On June 6, the Snohomish Community Transit Board of Directors approved a plan to restore 7500 annual service hours, starting with the September 29 service change. Community Transit is planning on adding an additional 25,000 annual service hours in 2015, which still leaves it well behind its high point before the recession forced it to cut 160,000 annual service hours from 2010 to 2012.
Eight routes will be impacted by the September 2014 service change.
Three routes (130, 201, and 202) will get frequency bumps:
Route 130 (Edmonds Station to Lynnwood Transit Center via Aurora Village and Mountlake Terrace) will see its weekday mid-day frequency increase from every 60 minutes to every 30 minutes.
Routes 201 and 202 (Smokey Point Transit Center to Lynnwood TC) will see their weekday frequency increased to provide combined 15-minute service between Smokey Point TC and Lynnwood TC all day. This increased frequency will add 23 daily trips to Community Transit’s longest local north-south route and improve connections with east/west service, especially in the north and east county.
Both routes will operate on I-5 between Ash Way Park & Ride and Lynnwood TC, rather than on streets. This change saves significant service hours and improves service time on these routes. Passengers who wish to travel to Alderwood Mall can transfer at Ash Way P&R to revised routes 115 and 116.
Route 120 (currently Lynnwood TC to Canyon P&R) will be extended to Edmonds Community College and two afternoon trips will be added. This change increases the number of buses between Lynnwood TC and Edmonds CC from 4 to 6 per hour each weekday to address high demand.
Routes 113, 115, and 116 will be re-routed in the vicinity of Alderwood Mall.
Last week’s Executive Committee Meeting covered the preliminary findings from Sound Transit’s planning study of the Ballard/UW/520 corridor. We’ll cover the Eastside results next week, but today we’ll discuss the results for the segment between Ballard (15th & Market) and University District Stations. This very short segment covers trips currently served by the achingly slow 44 with no obvious high-speed corridors. Regrettably, the four urban centers worth serving (Ballard, Fremont, Wallingford, and the U-District) aren’t linearly arranged.
The most direct option is a tunnel via Wallingford (A3), serving 22,000-26,000 riders with an end-to-end travel time of 6-9 minutes. This suggests a trip from Ballard to Westlake of about 20 minutes. Like any tunnel, it’s relatively expensive per mile: estimated to cost $1.4-1.9 billion in 2014 dollars.*
Path B2 serves central Fremont by bypassing Wallingford. Although not shown on the map, the study examined both an all-surface option and one that runs elevated through the U-District and Fremont. The trip takes 10-12 minutes (10-13 for surface) and 21,000-26,000 riders (20,000-24,000 surface). The costs range from $1.2-1.6 billion, with negligible cost differences between the options.
The highest ridership option is C1, which serves all four locations, on the surface except for a elevated run down 45th. Although the longest path, it’s estimated to cost $1.2-1.7 billion to serve 23,000-28,000 riders. End to end, it would be a 9-11 minute trip.
Link broke another record this month. For the first time ever, Link’s 12 month moving average growth rate passed 12%. It’s been consistently over 11% since December of last year but now it has crossed over the 12% mark. For a system that was supposed to be growing at 2-3% about now, that is impressive. It looks quite possible that by the time the extension to the University of Washington opens in 2016, Link will be on target to meet pre-Great Recession projections.
April’s Central Link Weekday/Saturday/Sunday boardings were 31,072/23,904/17,304, growth of 15.0%, 11.4%, and 24.5% respectively over April 2013. Sounder’s weekday boardings were up 12.4% with ridership increasing on both lines. Total Tacoma Link weekday ridership declined only 0.9%, it appears the bloodletting is slowing. Weekday ST Express ridership was up 5.6%, with most growth occurring on East King and Pierce County routes. Total Sound Transit boardings were up 9.4%. Complete April Ridership Summary here>
Yesterday, King County Executive Dow Constantine signed an executive order which is intended to improve cooperation between Metro and Sound Transit in a number of ways. In his capacity as chair of Sound Transit’s Board of Directors, Constantine will bring a motion before the Sound Transit Board intended to accomplish the same goal. In a briefing yesterday, Constantine spoke with several reporters, including both Adam Bejan Parast and me from STB, in a bit more depth about what he hopes to accomplish with the executive order and its companion motion. In a nutshell, he sees his two-year chairmanship of the ST Board as an opportunity to get Metro and Sound Transit cooperating more closely, in order (he hopes) to improve the effectiveness of regional transit spending and the transit customer experience. Constantine described the effort as focused on improving the process of cooperation, and refused for the most part to go into specifics about what actual service or aspects of the customer experience might be improved as a result.
