A bit lost in the tornado of Trump and ST3, King County unanimously passed its $11B 2017-2018 budget yesterday. As we wrote about in September, the budget restores Metro’s capital program, provides 300,000 new bus service hours, hires 213 new bus drivers, and prepares Metro to implement the Metro Connects Long Range Plan. The Metro portion of the budget is $1.6B for the 2017-2018 biennium.
The 300,000 service hours will be broken into buckets as follows:
- 160,000 hours for Metro investment according to Service Guidelines priorities
- 33,400 hours added to routes for Comfort Station (restroom) access for drivers
- 39,710 hours available for City of Seattle reinvestment under Proposition 1
- 68,300 hours ‘to preserve existing bus service levels when buses leave the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel’, which the documents estimate will occur in Fall 2018
Dow’s budget (unusually) included specific route allocations for the non-Prop 1 service hours, and in a welcome departure from past meddling, the Council mostly left them alone. Any increase in service hours greater than 25% would require Council approval by ordinance, but Metro is free to add fewer hours ‘administratively’ as it deems appropriate.
As we wrote about in October 2015, Metro may struggle to actually deploy the budgeted hours. As Council Legislative Analyst Paul Carlson wrote in a memo to Councilmembers:
Transit’s operational capacity to add 323,000 hours of service is affected by several limits. Prior staff reports discussed how base capacity constrains the addition of buses to about 100, the number identified with the proposed 323,000 hour addition. Other factors include the risk that trips might be cancelled because vehicles or operators are unavailable; the need to fill 100 operator vacancies and recruit 1,000 trainees to meet attrition and support new service; limits on available fareboxes and ORCA equipment for additional buses; and a backlog of vehicle service preparation that is projected to last through the biennium.
Council-led changes to the budget were mostly additive, and they included:
- A quadrupling of Alternative Services funding (from $1m to $4m) for service in low density areas
- A reduction in the required nonprofit match for Human Services Bus Ticket costs, from 20% to 10% (a policy win for the Transit Riders Union)
- Increased funding for the King County Marine Division, which operates the West Seattle, Vashon, and (soon) Bremerton Water Taxis. Ridership and performance will also now be analyzed like any other route through the Service Guidelines process.
- A proviso requiring King County to study either eliminating the $5 ORCA card fee, or adding $5 in value to all newly purchased cards. A report to Council will be due in February 2017.
Tables of route investments after the jump… Continue reading “King County Unanimously Passes $11B Biennial Budget”