Although Metro is already eliminating certain low-productivity trips, riders are currently being shielded from the full force of the budget shortfall by some efficiency measures and running down a surplus in the reservecapital fund. Through 2015, Metro faces further cuts, as reported earlier, in the neighborhood of 400,000 annual service hours, or 11% of the current total*. Metro’s current tax revenue is very close to the limit set by the state legislature, and no extension of that authority is on the horizon.
King County’s Regional Transit Task Force, a group of citizens, officials, and stakeholders chartered to review the principles by which Metro allocates service, tonight will receive from staff a report which outlines, in rough draft form, a potential service scenario that reflects these cuts. Staff were directed to follow the criteria below the jump,where you’ll also find much, much more:
1. Provide transit services to serve the mobility needs of students, people in low wage jobs and people dependent on transit for basic mobility in places where the highest numbers of such people live and work.
2. Provide transit services with a priority on employment centers where the most people, jobs and job growth are present and in corridors with high park-and-ride demand and available capacity.
3. Match the frequency and hours of operation of transit services to the market.
4. Provide transit services that are designed to maximize productivity and cost effective use of resources.
5. Deliver transit service throughout Metro’s service area and match the right type of service with the market served.
6. Prioritize services to the most productive corridors that serve the most people, while matching the frequency, hours of operation and type of transit services to the market.
7. Control costs and provide a stable baseline service level of transit services and programs.
There’s a mom-and-apple-pie aspect to many of these principles, but what isn’t there is Metro’s current cuts policy from the County Council: reductions in each subarea in strict proportion to existing service, or 62% to West (Seattle/Shoreline), 17% to East, and 21% to South King County.
Metro’s draft reduction plan R-1 is summarized below:
Unsurprisingly, cutting service involves cutting low-productivity, high-cost trips and therefore increases productivity and reduces cost per rider. Resources are shifted from “peak commuter” routes — unproductive in raw ridership, but productive in rider miles traveled — to “frequent arterial” service (5-20min headways sometimes, at least 30min all day), which is the reverse.
“Local” service (no better than 30 min headways) takes a big hit, in many cases replaced by inefficient “hourly” service which maintains skeletal countywide service for the transit-dependent.
The overall package reduces ridership by 2.5%. The cuts fall 62% on West, 25% on East, and 14% on South, so in fact it’s Seattle-neutral with respect to current policy and it’s actually the South that benefits at the expense of the East.
Some illustrative examples of route changes are:
- Consolidate many routes into the 5 and divert to serve Fremont; some Bellevue routes into the B line; and 66-68, 71-73 into a single Northgate/UW/DT route.
- Shorten/reroute the 21, 123, 260, and 271.
- Start the RapidRide F Line, and new routes to replace the 71 to View Ridge, serve Kent-Des Moines, and route 227 (Eastgate-Crossroads).
- Abolish the 7X, 158, 159, 196, 201, 225, 229, 266, and 912.
It’s important to understand that this is a conceptual draft to inform the task force, not a firm plan. This post is already too long, so I’ll just say that a lot of this stuff is basic rationalization of the system that should happen whether or not there’s a funding crisis, but is politically much easier to do in the context of a shortfall. Indeed, the approach of making people transfer to express service is one I advocated for over a year ago.
*Those 400,000 hours include Metro’s previously planned growth through 2015, so it’s not actually 11% of the buses running now. There were 3.495m platform hours in Fall 2009; add 146,000 for RapidRide and state-mandated SR520 improvements, subtract 200,000 for planned 2010-11 cuts, and the 400,000 in further cuts needed, and you get a net of 454,000 hours below Fall 2009 levels.