The effort has several key components; three are worthy of particular note.
First, staff of both agencies will cooperate more closely in service planning for both bus and rail, particularly in an effort to maximize the value of investments in new rail and BRT corridors, reduce duplication, and free up other bus resources to serve corridors and areas not well served by rail and BRT. In this area, Constantine (along with Metro planning manager Victor Obeso and ST government relations staffer Rachel Smith, who both took part in the discussion) did name three places of particular interest for cooperative planning: 1) restructures around the upcoming UW Link opening in 2016; 2) Northgate Link, in 2021; and 3) a possible Mercer Island collection/transfer point for East Link, in 2023. Constantine singled out “how to use buses more effectively to get customers to trains” as an area of particular importance. He freely admitted that planning and execution of bus/train transfers along Central Link had been “bumpy,” and wants the agencies to do better with upcoming corridor openings.
Second, staff will look for other opportunities for closer coordination throughout their agencies. This was described very generally in both the executive order itself and the briefing. The executive order mentions “coordinated operations, maintenance, administration, transparency, and accountability measures.” It’s not clear what cooperation would be possible in operations or maintenance, areas where ST contracts all its work. In terms of administration and governance, Constantine emphasized the need to find a balance between cooperative effort and continued local control. He does not want to see a regional super-agency, and feels that each agency’s accountability to its local electorate and attention to local detail is important to providing good transit service. For instance, he does not want to change Metro’s service allocation guidelines. But he would like to see the agencies develop a cohesive regional vision, and “act as one” whenever possible.
Third, staff will look for ways to improve access to rider information tools such as schedules and trip planners. Constantine bemoaned the need to visit multiple agencies’ websites to find information about many trips (which will worsen in the future as more rail corridors open). He didn’t know exactly what tools might be developed, but wants staff of both agencies to study how to provide unified rider information.
During the media briefing, Constantine also spoke at some length about his view of transit policy in general. He sees increased investment in transit as the best strategy for increasing regional transportation capacity, seeing limited potential in expansion of the road network. He would like to see Metro service at a level 500,000 annual hours higher than today’s, even after the opening of ST’s rail corridors. His two key goals for transit are 1) to maximize the value obtained for each dollar of transit funding, and 2) to “optimize” the experience for transit customers. Unsurprisingly given the views he expressed in his letter to the King County Council rejecting its cuts-postponing ordinance, he is a proponent of service planning based on objective, measurable criteria, and is interested in developing new ways of evaluating transit performance and the value obtained from transit funding.
Councilmember Rod Dembowski got the King County Council to unanimously agree to raising the farebox recovery target in Motion 2014-0207 passed Monday. Stating the goal doesn’t automatically result in collecting that amount of money, but hope-based planning is apparently fashionable on the Council given the unfunded nature of Ordinance 2014.0210.2.
The traditional way of calculating farebox recovery does not subtract out the costs of fare collection, including those associated with bus delay. To be specific, Metro’s definition of farebox recovery is “the ratio of bus fare revenue to bus operating costs”. So, Metro might find ways to increase farebox recovery by 4% of total costs, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the amount of funding available to run Metro will go up by 4%.
The council seems fixated on the idea that increasing fares will increase farebox recovery. That’s true up to a point, but declining ridership may reduce it instead. Page 46 of the appendices to the report of the Low-Income Fare Options Advisory Committee showed how steep the ridership drop might be among various rider groups with quarter-indexed fare increases.
