The projected funding would add a million Metro service hours by 2030 and place the agency on a trajectory for further expansion (Image: King County)

Earlier this year, the King County Council ordered a review of funding options for Metro Connects. This Wednesday, the Regional Transit Committee receives a status update on the effort. It considers a $220 million increase in annual funding for Metro, enough to get Metro to its long-range service goals.

Metro Connects is Metro’s long range plan, designed to integrate with Sound Transit expansion through 2040 and to meet the transit needs of city and County comprehensive plans. The Metro Connects plan, adopted in 2015, envisions a 70% increase in Metro bus service hours by 2040 over 2015 levels. That would increase transit ridership to 1 million daily boardings, and enable frequent service within 1/2 mile for 73% of county residents.

Metro’s current funding isn’t enough to reach this goal. Tax and fare revenue grow naturally over time as the economy and population expand, but only by enough to cover 30% of the additional capital costs and 50% of the extra service hours identified. The under-funding of Metro Connects has already led to the deferral of several RapidRide Lines that were hoped to open by 2025. That gap would widen if the Seattle Proposition 1 is not renewed in 2020. The Seattle TBD pays for about 10% of current service hours.

The Executive and Metro leadership have been meeting with Council members and local elected leaders to explore funding options. The status report includes a long list of possible funding sources without giving away any hints as to which are finding favor politically. Some are Metro-specific, others belong to the County or the County Transportation Benefit District (KCTBD). Most would require voter approval.

Metro’s funding puzzle starts with 3.9 million service hours in 2020 paid for out of the Metro budget, and another 400,000 paid for by the Seattle TBD. With a renewed STBD, total hours would grow slowly to 4.7 million by 2030, leaving Metro far behind their 6.0 million hours goal for 2040.

A $220 million measure in 2020 would fund both capital and operational needs, allowing Metro to increase service rapidly to 5.5 million hours by 2030, and even more later as the capital investments ease Metro’s current capacity bottlenecks.

An alternative scenario sees the Seattle TBD renewed on schedule, but a County measure delayed until 2024. This postpones capital investments and diminishes Metro’s ability to expand regional service as major rail investments come online through 2024. Instead of the 5.5 million hours by 2030 that are possible with early County funding, service hours in 2030 would be just over 4.9 million.

Delaying a funding increase to 2024 leaves Metro on a permanently lower service trajectory (Image: King County)

A county measure to replace the Seattle TBD, about which there has been speculation in the past, seems less likely. All the financial scenarios are additive to a Seattle measure.

King County is also committed to working on funding needs for regional roads and bridges. In 2017, the suburban cities and some other stakeholders convened a Regional Transportation System Initiative to this end. Staff identified about $20 billion (in 2018 constant dollars) of needed roads improvements by 2040, of which $7-8 billion are unfunded. Politically, the elected leaders never seemed to come close to a consensus on revenue options and the process concluded inconclusively in early 2018.

The Metro planning effort is separate from, but coordinating with, the effort to fund the roads needs. That might put in play a combined initiative to fund both transit and roads, perhaps building a coalition for a Metro funding measure, but also increasing the price tag over a stand-alone Metro measure.

39 Replies to “A funding plan for Metro Connects comes into view”

  1. The under-funding of Metro Connects has already led to the deferral of several RapidRide Lines that were hoped to open by 2025.

    My understanding is that it was the under-funding of Move Seattle that caused the deferral. The under-funding was caused by bad cost estimates.

    This raises an important point, which is the disconnect between county and city funding. The last time Metro asked for money, the county rejected their request. The city then passes essentially the same tax increase. The city — only a few years later — passed Move Seattle, with a lot of the money slated for Metro. While that second tax increase fell short (because of managerial incompetence) it is clear that Seattle is willing to tax itself to get better bus service. What isn’t clear is if the county is. Assuming it isn’t, this is likely to create a two tiered system, where Seattle enjoys fairly good bus service, but the King County suburbs don’t.

