In recent years, Metro has said two problems prevent it from delivering asked-for levels of service: insufficient staffing and limited space in bus bases. According to Metro spokesperson Jeff Switzer, Metro has caught up with staffing demand (“Now Hiring” notices on vehicles notwithstanding) and will be able to keep pace. The main challenge now is basing.
As ridership has grown in recent years, Metro has struggled to meet the level of service it’s been asked to provide. Earlier this year, for example, the City of Seattle reappropriated bus service funding to projects including year-round free transit passes for public school students, because Metro couldn’t provide all the service Seattle was paying for.
In an interview with STB, Metro’s director of capital projects, Diane Carlson, and capital projects managing supervisor, Jeff Arbuckle, explained Metro’s plan to meet the basing needs of a growing vehicle fleet through 2030. Metro also provided STB with a planning document laying out the program.
The planning document does not include project costs. However, related requests in King County Executive Dow Constantine’s proposed 2019-20 budget, from September 2018, would add up to about $89.5 million in capital projects for the overall basing plan.
According to the interview and the planning document, the plan has four major components:
- Expanding the capacity of the existing Central Base in Sodo, to phase in 150 new buses by 2023
- Building a temporary base adjacent to the Tukwila South Base, using recently acquired land, to add 125 buses between 2021-25
- After building the temporary base, renovating the existing South Base in segments, and eventually combining the renovated and temporary bases into a new, larger South Campus, to add 250 buses by 2025
- Acquiring a new, permanent electric battery bus base by 2030, likely in South King County, to base 250 additional buses “during or after” 2030
2019-23: Central Base
“Central optimization is focused at our Central Atlantic-Ryerson base,” Carlson says. “That is using the land more efficiently, acquiring a little bit more land, and moving some facilities around on that base, to get 60 additional spaces.”
Land acquisitions will add capacity for another 90 buses. The planning document says that the efficiencies will be to “add yard space, convert body shop to maintenance bays, and build a replacement body shop.”
Carlson said that the results of the ST3 planning process could force a change of plans for the Central Base—some proposed alignments would require turning parts of Ryerson Base into Link guideways.
The budgetary requests made by County Executive Dow Constantine’s proposed 2019-20 budget makes reference to “Central Base,” “Atlantic Base,” and “Ryerson Base” at various points, making compiling all relevant capital projects tricky. However, here is a list of the requests that seem to be part of the plan:
- $2.8 million for renovating the Central Base’s vehicle body shop and staff wellness center
- $2 million for “facilities improvements,” which covers “transit operating facilities”
- $3 million for Atlantic Base yard refurbishment
- $13.6 million for new bus lifts at Atlantic Base
- $4.9 million for underground storage tanks at Central Base
These projects add up to approximately $26.3 million in major budget requests related to the Central Base improvements.
2021-25: South Campus
“The most amount of work that’s going to happen in the next couple years is going to be down at our South Base site in Tukwila,” says Carlson. “We have a lot of moving—we’re going to be moving a lot of things off, relocating them so we can build that new base on the property that we have down there.”
The South Campus changes are where Metro will begin to transition the fleet’s non-trolley energy supply to electric batteries, from diesel hybrids.
“That interim base, and the new South Annex base, are the first bases that will be built for battery buses,” Carlson says. “It’s a big, exciting thing. There’s a lot to that, in terms of getting the right types of facilities in place, the right technology.”
The 2019-20 proposed budget references the “South Base,” “South Campus,” and “South Annex,” so the same caveats as the Central Base list apply. Major requests include:
- $14 million for the construction of the temporary South Base
- $28 million to “fund purchase of land, leases, and relocation costs” related to the new South Campus project
- $6.5 million for “construction of a permanent 250 bus transit base on Metro owned property called the South Annex,” with features including vehicle maintenance facilities
- $6.5 million for a new electric substation to handle “deployment of 120 electric buses into revenue service”
- $5.8 million for new HVAC systems
- $900k for new fluid tanks
- $1.5 million for new electric bus chargers
These requests add up to $63.2 million in major budget requests related to the South Campus improvements.
2030: New Base
Plans for the new base are still in development, but Carlson did share some of the broad strokes. She said that South King County was the most likely location for the new base, taking into consideration current ridership trends, which could change—particularly as Link extensions come on line.
Other considerations include ingress and egress, proximity to residential neighborhoods (i.e. the effects of necessary light, sound, and air pollution), the size of a potential parcel, and groundwater/runoff impacts.
The September budget proposal also mentions the new base search, but lists the cost as “$0.” We
have asked Metro to clarify the $0 figure; spokesperson Jeff Switzer says that the project is too far out of the budget window to account for in the proposal.
The planning document also makes reference to a potential ninth base, which would be added in 2040.