As King County Metro started counting the ways it could save money this summer, Seattle’s fleet of electric trolley buses were identified as an attractive target. Cutting the line, the county said, could save Metro as much as $8.7 million a year.
This week, the City of Seattle began asking a few questions about the trolleys. The Department of Transportation is hosting an online survey designed to gauge public opinion about the electric buses whose wires are a ubiquitous part of the city environment on Capitol Hill an in neighborhoods across the city.
SDOT spokesperson Rick Sheridan provided these notes to CHS about the effort:
What’s the goal?
The goal of the survey is to gauge community support for continued and expanded electric bus service.
When does it start?
SDOT recently began using the survey at community meetings and will be making it available online this week.
What will be done with the information?
SDOT is conducting this survey because King County’s recent audit of its Metro division suggests that Metro could save money by replacing electric trolley buses with diesel buses. This would call into question the future of electric bus service in Seattle. Reduction or elimination of electric bus service would be in conflict with city policies, including those related to climate change and reduced use of petroleum-based fuels. Through this survey, the city of Seattle seeks to learn whether support for electric transit exists in the community.
The survey is a short one-page. Here’s the kind of thing they’re looking for your feedback on:
They also ask this kicker:
Some King County policymakers appear to favor the removal of electric buses (which would be replaced with diesel-powered buses). Would you support this idea if it included some cost savings?
Metro spokesperson Rochelle Ogershok said her agency will submit its plan to meet the reduced budget to the King County Council later this year and that, while Metro is not in charge of the survey, she said SDOT will have a say in how the decision on the trolleys plays out. With this survey opportunity, you will, too.
Tom Rasmussen, chair of Seattle City Council’s transportation committee, doesn’t want to simply preserve trolley service in the city. He wants to see it expand.
“I am very interested in expanding the electric trolley system,” Rasmussen told CHS. “I see a lot of advantages in it in comparison to the diesel buses we have now.”
Regarding the survey, Rasmussen said he wants to hear both good and bad opinions of the service.
“It’s also good to hear from people what they don’t like about them,” Rasmussen said. “I don’t know how we can improve them without really candid comments.”
“The trolleys are quiet, they don’t smell, and they are fast. We need to find the most environmentally sound option. I think that the trolleys should be given a serious look.”
Update: Metro’s Ogershok contacted us after this story was posted to request we change our headline to clarify that King County isn’t only considering trolley cuts but studying many options to cut costs. We disagree with that the headline is misleading and encouraged her to post more information in the comments.