What a difference a year makes.  Less than a year, actually.

Metro Route 372
Metro Route 372, targeted for investment. Photo by Kris Leisten.

We spent last summer reporting on the dramatic, high-stakes conflict between Metro, County Executive Dow Constantine, and a faction of the County Council led by Councilmember Rod Dembowski over whether Metro would need to carry through the four increasingly painful rounds of service cuts it planned following the failure of King County Proposition 1.  In the end, of course, Metro made only the first of the four rounds of cuts, under protest that canceling the other cuts made its financial future uncertain.

The growing economy, and possibly fading memories, have apparently eliminated the uncertainty.  It looks like Councilmember Dembowski’s gamble ended up paying off.

In November, Seattle voters passed Proposition 1, using city funds to restore (and then some) the cut service hours within the city.  Late last Friday, the other shoe dropped: Metro announced a new investment in service hours, using its own funds.  Almost all of these service improvements come from the county’s own revenue, and the county cites a laundry list of sources: low diesel prices, higher-than-expected sales tax receipts, and new state grants.  The new investment will add 69,000 service hours, which, combined with Prop 1, essentially makes up for the September cuts.

The catch: all of these Metro improvements are to service not covered by Prop 1.  More below the jump.

Metro’s press release and much local reporting describes this package as improvements to “suburban routes.”  That’s a bit baffling, because improvements only to suburban routes would seem to violate the Seattle/King County interlocal agreement implementing Prop 1.  Section 7.1 of the agreement says:

[T]he City’s purchase of service hours under this Agreement shall not supplant other service on routes partially or completely operating within the City that the County would otherwise provide in accordance with the adopted Metro Transit Service Guidelines.

Yet, one would think, there is no way that the Service Guidelines would add 69,000 hours of service only in the suburbs.  So isn’t some city service that could be added being “supplanted?”

Why This Isn’t Bad for the City

As it turns out, the answer is no.  The city, as well as Metro, appears to believe the additional service announced Friday is consistent with the agreement.  And there are four separate reasons why.

First, a surprising amount of the added service will actually be in the city, the “suburban” label notwithstanding.  Metro’s release lists which routes are scheduled for improvement without saying anything about the relative size of the improvements.  But we understand that the RapidRide E Line and route 120, two routes with suburban endpoints that mostly serve as two of the busiest city core routes, will be getting something like a third of the total hours in this package.  Both routes are slated for all-day frequency improvements, likely to 12-minute frequency.  The city would have liked to make these improvements through Prop 1, but neither route quite meets the eligibility requirements.  Also, route 372 serves many city riders and will receive several new trips to relieve overcrowding, and a number of routes serving many city trips are in line for reliability improvements.

Second, the city will receive some additional hours for more improvements of its choosing, which may be added to the Prop 1 improvement package.  Section 7.6/2 of the agreement provides that the city will receive a “credit,” through which Metro will take over funding of some Prop 1 hours, if Metro identifies additional revenue.

Third, in an unintuitive result, Prop 1 itself made the Service Guidelines process favor the suburbs to some extent.  Prop 1 is slated to completely fill many needs the Service Guidelines identified in Seattle.  Many of the most pressing needs remaining unmet in areas such as overcrowding and reliability improvement are now in the suburbs.  This package addresses many, but not all, of those needs.

Finally, a few of the suburban commuter trips added in this package are actually funded through Prop 1 funds.  Prop 1 established a “regional partnership fund” through which suburban cities could partner with Seattle to improve service on Seattle-suburban routes.  But no suburban cities took Seattle up on the offer, perhaps because elected leaders outside Seattle were fearful of the King County Prop 1 vote results in April.  Now, Metro itself is taking advantage of the “regional partnership fund,” with Seattle’s approval, to add trips on high-ridership routes serving Seattle job centers.

What’s In the Package?

Again, Metro’s release is very vague as to exactly what is included.  Piecing together information from what we have heard and what is in the 2014 Service Guidelines Report, the following is an educated guess.

All-Day Frequency Improvements: RapidRide E Line*, 120*
All-Day Routes with New Peak Trips: 101, 240, 372*
Peak-Only Routes with New Trips: 143, 179, 190, 212, 214, 216, 218, 219, 268, 301, 312*

No New Trips, but Schedule Reliability Improvements: 102, 105, 111, 114, 124*, 128*, 131*, 132*, 157, 158, 159, 166, 167, 168, 169, 177, 178, 180, 192, 193, 221, 232, 237, 242†, 245, 255, 257, 269, 277, 309*, 311, 316*, 355*

*A significant portion of the trips served by these routes are within Seattle.
†Route 242 will most likely be canceled in March 2016.

113 Replies to “Metro to Add (Mostly) Suburban Service”

  1. Dow and Murray selling Seattle down the river in the name of Regionalism. I’m shocked.

    Third, in an unintuitive result, Prop 1 itself made the Service Guidelines process favor the suburbs to some extent. Prop 1 is slated to completely fill many needs the Service Guidelines identified in Seattle. Many of the most pressing needs remaining unmet in areas such as overcrowding and reliability improvement are now in the suburbs. This package addresses many, but not all, of those needs.

    In what rational world is that not a direct violation of:

    [T]he City’s purchase of service hours under this Agreement shall not supplant other service on routes partially or completely operating within the City that the County would otherwise provide in accordance with the adopted Metro Transit Service Guidelines.

