On Monday, the King County Council unanimously passed an ordinance enacting Metro bus service cuts for September 2014. There are press releases from Transportation, Economy, and Environment (TrEE) Committee Chair Rod Dembowski, the four other Democrats on the county council, and King County Executive Dow Constantine:

“This agreement adheres to the principles I insisted on many weeks ago: Don’t rely on money we don’t have; don’t spend one-time money for on-going service; and use objective criteria to make decisions on saving or cutting service,” said Executive Constantine. “I want to thank members for arriving at legislation that balances Metro’s budget, and that is sustainable.” 

The TrEE Committee passed the ordinance unanimously last Tuesday. In a sign of continued tension, Councilmember Dave Upthegrove had some interesting things to say about the process:

“I want to thank the Executive and Chair Phillips for working on a proposal that I could at least hold my nose and vote for,” said Councilmember Dave Upthegrove. “It took a little longer than everyone hoped, but I am pleased that the current ‘Majority Coalition’ decided to vote for the same proposal today that they rejected yesterday. I’m not sure what caused them to change their minds, but I am grateful that the Executive and Council Chair brought this proposal to us yesterday and that it is finally moving forward.”

The just-approved ordinance allows Metro to move forward with 161,000 hours of specified cuts in annual bus service hours in September. The council also approved, in principle, allowing Metro to cut another 188,000 annual hours in February of 2015. However, those cuts, including the specific routes, will need further council action.

The prior dispute involved several issues, including using one-time funding sources to temporarily shore up the operating budget and various deviations from Metro’s service guidelines. A main argument was whether to approve the February cuts now or wait for the next budget forecast. The compromise is that the Council agreed to the overall level of February cuts, but not the specific route adjustments, at this time.

Metro is still planning for another 200,000 hours of cuts in June and September of 2015, based on current revenue projections, but the Council will handle that in a later budget process.

Other than the 161,000 hours of cuts in September, these numbers do not take into account the impact if Seattle voters pass the proposal for a Seattle-only revenue package to avoid bus service cuts in Seattle.

16 Replies to “County Council Passes September Service Cuts”

  1. I’m curious: if Seattle tries to directly fund existing bus routes rather than just giving money to Metro, does that create a positive conflict with the Service Guidelines? In any event, if Seattle tries to tie the money to specific existing routes, Metro should refuse the money.

    1. The chances of Metro refusing the money are nil. The Keep Seattle Moving initiative was explicit that routes that had been slashed within Seattle were to be restored with this money. The City Council’s ordinance is less clear about this. Of course, bus service itself is more important than fealty to the Service Guidelines.

      1. Of course, bus service itself is more important than fealty to the Service Guidelines.

        Nope. Bus service is important, but only if provided in an objective and fair manner and in accordance with county law. Hopefully the county council, will not accept these persistent back-door attempts to gut the Service Guidelines in favor of individual well-connected interests.

      2. I take issue with calling Seattle voters–the ones who voted yes the first go around and will probably vote yes the second time–“individual well-connected interests.” Would I prefer that bus route decisions be made solely by the King County Metro planning folks, without political interests butting in? Absolutely. Is that how the world actually works? Heck no.

        The only votes I can cast are the ones related to items placed before me on a ballot. I can work to get items onto the ballot, however flawed that process may be, but I can’t force an issue there. If Seattle puts a question before me that says “do you approve of spending this money to buy back the routes that King County can no longer afford,” I can only say yes or no to that. I don’t see another option if I want to keep the level of service that currently exists.

        In that same vein, I don’t see Seattle pissing off King County by lording the funding over the county. When push comes to shove, King County owns and runs the buses, Seattle doesn’t, so Seattle will go along with what King County wants as long as it is palatable. That’s basically the situation we have now, just on a larger scale.

