A lot of numbers have been thrown around regarding the looming Metro service cuts. Rapidly reaching the point of confusion myself, I chatted with Metro Service Development Mangager Victor Obeso and Kevin Desmond to get the story straight. The result is below the jump.
This year, Metro is delivering about 3.5m service hours. March revenue projections (.ppt, slide 7) indicated a $224m shortfall for the biennium, or about 21%. This Spring, Metro released a very rough estimate that this shortfall, if addressed entirely with service cuts, would lead to about 800,000 service hours of existing service lost in 2010-11, plus forfeiture of the 139,000 hours in Transit Now additions planned through 2011. This would have been a 23% cut from current service levels.
In April Metro briefed that losing 800,000 hours would eliminate as many as 20m annual boardings out of a total of 109m. Then, natural revenue growth would slowly get us back to the 2009 service level sometime around 2020 (see chart at right).
Thanks to various revenue and efficiency enhancements, it’s not going to be as bad as that. Metro is planning 310,000 hours of cuts in the 2010-11 biennium that it’s currently planning for, or 9% of current service. This number not only reflects the budget changes in the plan, but also the more detailed staff work that’s gone on.
At the moment, the Executive estimates a need to cut a further 275,000 hours in 2012-2013. These numbers are subject to how well the audit savings turn out, how quickly the economy recovers, and if taxes go up; Desmond said that “the only plan” is for the initial 310,000 hours. Furthermore, some of the Transit Now service increases are being deferred, amounting to 123,000 annual hours delivered between 2010-2013. Deferred increases are not really the same in impact as cuts, but add it all up, and there’s a total of 708,000 service hours still under threat in the next four years, or about 18% of the 2013 service level.
However, these cuts (or “suspensions”) are to service hours. The audit findings relating to operating efficiencies will reduce the time buses are in the field (“service hours”) while preserving the time spent carrying passengers (“revenue hours”). For example, of the 50,000 hours scheduled to go in February, Obeso gave the (non-binding) prediction that 10-20,000 will be non-revenue, and therefore basically unnoticed by users.
I also clarified the source of the 5,500 new service hours delivered to the Rainier Valley this September. Metro actually took 16,800 hours out to take over operation of the South Lake Union Streetcar, but through Transit Now funds and service partnerships with the City of Seattle, they were able to put in 22,300 hours to make up the difference, and then some, with more service on the 8, 36, 48, and 60.