Sound Transit is considering delaying the full implementation of a voter-approved bus service expansion by one year. The bus expansion plan called for 100,000 new bus hours to be implemented by September 2010, but a new document from Sound Transit (.pdf) highlights a plan to extend the implementation of the plan to September 2011.

While most of the peak hours would still be delivered on schedule, Sound Transit says that the proposed Alternative 2 “delays the off-peak service improvements originally proposed for September 2009 by two years.”

The document says that Sound Transit will save $13 million by delaying full implementation of the new service hours and says that worsening sales tax revenue is to blame for the possible extension. Sound Transit 2, which includes this bus expansion, is projected to have a $2.1 billion shortfall — even though revenue collections started just this month — because the country is experiencing the worst recession in a generation.

9 Replies to “ST May Delay New Bus Service Hours”

  1. Unless this is to fix a cash flow problem, it seems like a really Bad Idea. We need increased service now, and there’s no guarantee of what crazy things will happen sales tax revenue over the next 20 years. The debt may be paid of quicker or it may stretch out. Predicting the future is hard.

    1. What would a cash flow problem mean other than “we’re not getting enough revenue from sales tax”? :)

      The key is, you’ll get two options – delay light rail projects that lead to more cost effective transit, or delay bus projects that will only grow in cost.

    2. With less people driving, it may be the case that less people are riding the bus, too. I would never support a cut in bus service, but the delay of off-peak hours in this climate? It might have to happen. This is in contrast with Metro’s potential loss of 20% of its service hours.

  2. I think the worst recession in three generations, this is already worse in jobs terms than the 1981~1982 recession and that was the worst since the great depression.

  3. While as many as 90% of folks still HAVE jobs, it is nonetheless important to be sensitive to the fact that lots of folks are feeling stressed about the economy and are cutting back on spending. I blame some of this on television – no media is better at making mountains out of molehills. But regardless of why, sales tax receipts are down, and as John says, a delay in instituting some off peak services might not be a bad idea.

  4. This must be a joke. They’re sitting on a pile of money including larger than expected appropriations for University Link. At least Metro got a few years of keeping promises in.

    1. While we have voted for capital projects around here (transit and libraries to name 2), we have seldom been asked to vote on operations budgets as well: “We’ll let sales tax revenues take care of THAT part” Welllll, the chickens in our retail based, corporate capitalistic economy have come home to roost – and now we are going to have to figure out how to fund all the things we need, plus some of the things we want. More fees on more stuff seems to be our route of choice since nary a politician has the spine to even utter the 2 words Income Tax in a sentence without the word “no” in it.

  5. These are the posts that really depress me the most because the issue at hand (delaying ST bus improvements) illustrates so many of the other core problems that we need to address:

    Its the funding stupid! This seems so obvious that until we as a community can come together and agree on priorities for where we want our state to be going and how we can fund that direction, we are going to forever be in this muddle of scraping bare boned policies and plans through with bargaining and compromise all the way and no adequate funds to back up anything.

    As I see it, we vote for plans and ideas that we can’t then fund to the extent we thought would be possible at the moment of voting so what is the point of it all? Either we vote and then follow the logic of this process to then agreeing on how best to raise the necessary funds for what we vote for, or we deny ourselves the power to decide on everything but instead delegate our visions and ideals to candidates we feel best represent them and who we then campaign for and hope to see voted into office. This would be the British way where party affiliation becomes a platform of intent and direction. OK, they lose their way sometimes, but it is a form of accountability based loosely on misguided trust that stumbles on the right path periodically. By way of contrast, it seems like democracy in the United States is one big cake that we the ordinary voter want to help prepare, bake, serve to others but in the end take back to then eat entirely ourselves. At some point, we are going to have to ask ourselves if we ought to be in the game of doing all of these things, but instead to simplify our lives by just voting in the ingredients (candidates for office) and leaving it to our surrogates to not just prepare the cake but to serve it too and to trust them not to eat it along the way. OK, so the trust part frequently goes astray, but surely our representatives can be entrusted to come up with plans and be allowed to prepare and bake the cake without all of us wanting to chip in all the time and interfering.

    You see if we don’t thereby delegate our visions, we will always be disappointed because if we try and do everything involved with the cake, we’ll sooner rather than later realize that there will always be a gap – even a wall – between our ideals and jarring political reality. I feel this every day, especially as I am still without a job, but my frustration with Sound Transit and all of their projects would be a whole lot less if I knew that it wasn’t our fault. We vote and approve all of this stuff only to find that most of it won’t be possible for years and some of it not at all, and what does this voting achieve? It leaves us angry, betrayed and disappointed and it feeds into the media’s paranoia about how bad Sound Transit is and always has been.

    Don’t get me wrong – I like voting for Sound Transit projects but I still think that whenver we do vote, we should know that we are potentially voting on two plans – a displayed plan for what can be achieved if all of the chips fall into place correctly and a shadow one where they don’t. This way, realistically, if we like the minimum, how much happier wouldn’t we be if by the end of a project’s term we would have not the best of alternatives, but not the worst either because the reality of a ten or more years project term is that both extreme pessimism and optimism would be hung on hooks at the door. As things stand now, we vote entirely on the most optimistic scenario and, as we have seen with ST1, that is the one scenario that next to the worst is one of two least likely to happen.

    In conclusion, funding for ST2 is going to get hammered over the next few years because of this recession so what needs to happen is that Sound Transit should come forward with an alternate plan based on a lower sales revenue projection forecast. No one needs to vote their approval or disapproval and the 0.5 sales tax should remain to get better or not as it will, but we do need to be aware that ST2 is just not going to pan out as we hope it will in the alloted time frame. This is not a lack of confidence in Sound Transit, but just reality and right now reality sucks and is not going to get better anytime soon as far as I can tell.

    Am I making sense here? Yes, I am disappointed and yes, I am angry that projects will be scaled back, delayed or removed from the mix, but then I feel these things because I deceive myself into thinking optimistically when deep down, I know there is little point. Until we get more stable funding sources or can get the federal government to divert funds from meaningless foreign escapades to more important domestic priorities, optimism will be the loser. However, I also think that the worst case scenario isn’t going to happen either and this keeps me going, if not vaguely optimistic that most of what we need will happen eventually.


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