    Prop 1 hours should not be considered when allocating any new service hours. Prop 1 hours are to be backed out, the additional hours allocated via the Service Guideline process, and then the city chooses where to allocate Prop 1 funds on top of that. If that isn’t how it works than the interlocal agreement isn’t worth the paper it’s written on.

    1. Seriously. This is a transfer of funds from Seattle’s Prop 1 voters to the suburbs.

      I expect a lawsuit.

      1. I agree. Should we write the Seattle City Council to press them to file the suit, or is there someone else?

      2. I’m not getting the feeling that Seattle is getting shafted by these changes. Yes, there are a lot of triple-digit routes getting more service, but it looks like there is a pretty good share of service improvements focused on Seattle buses. Like David says, more service on the E, 120, 124, 128, 131, 132 will benefit Seattle riders significantly and I presume “Schedule Reliability Improvements” means that Metro will try and write schedules that are realistic.

      3. “Schedule reliability improvement” means two things: adding time between timepoints where in-service data warrant, and adding recovery time on unpredictable routes. Recovery time was cut to the bone throughout much of the system in response to the 2009 audit, and many of these reliability investments consist of adding it back where it’s consistently needed.

      4. So, “schedule reliability improvement” might mean adding an extra bus to the rotation when needed to maintain consistent headways.

      5. Sounds great all around! Sure love schedule reliability improvement on my fav bus route 124!

      6. Seattle benefits from this as much as any one. Now you have outbound and inbound service from all points.

        That means employers and employees at both ends get to Work Anywhere, Live Anywhere, Play Anywhere, Build Anywhere.

        Who loses? Well, the few moguls who invested in the idea that everyone and his brother should be crammed into a few square blocks of his land in downtown.

    2. That is what the service hour credit is addressing. I think Metro could have avoided any misunderstanding by not announcing these improvements until SDOT was ready to announce where it will apply the credit. That would have allowed an announcement of service improvements distributed throughout the network.

      1. So going back through your points above:
        1. Some suburban lines run through Seattle.
        2. See point 3.
        3. We’re losing service we wouldn’t have had if Prop 1 hadn’t passed, but getting a credit back for that service.
        4. Some of Prop 1 will pay for more suburban routes that happen to go through Seattle.

        I’m having a hard time seeing this as a win for Seattle. Maybe we can see some numbers to convince us?

      2. Matt the Engineer: No, not quite. Let’s rephrase:

        1) Some lines with endpoints in the suburbs serve mostly Seattle passengers and trips.
        2) Some of Metro’s new money will backfill part of Prop 1, allowing Seattle to make further Prop 1 improvements.
        3) Once Prop 1 is implemented, a few parts of the suburban network are in worse shape than the Seattle network and need improvements more.
        4) Prop 1 included some money for commuters accessing jobs in Seattle, which was never used, but now will be.

        No one has shared exact numbers yet, or I would have provided them. I’ve heard from multiple sources, though, that the E and 120 are a major part of this package.

      3. Yes, I trust your reporting – I meant that I’d like King County to share their numbers.

        Without numbers #3 and 4 seem pretty unfair to me. Of course the suburbs are in worse shape – they voted against taxing themselves.

      4. I can see your argument against #3. #4 was in the Prop 1 ballot measure.

        On #3, though, I see where Metro is coming from. It would cause a storm of controversy if it didn’t seek to address SGR-identified needs first. And some of the needs addressed in this package really are dire. 312 overcrowding and 255 reliability, to pick just a couple, need urgent help.

      5. And you’re technically correct. But it seemed to me that this was included to be good neighbors to struggling cities that had shot themselves in the foot by refusing to tax themselves. Handing over that money to the county as they build up suburban service is a bit of a slap in the face. If anyone knows more background about that provision I’d love to hear about it.

      6. So you’re arguing that Metro address SGR-identified needs before their contractual obligations to Seattle? If the 312 needs overcrowding relief, Kenmore and Bothell can pay for it, just like Seattle already paid for overcrowding relief on the 40. Otherwise, Seattle money is just being shifted to the suburbs, again.

        (And I say this as someone who lives in the suburbs!)

      7. I’m jealous that you can edit. What I was saying you were “technically correct” about was that the language of giving money to suburban routes was in Seattle’s Prop 1.

      8. William C: no, Metro is meeting its contractual obligations to Seattle by taking over funding of some Prop 1 improvements and providing its own additional funds for the 120 and E Line improvements.

        And the 312 is kind of a bad example — most of its riders are making intra-Seattle trips. A more clear-cut example is the badly overcrowded 218/219 express service between downtown and Issaquah Highlands P&R. If that route suffers worse overcrowding than anything else in the system, shouldn’t Metro use new Metro funds raised from the whole county (including the suburbs) to address it? I tend to think so.

      9. And I enthusiastically disagree with you. That’s exactly what the “shall not supplant” language in the Prop One contract was meant to forestall. Even if County service is overcrowded, it should be evaluated against what the City service would have been had the extra Prop One trips not been running (the service “that the County would otherwise provide”.) Yes, this comes out squarely in Seattle’s favor, but that’s what it should be: Seattle is paying for extra service; they should get extra service.

        Now if Metro is actually running this calculation and paying for a proportionate amount of Prop One improvements, E-Line trips, and 120 trips, that’s great. But the argument you put forward is both bad service and a clear contractual violation.