    Sound Transit makes things more complicated. Link improvements are likely to make a huge difference to the Snohomish County bus system, as much of the their service is designed to get people to downtown Seattle or the UW. These buses will be truncated (perhaps to Northgate in the short term, and definitely to Lynnwood in the long term). This represents a huge service savings that can be put into improvements. Throw in the Swift service, and Snohomish County is in good shape. Likewise, between the fully funded 522 BRT project, and the other Lynnwood Link stations, the north King County area seems to be covered.

    It is the east and south King County areas that seem like a challenge. East Link will make a huge difference for a lot of riders, but I don’t see major savings for Metro. There are plenty of I-90 buses that will be truncated, but I don’t think they represent a big portion of the overall bus service. Sound Transit itself is likely to get the biggest savings (when they kill the 550 and truncate the 554). The same is true of 405 BRT. I just don’t see a big savings in the area, nor a major restructure based on that project. If anything, the Madison BRT project (which didn’t make it to the chart) is likely to have a bigger impact on both service and routes (albeit only in Seattle). What is true for east King County is true for south King County. Link will help from a service standpoint, but not a lot.

    Assuming Metro lacks funding, this leaves Sound Transit to pick up the slack. One of the strongest arguments for Sound Transit is that they help bridge the gap between the different transit agencies. From a managerial standpoint, the agencies are defined by county. But from a funding standpoint, King County Metro is increasingly defined as inside Seattle and outside. I think it is quite possible that east side riders will be heavily dependent on Sound Transit, and the decisions they make regarding bus service. Their ability to work with Metro to create a good network may determine whether much of the county can get around well without a car during the day, or whether they can’t.

    1. (In that last paragraph, I should have wrote “east and south King County riders” not just “east side riders”. I think the same idea applies to both areas.)

    2. Re Move Seattle, I think it’s both a Move Seattle underfunding (in the sense that they overpromised) and a Metro Connects underfunding (in the sense that it’s an unfunded plan that identifies needs, but deferred the financing decisions). Metro has also delayed the suburban RapidRides and half of the lines hoped for by 2025 are now in the indefinite future.

    3. Right, the RapidRide deferrals have nothing to do with Metro Connects. Metro Connects hasn’t really started yet beyond planning, because Metro can’t raise taxes on its own. If nothing passes, Metro will do revenue-neutral restructures as the Link extensions and RapidRide G (Madison) open. We’ve been through that before with the C, D, E, and University Link. It will have notable increases in frequency in core corridors and new grid routes, but the money will peter out before reaching 15-minute evening/Sunday frequency on routes like the 8, 40, etc. Prop 1 is what filled in the evening frequency on the 5, 10, 40 and several other routes, and added Saturday frequency on the 5, and sustains all the night owls, but it still couldn’t stretch to frequent evenings on the 8 or 12. All those go away if the STBD isn’t renewed and the county tax is now excluding that amount. (Of course Seattle’s share of the county tax could be shifted to those routes, but then it would come out of other Seattle increases.)

      I suspect that if one or both of these fail, Metro will go ahead with the restructures but those routes designated Rapid will just be Frequent (with no capital improvements). That would still be something, but we should aim for higher, because a county with our population and density should have the equivalent of two dozen or more RapidRide lines (called “basic bus service” in Europe). I agree with RossB’s outline of the subareas.

      “I think it is quite possible that east side riders will be heavily dependent on Sound Transit.”

      The Eastside will have something akin to Central Link, and frequent 405 service, which it has never had before. That will naturally drive more trips to ST. But it leaves out trips that don’t align with ST’s axes or stations, and there are a lot of those.

      South King County has it worst in two dimensions. It has the highest population and poverty rate but the lowest tax base. It really deserves subsidies to raise its woeful underservice. The Eastside, in contrast, has historically gotten more hours per capita but often doesn’t know what to do with more bus service. Ridership on the B is second-worst after the F; Kirkland, Issaquah, and 520 don’t get much off-peak ridership, etc.

      It reminds me of an anecdode in high school, where one Memorial Day I went from Kirkland to the U-District on the 255+73X. I was the only passenger on the 255, then it was standing room only on an articulated bus on the 73X. You see the same kind of off-peak volumes on the 40, 31/32, C, etc, but not on the B, 235, 255, 271, or 554. Although sometimes it surprises me. The last time I rode the B a couple weeks ago on a Saturday most of the seats were full and I may have had to stand, and sometimes the 550 is standing room only on Sunday afternoons like you’d see on the 40 or E. However, I’m convinced that South King County would ride 15-minute service in Kent if only more of it existed.

