[OOPS: There’s a mistake at the end of this post, although it doesn’t impact the point that there are many ways of looking at this. Corrections are below the jump.]
[UPDATE: Butler reports he got the numbers from Metro staff.]
During the last Regional Transit Task Force meeting on August 5th, Task Force member and Issaquah City Councilmember Fred Butler circulated a letter calling for more strict subarea equity in the service reduction alternative the task force was considering:
At the very least, I would like to have Metro generate an alternative scenario for service reductions that gives more weight to geographic equity among the three transit planning subareas. Further, looking forward to system growth, the task force should consider at least two alternatives, one of which gives equal weight to geographic equity and productivity.
The table below summarizes the proportional statistics that highlight geographic equity concerns regarding Metro service. Key points are:
• West subarea currently receives a disproportionately large share of transit service hours compares with its share of population, growth, and sales tax receipts
• The R1 scenario for service reductions would exacerbate the current imbalance, most acutely in East County, which is projected to loose [sic] twice the share of its current transit service compared with the other two subareas.
The table he provides is this one:
Butler is just looking out for his constituents, but the “share of total reductions” column is subject to a lot of interpretation. Because of King County’s asymmetric subarea policies, there are a lot of ways you can manipulate these numbers, but my assessment is that the split is 25% East, 14% South, and 62% West — in accordance with current policy for the West and otherwise favoring South over East. More after the jump.
The uncertainty comes from the fact that the add service and reduce service rules are different. Service must be added in the proportion 40/40/20 (East/South/West), while cuts must happen proportionally to existing service (17/22/61). Therefore, the balance of service is path-dependent. To conform with policy, a system that remains steady at 3m service hours looks a lot different than one that cuts 500,000 hours but then puts them back again. In this case, Metro is adding hours for things like RapidRide at the same time it’s applying cuts, so what you count where makes a big difference.
To me, the most straightforward way to do this is look at the Spring 2009 numbers that began this cycle of cuts and compare that to the endstate after the cut plan. You can see the R-1 service reduction draft broken out by subarea on pg. 9 here. It should be noted that the grand totals at the bottom of that sheet are not correct.
Using this system, a total of 325,000 hours are cut, split 25%/14%/62% as indicated above. Alternatively, one could count RapidRide and the SR520 funds as in the baseline, but lump in efficiency reductions with the rest of the cuts, in which case you come up with 22%/17%/62%: not much change. [Update: 26%/21%/53%, roughly in line with Butler’s number.]
However, the depicted RapidRide numbers aren’t in accordance with 40/40/20. RapidRide is part of the Transit Now package. RapidRide has 3 lines in the West and two elsewhere, but the package was compliant due to additional regular suburban service. Earlier in the budget crisis, Metro deferred the non-RapidRide increases. Excluding SR520 funds that are not subject to 40/40/20 (which favors the Eastside), 43,000 West RapidRide hours implies 86,000 new hours in both East and South. If the deferred 97,000 hours are added to the baseline we then arrive (roughly) at Butler’s numbers of 28%/20%/52%.
So, to summarize: if we take Spring 2009 service levels and we compare them to the endstate of plan R-1, the West is in proportion, and South gains at the expense of West. If one counts deferred Transit Now service as cuts, then West gains at the expense of East. [Update: If one counts in all the planned new service and then computes the cuts, then South is in proportion and West gains at the expense of East.]
Of course, all of this discussion grants that subarea accounting is really the right way to allocate service. Subareas are essentially arbitrary. If you viewed service by city, or precinct, or legislative district, or at the county level as a whole, you would get different results that are not obviously less valid then the East/South/West paradigm.
The Task Force meets again August 19th.
Note: This explanation of Butler’s numbers is reverse-engineered by the author. I have an email in to Butler asking him how he arrived at his result.