      10. Funds raised from “the entire county (including the suburbs)” are also “(including Seattle)”—I don’t have a dog in this fight from a taxpaying standpoint (I live elsewhere), but how is it not a giant thumb in the eye of Seattle voters to say “OK, thanks for addressing the most pressing needs of the system by taxing yourselves: now that you’ve done that, the most pressing needs of the system are elsewhere, so we’re tax you to pay for them?” I mean, clearly it’s not a direct analogy, since the proximate source of these funds is not a new tax, but there’s a pretty clear relationship between your point #3 and the explicit behavior that the language in Prop 1 seems to have been designed to prevent—why is “there’s language about that in Prop 1” only sauce for the gander in this case? And why is a “storm of controversy” not liable to occur because of this very obvious thumb being placed very squarely in the eye of the most reliable pro-transit voters in Metro’s service area?

    3. Oh For God’s Sake, people. For decades the City got more transit than its contribution to the sales tax warranted. Everybody agreed that since when Metro started the suburban service comprised about five routes run by Metropolitan, it was going to be that way for a long time while service — and more importantly, usage — in the areas outside Seattle grew. And it was.

      Sure, the suburbs are still a hard sell for Metro. They think that Seattle gets too much still, and it may still get a relatively small disproportionate share of Metro service hours. It can use them much more efficiently than can the suburbs. Transit works better in the city; we all know this.

      Climb down off your high horses; you’re still getting more proportionately than would be true if some sort of mini-subarea equity strictly controlled Metro service hours.

      1. For decades the City got more transit than its contribution to the sales tax warranted.

        What are you even talking about? Have you completely forgotten 40-40-20? Seattle was being statutorily shafted by 80% of its tax contributions!

        Metro gave the suburbs the opportunity to spare their bus service. They declined. Seattle stepped up to the plate and offered to pay its own way, and explicitly wrote into the resulting contract that it was paying for its own transit service.

      2. This is a lot of sound signifying nothing. It was an explicit agreement. You can’t say renege on an agreement by saying “For god’s sake, people!”

      3. 40-40-20 was adopted in about 1990 or so, right? I didn’t live in the area at that time so I don’t know the particulars. That came in response to eighteen years of Seattle getting the majority of the service. Now in those days its contribution to the sales tax and vehicle license revenues was a considerably greater proportion of Metro’s total revenues than it is now, so it should have gotten a greater percentage of total hours. But that said, it got even more.

        And it was NOT “an agreement”. Proposition 1 is a Seattle Ordinance, not something that the Metro Council adopted. So it can’t be “reneged upon”. Now you might have a beef with your City Council for not being hard-nosed enough, but you have no complaint with Metro. Take it up at the ballot box.

        Anyway, read all the posts. The improvements to the 120, E Line and 372 are over 40% of the service hours. Hello……that’s about what Seattle ought to get given it’s tax contributions; in fact, it’s a little more.

        You sound like a bunch of crybaby suburbanites. Grow up and act like citizens of a world class city.

      4. For the record, Prop 1 required the city and Metro to enter into an interlocal agreement, and the King County Council did adopt that agreement. The agreement is linked in my post.

      5. Quit it with the ad hominems, Anandakos, especially when you are unfamiliar with the facts.

      6. Well I’ve got an “ad hominem” for you, Kyle. Were you here in 1990 (or whenever 40-40-20 was adopted?) I admitted that I did not know exactly when that particular formula was adopted, but I was in Seattle when Metro was originally started, and the process by which it was funded was exactly as I said: nearly all the bus hours were initially within the City.

        So yes, I am familiar “with the facts”.

        So if you were here when 40-40-20 was adopted, please enlighten us about the process.

      7. The history is what it is. Whether you think Seattle has more service than warranted today, a far more important question, depends on how much weight you give each of the following in determining where service should be distributed:

        1) where the demand is;
        2) where the people are; or
        3) where the money is coming from.

        1) says Seattle doesn’t have enough service and should get most of the improvements going forward. 2) says the distribution of service is roughly correct, maybe with slight overservice to Seattle. 3) says we overserve both Seattle and South King and should massively shift resources to the Eastside.

        No one should be surprised that I think the healthiest thing for the county as a whole is to focus on 1), where the demand is. But that’s not always politically possible.

      8. Stepping back for a moment… How much sales tax is paid in Seattle v. the rest of King County? That wouldn’t immediately translate into how much service Seattle deserves (even absent Prop One), but it’d be better than picking a number out of thin air.

      9. So, I decided to find out “the facts”. I was way too far in the past with my guess about when 40-40-20 was adopted; it was actually in about 2006. Andrew Smith wrote a letter to then-County Executive Ron Sims about it, and got the reply here:

        As background, it’s useful to know the existing distribution of service hours between subareas. Currently, approximately 64 percent of Metro’s service hours are allocated to serve the “west” subarea that includes Seattle, Shoreline and Lake Forest Park, which comprises about 35 percent of the county’s population. The other two subareas share the remaining 36 percent [of service hours].

        Seattle has a greater share of service per capita primarily for historical reasons. When Metro was formed it absorbed the established Seattle Transit, which had an extensive route system and frequent service. Prior to Metro’s formation there was meager transit service in the suburbs.”

        Earlier in the piece it states the 40-40-20 was NOT “being statutorily shafted by 80% of its tax contributions!” 40-40-20 applies only to new service.

        The rule basically indicates that 40% of new Metro service should be created on the Eastside, 40% in South King County and only 20% in the city.”

        The West service area (which is essentially “North King”) to this day receives more service hours than its sales and tab contributions would proportionately buy, assuming some degenerate “sub-area equity”.

