In what was basically a foregone conclusion, the King County Council formally adopted new Metro Service Guidelines today. The vote was unanimous. Discussion about the legislation is here.

Unlike some people here, I didn’t think 40/40/20 was an unmitigated disaster, but it’s good when leaders are able to look past parochial concerns to serve the interests of the county as a whole. Metro is better off with the new policy guidelines.

It’s reasonable to expect we’ll start seeing changes with the February 2012 service change.

44 Replies to “40/40/20 is Dead”

  1. 40/40/20 only applied to “new” service, which it looks like we won’t be seeing for quite some time.

    But thankfully, the policy stuck around long enough to make sure that TransitNow voters saw essentially no improvement for their money and might not be so generous the next time.

    1. But the flip side applied to service cuts, which we will certainly be seeing in the near future, even if the CRC passes.

      Seattle still bears the brunt of the cuts, but it would have been worse if the 40/40/20 policy still applied.

      1. Yes, it’s good that the former cuts ratio (60/20/20) is gone. Although both were ignorant of the history of prior Eyman-caused eviscerations of urban service.

        Frankly, I might have argued for switching to a 40/40/20 cuts ratio until we got back to that baseline.

    2. I’ve benefited from the extra peak runs on the 8 and 75, and the extra evening runs on the 49, thank you.

      What we really need to do is double the frequency of all core routes across the board, but that would cost much more than Transit Now.

      1. Sorry, Mike, but we may have differing definitions of “benefited.”

        Those extra 75s still wasted hours of your life doing this — oy! — and those extra 8s were only at the time of day when I can beat the thing from Dexter to Broadway by on foot!.

        Extra buses on detour, or not moving at all, are not benefits.

        Wasteful, wasteful, wasteful.

      2. I commuted on the 8 regularly and rumors of its slowness are greatly exaggerated, in my opinion. The partnership allowed 15-minute service on the 8 until 8pm, for the record, which is long past the crazy rush on Denny.

      3. Which way do you commute, John? Because it seems the bulk of the demand is for eastbound in the afternoon. And I wasn’t kidding about getting off around 5th or Dexter and walking.

        I’m all about crosstown service. But if it’s not working, and you’re unwilling to negotiate a plan with the city to make it work, throwing more buses at it doesn’t really help.

        In the absence of always-worthwhile crosstown options, they would have been better off streamlining and doubling the frequencies on a bunch of good-walkshed-bearing core routes into and out of downtown. Oh, wait, that’s literally what the TransitNow proposal advertised! Too bad the proposal was full of lies!

        Mike, I suppose you could say that I’ve “benefited” from TransitNow service on the 44, inasmuch as I have frequently used the added trips. Doesn’t mean that every trip on the 44 isn’t a still potentially nightmare.

    3. d.p.,

      I find it to be extreme embellishment to say we got no improvements for our money. We’ve gotten hundreds of new buses since then, all of them low-floor replacing high-floor. ORCA is only two years old and is doing wonders to make my bus trips more tolerable travel-time-wise. We’ll have our second major route reorganization since the TransitNow vote, in October. Though the ramp-up is taking its time, off-board payment is creeping into the system.

      Metro could do a lot more with the $50 million the CRC would raise than without. Believe me, Metro has come a long way since 2008. Yes, they have a long way to go, but it’s not like we haven’t seen *any* results for our money.

      If you want the bus system to get worse, then join all those tea partiers calling for the eradication of public transit. I don’t think that’s where you really want to be.

      1. Sadly, your response is the one full of embellishments.

        “We’ve gotten hundreds of new buses since then, all of them low-floor replacing high-floor.”

        Obama stimulus. Also a bit of a make-demand program for the rebounding General Motors. Very clever. Also very helpful. I approve. But these had nothing to do with TransitNow funding!

        “ORCA is only two years old and is doing wonders to make my bus trips more tolerable travel-time-wise.”

        ORCA is great. ORCA should be ubiquitous. Metro should be working harder to make it so. But ORCA was already in the pipeline. Again, nothing to do with TransitNow funding!

        “It’s not like we haven’t seen *any* results for our money.”

        This is the problem I have with the way people twist themselves in knots to defend Metro on this blog. There is only one measure of transit success or failure. Does it work… most of the time…. to get you around… with relative ease?

        With TransitNow said and done, basic trips between major urban centers (Ballard to Capitol Hill, West Seattle to Fremont) still take anywhere from 40 to 90 minutes (waiting times + trip times + transfer penalty + nonexistant reliability = average leans toward the latter). A rider still has to factor in that 1.5-hour likely maximum for every such trip.

        There is no way to spin that as “results.”

        Listen, you know that I’m no Tea Partier. I just refuse to conflate “pro-transit” with “pro-subpar-transit.”

        Metro’s will not win votes by screaming “pass the tab to keep the status quo!” They need to show how the $20 will allow them to make it fucking better, or all those people who want to use transit but can’t be bothered with the Metro nightmare will have no reason to sign on!

