee, I implore our legislators to act now and pass a balanced transportation funding package that completes major roads projects and keeps our state’s transit systems strong.”

Financial management, reforms
While the weak economy forced some transit agencies around the country and in Puget Sound to make service cuts, Metro took a myriad of actions to keep service on the road through the Great Recession and recovery. Ridership is nearly at pre-recession levels. Sales tax collections, Metro’s key source of revenue, continue to grow, but King County economists predict that in 2014 they might only reach levels last seen in 2008. Meanwhile, Metro’s operating costs have grown over time even as the agency achieves substantial savings.

Metro kept service on the road through the financial crisis by implementing comprehensive financial reforms that have closed the budget gap by $800 million from 2009 through 2013. These efforts included permanent new operating efficiencies, staff reductions, spending reserves, increased fares and temporary revenue. About $52 million of Metro’s temporary revenue through June 2014 comes from a two-year congestion reduction charge approved by the County Council, collected through a $20 fee on vehicle tab renewals in King County. The legislation authorized the temporary two-year charge in anticipation of a statewide package with more stable ongoing funding for Metro Transit service.

Public outreach, meetings
Metro plans public meetings and other informational opportunities throughout the county during the next three months. Riders with questions or comments can visit Metro’s service cuts page for more information. On social media channels, riders can use #KCMetroCuts to join the conversation.

  • Federal Way: Wednesday, Nov. 20, 6-8 p.m., Federal Way Community Center
  • West Seattle: Tuesday, Dec. 3, 6-8 p.m., Youngstown Cultural Arts Center
  • North Seattle: Thursday, Dec. 5, 6-8 p.m., North Seattle Community College
  • Downtown Seattle: Tuesday, Dec. 10, noon- 2 p.m., Union Station
  • Bellevue: Wednesday, Dec. 11, 6- 8 p.m., Bellevue City Hall
  • Kent: Monday, Dec. 16, 6-8 p.m., Kent Commons
  • Kirkland: Thursday, Jan. 16, 6- 8 p.m., Peter Kirk Community Center
  • Southeast Seattle: Thursday, Jan. 23, 6-8 p.m., South Shore K-8
  • North King County: Monday, Jan. 27, 6-8 p.m., Lake Forest Park City Hall