The King County Regional Transit Meeting at Shoreline on July 17 was poorly attended, with most attendees either media or staff. This was a shame, since the proceedings were quite interesting. The primary and possibly most far-reaching announcements directly involved park and ride planning; and a possibility that public input regarding Metro service cuts would essentially not play much of a role.
Park and Ride Planning Coordination
King County transit is pushing to plan park and rides regionally. Multiple agencies, including Metro, and Sound Transit, will conduct a study on access to transit, including park and rides. After the work plan is formulated, a King County executive will transmit it to convene a series of regional conversations.
A worthy question regarding this laudable regional coordination is which group could spearhead such an initiative. There were hints throughout a following conversation that the lead agency could be the Puget Sound Regional Council (PSRC), as they have ties to Sound Transit already, and often handle multi-jurisdictional efforts.
John Resha, principal legislative analyst for King County, spoke to the council regarding park and ride planning changes. He pointed out that the problem of coordinating park and rides is not meant to be solved solely by Metro, but by the Department of Transportation, individual cities, and more. To that end, the work plan will be sent over by the end of 2013, to all the parties listed above, “to ensure a robust look at it”.
Resha stated five items the work plan will reflect, all of which a new ordinance will also cover:
1: The role of park and rides and transit infrastructure.
2: Shifts and changes in transit technology, or basically best practices for options other than additional parking spaces.
3: Options for regional needs reporting and funding access to transit; regional coordination, in brief. (“Right now we don’t plan as a region for things like park and rides,” Resha said.)
4: Model policy language, so all the jurisdictions are equally represented and in Resha’s words “come from the same place”.
5: Any potential updates to the strategic plan and guidelines.
On page 11 of the RTC packet, the new ordinance is reproduced in full. The committee passed the motion to strike the old and bring in the new ordinance, and also revised the title amendment based on the changes.
Public Input Will Not Save Your Route
Regarding the role of public hearings and Metro cuts, Desmond spoke of the upcoming service cuts in dire tones, laying out the timeline:
Now we have to start real planning for service reductions…that’s inevitable. Timing was very essential for us…so we could go out to the public maybe as early as November and see what our future is… Our earliest reductions would happen as early as September 2014. When we get spring data in July, we’ll have the most up-to-date data to refine deadlines and guidelines. We expect to unveil 600,000 hour reduction sometime in fall.
From there, Metro goes back to the council by April or possibly June of 2014, to implement the reductions. The plan would call for roughly equal increments of service changes in September 2014, February 2015, June 2015, and the final round in September 2015. The normal round of public hearings in accordance with Metro’s service guidelines will occur, but since Metro does have to abide by the service guidelines with regards to the cuts, their scope to respond to public input is limited.
Desmond also spoke regarding possible fare increases to counter the budget cuts:
We’ve assumed a fare increase in January 2015, and already planned it. We’ll have to balance a potential new low income fare program…even if we have a 25 cent fare increase, it’ll yield 10 million dollars…We have a deep structural imbalance.
West Seattle Blog also recorded Desmond mentioning a fare increase in 2014, and I’m working to resolve the discrepancy. But Desmond did note that the sales tax revenue has grown since the last financial report. In fact, given recent sales tax projections, cuts may not be as dire as Desmond foretold.
More items summarized at the meeting were changes to Aurora, RapidRide E, and more, all covered previously.
Other noteworthy changes:
- A discussion of load metrics; any changes didn’t appear substantive, merely a change of date and requirement for acknowledgment of receipt regarding a report on bus loads and so on.
- Changes to the long range plan policies, which basically consist of ensuring total coverage of all transit issues over multiple jurisdictions, consistency with the current policies and plans, and use of extant service guidelines as the starting point.
- Revisions to the amendment regarding Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act – basically an update of the language used therein to match Metro’s complicity with the Act.
- Updates of Metro’s service guidelines