Gathering public input on effort to preserve Metro transit funding
The Metropolitan King County Council’s Transportation, Economy and Environment Committee will host three special evening hearings to hear public testimony on the proposed transit service cuts sent to the Council by County Executive Constantine.
“King County has a choice of cutting 17 percent of our transit service—taking the system back to 1996 service levels—or preserving current service levels by enacting a $20 congestion reduction charge on vehicles in King County,” said Committee Chair Larry Phillips. “These meetings are an opportunity for the public to learn about the proposed service cuts and weigh in on the future of Metro transit.”
The meetings will be held in Kirkland, Seattle and Burien.
Wednesday, July 6
Tuesday, July 12
Thursday, July 21
All meetings, which are in accessible facilities, will start at 6:00 p.m.
Due to the dramatic recession-driven drop in sales tax revenues, Metro Transit is facing a $60 million annual deficit between revenues and the cost of providing current levels of transit service. That shortfall would require Metro to shrink service by 600,000 hours of annual bus service over the next two years, or 17 percent of the entire system, which is the equivalent of cutting all weekend transit service or all weekday rush hour bus service for commuters.
In the past two years, Metro Transit has transformed its operations to hold off these cuts and wrench every available dollar out of the agency for service, including:
• Achieving new scheduling efficiencies;
• Eliminating more than 100 staff positions; deferring planned service expansion;
• Reducing operating reserves; and reducing its capital program.
In addition, riders are sharing the pain: since 2007, Metro has raised fares four times, an increase of 80 percent. Metro's employees were also part of the solution: negotiating cost-cutting labor agreements that will reduce Metro's costs by $17 million per year.
Despite these fare increases, budget reductions, and operational efficiencies, it is not enough to cover the anticipated shortfall and we are now nearly out of tools to save our system. The savings and efficiencies created by Metro over the past few years save approximately $147 million per year, but the drop in sales tax revenues means Metro still faces an operating shortfall of $60 million a year each year from 2012 through 2015.
The State Legislature authorized a tool that is available to King County to help maintain Metro service at its current level: a temporary $20 Congestion Reduction Charge on vehicle licenses for a two–year period ending in mid-2014. County Executive Constantine has sent that proposal to the County Council as well as two other pieces of legislation:
• An ordinance approving a Congestion Reduction Plan, a prerequisite for Council action on a Congestion Reduction Charge.
• An ordinance cutting 100,000 hours of Metro bus service effective February 2012and directing Metro to plan for reducing bus service by an additional 500,000 service hours in the 2012-2013 budget.
The Transportation, Economy and Environment Committee will take testimony on the proposed service reductions and Metro’s budget crisis.