        And of course, that is fine. Seattle is more dense and has more car-less people than do most areas of the county. It needs more transit service. And indeed it is getting more.

        Here’s the link the the entire post if you care to read it: https://seattletransitblog.wpcomstaging.com/2007/06/06/metros-404020-rule/

      10. David,

        I agree with your statement, but “the history” is the reason for 40-40-20. Now that the suburbs have gotten to the point that people rail at “empty buses” instead of “no buses” Metro has graduated to the Service Guidelines, which are as nearly location-blind as politics will allow.

        If folks are standing regularly on the Issaquah P’n’R expresses while folks on other lines aren’t, they deserve to get more hours. It doesn’t matter who in the county pays for it.

      11. [William C.] There’s been a long debate in the past about this. More tax money comes from the suburbs, but more fare recovery comes from Seattle. Martin’s analysis landed pretty equal between the two, maybe slightly favoring the suburb. My analysis showed more was paid by Seattle. But it’s a really complicated thing to look at and depends on your metrics and depends on how much of what routes you count for what area. That said, all of this was years ago and probably deserves another look.

      12. Matt,

        Yes, Seattle gets much better fare recovery than does county service. There are way more “ons-and-offs” which stuff the box quickly. That said, overall farebox recovery is between 25 and 30 percent of operating costs, correct? I think that’s what I last read. So even if Seattle is getting twice the recovery per bus hour — even three times on average — in the best of all possible worlds for Seattle, that skews the overall balance between the sums of taxes and farebox recovery from the West service area and the other two combined to somewhere near 50-50. Remember that the two biggest “malls” are in East and South King, and many more vehicles are registered outside the city than inside it.

        It’s been a good while since 2007 when it was 64-36, but it hasn’t quite fallen to 50-50 yet. Seattle has been getting 20% of service hour improvements during that time so the other two areas should have been getting four times as many.

        So, if bus service hours were 10 million in 2007 and have grown to 14 million now (a 40% increase, which I doubt, but maybe), Seattle had 6.4 million which would have grown by 20% or 0.8 million to 7.2 million. The county service would have grown from 3.6 million by 80% or 3.2 million to 6.8 million. The ratio would be near 50-50 at 51.4 to 48.6, still slightly favoring Seattle. No matter what the original starting ratio of total bus hours, the ending ratio would be the same.

        Metro staff and the Metro Council realized that the elapsed time of about seven years had brought two things: near parity in hours of service and a lot of howling from the ‘burbs about “empty buses”. It was time to scrap a rigid formula and develop the much more sophisticated and effective Service Guidelines. And they did so.

        The City is getting “credit” which it apparently sees as at least credibly within the framework that Proposition 1 created to avoid Seattle “subsidizing” county transit, but even if it weren’t the figures above show that the Wailin’ Jennies all over this thread are wrong on the substance, wrong on the optics, and wrong on the justice of the issue.

  2. Good to see The Museum of Flight’s 124 get “schedule reliability” improvements. Remember some rides on 124 where the bus got stuck in traffic…

  3. So somewhat buried in the county press release is the fact that more than half of the money King County Metro is spending on improvements ($54 million) will go towards buying new buses and fixing up old ones.

    To my knowledge, that’s in addition to the new buses that Prop 1 will fund.

    1. Correct.

      I understand Metro will keep all of the remaining New Flyer D60s (2300-series) for the moment, even once the 8000-series hybrid artic coaches that were to replace them begin arriving next year. It will also need to add RapidRide coaches at some point, but I don’t know the plan for that. I’ve heard the previous plan to wrap a few 40-footers to serve the F Line was scotched, but I don’t know what they’ll do instead.

      1. The rapid ride coaches should be good for 10 more years at least. A-line was launched in 2010 and those first 20 buses should be good until at least 2023 I would think. By then hopefully they’ll have light rail to highline college.

      2. It’s not the age of the RapidRide coaches that’s the concern… it’s all the additional service that’s being added to the C/D/E lines in the coming months.

        In June frequencies on C Line and D Line will drop to 7-8 minutes during peak periods and to 12 minutes during most other times. Now it also sounds like the E Line will be getting similar service levels in September.

        All that additional service will require additional buses and since RapidRide routes use special three-door buses, new RapidRide coaches will be necessary.

        I hadn’t heard that the plan to wrap 40 foot coaches in red was scrapped. Stealing buses from the F Line seems the most logical move for Metro since there’s no federal funding strings attached to that line.

      3. Metro’s Rochelle Ogershok told me by email today that if all current plans for enhanced RapidRide service on the C/D/E come to fruition then the agency expects to order 15-20 more RapidRide coaches for delivery by March 2016. She did not say how an order will happen in such a tight timeframe, so I am assuming it would be by having some of the New Flyer XDE60s already on order be delivered in RapidRide spec.

  4. From what I can tell, this extra revenue is from economic recovery and cost savings unrelated to the Seattle prop 1 passage, correct? So why is everyone complaining about it going to the suburbs, and not all of it going to Seattle proper, which is already getting prop 1 money anyway?

    Come on guys, there are other cities in this county, too.

    1. Because this was a concern *explicitly addressed* in the language of Prop 1, which is paid for by Seattle taxpayers, not county taxpayers

      Think of it this way (grossly simplified). Assume Metro is allocating 70,000 service hours, and if prop 1 had not passed, 35,000 would serve Seattle and 35,000 would serve other cities in the counties.

