Yesterday afternoon, in a heated legislative session that lurched between political grandstanding and fumbled parliamentary maneuvers, the Metropolitan King County Council approved Metro’s June service change proposal with only minor changes. This proposal, billed as “Transit Reinvestments” by Metro, is focused primarily on deleting eleven of Metro’s lowest-performing routes, reducing service levels on a handful of other poor performers, and using the money saved to improve service quality on the rest of the network, and extend service on Route 180 to Burien in the evenings. It is not to be confused with the much broader September restructure associated with the introduction of RapidRide C & D.
No-one who has observed King County transit politics for any length of time will be surprised to learn that of all the proposed cuts and deletions, exactly one of them consumed the entire discussion: the deletion of Route 42. The recent history of this route has been chronicled on this blog, along with its complete redundancy and atrocious performance; it should simply have been deleted as originally planned, as a part of the larger 2009 Link Integration restructure. Better late than never, yesterday afternoon’s spectacle finally sealed the fate of this bus.
The structure of the discussion was somewhat complex, with multiple amendments and confusion over legislative process, but it boiled down to a pro-42 group lead by of Council Members Gosset, McDermott and Ferguson versus a pro-Strategic Plan group of Phillips, Patterson and Lambert. Arguments in favor of the 42 seemed to revolve around the putative indispensability of the bus to those who are currently using it, along with claims that Metro outreach to Southeast Seattle has been insincere, inadequate and of insufficient duration. Advocates for the Strategic Plan stressed that similar routes across the county were being deleted; that to single out one route for preservation that didn’t make the cut would amount to failing at the first test in the process to reform Metro.
Gosset’s support for Route 42 is longstanding, but McDermott and Ferguson both voted this package out of committee less than two weeks ago, and no new information about Route 42 has arisen in the interim, so it’s difficult to regard the speechifying they engaged in as anything other than pandering to an influential part of the Democratic base. Both expressed strong support for the Strategic Plan, while Ferguson himself noted that acting consistently with the strategic plan would require deleting the route. Suburban Council Members noted that they gave up 40-40-20 and made difficult votes in favor of raising car tabs based on the promise of ridership-oriented restructures.
Ultimately, the restructure package was adopted, with the 42′s deletion delayed until the Winter 2013 service change, with a stipulation that Metro conduct intensive outreach int the interim to Route 42′s remaining riders. Once the video of the session from King County TV is posted, I will add a link to it here.