In this Press Release, Metro has said that the recession has made Metro’s Finances much worse than originally projected, and service could by cut by as much as 20%. This is an out-right disaster:
The national recession continues to erode King County Metro Transit’s main funding source with new sales tax projections showing an unprecedented $100 million funding gap for 2010, and a worsening of the current 2008/09 biennial sales tax receipts by another $29 million. The revenue shortfall from 2008 budget projections could mean service cuts of 800 thousand to a million service hours annually.
The new sales tax figures pose one of the most serious financial emergencies in the transit system’s 36-year history. Budget managers warn that sales tax revenues could continue to decline through June 2010. Even if the economy rebounds it would take more than a decade to build service back to current levels if service is cut.
“People are riding the bus in record numbers, yet the very service they want and need is jeopardized by the continued drop in sales taxes,” King County Executive Ron Sims said. “We’ve already cut costs by $80 million in capital, and operating costs by more than $2 million in order to keep service on the roads this year.“
Wow. Unfortunately, the stimulus package included no aid to transit agencies, and with falling ever falling sales-tax revenues, there’s little hope of finding more money. This is about the worst thing a transit advocate can read:
In 2007 voters approved the Transit Now Initiative that funded a nearly 20 percent increase in service through 2017. However, the worsening sales tax picture means $100 million less than what was projected when Transit Now passed.
That projected shortfall funds between 800,000 and one million annual hours of bus service or about 20 percent of the 3.5 million annual hours of transit service Metro operates today. That means more than 75,000 daily bus passenger trips would be eliminated.
Metro’s ridership was up 7% in 2008 compared to 2007, but already in 2009, 20% of service will have to be cut. I’ve known for a while that there would be little or no net increase in service hours from Transit Now, the .1% sales tax increase for Metro the voters passed in 2006, but I had hoped that it at least service could be maintained. I guess not. I’m sure we’ll hear more about what routes will get cut soon.