      But prop 1 passed, and Seattle funded their own 35,000 hours, so now Metro is applying 70,000 to the suburbs.

      The net result is that *Seattle* spends more money, while *other cities* get all the additional service hours. This is exactly what Prop 1 was designed to avoid, and I think commenters are right to be suspicious of metro’s accounting here.

      1. LWC, that’s not what’s happening, as my post and other comments explain.

      2. Service in the suburbs to seattle counts as long as significant seattle stops are made. So a route which starts in shoreline for 3 miles (e line) and continues to seattle for 10 miles should be considered 10/13 seattle.

    2. Seattle is not “getting” Prop 1 money, Seattle is providing Prop 1 money.

  5. I fully support the boost on the E and 120 (and other routes like the 372) that jointly serve Seattle and the nearby suburbs. Those routes kind of fell through the cracks with the way Prop 1 was written.

    However, the 3rd point undermines the entire idea behind Prop 1 being only for Seattle. Metro has little incentive to improve in-city service going forward because it knows Seattle voters will always support another tax increase to fund city transit. Then Metro gets to use its general budget to bring the rest of the county up to Prop 1 (and in the future Prop 2/3/4) standards by saying the funding is to alleviate crowding or improve reliability (not finding any routes in Seattle that need investments, since we stupidly paid for those ourselves). Seattle gets higher taxes, the rest of the county gets higher service. You’re welcome.

    This sounds similar to what Metro proposes for the Link restructure Alt 1 on Capitol Hill. Cut the 11 and 12, but don’t add any service on the 2 or 10 (which would add a lot of riders with the 11/12 gone). The response from commenters here on STB was that Prop 1 money can backfill the hours, but that’s exactly the problem. Why should Seattle have to backfill service that Metro is cutting to avoid alleged “duplication” with ST?

    No good deed goes unpunished.

    1. So on the one hand I agree that it seems impossible for point 3 to not be a violation of Prop 1 because Metro would allocate its funding first and then Seattle would come in and pay for additional service under the prop 1 guidelines. This means that Metro ought not to be able to anticipate Seattle funds covering up issues and Seattle and therefore divert funds to the suburbs. Unmet suburban needs should be dealt with without prop 1 funds, and there impact on unmet Seattle needs, in mind.

      But on the other hand, service on the E, 120 and 372 greatly benefit Seattle even if they can’t be covered by Prop 1 funds. If that is where the principal amount of point 3 funds are going, it can very easily be a better outcome for Seattle even if it goes against the language of proposition 1. In other words a marginal improvement to the E-line can be better to Seattle than a marginal improvement to whatever route the prop 1 funds would otherwise have gone to, because the E-line is more central to mobility in Seattle proper than almost all Seattle only routes.

      1. The portion of those routes in Seattle particularly the 120 can be covered by seattle. The extra 120 trips for instance it might make sense for the county to extend those to Burien anyway. (which by the way is funding a replacement for the 139 which was axed last year)

      2. Burien resident here. The Seattle Prop 1 plan for the 120 was for 1 out of every 3 buses to turn back at Westwood, leaving us with (likely) 10-20-10-20 headways out on Ambaum. Glad the county is stepping up and funding improvements on the ENTIRE LENGTH of the 120 (and yes, those of us in condos and apartments on the Ambaum corridor did vote for the county transit funding, even if the larger area did not).

        The 139 deserved to get redrawn (low-ridership one way hourly scenic-loop around Lake Burien :-p), but its outright axing cut off transit access to the city’s only hospital. Whiny folks in Madrona complain that if routes get moved they might have to walk a couple blocks from Virginia Mason to Madison, so they stomp their feet and the changes get erased. Meanwhile, out in Burien, service revisions leave us with 1/2 mile walk from Highline Hospital to the nearest all-day bus stop on 1st Ave S with virtually no outcry.

        The 139’s replacement, hopefully, will be a much saner DART route with a fixed portion linking the hospital and transit center directly, not requiring the grand tour to get between the two.

        Burien’s also chipping in for more service on the 12x series expresses from BTC to downtown. I’d rather my local electeds bought even higher levels of service on the 120 and 131 instead, but I’ll take what I can get.

      3. Lack Thereof, has Burien made any announcement about providing funding? If they have, I would like to post about it.

      4. I thought it was people needing to go to the hospitals in First Hill (who would mostly be transferring downtown and not be living in Madrona) and First Hill residents that were complaining about moving the 2, rather than anyone in Madrona, whose rides would be improved by a faster trip across I-5

    2. So Alex you think we in STB should just let the rest of King County never have any improvements to their transit service without a tax increase?

      1. …yes? You get what you pay for. The rest of King County voted no on increased taxes. Therefore they don’t get increased service.

      2. Not at all. I want this new funding to be apportioned as if Prop 1 didn’t exist (i.e. apply new funding first across the entire network, then apply Prop 1 funding in Seattle). That is what Prop 1 was supposed to do. Fair is fair. Every other city can do a Prop 1 if desired. None chose to do so.

        The reality is that Seattle voters will always support a tax increase. Everyone knows this, including Metro management and the King County Council. It is almost too easy to divert the money to the suburbs when Seattle can’t control Metro’s budget.

      3. Alex, well it seems to me the Prop 1 money is doing a lot of good for Seattle. It’s time to lighten up a bit here.

        But in the future until the fiscal status quo changes, I agree it needs to be clear to “apply new funding first across the entire network, then apply Prop 1 funding in Seattle”.

