On Monday, County Executive Dow Constantine released his $11.3B biennial budget proposal for King County, and the Metro portion of the budget represents a positive and ambitious forecast for the next two years, and one that telegraphs the expected adoption of the Long Range Plan in the next few months. The proposal adds 300,000 total service hours over the 2017-2018 biennium, roughly as big as Seattle’s Prop 1 investments (270,000 hours). It invests primarily in suburban routes in South King County, East King County, and the Ballard and West Seattle corridors. The service improvements are yet to be fully detailed, and while some of them are suspect – such as Route 22, or Night Owl routes set to be replaced in an upcoming proposal – most of these routes can clearly support additional frequency or reliability improvements. In the spirit of the Prop 1 supplantation clause, the Metro-funded Seattle investments will allow the city to increasingly focus its purchased hours on its Move Seattle Rapid Ride corridors.
In addition to the more-visible service hours, there are a number of other exciting additions. First and foremost, Metro’s Capital Program is back from its recession-era slumber. The bulk of the added 2017 costs are for fleet improvement, including $209m for 181 40-foot hybrid coaches, $297m for 252 60-foot hybrid coaches, $21m for 13 60-foot trolleys for Madison BRT, and $9m for 8 additional battery-electric buses. By the end of the program, Metro’s fleet would be entirely new and 100% hybrid or trolley. So long Bredas and high-floor buses.
Additional items of interest include:
- $1.1m for a 4-year pilot for expanding Alternative Services, such as the Snoqualmie Valley shuttle and the new Redmond Loop
- $30m for 213 new driver positions to fill the 300,000 service hours, which will exacerbate Metro’s current hiring challenges.
- $800k for 3 new Base Chiefs
- $224k to replace driver bus seats far more often, from every 5 years to 2 years
- $2.6m to deep-clean buses twice as often, every 30 days instead of every 60 days
- $4.4m for 24 new Link Operations staff (fully reimbursed by Sound Transit)
- $565k for “to improve the quality of real-time information”
- $43m for Metro’s share of the ORCA Next Generation project
- $2.7m for Metro Comfort Stations (operator restrooms)
- $20m for the development of permanent layover space in South Lake Union and Pioneer Square
- $30m to develop plans and purchase property for an 8th Metro bus base, in South King County
- $27m for near-term implementation of One Center City (formerly Center City Mobility Plan)
- $47m to expand South Base, and $60m to expand Central/Atlantic Base
- $2m for Yesler trolley wire
- $7.6m to install cameras on 100% of Metro’s fleet
The budget now moves through the normal Council budget process.