More than 350 attend committee meeting on service reduction
The audience who came to tonight’s meeting of the Metropolitan King County Council’s Transportation, Economy and Environment Committee sent a clear message: the impact of a reduction in Metro Transit service will be felt throughout the region and should not be allowed to happen.
More than 350 people filled the Sound Transit Boardroom and the hall at Union Station to call on the Council and the State Legislature to find the funding needed to keep the transit system at its current levels. Hundreds of comments—in person, via comment sheets, and on line—were received during the meeting, with the overwhelming majority calling for maintaining current transit service.
“People and employers need transit to get to work and make our regional economy and transportation system work,” said Councilmember Larry Phillips, Chair of the Council’s Transportation, Economy and Environment Committee. “If 20,000-30,000 people a day are forced back into their cars due to transit cuts, our region will feel the pain through traffic gridlock, loss of economic competitiveness, lack of options for our most vulnerable citizens, and increased air pollution. I call on the state legislature to provide us with local options to avoid transit cuts.”
“Today's public meeting displayed the broad coalition of supporters advocating for permanent and stable funding for our transit system,” said Councilmember Rod Dembowski. “As Chair of the Regional Transit Committee, I am working with this coalition to avoid gridlock, keep people and goods moving, and our regional economy growing.”
“What we heard tonight was simple—public transit continues to be the transportation lifeblood for many in our community, said Council Chair Larry Gossett. “We need to work with our legislators in Olympia to ensure that this service remains as healthy as possible.”
Due to a lack of sustainable revenue, Metro is facing the potential loss of 600,000 hours of transit service. Absent action from the legislature, King County will begin seeking input this fall on how to cut 17 percent of Metro’s transit service starting in 2014.
Prior to the public testimony, committee members heard from a panel composed of transit stakeholders from the business, environment, social services, and education sectors, who spoke about the impact a 17 percent cut in transit service could have on the region.
“We are at a crossroads. As demand continues to increase and the economy improves, we should be increasing service and providing more transportation choices,” said Metro Transit General Manager Kevin Desmond. “However, unless we obtain new funding, we will put plans in place this fall to begin reducing service in 2014.”
“Employers throughout Downtown, large and small, recognize the importance of transit service to their economic futures,” said Downtown Seattle Association president & CEO Kate Joncas. “Hundreds of small and medium-sized companies in Downtown voluntarily purchase transit passes for their employees. Large employers have invested millions of dollars in transit benefits for their workers as required by the state’s successful Commute Trip Reduction Act. Cutting transit service would put these employers, and our city, at a competitive disadvantage.”
“In King County, we need more transit service to meet the needs of our communities. The new reality is that Washingtonians are driving less and choosing to live in affordable, walkable communities connected by transit,” said Rob Johnson, Executive Director of Transportation Choices Coalition. “Those communities can only grow and thrive at the same rate as our transit system, they are inextricably connected. The cuts proposed to our Metro bus service will hurt our economic prosperity, put undue pressure on those without transportation options, and damage our quality of life. We must do everything we can to prevent cuts from occurring and keep buses on the streets.”
“Transit is how students get to class, get to the jobs that pay their tuition. It is how they connect to their community as volunteers, advocates, and participants in civic life,” said Josh Kavanagh, the University of Washington’s Director of Transportation. “Allowing our transit network to be dismantled will place yet one more barrier on the path to prosperity for students and for all our fellow citizens–at a time when we should be clearing that path to encourage and support economic recovery.”
“The potential cuts to Metro services would exacerbate an already desperate situation for many low-income or vulnerable people. Individuals with greater mobility challenges, linguistic barriers, and economic hardship will have a more difficult time adjusting to any further transit reductions,” said Hyeok Kim, Executive Director of InterIm CDA, an affordable housing development, housing services organization. We know this because many of the clients that social service organizations serve have already disproportionately borne the burden of reductions that King County has been forced to make in recent years.”
The testimony from the more than 160 people at the 3-hour meeting focused on the long-term effect the potential cuts would have on their lives.
For those wanting more information or to submit testimony, click here