      “Assuming Metro lacks funding, this leaves Sound Transit to pick up the slack. One of the strongest arguments for Sound Transit is that they help bridge the gap between the different transit agencies.”

      ST can’t pick up the slack because it provides a different kind of service, between only the largest downtowns, and with limited stops. Its mandate is not to address funding gaps in the other agencies. There seems to be no rhyme or reason reason why the 550 and 554 are ST while the 255 and 271 are Metro; they were just arbitrarily decided when ST was created. Metro would have run the 226 anyway because it was already doing so, and the 226 + 235 => 550 restructure is similar to what Metro has done several times in Seattle now. But there wouldn’t be a 545 because I don’t see Metro upgrading the 253 that far or providing an all-day express: that wasn’t Metro’s style in the 90s and 00s, and it has only started to appear in Metro Connects now. That’s probably because ST’s pending withdrawl of the 577 and 545 has shaken up Metro and made it realize all-day express service is essential for a complete network and the highest mode share.

      1. Just to be clear, when I wrote “I think it is quite possible that east side riders will be heavily dependent on Sound Transit”, it was bus service I was talking about. That was inferred from the previous paragraph, but I should have been more clear.

        As an example, consider the Totem Lake area. This is a somewhat sprawling area with a fair number of apartments as well as employment (mostly hospital). Now consider the connection to the three major centers in the area, which are downtown Seattle, downtown Bellevue and the UW. Getting to downtown Bellevue is very easy, and will continue to be very easy. At worse I would imagine a transfer (or long walk) from a surrounding neighborhood to the frequent and fast 405 BRT. Getting to downtown Seattle is a challenge. Even if you are right at the Totem Lake freeway bus stop, you are stuck going through Bellevue, which is a fairly big detour (even if you take the train at that point). It is worse for folks going to the UW. You are stuck transferring in Bellevue, or taking the long slog through Kirkland on the 255. Either way it is bad, and again, this is to a top three destination. It is even worse to some place like Northgate or First Hill (which are still big destinations). Heaven forbid you want to visit someone in a neighborhood in north Seattle (e. g. Roosevelt). Folks in the area may have reasonably good commuting, but otherwise, you can forget about transit. You need a car.

        Metro can help solve the problem, but if they don’t have any money, they probably won’t. Sound Transit could fix it, while still maintaining their regional focus. Connecting Totem Lake to the UW (along with other stops) would be appropriate and expand upon their other projects. Running more than one BRT route on the same line is a feature considered when ITDB grades BRT systems. A bus route from say, Woodinville to the UW would achieve that, and take advantage of the freeway stop being added for Kirkland.

        The ability of ST to build projects like that (in cooperation with Metro) will likely play a big part in determining whether east side (and south end) riders have decent all-day service.

    4. It is the east and south King County areas that seem like a challenge.

      The challenge is to establish the reality that Metro can not and should not be providing bus service to places like North Bend & Covington.

      For me [PhillipG], living in the Ravenna/Wedgewood area- an area that will probably not have (or need) a Link station in the next 50 years

      Yet somehow we fund rail from Angle Lake to Alderwood Mall instead of developing a half decent transit option in Seattle where there’s almost enough density to justify it. And where the ancient road grid is woefully inadequate.

      Dumb & Dumber. This paradigm of “transit for all” needs to end and advocates need to focus on really marginally functional [I’d like to say good but even with utopian tax increases that’s hard to fathom] transit where existing density makes it feasible. Otherwise it’s the WSF model of “sprawl for all”.

      1. Okay, but remove us from the tax base. I cannot afford a home in Seattle, and I should not be subsidizing your transit. Don’t worry, I got a job close to home and only visit Seattle rarely, 3 or 4 times per year.

