[nfbwatlk] Metro bus service will avoid cuts under council plan

Jacob Struiksma lawnmower84 at hotmail.com
Thu Nov 19 02:36:10 CST 2009


Metro bus service will avoid cuts under council plan

By 
SCOTT GUTIERREZ
SEATTLEPI.COM STAFF

For those who ride the bus, the King County Council had good news this week.


The council's soon-to-be-released budget plan will not cut Metro Transit bus
service next year as first proposed to fill a projected $213 million revenue
shortfall over the next two years, councilmembers announced.

Instead, the council says its final 2010 budget plan will sufficiently plug
the gap by diverting money from the King County Ferry District and by
adopting
recommendations from an audit that found $44 million in potential savings
through running more efficient bus routes and other changes. In addition,
Metro
will eliminate 43 staff positions unrelated to bus service and start selling
full bus-wrap advertising.

That's good news for transit riders, who were initially told this year to
expect a 9 percent suspension in bus service, equaling about 310,000 hours
of
service. That plan, proposed as part of a multi-pronged strategy by outgoing
county Executive Kurt Triplett, would have meant less frequent service
across-the-board,
whether you catch the bus in Seattle or an Eastside suburb.

A final vote before the full County Council is slated for next week, but
details of the plan were released in a 
statement
 on Monday.

Fares will increase 50 cents over the next two years under the council plan,
starting with a 25-cent fare raise already slated for 2010. The second
25-cent
increase, which Triplett also proposed, will follow in 2011 and apply to all
passengers except riders under 18. Off-peak fares currently are $1.75.
Youths
pay 75 cents.

Metro's budget was walloped by the recession and a drag in sales tax
revenue, which primarily supports transit service. Only about 20 to 25
percent of Metro's
revenue comes from farebox recovery.

Councilmember Larry Phillips, who made saving transit a key piece of his
unsuccessful campaign this year for county executive, said there is still a
need
to convene a regional summit on the future of transit so future cuts and
turf wars can be avoided.

"We need to talk about how not just to stabilize the system, but in moving
forward, how to grow the system so we can put more service on the road and
not
realize these cuts in the next biennium," he said. 

"This particular work paid great dividends to get us through the next couple
of years and that gives us a chance to rethink how we do Metro Transit," he
said.

The budget also enables the county to push forward on schedule with 
Rapid-Ride
 bus lines, which were promised under the voter-approved "Transit Now"
initiative along five major transit corridors, starting with a line between
Tukwila
and Federal Way in 2010. The council also authorized a sixth line from
Burien to Renton with connections to Tukwila and light rail.

"We found a creative solution to keep people on the move," Councilwoman and
vice chair Jane Hague said in a statement. "Bus ridership has reached record
levels and we made it a priority to save this service in spite of a
difficult budget situation."

Last week, the council voted to approve a new "tax-neutral" levy of 6.5
cents per $1,000 of assessed value to support bus service. It was offset by
a reduction
to the King County Ferry District levy from 5.5 cents per $1,000 of assessed
value to one-third of a cent per $1,000. The reduced ferry tax, plus
reserves,
will keep the water taxies to West Seattle and Vashon Island afloat for a
few years.

Metro's performance audit uncovered a $105 million surplus in the agency's
fleet replacement fund. About $40 million from that surplus will be plugged
back
into bus service during the next two years. 

Metro also was authorized to begin selling bus-wrap advertising with a
15-inch wide strip along windows so riders can see out.

Scott Gutierrez can be reached at 206-448-8334 or 
scottgutierrez at seattlepi.com.
Soundoff
 (1 comment, 
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profilepics/50blank

Posted by 
jinjimbob
 at 11/18/09 11:54 p.m. (
Report violation)

Raise fairs. fixed.

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