      4. No, we don’t allow one breach of an express contract and then hope they’ll change their minds in the future. We double down at the first sign of betrayal.

  6. So… will those truncated 120 trips planned under Prop 1 still be happening alongside these upgrades, or will they be nixed in favor of new full-length trips funded by Metro?

    1. Hard to say at this point. I just asked Metro for some more specific details, and their folks told me the specific details are still being worked out. But if the short-turn 120 trips planned for Prop 1 are nixed, the hours intended for them will fund new improvements on other Seattle routes.

    2. I believe the additional trips the city added on the 120 from Westwood will stay. The partnership will add midday and evening trips to this crowded route. I have stood more than once at 11:00 at night.

      1. And it usually gets crowded at Westwood. Burien to Westwood not so bad. But seems like they can use more short lines.

      2. As a regular 120 rider, I would prefer to see evening and Sunday frequency improvements (currently 30 minute headways) over dropping midday frequency from 15 to 12 minutes. It is unconscionable that one of Metro’s busiest routes runs a 30 minute frequencies in the 7pm hour. Evening runs are frequently standing room only leaving downtown Seattle, even past midnight.

  7. Why does it matter? Lets say the suburbs get some more service than they paid for. So what? I feel like this is just another instance of the childish tendencies of politics. If we spent less time, working out if they got more than me, and more time thinking about the system as a whole, maybe the outcome would be slightly less fair, but we all would have more because we didn’t waste all our time fighting about the exact right division. Every time I hear a politician say I promise to fight for , I cringe. They will be voting on laws that affect all the districts, and they promise to mostly focus on how the law will benefit just one. How come with kids we say don’t be greedy, but as adults we wouldn’t vote for someone who doesn’t claim to be selfish. City vs suburb is just another us vs them. It’s stupid when they do it and it’s stupid when we do it. I’m not saying fair distribution of taxes doesn’t warrant any scrutiny, I just don’t get why half the article and most of the comments are fixated on it.

      1. ok, never mind. I’m not sure how to leave greater/lesser signs.
        The missing text was “arbitrary geographic area”

    1. Andrew Glass Hastings and Kevin Desmond told me likewise on Friday, that Seattle is getting a “credit” that can be simply understood as the city reaping its share of the countywide sales tax gains, etc.

      Anyhow, the announcement broke on May Day and I haven’t seen the hard numbers yet, though Andrew mentioned 7,900 Seattle service hours. Our story was insanely short but I mentioned Friday that “Seattle expects to reap a similar windfall for in-city buses.”


  8. So how many of you that are now complaining about Metro using the Prop 1 money outside of Seattle voted for Prop 1?

    I voted against Prop 1 and plan to vote against the Mayor’s $900,000 transportation property tax increase too, how about you?

    1. I abstained. I could not in good conscience vote for anything that gave Metro more money.

    2. I don’t think this follows, because of two points:

      * Perhaps Metro isn’t doing that. The reporting is unclear, but Metro will take over funding some Prop One hours; perhaps that’s proportionate, despite the reporting.

      * Otherwise, I’m certain there will be a lawsuit, following which Metro will no longer be using Prop One money outside Seattle.

      1. Something dramatic would have to change for there to be a lawsuit. Everyone I have heard from at the city so far believes these additions are consistent with Prop 1.

      2. Do they explain why that’s the case? Is Metro actually taking over funding some Prop One routes, do they think the E-Line and 120 additions are enough, or is there something else I’m not seeing? Because to me, this looks like a flagrant violation, and one of your two arguments upthread seems to be expressly shot down by the interlocal agreement.

      3. Again, this is all with the caveat that both Metro and the city have declined to provide specific numbers as of yet, saying plans are still being firmed up.

        With that in mind, my strong impression is that the city feels the combination of the service hours credit (that is, Metro funding some Prop 1 improvements), the 120/E Line improvements, and the use of Prop 1 regional partnership funds is sufficient to make these additions consistent with the interlocal agreement.

        Are they, technically? It’s hard to say from the outside, because it’s hard to define what the baseline without Prop 1 would have been. But I think it’s plausible. We have heard multiple times from various places that the E Line and 120 investments are a major part of this package, and those are certainly the two Seattle core corridors that needed the most improvement and didn’t get it in Prop 1.

        If the E Line and 120 investments are indeed along the lines of all-day frequency increases (which, it’s worth noting, nothing else in this package is getting) then I tend to think the overall package is a net win for the city.

      4. Where are you seeing the service hour credit? I just read over Metro’s announcement again, and they don’t mention it at all. If that’s the case, I can readily believe it’s consistent, and instead just blame Metro for being horrifically tone-deaf in writing the announcement.

        (But if the announcement is complete and there is no service hour credit, this is almost as bad as Sound Transit’s plan to pour badly-needed tax money into the far exurban reaches.)

      5. Andrew Glass Hastings, the mayor’s transportation policy lead, told us on the record that the city is getting the service hour credit.

      6. Thank you.

        My confidence in Metro is now restored, save for their publicity department.

      7. With regards to the E-line and 120, does “all-day” mean 6 AM-Midnight 7 days week, or does it just mean 9 AM-3 PM Monday-Friday. There’s a big difference between the two.

  9. I think the solution to avoid feelings of betrayal is simple:

    1) Temporary refund all prop 1 money (on paper at least) to the city
    2) Apply service hours as they would have been funded as if prop 1 had not existed — according to service guidelines.
    3) Seattle gets to reapply its prop 1 money according to the process outlined within the legislation.

