[Update: Aubrey Cohen at the P-I takes this post and runs with it, by collecting some quotes from some of the important players.]
The service allocation rule known as 20/40/40 is a directive from the King County Council that requires new Metro service hours in the proportions 20%/40%/40%. That is, 20% to the West area (Seattle, Shoreline, etc.), 40% to the East area, and 40% to South King County. It is intended to gradually remedy the traditional allocation to Seattle well in excess of its share of the County’s population, and bring service to areas that currently have little or no transit access.
Critics have long contended that this reduces Metro’s cost efficiency and denies relief for overloaded routes in dense, transit-dependent areas. As we discovered in February, Metro policy dictates that cuts be made in proportion to the current service levels (approximately 60/20/20). This means that cuts would heavily impact Seattle, but restored service would be directed to the suburbs. $100m in operating cuts would therefore require a $300m budget increase to fully restore the situation in Seattle.
This asymmetry, combined with the strong likelihood of some service cuts, has given new energy to the 20/40/40 opponents. Last week, the P-I reported that King County Executive candidate and State Sen. Fred Jarrett, perhaps trying to reach beyond his Eastside base, came out against 20/40/40 as a “failed model.”
On nearly the same day, Mayor Nickels’ office sent a letter to Interim County Executive Kurt Triplett (pdf) insisting that the strictly geographic criteria be replaced with four metrics:
- Maximize Ridership – keep the most riders in the system and meet farebox recovery goals across the system
- Serve transit-dependent communities – get buses to those who use transit the most and depend on transit to get them where they need to go
- Meet Growth Management goals – serve urban centers that encourage density and compact communities, keeping in line with VISION 2040
- Address climate change – provide cleaner alternatives to the car and make reductions in vehicle miles traveled
Next, Metro should treat these service reductions as suspensions, not cuts. If reductions are made, service should be restored to each subarea from which it was suspended to reach today’s allocation levels as quickly as possible.
I don’t know if the votes are really there in the County Council to overturn 20/40/40, but I’d be surprised if the “suspension” idea didn’t fly.