      3. The service guidelines are only binding on Metro’s base funds. Cities can buy whatever routes or runs they want. It would be better for the city to follow the spirit of the guidelines and allow the “good” reorganizations to go through (2,3,4,13) — those that lead to a long-term frequent network — but not the “bad” reorganizations (West Seattle) that appear to be just band-aids with no long-term value. But even having that discussion raises a debate on whether the 2 or 106 are good reorganizations or not. I’m sure about the 2; I’m not so sure about the 106. The city council wants to avoid picking favorites and incurring the wrath of dissenting voters, so it falls back to the status quo. And arguably the council shouldn’t be choosing routes because it’s less competent at it than Metro. But that’s what happens in a climate of cuts and fear: people cling to the status quo. Kevin Desmond has said that what Metro needs to keep up with population growth and address underservice is not a 600,000-hour cut but a 600,000-hour increase, so that’s the discussion we should be having.

      4. I’m less annoyed (but still annoyed) by the efforts to prioritize saving the least productive routes, at the expense of adding service to the most productive routes, than I am by efforts to keep routes from becoming better for riders, especially when travel time could have been reduced (thereby enabling service hour savings to add service to the most productive routes).

        In particular, capital improvements that reduce operating costs in perpetuity ought to be the top priority — ahead of moving service to the most productive routes == not something, specifically prohibited from being funded by the upcoming transit proposition. I reserve my harshest rebuke for those anti-transit activists who are working to sabotage the transit system by making the riding experience as painful, slow, and expensive as possible. You know who you are.

    2. I’m pretty sure the service guidelines determine to what level king county can subsidize service but seattle can purchase additional service. There should be no Ill will towards seattle and other cities who choose to pay to keep certain routes in operation. The catch is they’d be on the hook for those trips. So it really would fall on seattle to work with the county on developing service that works.

  2. I’m fine with Metro cutting night service from route 187 and route 903. What I don’t get is why they are also cutting night service from route 181. The second last bus of the night on weekdays is standing room only sometimes (that’s going west from Federal Way Transit Center). Especially given that this route does a good job on the basis of general coverage of the city (the majority of the city of Federal Way is within 1.5 miles of the 181), and all the nighttime riders from the other routes going west all dump into this route.

    Meanwhile, the A-Line will still arrive at the transit center every half hour until 1:10 am.

  3. Losing the 306 is going to put a lot of peak-hour pressure on the 522 and 312. A lot more people are going to get passed up at 95th & Lake City Way and 85th & Lake City Way. I suppose some will be able to switch to the 77 if they are coming from west of Lake City Way.

    1. The 306 trips being deleted will basically be converted into Kenmore 312’s. 306 goes away but 312’s are added. There will still be a few less trips, but not a complete loss of those 306 trips

      1. Well, my previous post wasn’t entire accurate. Only one trips each AM and PM commute will be converted. So losing five 306’s in the AM, one will become a 312, total loss of 4 trips. And losing six 306’s in the PM, one will become a 312, for a total loss of 5 trips.

  4. They should be applying for all the grants possible to create bus lanes and implement signal priority to be more efficient with the service hours they do have. Its amazing how many service hours are wasted (nevermind riders time) with buses packed full of people stuck in SOV congestion.

  5. Shame on every politician connected with this debacle in any way shape or form — Christine I love tunnels and useless bridges Gregoire, ALL of the state legislature, the County Council and the City Council. (And don’t get me started on the US House and Senate — USELESS). The result of inaction, silly attempts to get clueless voters to regresselivly tax themselves and a mentality that can fund a worthless boring machine, a poorly designed rail-less bridge across Lake Washington, and even attempt to cross the Columbia as well as empty efforts to simply take care of the existing infrastructure has resulted in very reduced bus service, a perception that transit is in trouble, and ….. well you get the picture.

    I’m not happy and I vote. You politicians failed miserable in your jobs. And I won’t forget.

    (Full disclosure — I live on the soon to be killed 47 and will not have not bus link to downtown without walking several up hill blocks or being forced to wait at the longest traffic light in the city of Seattle — and that’s after being cut off from SLU by a freeway that means I have to walk one mile to reach a business I can throw a rock at and hit from my front room). Zip lines, anyone?)

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