Yesterday County Executive Dow Constantine launched the official Long Range Plan process, moving it from a (very good) draft to an actionable item of legislation. Now called “Metro Connects“, the County Council will tinker with and debate it through the autumn, with expected adoption in early 2017. As a reminder, the plan would a number of good things: commit Metro to a full alphabet of Rapid Ride routes, double ridership by 2040, comprehensively restructure Metro’s system to feed a Sound Transit 3 buildout, move toward a cashless system, and enact a de facto ban on new transit parking with Seattle and other inner-suburb activity centers.
Though yesterday’s launch was a process milestone, the plan’s formal release doesn’t add much to what we already know. But more newsworthy, Dow also took the opportunity to preview the next biennial budget, and it contains a number of substantive improvements independent of Metro Connects.
Boosted by a continued strong economy and solid wage growth in King County, Metro will be in expansion mode:
- Dow’s budget proposes $30 million in new service hours, including overcrowding relief on 27 routes, reliability improvements to 60 routes, and frequency boosts on a further 18 routes.
- Metro’s capital program is back, with a 6-year capital spending plan.
- There will be $215m set aside for bus base capacity, including a new South King County Metro base.
- Responding to legitimate concerns over operator safety and comfort, the plan will put cameras on 100% of Metro’s fleet ($8m) and expand Metro’s operator comfort stations ($7m)
We’ll have to wait until late September to see the list of routes proposed for improvements. Though the non-supplantation clause in Seattle’s Prop 1 agreement should ensure that Seattle gets its full proportional share of improvements, we’ll be there to analyze it along the way. And as the Metro Connects process moves through council, it will be interesting to see the degree to which council meddling alters the plan. So stay tuned and engaged throughout the fall, but things are generally looking up for Metro.