Last summer we described Executive Kurt Triplett’s proposed response to the Metro budget crisis, which involved a 9% (310,000 hour) cut in the 2010-2011 biennium. The Budget Committee of the King County Council has softened the blow by deferring most cuts till 2012-2013, in the hope that the state legislature will provide the additional taxing authority to avoid the blow altogether.
The bottom line for riders, although this budget has not yet reached final approval:
- no significant reduction in service frequency or span on any routes, at least for the next two years;
- a 25-cent fare increase (except youth) in 2011 to go with the one long planned for 2010;
- full speed ahead on RapidRide, including the F line; and
- return of bus wraps, but with a 15-inch gap that allows riders to actually use the windows.
Details below the jump.
Metro now anticipates much greater efficiency gains than they did previously. The coming biennium’s cuts come in two categories: “Scheduling Efficiency” and “Supplemental Low-impact reductions.” I have to dig into this a little more to fully understand the difference, but the Council has received assurances from Metro GM Kevin Desmond that these reductions will not generally have an impact on headways or span of service that riders experience. See the table below of planned service hour equivalent reductions:
|Scheduling Efficiency||Supplemental low impact reductions|
This amounts to a total redo of the Metro schedule using advanced techniques. Triplett originally proposed 310,000 hours of suspensions in 2010-11 and a further 275,000 in 2012-2013, so although projections that far out are dicey we might be facing a 385,000 hour cliff in 2012 if more revenue is not found.
This low-impact plan allows the County to sidestep the politically sensitive “cuts” vs. “suspensions” debate, which would dictate whether service reductions would be restored as they were cut or in accordance with 40/40/20.
The other key differences are an attempt to realize audit savings immediately (Triplett’s plan came out before the audit results), cutting 43 positions (39 currently unfilled), and reauthorizing bus wraps with a 15-inch gap that helps riders see out the window.
The plan also draws only $40m from the $105m fleet replacement surplus over the next biennium, rather than Triplett’s $45m. Triplett originally proposed a property tax for Metro of 5.5 cents per $1,000 of assessed value (0.0055%). The maximum authority is 7.5 cents or 0.0075%. This was to be revenue neutral due to corresponding cuts in the foot ferry district (4.5 cents) and the AFIS levy (1 cent).
The Council has pushed that up to 6.5 cents (0.0065%) while remaining revenue neutral. Part of it is due to a deeper cut in the ferries (from about 5.9 cents* to about 0.3 cents), and part of it is due to the fact that property values have fallen.
The Council approved Triplett’s 2011 25-cent fare increase, but adding an exemption for youth. The youth fare will remain at 75 cents while the senior/disabled rate goes to $1.00 and all other classes increase by 50 cents over two years. The Council also reiterated their support for RapidRide, planning to open the F line in 2013. They did not accept Metro’s proposal to delay C line opening until 2012, in order to avoid opening in the middle of viaduct teardown chaos and tarnishing the brand.
The Council budget as a whole will be released on Nov. 20th. It still has to go to the full council for approval.
* AFAIK you can’t find the 5.9 cent figure anywhere online. In 2008 the revenue level was 5.5 cents, but for the ferry district the Council sets a revenue target and then the rate is set to match. Council spokesman Frank Abe tells me that in 2009 the levy rate was set at $19.33m, or 5.9 cents. You also get non-round numbers for levy rates and therefore sums don’t add up due to rounding.
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