      2. I see what you’re saying d.p. In many ways its similar to public school funding. At what point does throwing money at them stop helping?

      3. Thank you, Barman.

        I’m not just trying to be a perpetual crank here. Frankly, I was entirely less cranky (in general, all day) when I lived in a city where transit just plain worked.

        I’m tired of hearing “but we got more of what was already broken!”

        Either it works or it doesn’t. Either it makes life easier or it makes it harder. Either people want to use it or they’re loathe to.

        When sweeping changes actually yield results, trust me, you’ll know. Until then, there’s nothing to gloat about.

      4. On the other side of the coin, d.p., many people are possible to please with effort, and some people are not. If some people are impossible to please, should effort be wasted on pleasing them? Or should the effort be expended on those who are swayable with good-faith effort?

    1. What’s that? I thought it was 60/20/20, or the proportion of existing service in each subarea. In that case, it’s gone too.

      Under the new guidelines there are no subareas.

    1. Metro formerly had two policies for service allocation. Any new service was supposed to be distributed 40%-East, 40%-South, 20%-North(Seattle/Shoreline)

      Any cuts in service were supposed to be by where service currently exists. 60%-North, 20%-East, 20%-South.

      Under the new plan, subareas are gone and all routes are judged by how they match with density, employment, social equity(people of color and below the poverty line), and connecting geographic activity centers around the county. Every route is judged as to whether it is underserved or overserved by how it scores.

      1. Maybe I don’t understand the complexity but it makes more sense to provide capacity where it’s needed, not to divide up the whole pie into 3 forced slices no matter what.

      2. It’s complex politically because people paying for the service want to get their “fair share” of the service.

      3. When Metro was created in the 1970s, Seattle Transit had a network around 80%-ish of what it is now. I didn’t see it then, but in 1982 half-hour service was the norm, Queen Anne had parallel routes a quarter mile apart, Ballard had parallel routes a half mile apart.

        The rural transit agency had few routes. In 1982, Bellevue had five hourly all-day routes, and three of those were milk runs to Seattle. (One combined the 550+230east, another the 550+230west, another the 253 but it continued to Medina and downtown, another the 271+272, the 240, and another on 405. The 550 segments had several more stops.)

        The suburbs, especially the Eastside, wanted to ensure that their service would gradually come up to Seattle’s level. So the agreement that formed Metro allowed Seattle to keep its existing subsidy, but 40/40/20 would channel new service mainly to the suburbs, and 60/60/20 would ensure that any cuts would mostly be made in Seattle.

      4. Keep in mind that Seattle was a lot smaller then. Its population was declining to a nadir of 400 thousand something in the 80s. The CAP initiative prevented tall buildings in urban neighborhoods after the “disasters” of Jefferson Park towers (Beacon Hill) and the two buildings in Madison Park, and later Columbia Center downtown. First Avenue was full of prostitutes and X-rated theaters. The Belltown and downtown condos didn’t exist. Nordstrom’s was — if we believe their rhetoric that caused an emergency diversion of low-income housing funds to “save” downtown [1] — about to build a flagship store at Bellevue Square instead of downtown. So from this perspective, Seattle was mostly single-family and didn’t look that much different from the suburbs, just the lots were smaller and it had more legacy bus service.

        [1] The project involved Nordstrom’s taking over the vacated Fredrick & Nelson building, the creation of Westlake Park and mall, and the building of Pacific Place and its parking garage.

  2. I of course don’t mean this as criticism, but it’s sad that the dead of 40/40/20 is such a footnote. Congrats to Constantine (and others) for making it a policy change rather than a policy fight. A few years ago, it was unthinkable that 40/40/20 would go away without fireworks.

    1. I don’t understand why you find it sad. It was a useful policy for a while, but its time was over. It just makes sense to get rid of it. The fact that the decision is non-controversial just means that the RTTF did their job well.

  3. It should have been 50/25/25 with seattle getting 50 pct of the new service and east and south getting the other 25 pct

    1. Why the arbitrary subarea divisions? While allocating more routes to Seattle rather than suburban areas would generally be more efficient, shouldn’t service be determined by the usefulness and potential of the route rather than some artificial ratio?

      1. At one time it made sense as a very simplistic brute-force way to bulk up suburban transit service. In that measure it has succeeded, and by doing so has made itself obsolete.

        Now it is time for a more finessed hand at sculpting the urban/suburban transit balance.

  4. Post Script: In the early 90’s, several off us from Kent argued our case for better allocation of bus hours between Seattle and the suburbs. We met in council offices with Mr. Tolliver, Vance and Nickels – convinced we could make our case in Olympia for Seattle to ‘go it alone, and see how they do without all the suburban tax revenues. Frankly, we were tired of being patted on the head and told to be patient, our turn was coming.
    For too long Seattle gobbled up all the service hours, and left the suburbs with commuter runs to feed their downtown core, but little for mobility within the suburban cities. We argued, and successfully that it was grossly unfair for Kent tax payers to ‘heavily’ subsidize Seattle’s fine transit system, with little to show for it.
    40/40/20 was eventually adopted by the Council to right the wrong, and it worked. Suburban cities have a much more robust transit system, so I’m not shedding a tear over today’s vote. It was a good 15 year ride.
    I just hope Seattle doesn’t get too greedy with cutting all those ‘un-productive’ routes in Kent, Federal Way, and Redmond, lest the lesson needs to be taught again.

