Following up on what Martin wrote about Metro service cuts, I want to point out that the long-term impact of Metro’s expansion and contraction policies will likely reduce the cost-effectiveness of their service.

An hour of new service when the economy improves will result in lower ridership than an hour they cut now. In the graphs bgtothen made of ridership per annual service hour, there are 86 Metro routes. In the top half (43), only seven are shared with the south or east Metro subareas – thirty-seven are city routes alone. Metro’s most cost effective routes are all in Seattle.

If Metro wants to keep its costs from expanding further, these policies need to change. While there is, of course, a political reason for the 20-40-40 rule, it will only serve to cost the agency money in the future. I hope our King County Executive candidates take a stance on reducing this wasteful policy.

41 Replies to “Metro’s Policies Will Deepen the Wound”

  1. A relevant metric to this decision is the amount of subsidy per route – one way of looking at this fairly would be to cut not service hours fairly, but subsidy dollars. In this way the most popular and cost effective routes would be preserved.

    In the meantime I suggest that the contributors of Seattle Transit Blog go make sure that they can pass the Math WASL, including those word questions about how you apply math in a democracy of individuals ALL WITH rights.

    In the meantime, bend over and spread those cheeks, your ‘back yards’ are open teritory. You are certainly free to waive any of your rights you want, YOU ARE NOT FREE TO WAIVE ANYONE ELSES.

    Do you understand yet?

    1. I think that before you went on that… tirade, you were basically saying the same thing I am. Ridership per service hour is an effective measure of ‘subsidy’.

      It’s difficult to measure ‘subsidy’ directly because people who buy passes use them different amounts. My flexpass, for instance, which my employer pays for, gets me a lot more use than the flexpasses sitting in the receptionist’s desk in my building. We have one for every employee, but without knowing exactly how many trips each employee is taking, on what routes, we wouldn’t know what ‘subsidy’ actually exists on those routes.

      With ORCA, we’ll have more information about trips taken all over the system, and that addition of new information could be the impetus we need to put pressure on Metro to make changes, but in the meantime, the problem is political.

    2. Douglas, comments like this aren’t acceptable on this blog. No more “Math WASL” or spreading cheeks, please. You have better arguments to make.

    3. No I don’t understand this post – I am not a math genius and never have been but what are you saying exactly? Whose rights are being violated – commuters who use buses that they may not be able to use in the future? Single occupancy car drivers who will have more cars following them if these cuts go ahead? I think all of our rights will be violated if the cuts go ahead.

      Does this make sense?

  2. In 1960, Seattle’s population was 557,087. Today, Seattle’s population is estimated to be 592,800. Seattle, in terms of population growth, is a stagnant, dead city. But population growth IS occurring in east and south King county, areas that in the past been short-changed when it came to bus service. 20-40-40 is merely a way for those poorly-served areas to catch up.

    1. Sam, when you post comments please try to be intellectually honest and not mislead people. Seattle has had a growing population for 30 years.

      However, I won’t disagree with the 20/40/40 policy when talking about new service hours. But when you’re talking about cuts — you shouldn’t use politics and keep your buses in the most car-dependent regions while cutting service for those who depend on it. Running an empty bus in Snohomish vs. a packed one in Seattle: That’s an obvious choice.

      1. Why shouldn’t new service hours be based on cost effectiveness? All 20-40-40 does is exactly what you said – runs empty buses in Snohomish when we have packed buses in Seattle.

      2. Metro doesn’t run buses in Snohomish, that is in Snohomish County and outside Metro’s service area.

        But 20/40/40 is getting us empty buses in Duvall or Covington at the expense of the 1, 4, 15, 41, or 72 being often at crush loads and having to leave riders at stops despite a very high service frequency even outside peak hours.

    2. In 1960, I-5 was brand new, white flight was in full swing, and post-Korea, manufacturing was in decline because federal spending on airplanes had declined. In 1965, I-405 opened. We were subsidizing the hell out of suburban living. Seattle’s population dropped 60,000 over the next twenty years, but then has grown another 100,000 since the mid-80s – and would have grown much faster if not for CAP in 1989. Also, the July 2007 estimate for Seattle was 594,210 – and the 2010 census will break 600,000 due to the current residential tower boom.