    This way the east side could still get more service hours without igniting feelings of injustice from Seattle voters who might think they were sold one thing and given another.

    1. Yes, or a portion of the Prop One money in exact proportion to Seattle’s except-for-Prop-One need. That’s exactly what we’ve been arguing for upthread, and exactly what the Prop One interlocal agreement demands. Unfortunately, Metro’s recent announcement seems to completely ignore that.

      1. I think the reason the city isn’t insisting on doing it this way is because having so much of the money applied to the E and 120, which Prop 1 can’t fund but which clearly benefit Seattle the most, is a better outcome for the city’s transit network than applying the money to other Prop 1-eligible routes.

        The E Line falls just short of the 80 percent threshold. The 120 is well below it, but most 120 riders are in the city.

      2. Right and granted I’m looking down from my Skagit perch but this go-around, let’s let the Seattle Mayor & City Council lead on this, okay? I’m sure this will all work out in the end.

        Let’s not get a reputation in the local transit planner community for mass comment thread freak outs at any service proposal change.

      3. As explained a bit upthread – This has actually happened. Seattle is getting a partial refund. I no longer blame Metro.

        Instead, I merely blame their publicity department for treating the refund as if it were a closely-guarded secret.

      4. I think a similar logic for the E and 120 apply to the 372. Using the “transit geek” data that Metro provided for their Link restructuring proposals, and some rough estimates from Google Maps, it seems that the 372 only has 40% of it’s route within the Seattle borders. Inbound, 55% of people get on in Seattle, and outbound, 57% of people get off in Seattle. So even if the 372 counts as a “suburban” route, most of the benefit is for Seattle.

  10. I can’t wait for the Washington Policy Center response to this…………………………………………….

    You guys whining and flopping over service improvements thanks in part to Prop 1 are your own worst enemy. We say we’re for transit, but then some whine & snipe when somebody wants or somebody gets transit. Totally self-defeating.

    The case you need to be making is where and when is more service needed instead. Kinda like I do. Kapeesh?

    Let the Seattle City Hall lead on this one, we’ll back them up if they feel King County Metro is shafting Seattle. I’m sure Seattle City Government on this one knows the full story and can handle this.

  11. So KCM makes Seattle tax themselves to get their service, but magically finds cash for the suburbs who refused? I’m so effing shocked. KCM is such an unreliable, untrustworthy transit agency. I’m guessing Seattle taxpayers wouldn’t have been so quick to hand over their cash if they knew KCM was gonna find extra money lying around regardless. But no, KCM lied and said there was nothing but doom and gloom and transit was dying, and the Seattle suckers reached into their pockets to hand over a nice wad of bills to bail them out right before they realized they were totally wrong and had all sorts of money lying around that they could now spend on the other areas.

    I hate KCM because they make me hate myself for supporting transit. If you vote against taxes, you get shamed for not supporting transit. Vote for them, and you get screwed with lies, broken promises, and all sorts of effed up service decisions.

    1. With attitudes like yours, can I ask you to sell out what transit service improvements you need?

      1. My point isn’t about which improvements are needed, my point is that if Seattle hadn’t voted to tax itself to fix the routes within its borders, I suspect KCM would have still managed to find a way to deal with the problems. They had no problem finding cash for the suburbs who refused taxes, why does Seattle have to vote for new funding to pay for its service if the suburbs don’t? KCM has a long history of crying wolf and saying their service was falling apart, then mysteriously finding money afterthefact.

      2. Again for the record, the number of service hours from Prop 1 exceeds the number of service hours Metro is now adding by a factor of 4.

      3. Again, you are missing my point – if that’s the case, why weren’t we only asked for 75% of the money since KCM apparently had the other chunk sitting around. They said they didn’t have the money, and it turns out they did. Just like every single time. They lie to us, we buy it, we find the lie afterthefact., and we forget by the next time around.

      4. And also, the only reason Prop 1 is so far exceeding hte hours added here is because a huge chunk of the ‘new’ money is going to the suburbs who refused taxes. If Seattle had not taxed itself, KCM would likely be splitting that newfound cash a lot more evenly and Seattle would be getting more out of it than what they’re getting now. Seattleites are suckers for being willing to tax themselves when they could have just held out and gotten some service improvements for free, transparently.

      5. *Apparently, not transparently.

        Sigh… I could really use an ‘edit’ button. :)

  12. It’s sucky when it feels like Seattle is expected to be everyone’s sugar daddy, I just hope that this wasn’t strategic from the get-go…I suppose I could live with happenstance. Plus, it’s hard to argue against more transit where its needed.

    Anyway, I understand this is more complicated than just Seattle getting screwed (or not), but I wish Metro would at least pretend to walk gingerly around the whole Prop 1 thing since the optics of this could easily take on a conspiratorial/manipulative hue.

    1. The partial refund does make the optics better, was writing earlier while this was being reported above!

    2. Plus, it’s hard to argue against more transit where its needed.”

      Thank you. If people are standing on I-90 buses from Issaquah (reference upthread) then more service is needed there. As long as Metro allocates this “found” money using the agreed upon service standards, then Seattle will end up with improvements as well.

