Part III of this series is here.
Over the past week we’ve plugged $357m out of Metro’s $501m budget hole in County Executive Kurt Triplett’s Metro budget plan, which will serve as the basis for what the Council decides in November. Now comes the part that’s more painful to riders.
But first, those famed audit results. Aside from a $105m surplus in the fleet replacement fund, no findings have been announced prior to the September 1 release date. Unlike the Council and Phillips plans, Triplett has not included a guess on the savings in his plan. That is, any audit savings in excess of the fleet surplus can be used to offset some of the other sacrifices in the budget, presumably by bringing service suspensions from 9% to about the 5% range.
The other big revenue raiser is a 25 cent fare increase. Due to prior Council action, the fares are scheduled to go up in January 2010 to $2.75 two-zone peak, $2.25 one-zone peak, $2.00 off-peak, and 75 cents for youth, seniors, and the disabled. (This would mean that only the youth fare was unchanged.) Triplett is proposing an additional across the board 25 cent increase in 2011, bringing fares to $3.00, $2.50, $2.25, and $1.00 respectively. This will generate $12m a year, and $36m over the next four due to the delayed implementation. More below the jump.
I asked Triplett about the proposal by four councilmembers to raise fares by a total of a dollar. He responded that the 25 cent figure is “not laid in stone” and “I think you can have a reasonable conversation about whether you can go higher.” That said, he believes “25 cents a year for four years is too much” and that they have to watch “the affordability of Metro so that you’re not driving away riders.” That comment would seem to leave space for a third fare increase, but not a fourth as the councilmembers propose. Two more increases would cut the necessary suspension by a third.
While on the subject of fares, I asked Triplett about his reaction to the Council proposal to significantly increase the charge to Seattle of the Ride Free Area.
There is a legitimate issue there about updating the agreement and making sure it adequately offsets the cost. However, [Reagan Dunn’s $7.5m figure] is a punitive price not really based on anything and doesn’t recognize how critical Seattle is to the system.
Triplett went on to point out that Downtown Seattle is “the heart of the system” with 50% of all routes going there, so “it matters that it works well.” Although he agrees that “it needs to be renegotiated for a slightly larger contribution,” the Council proposal “shouldn’t have been done in that manner.”
I went on to ask him if he would favor eliminating the RFA if the City refused to renegotiate: “I don’t. The issue deserves furthery study. We need every tool we have to keep downtown moving when the viaduct comes down.”
Tomorrow, details on the most contentious part of the plan: a 9% route-by-route service suspension. Please save your comments on that issue for then.
Also, next week, I’ll be posting about Metro’s existing low-income assistance program. Suffice it to say, for the purposes of the fare debate, that Metro gives out lots of ticket books to over 100 human services agencies, and counts on them to make sure that people in need have a low-cost means of transportation.