A month ago I mailed King County Exec Ron Sims about Metro’s 40/40/20 rule that was put in place in Metro’s last six-year-plan. The rule basically indicates that 40% of new Metro service should be created on the Eastside, 40% in South King County and only 20% in the city. When I read about it, it seemed unfair to me since the city is 35% of the county’s population. I asked Sims whether such a rule would be put in place in King County’s next six-year-plan for Metro and here’s the response I recieved:
Dear Mr. Smith:
Thank you for your email of May 21, 2007, to King County Executive Ron Sims, regarding the 40/40/20 percent policy addressing the distribution of new Metro service hours between the Eastside, South King County and Seattle/Shoreline subareas. Executive Sims asked me to respond to you on his behalf. This is a policy that has caused a great deal of controversy and confusion, but it has been supported by a majority of King County Councilmembers.
As background, it’s useful to know the existing distribution of service hours between subareas. Currently, approximately 64 percent of Metro’s service hours are allocated to serve the “west” subarea that includes Seattle, Shoreline and Lake Forest Park, which comprises about 35 percent of the county’s population. The other two subareas share the remaining 36 percent. Seattle has a greater share of service per capita primarily for historical reasons. When Metro was formed it absorbed the established Seattle Transit, which had an extensive route system and frequent service. Prior to Metro’s formation there was meager transit service in the suburbs.
Since the entire county contributes to Metro transit, there is a desire in the East and South subareas to gradually improve the level of transit service to get closer to the higher baseline for service that Seattle enjoys. It is easy to understand their point of view. The 40/40/20 policy, which addresses only new service added to the system, is intended to achieve a more even balance of service hours per capita between subareas over time.
It’s also easy to understand concerns in Seattle and Shoreline, where ridership and expectations for service improvements continue to grow, especially as gasoline prices have increased. This is one reason the Transit Now program established a “service partnerships” program. Metro can now provide matching funds to leverage investments by local jurisdictions and/or public/private partnerships in service or speed and reliability improvements that benefit transit. This program was created in part to allow Metro to respond to emerging transit demands and desires for a higher level of service than the baseline we provide county-wide. Some of the funds Seattle authorized through the Bridging the Gap initiative may be spent to add service in Seattle under the partnership program.
At this point, Metro does not plan to recommend reconsideration of the 40/40/20 policy; however, the County Council is due to revisit transit policies over the coming year, and if you want to pursue the issue further, you may want to contact your representative on the King County Council or the Council’s Regional Transit Committee.
Metro Transit Division
cc: The Honorable Ron Sims, King County Executive
De’Sean Quinn, Director, Council Relations, King County Executive Office
Harold S. Taniguchi, Director, Department of Transportation (DOT)
Victor Obeso, Manager, Service Development, Metro Transit Division, DOT
David Hull, Supervisor, Service Planning, Service Development, Metro Transit Division, DO