A more direct way to improve the farebox recovery rate is to cut under-collecting routes and runs, and add service to fuller, higher-collecting routes. In other words, to follow Metro’s Service Guidelines. However, if farebox recovery has the same priority as ridership when restructuring service, that further imperils routes that have the highest percentage of low-income riders. That would be a Title VI issue.
One of Mr. Dembowski’s ideas that should get a serious look is to increase the monthly pass multiplier, from the current 36 times the single-ride rate, to 40 times the single-ride rate. The 36 multiplier is a legacy of the age of magnetic-tape monthly-pass cards. The cards were Metro’s best tool for speeding up boardings at the time. Now, monthly ORCA passes and e-purse are equally great for minimizing fare payment delays. But if Metro increases the multiplier to 40, one would hope those who choose to switch to paying per ride would choose e-purse. With the $5 cost of getting an ORCA (by far the most expensive bus smart card in the country after rebates), the existence of seemingly-unexpiring paper transfers, and identical cash and electronic fares, that is a bad bet.
That leads me to my second point of agreement with Councilmember Dembowski’s proposals: eliminate paper transfers. Ideally, I’d like to see the low-income fare program implemented first. Of course, that means finding the money to implement the program. Eliminating the $4 million annual cost of printing and distributing paper transfers would be a start, but nowhere near covering the annual cost of the program.
The council has, thankfully, already moved beyond the philosophical debate about cash fare equity. If and when the low-income fare program begins, riders will have to pay electronically in order to get the reduced fare. That makes it more acceptable to raise cash fares for the rest of the ridership. Indeed, I would suggest that a cash fare surcharge would be more effective than a flat increase in increasing net fare recovery. Net farebox recovery calculations would include the cost of the bus idling while a cash payer spends an average of 4.5 to 6.8 seconds longer than an ORCA user (See page 17) to pay their fare. In high-volume areas like Downtown, each delay also impacts other buses and trains held up behind the cash payer.
Unlike most other suggested “efficiencies,” improving net farebox recovery would actually improve the rider experience by reducing travel time. It also creates savings that can (partially) offset service cuts. (albeit nowhere near Metro’s current deficit). Net farebox recovery would be a more useful measurement and planning tool than the traditional gross farebox recovery.
It is time for the World Cup! Competition kicks off Thursday with host Brazil vs. Croatia at 1:00 pm PDT. I am sure many of you are wondering where you are going to watch, if you are not at work.
Let’s start with the telecommute option. A full list of channels, matches, and times is available here.
For those who don’t have cable, and are looking for group viewing, SounderAtHeart has crowd-sourced 40 sites in and around Seattle.
I would like to highlight one in particular: Phinney Neighborhood Association will continue its tradition of showing the World Cup, free to the public, at Phinney Community Center. This is not only the best all-ages family option for viewing, but probably the largest screen in Seattle (14 feet by 8 feet) that will be showing the World Cup.Phinney Community Center is located at 6532 Phinney Ave N, right along Metro route 5. Look to the east for the beautiful historic school building in the picture above.
If you want to mix Link with your soccer, head on down to Columbia City where the Columbia City Ale House (21+) and Rookies (family friendly) will both show every match.
Given that this is a transit blog, anything that isn’t about where to watch and how to get there is off-topic for this post.
About one year ago, Metro selected Columbia Street, using a two-way alignment, as the pathway that southbound Highway 99 buses would use between the new Alaskan Way interchange and Third Avenue after completion of the Highway 99 project. Last week, Metro released a brief summary of a traffic study intended to help the agency and SDOT determine the best way to configure the new two-way Columbia.