      So basically, when you say Seattle is stagnant based on drawing a line between two numbers, I basically just have to assume you haven’t got a clue.

      Single family housing construction in east and south King has dropped off. Some 80% of Bellevue’s new square footage is going on in the downtown core – walking distance from future East Link stations. You seem to be a few years behind in your estimations.

      Sooo… no, actually, it’s not a good idea to spread out our bus service, because the city is growing very fast, and the suburbs are not.

      1. I think what we are seeing in this post and the ones over the last couple days is sad. Infighting over a smaller pie, like the Republicans in Congress today (and Democrats during Bush.)

        What we need is a solution that works for the entire region. I believe Link will provide an important part of that soon, but right now the problem in front of us is King County Metro. Of course we’d all like to get more service (or to lose as little as possible), and it’s pretty much guaranteed there will be cuts that inconvenience me. What matters most at this time is not deciding what is the most fair or efficient for Seattle or suburbs, but what helps the most vulnerable. I don’t want a solution that is “fair” for me but causes someone else to lose a job because they can’t get to work. Of course a lot of Metro employees are worrying about their jobs right now too.

        I still have a job, and I hope everyone reading this does too. I don’t know if it will do any good, but I think I’ll buy my wife a bus pass too. I can spend $108 (3.00 trip value) to give Metro a little revenue even though it’s not efficient because she doesn’t take that many trips. Ironically, I went over to but it looks like passes aren’t available right now “due to production delays”. I guess I could get a ticket book.

      2. The problem is current policy says service cuts need to be allocated based on current service hours. Which means it is much more likely service needed by someone to get to their job gets cut in Seattle.

        There is also the future issue which is if funding comes back what will it take to restore service to Seattle? It will be much harder if new hours have to be allocated according to 20/40/40.

    3. That’s a good point about getting service to the formerly-rural areas, but Seattle needs the existing service levels just to function, and yet 20-40-40 does not seem to care about this. Remember, the population growth out in King County outside of Seattle takes place only because there is infrastructure. And that infrastructure, beit roads, freeways, telephone poles or sewers only took place/takes place with a subsidy FROM Seattle; both the residents’ and workplaces’ property taxes and the commerce that occurs/occurred there.

      I’d love to see a breakdown of that flow!

  3. Population should not be the determining factor, route usage should. Municipal borders are artificial, ridership on a given route is not.

  4. Okay, John, let me cite my sources. I got my current Seattle population estimate from the City of Seattle’s website, here:

    Their estimate is in the upper right hand corner of the first page.

    And I got my 1960 Seattle population number from here:

    And I stand by my assertion that a city that has only increased in population by 35,000 in 40 years is a stagnant city, in terms of population growth.

    1. That 1960 number is very very very misleading. Seattle’s population bottomed out at 478,000 in 1980. Since then, the population has gone up more than 110,000 people, almost the entire population of Bellevue. In the last eight years, the increase has been 29,300.

    2. It’s not intellectually honest because you’re ignoring the sustained growth over the last 30 years (graphic, obviously not yet accounting for 2010). As if 1960 were the epoch at which we decide all of our transportation decisions.

    3. Sam
      What a surprise? Educating people again from Wikipedia? You must be a genius by now learning everything from Wikipedia. Now anyone can be a real expert just like you.

    4. Sam, if I pour out a half full bucket, then start filling that bucket with a fire hose, is the bucket ‘stagnant’ when it’s half full?

      Stop being dishonest. And if you have a response for me, respond to me, instead of passive-aggressively commenting on the post again.

  5. Why not show the whole table from Wikipedia, which demonstrates that from about 1960-1980 Seattle lost population as Federal dollars poured into highways to the suburbs, and then from about 1980-today Seattle population has been growing for various reasons?

