Bus Shelter with light
Image by Oran, from the STB flickr pool.
I can’t get a link to the specific post, but here at the King County Council’s budget blog, there’s a post entitled “A proposal to save Metro Transit service but cut $70 million in costs” that outlines the progress on covering Metro’s funding gap. The good news is that Metro seems to be able to cut $30 million from the budget with no service cuts. The bad news is the shortfall is $70 million.

Where the $30 million will come from:

  • Reduce Metro’s annual operating expenses by five percent of its roughly $600 million annual budget, or about $30 million.
    Some of these savings can be realized by locking in diesel fuel supplies at prices that are lower now than they were last summer when they were spiraling out of sight.
  • Reduce Metro’s annual Capital fund of $40 million, as previously proposed by the Executive.
  • Increase bus fares at a rate yet to be determined that yields about $20 million a year.

That would address the immediate gap for 2009.
For the long term, our staff report notes that Metro may be heavy in administration
and management expenses throughout the agency, and maintains a layer of functions that is duplicated elsewhere in County government.

The report calls for broadening the Council’s ongoing audit of Metro to focus the agency on its core mission of delivering transit service and to more clearly understand where efficiencies may be found. For example:

  • The County maintains two vehicle maintenance shops, one for Transit and one for Fleet Administration.
  • Metro has separate administration and management units for ten different Work Sections, including Transit Operations, Service Development, and the office of the General Manager.

Keep in mind that this is a shortfall in the county’s Transportation fund, which by law can only be used to support Metro buses and related services. It is different from the $93 million shortfall in the general fund, which supports criminal justice, public health and human services and has been the focus of most news coverage to date.

This is going to be interesting. I’ll have a post later this week about how Metro can get more funding.

7 Replies to “Metro Budget Shortfall”

  1. I got a note from company big-wigs that Metro is discontinuing the Commuter Bonus Plus Program effect December 1st. This is just one example of stuff they’re doing to fill the gap. I’m bummed that I won’t be getting any more “free” car washes from Brown Bear or bike gear from REI, but I’d prefer these kinds of cutbacks to service cutbacks.

  2. Anyone have a time series of Metro’s annual budgets going back 5-10 years. I seem to recall Metro was running a $300 million system not that long ago….

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