      2. It’s not, by your definition “my transit”, that would be the 249. And as far as the rest of the County subsidizing Seattle, well, that’s the whole reason Metro got into the bus business to begin with. At the beginning there was no transit outside of Seattle and in an attempt to even out this imbalance a formula that prescribed all service increases be skewed in favor of the suburbs and unincorporated parts of the County (20/40/40 or was it 54-40 or fight?). That artificial constrain lead to ridership metrics that were just a plain waste of every bodies money. While transit $$$ may not be apportioned as equally as say ST subarea equity, the fact remains that Seattle remains the economic engine for the county. Even if you don’t commute into DT the salary scale of the entire region is raised by the booming economy in Seattle. As you point out, housing cost leaves many no choice but to commute rather than live in Seattle. So it only makes sense to but the resources where it serves the greater good.

  2. “Tax and fare revenue grow naturally over time as the economy and population expand…”

    But, so does the cost of providing each hour of service. Bus driver wages and benefits (especially health insurance), purchasing and maintaining buses, etc., all goes up. Assuming both per-capita revenue and cost-per-service hour each go up with inflation, you end up providing the same level of service as before.

    Of course, if the population, itself, goes up, more money does exist for more service. But, if the growth is sprawl, the money brought in by the new people has to go towards the creation of new routes to serve them, leaving no new money leftover to increase frequency on existing routes, since nobody wants to pay Metro taxes just to fund other people’s bus service. In other words, adding yet another hourly bus to yet another clump of houses that was previously forest, does not result in a quality of transit that is any better than back when those houses were forest – even though Metro’s income and number-of-buses-on-the-road have both increased.

    Ultimately, if we want more money for actual improvements in service, infill development and increases in the per-capita tax rate are the only options.

    1. You can’t assume that increased tax revenues caused by population and economic growth only cover increased wages and maintenance. They might or it might not. Actual numbers need to be used.

      1. It’s hard to measure because there’s a ton of variables all changing at once. But, on the back-of-the-envelope layer, the argument looks like this.

        Start with some pre-existing levels of service in Seattle, and suppose somebody decides to build a new community called Maple Valley. Suppose that single-family zoning is freezing population within Seattle, so all growth has to happen in Maple Valley. If the tax revenue collected from Maple Valley pays for service to and within Maple Valley, the tax revenue available for Seattle service, and the number of service hours that can be funded with it, has not increased, even though the broader region has still grown. Yes, the total Seattle revenue collected may go up in raw-dollar figures due to inflation, but the cost of providing service is also going to go up by roughly that same inflation. So, at the end of the day, the region has grown, the transit agency’s budget has grown, and a new community that did not exist before is getting bus service, but the level of service that the agency can afford to provide to any given community remains unchanged.

        Of course, there are several ways the above assumptions can be overly pessimistic. In spite of all the NIMBY’ism, some real growth has occurred in Seattle over the past 10 years, providing real money for better service. Nor is it necessarily true that all of tax dollars in the new neighborhoods stays within the neighborhood, as there are often strong ridership arguments in favor of shipping it elsewhere.

        But, there are also ways in which the above assumptions can be overly optimistic. It is a known fact that health care costs have gone up over the past 20 years at a rate far exceeding that of general inflation. Since the unionized bus drivers get health care benefits, it is not unreasonable for the cost per service to go up at a rate above general inflation, due to rising health care costs. The cost of housing in the Puget Sound area has also gone up at a rate far exceeding general inflation, as does the salary a bus driver needs to earn in order to be able to pay rent. And, of course, a growing region means worse traffic, which means more service hours have to be sunk into maintaining the same level of service on the same routes as before. If you look at the Sound Transit Service Implementation plans over the past several years, there are tons of examples of increased revenue simply going into adding more and more padding time as buses get stuck in more and more traffic, while adding very little, if any new actual trips to the schedule.

        At the end of the day, for increases in service frequency to be sustainable, you can’t do it without either increasing the tax rate, increasing the population density (e.g. more people paying the same tax), forcing people in new developments to subsidize service in other neighborhoods, or making some sort of capital improvements (e.g. bus lanes) to make the bus service cheaper to operate. You cannot just assume that taxpayer revenue going up with inflation will magically support increases in service at that same rate of inflation.