    Census Pop. %±
    1870 1,151 —
    1880 3,533 207.0%
    1890 42,837 1,112.5%
    1900 80,671 88.3%
    1910 237,194 194.0%
    1920 315,312 32.9%
    1930 365,583 15.9%
    1940 368,302 0.7%
    1950 467,591 27.0%
    1960 557,087 19.1%
    1970 530,831 −4.7%
    1980 493,846 −7.0%
    1990 516,259 4.5%
    2000 563,374 9.1%
    Est. 2007 594,210 5.5%

    If you want to compare random years, you might as well compare to 1900 and say “a city that has increased in population by nearly 500,000 in 100 years is a amazing city, in terms of population growth.”

    1. You’re lecturing the wrong person. I’m part of the solution, not part of the problem. I live within walking distance to work., by choice. Multi-billion dollar highway and transportation systems extending out into the suburbs do not have to be built for me. If you want to scold anyone, why not some of your friends on this blog who choose to live on one side of the lake, and work on the other?

      1. Sam
        You don’t have to be so judgmental? Anyone is allowed make one’s own choices in life, where to live, where to work, what to buy, what to drive, etc. This is still a free country.

      2. Well, although us city dwellers are being asked to pay for suburban dwellers’ ‘choices’.

  6. I live in DT Bellevue, and would love to use the bus more. If I want to go to DT Seattle the bus works great, if I want to go anywhere else it terrible.

    For instance right now at noon:

    DT Bellevue to Factoria Mall: 25 mins bus, 8 min drive.

    DT Bellevue to Redmond Town Center: 59 mins bus, 12 min drive.

    DT Bellevue to Greenlake: 68 mins bus, 18 min drive.

    In short I live near the best transit connected Eastside city and the bus is not worth taking.

    1. That’s right, because transit can’t serve low density effectively. That’s why I don’t advocate wasting our money on exurban-to-exurban buses! Hub and spoke is the only way to make transportation affordable.

  7. One look at DTooley’s blog will indicate why it’s a bad idea to engage him at all. I’m serious.

    Here’s the deal: suburban supporters of 40-40-20 said the reason ridership in the suburban areas was historically low came down to one thing – the historical lack of frequent service in those areas.

    Well, it has now been about a decade since 40-40-20 went into effect, and I’m just not seeing that rationale playing out. At a time of budget crisis, it’s critical you put the service where the demand is.

    Rob McKenna, Maggie Fimia, Jane Hague and Chris Vance established many of those poorly performing bus routes for political purposes. All but Hague are now gone. It’s time to use perfomance audits (hello, Brian Sonntag?!) to break up politically motivated route planning, and place service where it’s most needed. Which has been – up until now – a totally foreign concept.

  8. Are we going to spend all of our times arguing about 40/40/20? Those rules apply to new service hours. We’re not going to be getting new hours any time soon.

    1. John, failure to plan is what’s gotten us into this mess. If we don’t fix it now, it won’t get fixed. We haven’t done anything substantial to fix it yet, either.

    2. The two problems are the cuts are allocated across sub-areas such that Seattle is required to take the brunt of the cuts regardless of actual productivity as measured by ridership, ridership per mile, ridership per service hour, or farebox recovery. The second problem is if funding is found to restore the service hours Seattle won’t be getting them back.

  9. Assuming each sub-area has to take a 20% hit to its service hours which puts the burden primarily on Seattle (62% of the cut hours will be from Seattle/Shoreline). Further assuming 20/40/40 is still in place when funding is available to bring service hours back. This will result in the need to increase service hours in the East sub-area by 150% over current levels in order to restore Seattle service to current levels. Similarly service in the South sub-area would need to be increased by 125% over current levels in order to restore Seattle service to current levels.

    Indeed this likely would result in service levels being out of whack with tax collection in favor of the suburbs and almost certainly so when farebox recovery is factored in.

    Unfortunately both the service cut formula and the formula are likely set in stone unless one of the suburban council members can be persuaded to vote to change it. Julia Patterson is probably the best hope on that front. I don’t see Hauge, Lambert, Dunn, or Von Reichbauer as inclined to change it.

    1. I believe service levels are already out of whack with tax collection.

      There will be fewer suburban council members in the future if we increase density in the city. I think that’s the real fix here in the long term.

  10. One thing to keep in mind about Populations is that the 1960 number skewed towards larger families and smaller number of households. The current numbers represent a larger pool of commuters given that you have more singles and DINKs than in the ’60s

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