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King County Executive News

King County Executive News
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Feb. 5, 2009

Metro bus and van ridership set another record in 2008

Bus service in jeopardy because of poor economy and dramatic drop in sales tax revenue

Riders Boarding MetroPeople are turning to transit in record numbers for the third straight year as preliminary 2008 ridership numbers show an unprecedented 20 percent increase in King County Metro ridership since 2005. Estimates show 118 million trips were taken on Metro buses in 2008 – a seven percent increase over 2007.

Growth was partly fueled by service expansion made possible by "Transit Now" – a 10-year initiative funded by a one-tenth of one percent sales tax increase to expand the Metro system by up to 20 percent to meet growing demand. In all, Metro has added 110,000 hours of Transit Now service as promised and within budget since the program began in 2006. A total of 70,000 of those hours were added on more than 30 routes countywide in 2008.

Use of Metro commuter vans reached a record 3.1 million trips in 2008 including:

  • 2,789,480 commute trips in Metro vanpools, a 21 percent increase over 2007;
  • 377,798 commuter trips in Metro Vanshare vans, a 29 percent increase over 2007.

Use of Metro park-and-ride lots was also up in 2008. More than 18,000 commuters took the bus from Metro park-and-ride lots each weekday – a 3.5 percent increase from 2007.

"Historic increases in ridership tell us Metro is becoming the new travel choice for thousands of residents in the region, which helps relieve congestion and reduces air pollution," King County Executive Ron Sims said. "All this could be lost as sales taxes continue to plummet. We must find more stable funding for Metro such as the proposed Motor Vehicle Excise Tax currently before the legislature.

"This record ridership shows that people want more bus service and when new services are added, the riders will come," Sims said.

Transit agencies nationwide are experiencing circumstances similar to King County Metro, which has record ridership and an unprecedented financial crisis caused by volatile fuel prices and a steep drop in sales tax revenues. Executive Sims is seeking a one percent MVET for three reasons:

  • Sustain current service that will be lost as sales tax revenues fall;
  • Significantly expand bus service countywide as the economy rebounds; and
  • Provide the new dedicated bus service necessary to address traffic congestion during and after construction of the proposed deep-bore tunnel.

King County Metro Transit is among the 10 largest bus systems in the nation. Metro buses provide an estimated 118 million passenger trips a year, and the agency operates some of the largest commuter vanpool and park-and-ride programs in the country. It is also recognized as a leader in reducing pollution with its use of clean-burning fuels, electric trolleys, and hybrid buses. Metro customers consistently give the agency high marks for friendly, on-time service.