Nov. 5, 2010
Stable source of funding and reforms for Metro Transit urged by regional task force
Unanimous recommendations urge allocation of bus service based on productivity, geographic value, and social equityA 28-member task force representing a broad coalition of transit stakeholders from throughout the region has unanimously agreed on key recommendations that include working with the Legislature on a more stable source of funding for public transit, and setting priorities that guide how decisions are made on service reductions or service growth.
These and other recommendations mark unprecedented consensus on a new course for King County Metro Transit that emphasizes performance, efficiency and financial stability.
“These recommendations help meet the goal I first set last year: to allocate transit based on what makes sense, rather than on arbitrary political divisions,” said King County Executive Dow Constantine. “Rather than quarrel over an ever-shrinking pie, we need to work together to provide bus service that is productive and meets the needs of the entire county.”
The seven recommendations in the Regional Transit Task Force (RTTF) report, eight months in the making, represent a potential resolution to long-standing differences regarding policies for allocating Metro bus service. Rather than adding or reducing service based on geographic subarea formulas, the plan links service to productivity, connections to job markets, and demand for transit – balanced with a strong consideration for geographic value and social equity.
“The recommendations of the Regional Transit Task Force advance work we started in 2008 to make Metro more efficient and wring as much service as possible out of every dollar,” said Metropolitan King County Councilmember Larry Phillips, chair of the Council’s Environment and Transportation Committee. “The task force’s work balancing the interests of individual stakeholders with the interests of the region and the Metro system as a whole is truly remarkable and exemplary. I look forward to working with my colleagues to implement their recommendations.”
The work of the RTTF is expected to form the foundation of a unified regional effort to work with the state Legislature to replace the volatility of the sales taxes that now provide the majority of the funding for public transit with a more long-term, sustainable source of revenue. This revenue source will be needed to avoid deep cuts to bus service in future years and to plan for future growth of the bus system – the ninth-largest in the nation – as millions more potential riders move to this region in the coming years.
“The Regional Transit Task Force was a remarkable process that I was proud to be a part of,” said Kent Mayor Suzette Cooke. “A diverse group of citizens and elected officials came together and worked to build consensus on a set of recommendations that we hope will provide guidance to the County in reforming Metro and planning for our future transit needs with a unified voice.”
In addition to policies that ensure more transparency and accountability, the RTTF recommendations emphasize more value from each transit dollar Metro spends. The report stresses the role of public transit as a powerful tool in supporting economic vitality and land use. If these policy recommendations are approved, future transit decisions will be more closely aligned with these objectives.
The RTTF calls for continued efforts to reduce Metro’s operating costs. Metro has already implemented many efficiencies in response to a county audit. The RTTF emphasizes the need to continue that work and to develop more transparent performance measures and budgeting.
If additional stable revenue sources are not found, Metro estimates it will have an annual operating deficit of $117 million by 2015, resulting in 600,000 fewer hours of bus service.
Over the next several weeks, the Executive will incorporate the RTTF recommendations into a strategic plan for transmittal to the King County Council. The Council is expected to take final action on the new framework by the middle of next year, so that the plan can shape development of Metro’s next biennial budget in the fall.
“My congratulations and thanks to these regional leaders for a job well done,” added Executive Constantine. “Their unanimous recommendations are a strong statement of our region’s desire to put aside superficial differences and focus on improving Metro and planning for our future transit needs.”