Metro seriously considered three possibilities. Option 1 is a three-lane configuration with one transit-only lane in each direction and one general-purpose (GP) lane westbound, which would allow room for wider sidewalks along Columbia Street. Options 2 and 2B both use four-lane configurations with one transit-only lane in each direction and two GP lanes westbound, and sidewalks of the same width as today’s. Options 2 and 2B would also allow for dedicated GP turn lanes in certain spots, while Option 1 would not. The only difference between Options 2 and 2B is that Option 2 would allow general traffic to use the eastbound transit-only lane between First and Second, which would provide GP access to two parking lots without turning across the transit-only lane.
Metro determined that Option 1, with three lanes, would have an unacceptable impact on general traffic, largely because of the lack of space for dedicated turn lanes. Given the volume of traffic turning left from Columbia onto Second, this conclusion makes sense.
Metro also determined that Option 2, allowing general traffic between First and Second eastbound, would serve general traffic better than Option 2B. Conspicuously absent from the summary, though, is any discussion of whether buses would be delayed by cars waiting to turn right from the transit lane onto Second. Given the high volume of pedestrian traffic in the area during peak hours, and the need for turning car traffic to wait for pedestrians, an impact on eastbound bus traffic seems quite likely. I would have liked to see more specific discussion of Option 2’s potential effect on bus travel times, compared with Option 2B.
One other interesting note: the study assumed 40 buses per hour in each direction during peak hours, which is a bit odd, as today there are 47 outbound buses in this corridor during the busiest hour (4:30-5:30 p.m.), with demand for more. Consistently with the brief nature of the summary, there was no explanation for the difference.
Yesterday, the King County Council, in a long, tense meeting, passed Councilmember Rod Dembowski’s proposal to indefinitely delay all of Metro’s cuts except most of those scheduled for September 2014. Dembowski and four suburban councilmembers (Hague, Lambert, Dunn, von Reichbauer) voted in favor, while the remaining four councilmembers (Upthegrove, McDermott, Gossett, Phillips) voted against. The council also unanimously passed a companion motion by Councilmember Dembowski requesting that the Executive commission the second Metro performance audit in five years; set a higher farebox recovery target; and study further efficiency measures to reduce the amount of cuts needed. In approving Dembowski’s ordinance, the Council rejected a compromise amendment offered by the four No-voting members which would have left the scheduled cuts in place but allowed the executive to cancel or reduce most of them if revenue allowed.
Councilmember Dembowski’s ordinance did not add or specifically identify any revenue to pay for the service it sought to restore. It included Councilmember Kathy Lambert’s amendment arbitrarily saving six DART routes, five of which are quite poor performers, from the ax. For these and other reasons I detailed yesterday morning, Dembowski’s measure was highly unpopular among the STB staff.
Apparently we weren’t the only ones who disliked it. County Executive Dow Constantine, who did not issue a veto threat or otherwise show his hand before the Council’s vote, vetoed the bill less than one hour after the Council voted for it—about 20 minutes after the end of the Council meeting. The veto is the first of Constantine’s four-year tenure as county executive. In a blistering press release (where he likened the Dembowski ordinance to “a big check without enough money in the bank”) and an equally blunt letter to the Council he left very little doubt about where he stands on the issues at play. Both documents are well worth reading in their entirety, but some bits of language in the letter are too colorful to pass up (emphasis all mine):
[The Dembowski ordinance] is not responsible. It violates the Comprehensive Financial Management Policies adopted unanimously by the Council less than two months ago. Specifically, it spends future revenue that does not exist, and it draws upon one-time revenue to fund ongoing operations. Further, it violates King County Metro’s Council-adopted Strategic Plan by allocating service hours based on political considerations rather than data and established objective criteria. We’ve come far in our nationally recognized work to reform and modernize King County government and should not endanger this progress. …
We worked together to achieve meaningful reforms that will benefit the agency, and the public, through the discipline of continuous improvement, rather than resorting to such empty managerial platitudes as “budget-scrubbing” and “top-to-bottom” review. …
We can budget based on hope. Or we can budget based on reality. This ordinance commits us to spending money that we do not know to exist. …
Ordinance 2014-0210.2 violates the Transit Strategic Plan and service guidelines, and creates additional financial impacts that are not reconciled. This compromises the integrity of our regional planning process and sets a dangerous precedent.