  3. I appreciate the wide-eyed optimism that the tax authority for the Seattle Transportation Benefit District and King County Transportation Benefit District will still be in effect come 2020, much less that STBD’s be able to be renewed.

    Are there any plans for / groups working on the long odds of getting Eyman’s latest attempt at an initiative voted down or are we just hoping that “it all works out?”

    1. If it passes and the courts uphold it, ST3 would be pruned by about a quarter and the STBD would be slashed, but I don’t think Metro depends on MVET for its regular service, isn’t it all sales tax? The net result would be service like we have now, with some Link extensions, and possibly worse bus frequency on some routes. It would be frustrating, and it would dent transit’s potential for a high mode share, and we’d waste more hours waiting for buses. But transit here is much better than it was ten or twenty years ago, so we need to look at all we’ve gained, and I doubt more than a fraction of it would be reversed.

      Lobbying people not to believe the “cut my car taxes” mantra will be hard, and a lot of it will be decided by voters in the rest of the state. Seattle, King, and Snohomish voters will just have to outweigh the yes vote in the rest of the state.

      1. See, that’s what worries me. Seattle buys a LOT of bus service from Metro through the STBD and, even with Northgate Link, virtually all of the destinations accessible via Northgate will still be reachable only by bus. Yet almost all of the responses I’ve gotten to this question on various forums (here, Twitter, Reddit, talking to people in person) have focused on this crap initiative’s effects on Sound Transit and Link but not on the core bus service.

        It’s a little disconcerting to–and I’m sorry if I come across like I’m attacking you personally, I promise I’m not, I’m taking issue with the general feeling I’m perceiving–read that “well, bus service will be impacted but what can you do” when so many trips can only be fulfilled by bus for the next several years. To me, the urgency to mobilize against this initiative just doesn’t seem to be there because, from what I hear, “hey, the train will be largely unaffected so does it really matter that much?”

      2. The impact would be a huge setback, but what’s the impact on ST2? Most of the 2025 Link riders will be on new ST2-funded service. ST3 impacts King County differently.

  4. More funding does increase service hours — but what’s be impact on ridership? The opening of ST lines will affect route designs and ridership in particular. By 2025, ST is projecting tens of thousands of new Link trips that today are on ST Express and Metro buses. ST does a horrible job telling us what the system growth will be, but in 6 years that appears to be over 100,000 average weekday boardings in King County. Not only is that with Link extensions but also STRide service. That’s over 20 percent of the 400,000 Metro boardings if all riders shift and Metro isn’t used as a feeder. More and more of King County will probably view Metro is for shorter local trips or feeder trips to Link.

    It’s interesting to see how service hours can grow with more funding here — but the ridership for supporting the growth needs to be presented too. With the ST service carrying 35-40 percent of all transit boardings in King County by 2025, Metro service cannot be examined by itself.

    1. Even if Metro struggles, buses will continue to be the dominant form of transit in the area. We just aren’t building that type of subway system. There are several reasons why. Link is heavily dependent on bus feeders. Just look at how many of the stops are close to the freeway, or in remote areas with big parking lots (e. g. South Bellevue). This lack of urban stops also leads to relatively low ridership. No one is going to ride the train from Belltown to First Hill, for example. Finally, increased urbanization (in areas not well served by Link) will lead to higher bus ridership. In urban areas, people view transit not as something you take to get to work, but as something you take to get around the city. The train will play a part in that, but not the dominant part. It will be like San Fransisco, not D. C. (http://www.ctchouston.org/intermodality/2006/05/06/tale-of-two-subways/).

      No, the only threat to Metro is funding, not people switching to the train. If anything, Link should increase bus usage, as the subway at least covers part of the city and transit systems are complementary.

      1. Link may create more Metro feeder bus use, but that use will increasingly be for shorter trips. We should probably be looking not only at ridership but also rider-miles to compare to the service hours.

        My original comment is to highlight that mere service hour projections is masking a coming major shift of rider-miles to ST. ST2 operation is perhaps the most profound King County transit system change in our lifetime. With the Metro alternatives presented here showing variation of 20 percent in service hours, a taxpayer may feel that the 20 percent was shifted to ST operation and that more service hours for Metro is unnecessary. Metro should be demonstrating how the a service structure needs funding or they leave themselves exposed to this ST-shift challenge.

