Metro has sketched the outlines of service restructures in 2021 and 2022 in budget discussions with the King County Council. The proposals include a reduction in bus service in north Seattle after Northgate Link opens, and a rebalancing of bus service throughout the County to conform with the new equity framework.
The largest change in service levels is in northeast Seattle. Nominally, the budget anticipates a total reduction of 170,000 service hours, of which 47,000 are deleted Metro hours annually as Route 41 is truncated. The balance are funded by the Seattle Transportation Benefit District. The budget assumes those hours will go away too with the expiration of the STBD taxes this year. After last week’s voter approval of new STBD taxes, the reduction in bus service will be less.
The new STBD taxes are expected to support only 170,000 hours citywide, not enough to replace most of the 121,000 STBD-funded hours in northeast Seattle, and anyway the focus of STBD efforts will shift somewhat to support more routes elsewhere. The new STBD legislation makes “any King County Metro route serving historically low-income communities in Seattle” eligible for support however many stops it serves outside of the city, and that will favor routes in the south of the city.
Metro staff indicated the level of STBD funding wouldn’t affect the map of service in northeast Seattle. Instead, the new STBD taxes would pay for increased frequency and span of service on the same network.
The second major service change is in Metro’s implementation of the equity framework. The service guidelines have not yet been updated, but Metro is already planning service changes to be enacted within the future guidelines. In this biennium, that means adding another 50,000 annual service hours in historically underserved communities. This, and other changes over the biennium, will be paid for by 93,000 hours in “fixed route reductions to address new needs”.
Some alternative services pilots will become regular service, including converting the Trailhead Direct program into a DART service with 11,000 added service hours.
There are added service hours for new RapidRide lines. The RapidRide H line will open in September 2021, with an added 30,000 service hours. Other changes include 10,000 hours of bus service and 8,700 hours of DART service for the Renton Kent Area Mobility project which was implemented in September and will be upgraded to RapidRide in 2023.
In Skyway, a new flexible services program is planned. Metro is proposing for design decisions to be made through a community-driven process, but the budget sets aside $6 million which is equivalent to 31,800 service hours.