After hearing from the County Council that there would be no “significant” reduction in service over the 2010-11 biennium, I was finally able to chat with Metro Manager of Service Development Victor Obeso to get more details.
A total of 200,000 service hours are to be cut over the next two years, about 5% of the total, of which 50,000 will be this February. In terms of losses perceived by the user, about 2% of existing service will be cut over 2 years:
|Scheduling efficiency||Supplemental low-impact reductions|
The “Scheduling Efficiency” side amounts to changes in how routes are allocated to Metro’s operating bases, plus reductions in layovers at the end of routes. There should be no impact on riders from these other than a possible slight decrease in reliability. Obeso is hopeful that in the February round the efficiency savings will actually be as high as 30,000 hours, sparing some cuts.
The “low-impact reductions” will, as per County policy, be doled out to subareas in proportion to the resources they receive. In conjunction with the budget, the council adopted an update to the Metro 10 year Strategic Plan which identified these reductions as “suspensions,” not “cuts.” This leaves open the possibility that restoration of the service would not be subject to 40/40/20, but doesn’t necessarily mean that restoration is first in line.
There will not be the proposed route-by-route blanket cuts, but cuts targeted at the least productive trips in each subarea. Metro is first looking at opportunities to eliminate the last trip of the night, eliminating trips that allow them to pull an entire bus out of service while not increasing headways too much, and trips where other good, nearby options exist. Obeso expects the number of riders inconvenienced to be small.
A 2% service cut targeted at unproductive trips, while not desirable, is clearly not a catastrophe for public transportation. Indeed, with Transit Now, WSDOT viaduct mitigation, and dedicated SR520-related revenue funding additional improvements, the net change is positive. However, Metro’s budget crisis is not solved, but merely deferred. The numbers are sensitive to small changes in revenue projections, but past estimates indicate about 385,000 service hours could be at risk in 2012-2013 without new revenue sources.