      2. I hope Metro’s route proposals include frequencies for with/without additional funding. That’s the only way to tell how significant the benefit would be. Metro has done that with the STBD so it has a precedent.

      3. Rider miles is irrelevant. What matters is service hours. As Link expands, some bus routes run a shorter distance, thus freeing up hours. From a system standpoint, though, the effect is relatively minor. For example, Metro made a major, aggressive change to bus routes in northeast Seattle following UW Link. Buses carrying tens of thousands of people were truncated. The service hours saved as a result were put into more frequent service for other buses. But those changes only occurred in those areas. The savings weren’t enough to trickle down to other areas. No other area — in the city or outside of it — got increased service because of the truncations. If I had to guess, 90% of the system remained the same. The increased service to other areas is simply the result of better funding.

        That is because most buses weren’t truncated. When ST2 is complete, you will have more truncations, but most of the system will be the same. Here are buses with over 200 service hours (in order):

        E — 305
        40 — 299
        C — 297
        7 — 257
        D — 256
        62 — 241
        36 — 237
        271 — 233
        255 — 229
        120 — 228
        372 — 216
        41 — 201

        With ST2, only the 41 gets truncated. With ST3, you could truncate the C, the D and the 120. Even that may not happen, as Metro keeps the 120 in their long range plans. But even assuming aggressive truncation, almost all of these buses remain the same. This isn’t cherry picking, either. The next ten buses (by service hours) are the 48, 5, 60, 150, 70, 8, 45, A, F, and 44 (none of which will be truncated).

        There will be some savings due to truncation, but they won’t be major. Any significant increase in service will be the result of a restructure (which will benefit from Link, but not be completely dependent on it) as well as extra funding.

      4. That’s a great resource on bus allocations, Ross. I expect to see riders leave RapidRide E for Link when the Shoreline stations open. Routes 7 and 48 lost riders to nearby Link. Truncations may not happen, but over time Metro will drop service hours if loads aren’t high enough.

        Anyway, my larger point is that it’s no longer reasonable to portray Metro without discussing ST. It was more possible back before 2016, when Link was carrying less than 10 percent of total county boardings and Express and Sounder were mostly considered commute overlays. By 2025, that percentage will probably be more like 30-35 percent. At the opening of West Seattle and Ballard lines, it will probably be 40-50 percent.

        Consider the search for tunnel funding right now. Will voters fund both ST tunnels for West Seattle and Ballard as well as Metro service expansion? They easily might fund one but may not the other. In fact, I suspect most voters would rather buy more Metro service rather than tunnels with no perceptible change in Link service if it was posed that way.

        My overarching point is simply this: I don’t think that Metro can no longer politically go to voters ignoring ST’s presence during this period of significant Link and STRide expansion with many opening dates in the next 4-6 years. Many voters don’t see subsidizing individual operators; they only see transit as one thing.

    2. Because Metro provides drivers for ST, it would be easy for Metro to add the ST-contracted service hours to this graph.

      Shouldn’t this be done?

    3. A well designed transit network should increase mobility, and more service should lead to more ridership- at least up to a saturation point.

      Even after ST3 is completed, there will be reasonably dense neighborhoods without Link stations (Belltown, First Hill, Fremont, Wallingford, Greenwood, Lake CIty), or that are incompletely covered by Link stations (Capitol Hill, Central District, possibly Ballard). All these areas will continue to need frequent bus service.

      For me, living in the Ravenna/Wedgewood area- an area that will probably not have (or need) a Link station in the next 50 years or more- the U-Link restructure more than doubled my access to bus service (Route 62 was added with 15 minute weekday headways, the weekday frequency on routes 372 and 65 went from 30 minutes to 5-15 minutes) plus with the connection to Link, I got more reliable (and sometimes faster) trips to Capitol Hill and downtown, even with the lousy transfer to Link at UW Station. As a result of dramatically improved frequency and reliability, I take many more transit trips than I did 4 years ago.

