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Sending transit where it’s needed: Recommendations of Regional Transit Task Force restructures delivery of bus service

Summary

Proposals include increased performance measures, controlling costs

Story

The panel created to develop a vision for public transportation in King County today presented a County Council Committee a series of recommendations that include sending transit to the parts of the County that use it the most. The seven recommendations presented by the Regional Transit Task Force (RTTF) to the Council’s Committee of the Whole also include new performance measures based on productivity, greater transparency in the allocation of service and development of a sustainable funding mechanism for Metro Transit.

“I commend all the RTTF members for the extensive time and effort they put into this report,” said Council Vice Chair Jane Hague, Chair of the Committee of the Whole. “Their recommendations will be an interesting factor as we continue to discuss the future of Metro Transit.”

“With the Great Recession threatening to decimate Metro with service cuts of approximately 20 percent over the next four years, it was critical to bring diverse stakeholders together to develop a unified vision for preserving our transit system,” said Councilmember Larry Phillips, sponsor of the ordinance that created the RTTF. “Regional Transit Task Force recommendations can take Metro in a new, more productive and sustainable direction.”

“For many people in my district, Metro Transit is not an alternative form of transportation, it is their only form of transportation,” said Councilmember Larry Gossett, Chair of the Regional Transit Committee. “The RTTF recommendations will ensure that transit dependent people throughout King County will be able to continue to depend on Metro to get them to work, school and their appointments.”

“King County Metro faces major budget challenges not just now, but in the upcoming years,” said Councilmember Julia Patterson, Chair of the Budget and Fiscal Management Committee. “Unfortunately, these budget difficulties come at a time when increased mobility options are needed more than ever before. I want to thank the work of the Task Force for helping shape a vision for Metro that will create a world-class transit system, while acknowledging these financial constraints.”

A sharp drop in the sales tax revenues that support bus service led to a projected loss of 600,000 service hours for Metro Transit in 2012-2014. In response to the potential loss of service, the Council directed the County Executive to convene a task force of regional stakeholders to discuss the future of Metro Transit. The panel was charged with developing a comprehensive vision for what the regional transit system should look like in the future as well as looking at criteria for systematically growing or reducing the transit system, depending on revenues available.

The 28 members of the Task Force were a geographically balanced mix of elected officials, representatives of labor, business and other regional interests, and rider interests including human service agencies, educational and commuter interests, as well as riders. After 13 meetings over a seven month period, the Task Force unanimously adopted a set of seven recommendations, which include:

• The policy guidance for making service reduction and service growth decisions should be based on the following priorities:
     o Emphasizing productivity due to its linkage to economic development, land use, financial sustainability, and environmental  sustainability;
     o Ensuring social equity; and
     o Providing geographic value throughout the county.

• Metro should create and adopt a new set of performance measures based on productivity to assist in decisions regarding service, and report on the agency’s performance on these measures annually;
• King County and Metro management must control all of the agency’s operating expenses to provide a cost structure that is sustainable over time;
• Create clear and transparent guidelines to be used for making service allocation decisions, based upon the recommended policy direction;
• King County, Metro, and a broad coalition of community and business interests should pursue state legislation to create additional revenue sources that would provide a long-term, more sustainable base of revenue support for transit services.

“This stakeholder process has created a framework for transit service that will keep people connected to their jobs, communities and services, helping to strengthen the economy, reduce congestion and improve our environment,” said Task Force member Rob Johnson, Executive Director of the Transportation Choices Coalition. “During these tough economic times, preserving transit access to our communities most transit dependent riders including the elderly, low income families and the disabled is vital and was also an important recommendation of the task force.”

The recommendations from the task force will help guide the updates to Metro Transit’s Strategic Plan. The goal is to present those updates to the County Council and the Council’s Regional Transit Committee in the spring of 2011. The updates would then become part of the 2012-2013 transportation budget the County Executive will transmit to the Council next fall.


RTTF final report (1.2MB pdf)

Regional Transit Task Force 

Read the PowerPoint presented by the RTTF
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