As reported by the Seattle Times, the Municipal League of King County has written a draft report outlining four ways to improve King County Metro and make it more fiscally solvent. As you may recall, Metro is currently facing a $90 million budget shortfall.
The four findings are:
- Performance Transparency: Allow more transparency in performance measurements and reporting. Be more transparent about how performance findings are used to guide future service.
- End 40-40-20: End the 40-40-20 service allocation which mandates that 40% of new service hours go to East King County, 40% go to South King, and the remaining 20% go to the most populace Seattle subarea. The report: “Instead of being based on broad geographic subareas, service should be targeted at activity centers, corridors, the type of demand, and the best mode for each.” It is worth having this debate again, and the County Council should be forced to make its position clear on this matter — is it worth continuing to abide by this policy even during a crisis like this? We covered the issue of subarea subsidies last week.
- Better Strategy Planning: Have a better strategy for future transit planning as well as financial strategies for cost controls. The report: “The strategies for delivering service in particular are too numerous and too vague. The plan needs a much sharper focus on a back-to-basics approach: set clear priorities to fix service problems first, then allocate service to follow demand and land-use standards.”
- Agency Transparency and Clarity: Make the agency more transparent and its findings more clear. Agency meetings and budgets should be more accessible. (Note that this blog believes that transparency is a win, as well. To find out some information about future RapidRide service, we have to file a formal request for information with a long turn-around time. This is not ideal.)
The report does touch on Metro’s higher operating costs and labor costs compared to other transit operations. It also warns that these higher costs may be passed on to other agencies, as Sound Transit contacts some of its bus service and will contact all of its Link service to Metro’s operators. For its part, Metro has a detailed response that agrees with many principles of transparency and says that Metro’s operating costs are because it has much more long-distance commuter service compared to many bus agencies. Metro says its cost-per-passenger-mile is relatively low, which illustrates its focus on commuter service.
Definitely read the Seattle Times piece for a little bit more context. Hopefully we can have deeper analysis in the coming days. For what it’s worth, both Metro and the Minicipal League seem to be acting in uniquely good faith. The Minicipal League is not anti-transit, and they supported the light rail expansion that passed just a few weeks ago.