      Faced with 30 minute headways, if people have any other choice, most of them are are not going to take the bus. 5-15 minutes headways give you so much more freedom and convenience. Now I just need those headways kept up through the evening, night, and weekend.

  5. nice thread.

    voter turnout is critical. it is highest in November and lowest in special elections such as April 2014. it is highest in presidential elections and lower in off-year elections. transit issues tend to do better with high turnout. this could bear on the countywide and Seattle TBD elections. perhaps simultaneous and co-dependent measures could be attempted.

    the Eyman measure seems very relevant. if it passes, there will be court challenges and one legislative session before the 2020 election.

    in April 2014 and November 2014, both measures were TBD, but the countywide measure allocated 40 percent of its revenues to general transportation, in the county road fund and the 39 cities.

    with regards to the reset of the RR program, it seems BOTH the SDOT and Metro budgets are relevant. the city largely covers capital; Metro largely covers service; both are needed and both are short. the earlier pace was quite ambitious.

    Madison BRT is about to have another round of outreach. both governments must approve it. the mode has been changed and it is dependent on federal funding. it attempts to jam BRT through a congested I-5 interchange.

    1. I suppose, the fact that Eyman’s initiatives are in off yeara is intentional – because he knows that in November 2020, it would never pass?

  6. I’m encouraged to see a RapidRide I in the list. South King is often vilified for the past reputation as a low-density area that hates transit. When I drive the area today, I see lots of poorer pedestrians on sidewalks and waiting for buses. It deserves better transit.

    I get concerned that we look at Metro as a whole but not look at the geographical structural inequities in our system. We provide heavy emphasis to serve office jobs Downtown with transit yet avoid issues like low-wage jobs scheduled for off hours or what the needs of lower income people forced out into far suburbs are.

    Rather than take a top-down view of service hours, we need to take a bottom-up view instead. What small area needs exist? What are the small area deficiencies? How much redundant service is reasonable? How should bus hours be distributed not only to reflect population growth, but also to reflect income inequality shifts?

    I can’t suggest a specific strategy, but I can say that starting with a general increase in service hours masks the need to define the obvious geographical inequality issues that we face.

    1. Transit just needs to go everywhere (or at least everywhere that’s reasonably populated) and run all day. Trying to pit the needs of this community vs. that community is counter-productive.

      For instance, I live in downtown Kirkland, and I basically read your comments as saying that my bus (at least evenings/weekends) should be cut to hourly, if not eliminated entirely, so that somebody else’s bus can be improved from hourly to half hourly. As long as routes are getting decent ridership (which the evening/weekend 255 does), simply taking away service from one community to provide extra service to another community is just pitting two communities against each other. That attitude also encourages people to dig in hard and bring out to pitchforks on every service restructure proposal, since it’s a lot harder to support a route truncation if it means shipping your bus service elsewhere vs. re-investing your bus service in your own neighborhood.

      1. Transit just needs to go everywhere (or at least everywhere that’s reasonably populated) and run all day.

        Reasonable and Everywhere are at odds. Baseline, “reasonably populated” for effective transit is IIRC 8k per sq.mi.? DT Kirkland probably fits the bill. The 255 has great ridership. “My” 249… not so much, and reality is that if we want to provide the most effective transit routes like that just need to go away or at least not exist outside of peak commute.

      2. Of course. The 249 is a really crazy route, which probably does need to be restructured away. It is broken in the sense that the route, itself, takes nearly an hour, but it is impossible to ride it for more than about 5-10 minutes in any direction without being subjected to unnecessary twists, turns, and detours.

        But, in general, if a bus route is going to be restructured away, its service should stay within its general area. In the case of route 249, the service hours should be spent to increase frequency on other routes in the Bellevue area, possibly adding a small extension here and there to minimize coverage gaps. If done right, people who live in Bellevue could support the change, since it would still improve the overall quality of their transit service. But, if you just say, we’re going to take away Bellevue’s bus service altogether and move the money over to Kent because there’s more poor people there, people in Kent might support the move, but people in Bellevue, who are losing service, would have no reason to support it, and plenty of reason to oppose it, since, even if they don’t ride the 249 personally, such a move would set a precedent for shifting away more funding in the future.