As of this writing, Dembowski has not publicly commented on the veto. We will update this post if and when he does.
I share Constantine’s hope that his veto will encourage the Council to come back with a compromise ordinance that respects the integrity of the county planning process and doesn’t rely on funding the County doesn’t have.
Last Friday, as part of the Annapurna business mitigation contest, Sound Transit invited media to tag along on their U-Link walking tour. We were given the rare opportunity to walk the entire 3 miles underground, departing from UW Station around 2pm and emerging a couple blocks east of Westlake just after 4pm.
U-Link is now 85% complete and still on track for an early 2016 opening. UW Station is about 95% complete, and Capitol Hill station just over 50% complete. About a third of the track and electrical is finished, and no OCS (overhead catenary) is yet installed.
Since Proposition 1 failed in April, Metro and its riders have assumed that the King County Council would pass an ordinance implementing the four-part series of cuts Metro planning staff devised. On Tuesday, Councilmember Rod Dembowski threw a wrench into that plan. He and the three suburban members of the Council’s Transportation, Economy, and Environment (TrEE) Committee, over the objections of the committee’s three other Seattle members, approved an ordinance which would implement only most of the first (September 2014) round of cuts, canceling other cuts altogether for the moment. Councilmember Dembowski would not implement or propose any funding to pay for the restoration of service. (Our Frank Chiachiere spoke with Councilmember Dembowski about his proposed ordinance last week.)
The other four Seattle councilmembers, in response, proposed a compromise ordinance which would implement all four rounds of cuts, but give the County Executive flexibility to cancel or reduce the June 2015 and September 2015 cuts and to undo part or all of the February 2015 cuts if new funding is found. This response put the Council in the odd position of having “Democrats” propose cuts while “Republicans” (and Councilmember Dembowski) seek to delay them (yes, the Council is technically nonpartisan). But there is method to the Democrats’ seeming madness, and I strongly support their compromise proposal.
I’m usually a big fan of Councilmember Dembowski, who is my councilmember, and who has done top-notch work on many issues in a short time on the Council. But I think this proposal of his is misguided, even with an admirable goal. I argue that his proposal’s effect would not be to avoid cuts, but to undermine Metro’s newly professionalized planning process and its Service Guidelines, while cuts go forward. That would be a profoundly bad outcome for Metro, the county, and us riders, so I hope to see Councilmember Dembowski’s proposed ordinance defeated at today’s 1:30 p.m. Council meeting. Full argument below the jump.
Campbell Live, a well-known TV newsmagazine in New Zealand, recently filed an extended report on attempts to manage growth and housing affordability in Seattle, as Auckland is starting to face some of the same problems. Although I think it glosses over the city’s failures, it’s also a reminder that it could be worse. We at least pay lip service to density, and most efforts, however halting, are usually in the right direction.
This week a King County Council majority of Democrat Rod Dembowski and four Republicans* backed a plan to not enact any of the Executive’s proposed cuts except for the September 2014 round (see the breakdown of what disappears when here). PubliCola reports that yesterday
Republican county council member Kathy Lambert… proposed (and passed, with support from Dembowski and the council’s other three Republicans) an an amendment that would preserve a half-dozen Dial-a-Ride Transit (DART)** routes in unincorporated King County that were deemed, under Metro’s service guidelines (which consider factors like ridership, cost, economic justice, and social equity), to be “low-performing.”
The DART service is operated by Hopelink, a nonprofit that serves seniors and people with disabilities. Lambert is on Hopelink’s board of directors.
Meanwhile, the other four Democrats presented their own “compromise” plan (with legal text) that technically enacts all four rounds of cuts. However, only the first two would be certain to happen. The Executive would have until November 30, 2014 to inform the Council that it had identified additional revenue (through new revenue projections, a Seattle tax package, or some other “efficiencies”). It would then have to submit by January 7th a “plan consistent with the Metro Transit Service Guidelines recommending restoring some routes and service included in the February 2015, June 2015 and September 2015 service changes.”
