There’s an important distinction that’s being lost even by knowledgeable and intelligent observers such as Scott Gutierrez of the P-I, and some people on our own staff.

RapidRide is not the same thing as Transit Now.  Look at this slide from a May 20 presentation to the Regional Transit Committee:


As you can see, the original Transit Now plan — the 0.1% sales tax increase — was planned to pay for 590,000 service hours.  Of that, only 100,000 service hours were devoted to RapidRide.  400,000 hours were for new conventional bus service both in “developing [read: exurban] areas” , and high ridership corridors.  As the chart indicates, these 500,000 hours were subject to the 40/40/20 formula.  Importantly, the RapidRide hours have some federal matching funds attached to them.

There’s a further 90,000 hours that come from “service partnerships,” where cities or corporations throw some cash (or capital improvements) into the pool.  The City of Seattle, in particular, has made extensive use of this to circumvent 40/40/20.

No one will propose to cut RapidRide or the service partnerships and leave the matching funds on the table.   The Triplett Plan wipes out all of the unimplemented “developing areas” and “high ridership/core” additional service.  The Phillips plan, and what I’ve called the “Council Plan“, instead treats Transit Now as a separate account.  Under these plans, therefore, instead of 590,000 service hours, the Transit Now extensions will amount to whatever 0.1% sales tax buys you, projected to be about 450,000 hours.  That’s plenty for RapidRide, partnership service, and a whole bunch of new service to boot.

It’s also important to understand that all the Metro budget deficit and cut estimates use the full plan as a baseline. The baseline plan has about 3.65m service hours in 2009 and adds about 200,000 a year after that, thanks to both Transit Now and various WSDOT construction mitigation funds.

6 Replies to “RapidRide and Transit Now”

  1. I thought someone would weigh in on this by now. So, even though I’ve moved out of King Co. and no longer work for Metro, I’ll throw my 2 cents in, for what its worth.
    Exec Tripletts plan closes the budget gap from 500M down to 469M over the 4 years by going after the low lying fruit (deferred bus purchases, depleting the bus replacement fund, swapping the new property tax use, and reserve accounts) to the tune of 281M. I hope congress enacts a cash for ‘clunker bus’ program in the future, because the buses will continue to wear out at predicted rates, and like Mr. Good wrench says, “pay me now, or pay me later”.
    Deferred expansion saves 36M, and dirty buses with fewer cops saves another 27M.
    What troubles me the most is that revenue enhancements are limited to a 25 cent increase. A lot of talk takes place on STB about how Metro could earn more money through innovative ideas (RFA, fare evasion, premium service structure), yet I see no mention of that, except to just keep ratcheting up the basic fare, and even the modest 25 cent increase only generates 35M over the 4 years – nowhere close to what is needed. Where’s the brain trust when you need them the most?
    The other ‘one size fits all’ solution is a flat 9% service cut. WOW. That assumes that all routes were created equal, and there are no routes that can withstand a cut more or less that any others. We all know that’s not the case. This seems to just punt on the tough call of cutting service. Isn’t this like carpet bombing instead of using a surgical strike to achieve the same result? (Sorry about the war analogy, but it seemed to fit)
    Metro has some really bright and dedicated planners and schedulers. Take off the handcuffs and shackles and let them do this right!

  2. I agree with the comment about the 9% flat cut. It seems stupid to cut the service on a highly used corridor and not the night buses out in the burbs which are nearly empty. Better to move those folks with Access buses if that’s their only means of transport.

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