        Obviously, there are exceptions for egregious cases. I have heard anecdotally that decades ago, there was a period where King County Metro actually had a bus out to Skykomish which operated just one trip per week. I have no qualms with Metro killing that and re-investing the money elsewhere.

      3. “We provide heavy emphasis to serve office jobs Downtown with transit”

        Those routes are why downtown’s SOV mode share had gone down to 30%, and part of the reason why Seattle still has a downtown with 10% of the region’s total jobs. In many other American cities the jobs have left downtown and scattered to inaccessible sprawl, and the remaining downtown is no denser than a suburban downtown or may be partly abandoned with a lot of empty storefronts. Be careful what you wish for.

        “yet avoid issues like low-wage jobs scheduled for off hours or what the needs of lower income people forced out into far suburbs are.”

        Metro’s long-range plan tries to address this. It has frequent grid routes that don’t go downtown. And all of Metro’s restructures in the past twenty years have gone in this direction. The main impediment is Metro doesn’t have enough service hours for appropriate service everywhere so it has to allocate a limited pie, and the last few countywide Metro tax measures have failed.

        The main problem is that it has taken way too long: the needs have existed for twenty years. But we didn’t have a light rail backbone then so Metro had to try to do it all. Secondly, Metro prefers to restructure only when there’s a major service increase like a light rail extension or RapidRide line, to counter all the negativity in taking away somebody’s one-seat ride. This has caused restructures to be delayed for several years, which is part of the pain we’re going through.

        “Rather than take a top-down view of service hours, we need to take a bottom-up view instead. What small area needs exist? What are the small area deficiencies? How much redundant service is reasonable? How should bus hours be distributed not only to reflect population growth, but also to reflect income inequality shifts?”

        Those are excellent questions, and STB is the place to discuss them, and articulate recommendations to advise Metro with. Several county electeds and staff read STB even though they rarely comment, including Dow Constantine himself as he said in a forum, and we can also reference our article-suggestions in public feedback to the agencies and councils.

        So the question is, how well does Metro’s long-range plan address these?

      4. The 249 is a strung-together collection of previous coverage segments. That’s how Metro restructures: it consolidates on the major corridors, and strings together the tails into one coverage route. That balances demand so that major corridors can have large frequent buses and the leftovers have a small infrequent bus. The 249 makes more sense as an interlining of multiple routes to the nearest shopping centers where they can transfer to a major route.

        Metro’s long-range plan changes these completely: I’ll leave it for you do decide whether it’s for the better. I’ll just mention that I used to live on north Bellevue Way and then had a route to both Kirkland and Bellevue. The current route requires a transfer at South Kirkland P&R. I would rather have a route continuing north to Kirkland than east to Overlake Village and Lake Sammamish Parkway.

      5. Another anecdote, asdf2, but as it’s my direct experience I’ll add it. ;-)

        Metro did run a weekly bus to and from Skykomish; it was the 357 and ran a morning bus out and back from Northgate on Wednesdays and an evening one as well. I rode it a couple of times basically as an excuse to go to the mountains and have lunch out there.

        My understanding is that it was basically used as a “shopping shuttle” for Skykomish and valley residents, I suppose from the time when families had one car and if it were away at work for the day you were stuck and, of course, Skykomish is in King County so CT didn’t go that far. Most of the stops were in the valley (Monroe, Startup, Gold Bar) so actually in Snohomish County. I can’t imagine by the time they cancelled the route sometime in the early 90’s anybody there actually cared.

        CT still runs buses from Everett to Gold Bar (270/271) and from Smokey Point to Darrington (230), if you want to take a scenic ride on your ORCA. Unfortunately unlike Metro’s old Skykomish route, apparently you can’t ride the “deadhead” 230 out to Darrington in the morning and back in the evening – the schedule just shows one inbound AM bus and a return outbound in the evening.

      6. Several years ago I remember seeing a schedule to some of the mountain communities by either Whatcom Transit or Skagit Transit. They called them medical shuttle routes or something and served some areas two days a week and some other areas three days a week. I’m not finding such a service on the web site for either right now, but I might not be looking in the right place.

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