    3. Metro has a preexisting list of routes that have less service than the Service Guidelines uidelines say they should. Sometimes the problem is overcrowding, or unreliability (unrealistically short layover times), or frequency (30 minutes evening/Sunday on Seattle core routes). If the I-90 routes are overcrowded, they’d be on that list. I took the 218 once expecting it to have two or three people, and it was full, so I can believe it needs more service, and that’s all the more reason to have East Link take over from Mercer Island.

  13. As David Lawson’s post points out, Metro’s investments will benefit many areas of the county. King County and the city of Seattle have an agreement in place regarding the supplanting of transit service. When Metro identifies additional revenue, it uses its Service Guidelines to determine the total service hour need and the investment priority of those hours. To the extent that those service hours are on routes that the city (through Prop. 1) is already investing in, Metro will credit the city based on the proportion of the Seattle needs relative to the total system need as identified in the Service Guidelines Report. The city may use those credited hours for future investments of its choosing.

    Rochelle Ogershok
    King County Metro Transit

    1. Thank you very much, Rochelle. That’s an excellent policy for multiple reasons, and I’m very glad you’re able to expand service in this manner. What took us aback was when Metro’s press release didn’t discuss the credit to Seattle at all.

      (David – you might update your initial post to point out that the credit is actually happening, instead of just pointing to the interagency agreement that describes it?)

      1. (And you might update the headline as well, David – based on this new information, it’s actively misleading. Metro’s announced mostly suburban service only because Seattle hasn’t yet listed their new purchases.)

      2. “Most” of the new service will be suburban even if you count the E/120/372 improvements as entirely city. I think the headline is correct and is also consistent with Metro’s release.

      3. David, if Seattle’s “credit” is as large as we’re expecting it to be, there should be a lot of new urban service *which hasn’t been chosen yet*. That was William C.’s point.

  14. I’m glad I read through the full comments before posting a rage-filled comment. Some clarity on the accounting and the credits here would really seem to have belonged in the press release.

  15. If Metro is expanding service to the suburbs, then how does this impact the planned service improvements that were planned for June and September?

    Where is the transparency for the voters of Seattle who were suckered into voting for improved service for Seattle and not for the suburbs of Seattle?

    Maybe we need to vote on removing the .1% sales tax increase rather than a law suit!

      1. I must still wonder why Metro now has the money to expand/restore service to the suburbs and where is the money coming from? Did we in Seattle really need to increase our sales tax?

        The voters in Seattle and yes King County needs transparency now for the transportation dollars.

      2. Again, the number of extra hours Metro is providing in these improvements is about one-fourth the number Seattle voters approved with Prop 1, and the hours have to be distributed through the whole system. This money could not have come close to replacing Prop 1.

  16. Basically from the thread I gather that non-seattle gets more service and seattle gets prop 1 credits for even more service than originally planned, since the service adjustments per guidelines are already in line to happen this year. If that’s the case then prop one is in compliance. It’s not up to the county alone to spend prop one money which is why unless a seattle route doesn’t meet metro service guidelines on its face (without prop one funding) that metro won’t enhance service any more without consulting with the city.

  17. Metro didn’t lie to the public or “find” money. They still have a very volatile funding source. The battle at the council about the service cuts was a question of what kind of financial footing you want Metro to have. Some of them felt it was better to keep some money in reserve to guarantee stability in the course of a recession. Metro is 70% dependent on the sales tax, so recessions hit hard. We had two in the last decade, one in 90’s, and have had one in every recent decade. The council majority made the decision to further drain reserves to keep service on the street now, but positioned Metro poorly for the next inevitable recession. A policy choice, not a lie.

    And for those of you who believe Seattle is getting screwed, remember that Seattle generates 38% of Metro sales tax, but receives 62% of all service. Consider the baseline. That is why Prop 1 in the city was needed, they had far more to lose.

  18. I personally think there is a major transparency problem with the current Metro setup. We can’t have people in Seattle taxing themselves for extra service and then have the suburbs complain that Seattle is getting the majority of the funding. It is going to be harder and harder for transportation ballot measures to pass in King County unless something changes.

    We in Seattle now have Metro, Sound Transit and yes, SDOT, involved in transit planning and implementation. Years ago we voted for a consolidated bus system in King County and this arrangement isn’t working if Seattle voters are funding parts of the service for the entire county.

    Where is the transparency in moving people to light rail, reducing bus service and then asking people tax themselves even more? To me, this seems like a money pit and funding from the State and Feds will be even harder in the future. I will continue to vote no, even though I am bus dependent unless there is some real daylight shed on this mess.

    1. Well I would guess the 120 seattle only money would get credited back to the city for further consideration as metro has decided to include it in their expansion if you can call it that. Metro is working off of a baseline and seattles service levels are above that. so they are not going to throw more money at seattle directly. Instead they will add service behind the scenes (you won’t see it directly in terms of service adds) and then refund the balance to seattle, which will likely turn around and invest that money in more service. Metro cannot decide how the prop 1 money is spent, except for refunding service already funded through metro.

    2. Forgot to mention we had Metro at the meeting and it lasted 2 1/2 hours with a lot of questions. BTW, Alternative one is totally dead.

      The BRT folks were told that Madison Park will accept electric buses with wires and we have the easiest turnaround for the BRT too!. There is no room on Madison for more that one bus given the frequency Metro/BRT are suggesting. Even having the 8 which will be split at 23rd and S Jackson running on E Madison from MLK to E John is a problem. There was talk of eliminating street parking and center delivery lane too.

      The Metro 11 proposal is the BRT routing, but with Madison Park included.

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