160,000 service hours lost, reviewing options that include independent audits, possible fare increase to limit additional reductions in 2015
StoryThe Metropolitan King County Council today approved a reduction of Metro Transit service starting this September. But as it made those reductions, the Council also unanimously approved an effort to reduce the transit cuts the County may be forced to make in 2015.
“I heard from the voters in April, and they resoundingly told us that King County and Metro needed to do more work and consider each and every option before asking for additional revenue,” said Councilmember Rod Dembowski, chair of the Council’s Transportation, Economy and Environment Committee and the prime sponsor of the adopted service reduction ordinance. “I put forward this plan to identify additional cost savings, efficiencies and new revenue that can reduce Metro's annual budget gap, and thereby significantly decrease the number of transit service hours that need to be cut.”
With the defeat of proposition 1, the County Executive asked the Council to approve legislation implementing a transit service reduction plan that would reduce bus service by 550,000 hours in 2014 and 2015. The ordinance approved today implements ONLY the service reductions originally proposed for September of this year, with a focus on the cutting of bus routes that are below the 25 percent productivity threshold that is part of the County’s adopted Transit Service Guidelines. The total number of bus routes cut will be 31, with an additional 8 routes altered.
“The League of Women Voters of Seattle-King County provided testimony to the County Council on the decision to finalize the proposed cuts to Metro Transit last week and continue to support Councilmember Dembowski's efforts to postpone the decision making for 2015 transit cuts until further information can be available and his work to provide a ‘more measured approach’ can be completed,” said Janet Winans, League of Women Voters Seattle-King County Transportation Chair. “We are pleased his action plan was approved and that the decisions on final cuts have been postponed until after November.”
The service reduction ordinance requires a report on the Dial-A-Ride-Transit (DART) service routes affected by the ordinance. DART service is operated under contract. The report must explain how DART service is proposed to be used to avoid other transit reductions and must explain what has been done to manage the fiscal impact of cuts.
As part of the transit reduction ordinance, the Council also unanimously adopted a motion calling on the Executive to consider several strategies to reduce or prevent the proposed service reductions for February 2015, June 2015 and September 2015. Those strategies include:
• An independent audit of Metro's operations, finances and fund balance policies;
• Changing fare policies to increase revenue; and
• Reducing Metro’s cost structure and establishing standards through which Metro can be measured against its peers.
The motion also includes policy statements that call for:
• Preservation of a sustainable, growing and regional transit system - consistent with the Strategic Plan for Public Transportation and complementary to the Principles being considered by the Sound Cities Association;
• Using the strategies presented (fare policies, audits, working group recommendations), to establish a goal of lessening 2015 transit service reductions and restructures consistent with the strategic plan and guidelines;
• Support of working with the Legislature and Cities within King County on funding strategies for investment in a reformed Metro Transit System.
The motion states that the results of the strategies and the policy statements be anticipated as part of the Council’s deliberations on the 2015-2016 King County Budget, including possible reductions in transit service.
“Cuts proposed for 2015, if necessary, would be finalized after we complete our budget process for the next two years,” said Dembowski. “Cutting service hours before this work is done is, in my view, operating in the dark and ignores the many choices we have to keep buses rolling.”