[UPDATE 9:10am: Metro spokeswoman Linda Thielke writes to inform me that there has not been a net cut in SE Seattle Metro service. Chart is below the jump.]
[UPDATE 2: An explanation of the numbers below is at the end of this post.]
On Tuesday the 20th I attended a very small portion of a Seattle City Council Town Hall at the Rainier Vista Boys and Girls Club. Because the event was held on the second working day after a major service change that removed entire routes, the dominant emotion was anger at Metro’s “inequitable” decisions. Fortunately for the attending politicians, an entirely valid response was to say they’d look into it and otherwise pass the buck to the King County Council.
I bring this up because the County Council is going to try the same thing, at the same place, tonight at 6pm. This may be too much to hope for, but it’d be nice if the Council listened respectfully, but stood behind their staff and raised a few good and important points:
- There are sins on all sides in Metro debates, but let’s not conflate the addition of a transfer, especially when one route runs every 8 minutes, with a total loss of service.
- For every person demanding that their service not change at all, there’s a different Rainier Valley resident asking for a connection to the Link station. In a world with finite resources you’ll have to take away some existing service to make the new connection.
- Metro had a massive outreach program that I saw up close. There were at least three mailers sent to every household, dozens of open houses, internet outreach, advertisements in foreign language media, and so on. People will still miss all that, but there’s not much else Metro can do besides knock on each door individually with 7 interpreters in tow.
- It’s true that in terms of Metro service the Rainier Valley saw a net loss. However, it makes no sense to look at Metro in isolation. Specifically, there’s a light rail train that already is the most productive route in the system and is still growing. Before there were any service changes, something like 7,000 round trips were subjectively improved, because people chose to take the train. More would probably like the train but were afraid to try, or couldn’t get to the station. Those 14,000 boardings were about four times that of the 42; other routes that were cut (32, 42X, 126) had trivial ridership. So, from a utilitarian perspective it’s clear the overall transit situation in the Valley has objectively improved.
All that said, Metro was really strong on outreach pre-decision, but now people are actually paying attention. It might not hurt to have a few (multilingual) open houses in conjunction with Sound Transit where experts work out for people how their commutes will have to change.
UPDATE: Here’s the chart I got from Metro, below the jump:
The February stuff comes from shutting down the 194, but I’m not really sure where the 5,500 hours in September came from, or how to square this with the fact that the 42 cut was partially used to pay for Streetcar operations. I’ll update here when I get the answer.