New legislation advances Metro reforms while preserving Eastside service
StoryMetropolitan King County Council Vice Chair Jane Hague and Councilmember Kathy Lambert today stood with King County Executive Dow Constantine as they announced agreement on a joint proposal to fund Metro Transit services targeted for the next two years through a $20 Congestion Reduction Charge (CRC).
The bipartisan agreement averts the need for 17 percent in Metro service cuts – many of which would occur on the Eastside.
“This is a very different legislative package from what was initially proposed,” said Councilmember Hague. “This deal offers real reform. It cuts waste, creates jobs and provides equity to the Eastside. It’s important we keep people moving while reforming Metro.”
“This enhanced negotiation has given us an in-depth opportunity to look at how we can make transit and transportation stable for the next two years,” said Councilmember Lambert. “During this time of an uncertain economy our citizens want best value for their dollars. This plan will provide bus vouchers worth $20 and will still keep infrastructure so that there will be a bus at the bus stop when they need it. Preserving our existing hours during these times of economic uncertainty is vital to business success and citizens going to their jobs in our community.”
“I want to thank Councilmembers Hague and Lambert for their leadership on this issue,” said Executive Constantine. “I know it was not an easy decision, but we worked together to craft a proposal that serves the people of East King County well.”
Elements of the new package include:
• The preservation of current levels of Metro service on the Greater Eastside. Under the previous proposal, Eastside service would have been cut by 120,000 hours.
• Implementation of “right-sizing” consistent with the Transit Strategic Plan. Rather than eliminating low-ridership routes that serve lower-density areas, Metro will deploy lower-cost, more efficient Dial-a-Ride Transit service (DART), community access transportation services, Vanpools and vanshares, which will make Metro more efficient and responsive to riders.
• A Transit Incentive Program that will provide eight bus tickets, up to $24, in exchange for each car tab renewal. Individuals will be able to use the tickets for bus rides to anywhere within the county. Or they can choose to donate the value of those tickets for distribution by select human service agencies.
• A phase out of the downtown Seattle Ride Free Area in October 2012, which was called for by the County Council’s 2009 Metro performance audit. The elimination will save $2.2 million a year.
• Language consistent with the Transit Strategic Plan that calls for routes which carry more riders due to the effect of highway tolling, including SR-520, as candidates for added service.
Over the past few years Metro has saved approximately $143 million per year in costs. However, because of a steep drop in sales tax revenues due to the recession, Metro still faces considerable budget shortfalls. Metro expected to have a $60 million a year deficit through 2015. The two-year temporary charge would generate about $25 million per year. The combination of the congestion charge and the use of one-time reserves would enable Metro to avoid large service reductions in 2012-2013 projected at 17 percent across the board.
The CRC has been endorsed by a diverse group of local stakeholders. These groups include: The Bellevue Downtown Association, King County Labor Council, Civilian Alliance for a Sound Economy (CASE), Microsoft, Cascade Bicycle Club, Alliance of non-profits, and the Kirkland City Council, among many others. The Council has also received a petition signed by 10,000 current bus riders.
The Council is scheduled to consider the CRC on Monday, August 15.
Compare the original proposal with the amended plan