To cover the 4-year, $501m gap between Metro’s planned service level and projected revenue, County Executive Kurt Triplett has proposed a nine-point plan. This post will cover the first three of those items.
$36m in savings comes from deferring planned Transit Now service increases. RapidRide and Service partnership programs have matching funds that the County won’t pass up, but the “high capacity corridor” and “developing area” improvements that haven’t already been introduced are on the chopping block. More information here.
Interestingly, this approach effectively negates the 20/40/40 balance of TransitNow in the short term. Three of the five RapidRide lines are in Seattle, and they were meant to be balanced by the high capacity and developing area service. (Service partnerships were never subject to the rule.)
Triplett seemed genuinely surprised when I asked why the 83,o00 service hours already implemented under the high capacity and developing area programs weren’t in line for their own 9% cut. It may be a simple oversight, one that could save Metro about 7,500 annual service hours.
The second item is reduced capital expenditures, mainly through fewer bus purchases. There have been rumors that this meant fewer trolley buses, since they’re more expensive. When I asked Triplett this, he said that he’s “not proposing to make that switch” and that we have “3 years to make that decision” because the current trolleys have that much life left. The $83m in savings over four years comes from buying about 200 fewer buses, thanks to less planned service. There are also some cuts in things like bus mobility improvements and passenger facilities.
The third item, worth $27m through 2013, is a 10% cut in “complementary programs”. This includes things like marketing, customer information, landscaping, cleaning, security, and support for special events.
I also asked Triplett what this meant for “station” and “enhanced” bus stops in the RapidRide program. It’s not well understood that only a fraction of RapidRide stops will have off-board payment, next arrival message boards, and so on. Further cuts to these amenities would make RapidRide little more than a frequent express bus with a new paint job and fare inspectors. Triplett insisted that “our default is no,” but that “we’ve been asked by [citizens] to take another look at that.” So for now, no cuts to RapidRide amenities, but that’s subject to change.
That covers the $146m of the $501m budget gap. In the next installment, we’ll tackle property taxes, reserves, and the fleet replacement fund.