    1. Actually, that was one of the keys to the plan’s success. South King has plenty of very productive routes and they finally realized they have more in common with Seattle than the cul-de-sac developments of the Eastside.

      1. Agreed. If you look at the underserved corridor list on page 25 of the 600k cut scenario you’ll see a lot of Seattle and South King routes:

        http://publicola.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/2011-0114-1.pdf

        I have no problem with Seattle losing service to the suburbs if those busses will be full, but I object strongly to being left on the platform in order that Metro may drive empty busses around rural King County in the name of equity.

    2. “I just hope Seattle doesn’t get too greedy with cutting all those ‘un-productive’ routes in Kent, Federal Way, and Redmond, lest the lesson needs to be taught again.”

      Why the quotation marks? A route is either productive or it’s not. If it is not productive, cut it and add service to under-served routes and areas. If the suburbs want more service then they need to organize themselves in order to make transit more productive (not saying they haven’t, just a general comment).

      But I guess threatening Seattle is easier.

    3. We (Seattlites) did not ask for all those commuter routes to downtown. They don’t do us any good, except for a one-way outbound trip after work sometimes. And as an ex-Eastsider, I know that those routes serve only a small fraction of Eastside workers. Basically, those who work downtown are lucky to have a peak bus, and those who work elsewhere don’t have any bus at all.

      1. They do a pretty good job of filling up the high rise office buildings with a labor force. Once downtown, they do a good job of providing lots more shoppers for the business’s that cater to that workforce, which in turn keeps the Urban economy vibrant. Have you been to downtown Detroit lately?
        In return, those workers pay less for housing, but enjoy more elbow room, if that’s what lights your match. It’s all about values. Should the suburbs pay 100% of the tab? I don’t know. They mostly do now, but who’s to say it shouldn’t be 50/50 for an express route. That’s a game changer.

      2. You can look at it that way, but traditionally (and I think rightly) the cost is charged to the commuters’ residential area. All-day routes are charged equally to both subareas. Bidirectional peak expresses are the same. Unidirectional peak expresses are charged to the residential region. Companies can’t control where their employees live. The workers chose to live where they’d need a peak express, so their taxes should pay for it.

        Alternatively, Kent could do more to make people want to come to it on transit. Provide more walkable destinations, and put together some kind of small-bus or van system so that people can get to the scattered warehouse jobs in the Kent Valley on transit. If Metro won’t do it, maybe the businesses can set up a cooperative to run the vans. Tell Metro that extending the 180 to SeaTac station in the evening is a high priority, so that people can take Link home after attending an event at the ShoWare Center. Tie together Kent Station and 104th into a tighter walkable center that can justify RapidRide on a single route (not the 168 and 169 going in opposite directions to Kent Station).

      3. I was unaware that Metro subarea equity meant spending sales tax income in the subarea.

        Part of bringing an end to “the era of empty buses” is to turn more deadhead into counter-peak-directional runs, and recognize that a large chunk of the riders going downtown are transfering there to get to far-flung jobs that have much better frequency going the wrong direction for them, and they have to watch empty buses driving their route go the way they want with the “out of service” sign on. With the new policy, can that deadheading finally be converted into advertised service?

      4. No, Metro does not have subarea equity in the Sound Transit sense. It was 40/40/20, regardless of the proportion of taxes each subarea collected.

      5. If Metro did work on a strict subarea equity formula like ST Seattle would see a large cut in service. Metro was formed because Seattle Transit was broke and needed a suburban subside to stay alive. Prior to Metro taking over bus service on the eastside was run by a private company.

  5. It’s not time to party yet. Come down to the hearing tonight, so that there will be service hours left to do any of the reorganizing that is allowed under the new policy.

    Tuesday, July 12
    King County Courthouse, Council Chambers,
    10th Floor
    516 Third Avenue

  6. Time to ho,d the Eastside hostage.

    It’s not like my ex-wife took 4.5 hours to get home from Microsoft in Redmond last night …

  7. Under the proposed Strategic Plan, making service reduction and service growth decisions would be based on priorities that include:

    • Emphasizing productivity due to its linkage to economic development, land use, financial sustainability, and environmental sustainability;
    • Ensuring social equity; and
    • Providing geographic value throughout the county.

    Hilarious! There’s nothing in their decision making that has anything to getting a person who is at point A to the point B where they want to go!

    So much for “transportation”…this is an patently open Social Engineering plan that makes no bones about its intent.

    Do people realize their own tax dollars are being used by these agencies against their own best interests?!

    1. I guess that could be the worst case scenario, but hopefully we’ll still have some public input during the decision making process and have some way of electing our public officials.

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