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.
While King County decided not to run a county-wide ballot measure this year to fund King County Metro (though Seattle still running its measure, which cruised to victory), Portland (and the surrounding area) still had its own measure 26-218 on the ballot in 2020. TriMet (which operates in Multnomah, Washington, and Clackamas counties in Oregon), as part of their plans for the SW Corridor, would have constructed light rail from Portland to Tigard and Tualatin. This 11-mile, 13 station extension would have given riders southwest of Portland a more direct ride into downtown Portland than the existing WES commuter rail (which requires a transfer in Beaverton). The measure would have also funded four different bus rapid transit (BRT) projects in the area.
Unfortunately, the measure is losing quite decisively, with (as of Wednesday evening) 56.78% of voters rejecting the measure and 43.22% of voters approving.
Seattle’s Proposition 1, which partially preserves existing transit taxes, has 82% of counted votes. There aren’t enough uncounted registered voters to mathematically change the result.
As expected, Gov. Inslee is winning easily. Joseph O’Sullivan says ($) that if current results hold, Democrats may gain a Senate Seat at the expense of Sound Transit nemesis Steve O’Ban, extending their new majority.
Everything is still in play at the Federal level, except the House is clearly still Democratic.
Beyond Prop 1, virtually the entire state government is up for grabs. Olympia has vast power over land use and transit outcomes in Seattle and everywhere else in Washington. I hear there are some federal races too.
It is not a good idea to use the US Postal Service this late in the process. Instead, find your nearest drop box and insert your ballot no later than 8pm tonight.
Or, if you need more assistance, managed not to register to vote, or are just old-fashioned, don a mask and register and/or vote in person.
Finally, if like most eligible people you’ve already voted, please track your ballot today so that you have time to rectify any problem that arose.
Metro’s proposed budget greatly reduces most capital outlays over the next several years. The RapidRide expansion has shrunk to just three funded lines, and base expansion plans have been mostly suspended. But there remains a $270 million investment in battery buses and associated charging infrastructure, $93 million of that by 2022.
Into the budget debate comes a remarkable report from Metro, laying out the steep opportunity costs of a transition to all-electric. Under the most likely assumptions, battery electric buses and infrastructure are 53% more expensive than a diesel hybrid fleet. Even with societal benefits including emissions priced in, it’s 42% more expensive. The added cost of a 100% transition from hybrid to battery is enough to buy 237,000 service hours annually through 2040.