Rob Johnson, Executive Director of Transportation Choices Coalition and friend of the blog, said that on Monday his organization would back the Democratic proposal because the Dembowski/Republican plan “is a bad idea” and the County must “face reality” that some cuts will be unavoidable.
Although the differences between these proposals are largely technical, there is one significant advantage of the Democratic plan. Rather than preserving existing service patterns, it would subject a larger portion of current service to the Metro Service Guidelines, the path to a more rational, ridership-maximizing bus network. This is partly because it enacts all the cuts and then restores the service hours according to the guidelines, and also because it avoids this grubby bit of pork-barrel DART spending.
The Council will consider both proposals Monday at 1:30pm in Council Chambers. As always, public comment is welcome.
* The Council is officially nonpartisan, but all members either previously ran with party affiliation or proudly declare their allegiance.
This Sunday will kick off the 20th Columbia City Beatwalk season. After the success of last year a similar format will be used, second Sunday of the month June-October from 6-10pm. All shows will be FREE. The location of downtown Columbia City is a short walk east from the Columbia City link station.
Each Sunday event will have its own theme and unique lineup. June 8th will be funk oriented:
Get ready to dance the evening away to the fabulous sounds of Thaddilac, Mctuff, Jeff Fielder, Eli Rossenblat, Swamp Soul Band, DJ MCG5000, The Entertainment Quintet, Honeysuckle Rose and much more! It is all free and very conveniently located at all of your favorite Columbia City venues, including The Hummingbird, The Royal Room, Columbia City Theater, Tuttabell and Island Soul.
As we noted on Tuesday, King County Councilmember Rod Dembowski passed a motion out of his committee to delay the transit cuts that are scheduled to go into effect in 2015. Since the motion was supported mainly by the Republicans on the council, it raised a few eyebrows here on the STB staff.
I sat down with Dembowski to learn more about the motion and his thinking behind it. As readers no doubt recall, the cuts are scheduled to be phased in over the next two years, with the lowest-priority cuts happening this year and more aggressively painful cuts happening through September 2015. He agrees that the 2014 cuts probably need to happen, but wants to delay the more aggressive cuts scheduled for next year.
Tuesday night SDOT held an open house for the proposed Northgate Station pedestrian bridge. It showcased three design alternatives and provided a brief funding update. The bridge itself will be 15-20 feet wide and have an overall length of 1800-2200 feet depending on the alignment. The trek from the station to College Way would be about 1/4 mile; the current trip is about 1.2 miles via either the north on Northgate Way or via the south on 92nd. 7,000 daily crossings are expected once Lynnwood Link comes online. The student population of North Seattle Community College is 14,000 plus about 400 staff. The bus stops in front of NSCC see about 600 daily riders today.
The bridge will connect at three points: ground level on the west side of I-5, ground level on the east side and at the mezzanine level of Northgate Station. For the west side there are two options: at the end of 103rd at College Way (W1) and at 100th (W2). For the east side: 1st and 103rd (E1), 1st and 100th (E3) or half way between the two (E2).
The bridge deck will be about 40 feet off the ground and the western approach would gently slope down. The east approach will cloverleaf and touch down on the west side of 1st. A cycle track is to be constructed running on the west side of 1st between 103rd and 92nd. A multi-use path is being constructed on the east side of 1st from 103rd to Northgate Way. There is a planned, unfunded greenway along 100th between College Way and Fremont Ave.
The Seattle City Council pass the highest minimum wage in the US. I think Sally Clark said it best, “No city or state has gone this far. We go into uncharted territory.”
Washington Sate is required to cut CO2 emission by 72% according to the recently released EPA plan, the largest of any state, primarily because we emit so little CO2 to start with compared to other states. Seattle City Light is already 100% carbon neutral.
Part of Broad Street closes permanently. I for one will not miss its horrible 4ft sidewalks.
