University Street bus tunnel station, 2001
University St Station, Seattle Muncipal Archives

In the “we’re broke!” Press Release from Metro, a quote from outgoing King County Exec Ron Sims mentions $80 mn in capital project cuts, this is $15 million more than Sim’s mentioned last summer. I wanted to get to the bottom of what those cuts were, and I’ve been given a list from someone inside Exec’s office. Most of these were the same cancelled projects we heard about in September. An interesting exercise for the reader is comparing the list of cancelled projects below to the list of projects that Metro has requested stimulus money for.

  • The Waterfront Streetcar maintence barn was cancelled, which should come as no surprise to anyone who reads this blog. I’m just surprised it wasn’t already considered cancelled.
  • Metro had planned a contribution to the construction of the “Lander Street Overpass” over the BNSF lines, but the contribution will not be coming any longer. This one’s obvious, since the city has already shelved the project.
  • Another cancelled project is a Downtown Seattle bus layover facility. That would have let Metro park buses during the day after they drop off commuters and pick them back up in the evening without having to leave downtown.  A similar Downtown Bellevue project has been reduced in scope
  • Some ticket vending machines were cancelled, and I have been fearing that these cuts were for Rapid Ride’s ticket machines. My source confirms that most of these ticket machines were for Rapid Ride.
  • A number of on-board cameras that were to be install on buses have been cancelled, and most of the “security lights” for park-and-rides have been postponed.
  • Many BRT corridor improvements technology improvements, including the ticket machines on board the buses.
  • Improvements to the vanpool distribution facility have been scaled back. Metro operates the nation’s largest vanpool/ridershare organization.
  • Another $13 million in reductions the County Council has required them to make that have not been announced.
  • 11 layoffs at the “capital investment” division.

13 Replies to “Metro’s $80mn in Capital Cuts”

  1. Apart from the cuts to BRT and to the waterfront streetcar, there doesn’t appear to be anything too much to cry about here which comes as a relief.

    Can Metro apply to the Gates Foundation to make up the $100m shortfall – it seems like small change given the Foundation’s endowment in the billions.

    For me, the worst of the probable cut backs is Ron Sim’s parting announcement before leaving for Washington, D.C. that service levels may not get back to their current levels until 2020. This seems painfully dire to me and is going to drive more and more current and potential users into their cars which is the complete opposite to our goals and objectives for introducing more mass transit into the region.

    If the sales tax shortfalls are crippling Metro, do we have some idea at this point of the effect on ST2 expansion. Please don’t tell me this will be shelved until the 2030s!

    Mayor Nickels recently suggested that we give thousands of volunteer hours to the community – is this something Metro drivers could offer in an attempt to keep both routes and their jobs going that much longer. I am not saying they should do this, but perhaps, some of them would be happy to drive their buses one day for free. I would certainly sign up for doing so if I was a bus driver. Just a thought and a suggestion. One of my biggest fears is the crush to Seattle as a livable community if we don’t come together as a region and take up some of the slack in the form of volunteer hours. Cleaning graffiti and the city streets will be one of the first to go in this climate and we will be all the poorer for it. It is already getting harder to get the Highways cleared of trash and graffiti and I fear it will get worse before this wretched economy picks up.


    1. Excellent Idea Tim on driving for free! I was sitting behind the drivers of the 43, 49, and 7 yesterday, and offered to drive for free. I just got funny looks!

  2. I guess we have to save the Waterfront Streetcar again, just like Walt Crowley did in 2005. It’s sad that the two biggest proponents of the streetcar, Crowley and George Benson, are both dead now. Maybe that’s why the powers that be think they can sneak this by.

    I’m putting together a web site and a Facebook group. See


    1. I really don’t get why both the city and the county have seemed bound and determined to kill the Waterfront Streetcar ever since the idea of having the sculpture park use the land the barn was on.

      Did the Streetcar not attract tourists and get them to spend more money throughout the city? Would a revived streetcar not bring more visitors to the sculpture park and get visitors to the park to further explore the waterfront and city?

      1. I agree – the Streetcar was a great symbol of the city – Ron Sims lost his way in the past year or so. Apart from his comment to the Seattle Times that he wouldn’t miss Eyman, and the fact I wish him well in D.C., I hope before he returns to Seattle, we can show him the good effects of rail.

        You know, once Light Rail kicks in maybe Metro can reassign 194 hours and other buses along the Rainier Valley – won’t this help?

  3. The Waterfront Streetcar delay or as it seems, cancellation, is really a scandal of broken promises and outright deceptions. I’m remembering how so many scoffed at George Benson when he came up with the streetcar idea, only to discover that he’d created something that not only linked to our past, but also had appeal and utility for our own time. Now the scoffers, with Walt and George gone, apparently get the last laugh.
    I long for a day when those who break their promises and commitments (re: the Streetcar and many other things) actually have to pay a price.

    1. Perhaps it is time for a citizen initiative? Make ’em bring back the waterfront streetcar and give it a dedicated revenue source for capital.

      1. I doubt there would be much hope of bringing the Waterfront Streetcar back in the immediate future given the present economic situation and the looming Viaduct teardown, but citizen pressure probably will be important to stop any plans to tear up the tracks or sell the streetcars. Hopefully when the economy picks up, then pressure can be exerted to get the Streetcar back up and running. It’s really a shame what has been done to the line, for no reason whatsoever.

      2. I think the fact the city wants a 1st Ave streetcar is responsible for the lack of progress on a Waterfront streetcar. Also, its service would have to stop by the Viaduct teardown so it doesn’t sound very smart to start it up again :/

      3. Yeah, I see the Viaduct teardown problem, but we don’t even know when that is going to happen. Not in the next 3 years, and supposedly this could get pushed back until the tunnel is completed, a decade from now.

        I know the city seems to see the hypothetical 1st Ave line as supplanting the Waterfront Streetcar, but I think this is a mistake. A 1st Ave line would have the best transit potential, while the Waterfront Streetcar is important to connecting vistors to the waterfront. It’s not so easy to go from most of 1st Ave to the Waterfront, and visa versa. Plus, the Waterfront Streetcar is an important nod to Seattle’s past.

        If/when the 1st Ave line gets built, this would potentially provide a solution to the car barn problem, as the lines would share some track in Pioneer Square, and a barn would have to be built for the 1st Ave line, which hopefully the Waterfront cars could share.

  4. I don’t know why Ron Sims didn’t just come clean with the public in 2007 and 2008, when all this writing was already on the wall.

    Instead, we got this pie in the sky tolling plan, and opposition to rail based on a phony rationale.

    Oh well, he doesn’t have to worry about it now….

  5. Never like reading about the layoffs…even if it’s only 11 this time. Really looking forward to the upside of this recession. Have a nice weekend folks.

    David in Burien

  6. When the uproar emerged in ’05 over the Waterfront Streetcar’s imminent demise, Mayor Nickels claimed that he wouldn’t allow the sculpture park to move in to the barn’s site unless the future of the streetcar was assured. the mayor who claims to be the big champion of transit was at least partially responsible for replacing a charming, unique, antique streetcar line with a diesel bus. The streetcar had ( and still has) a lot of support, and when it comes to election time, my memory is long.

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