Details of the waterfront stair-climb along Union Street released. This has long been my favorite connection because of the amazing views of Puget Sound, despite the 2nd rate pedestrian realm. More seating please!
Sounds like Bellevue will pass on trying to save its Metro bus service.
As far as I can tell, there’s no video, as the Seattle Channel’s appetite for zoning meetings is lower than mine. Nevertheless, I got this report from Planning, Land Use, and Sustainability (PLUS) Committee Chair Mike O’Brien on yesterday’s meeting:
It passed out of committee today intact. The parcels just south of the station were left unchanged as there is a lot going on there right now and it wasn’t clear if taking an action now would help or hurt that work. I left it open to come back in the future (possibly near future) to consider a change to those parcels…
The bill will come to full council on June 23.
The good news in this report is that the Harrell amendment dropping a 125′ parcel down to 85′ failed. Crosscut reports that Mr. Harrell also offered an amendment deferring the upzone indefinitely, which also failed. Now it’s up to the Council to finally give the Rainier Valley what it has needed for so long. Thanks to Councilmembers O’Brien, Clark, Licata, and Burgess for approving the legislation.
In other news from the same meeting, PubliCola reports the committee punted a set of regulations that would effectively deter construction of affordable microhousing to a stakeholder committee. The rules are basically bad, so whatever delays them is probably good.
Since the defeat of Prop 1 in April, many assumed that it was merely a formality for the County Council to adopt and implement the cuts to Metro service. But in a surprising and somewhat messy development, the King County Council’s Transportation, Economy, and Environment Committee, led by Chair Rod Dembowski, passed an ordinance yesterday that would implement only the September 2014 cuts, with service levels in “2015 and later…determined in a manner consistent with adopted policies and the King County budget for those years.” Citing the rising economy and the ability to further raise fares, Dembowski’s ordinance reads in part:
“An opportunity exists for the council and executive to work collaboratively with each other, stakeholders and cities throughout the county to identify alternative cost savings, efficiencies and updated estimates of revenue and expenditures that could reduce Metro’s annual budget gap, thereby decreasing the number of transit service hours required to be reduced in 2015.”
The ordinance split the Committee and passed 4-3, Dembowski being joined by suburban Republicans Hague, Lambert, and von Reichbauer. Phillips, Upthegrove, and McDermott opposed, and Dunn and Gossett were absent. If Dunn joins those four councilmembers when the ordinance goes to the full Council next week, and assuming Gossett opposes (neither of which are certain), that would mean a potential 5-4 vote to delay the bulk of the cuts. It would then be subject to a possible veto by Executive Constantine, who has said that the integrity of the public process and the Prop 1 vote requires that service be cut until new revenue materializes.
At first blush, Dembowski’s move seems like a risky punt. His plan seems to be to implement the cuts that cannot be staved off (September), try to further squeeze cash from Metro’s capital programs, defer plans to replenish Metro’s cash reserves, raise fares, and wait for a tax windfall or a generous Seattle electorate. To the extent that the tax windfall, increased fare revenues, or city buybacks fail to materialize, it’s not clear what cuts will happen and when, or what the Council will have gained by not simply executing the cuts as proposed by the executive.
In general, I (and other STB authors) are favorable to anything that improves Metro’s cost and revenue structures in a realistic and sustainable way, and to the extent that Dembowski’s ordinance can achieve that, I am cautiously in favor. I am, however, highly resistant to delaying inevitable pain by spending down more reserves, or looting what’s left of Metro’s capital funds: that is a continuance of the pathological pain-avoidance “leadership” style which the Council has applied to Metro since the beginning of the recession. This has given us an agency that is managed by crisis, where all service planning and public outreach must take place against a background of increasingly precipitous, but uncertain, cuts. It seems to me that the sensible, good government way to approach this problem is to pass a modified cuts plan but allow Metro to add back service (according to their Service Guidelines) every service change if revenue exceeds projections.
We are reaching out to Councilmember Dembowski for further details on his thinking and will have an update in the coming days.