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Metro makes case for Congestion Reduction Charge, details possible Capitol Hill cuts

King County has put some teeth in its messaging about the dire condition of Metro’s budget by releasing a model showing how a 17% cutback of service would impact 80% of the routes it serves. Example cuts include the elimination of route 43 that serves an arc between UW and 24th Ave before slicing through Capitol Hill to downtown. A public meeting next week will be held to discuss the budget woes, the service cuts and to gather public comment. Details on that and how to provide your feedback on the situation, below.


On the table for King County is the proposed implementation of a new $20 car tab fee called the Congestion Reduction Charge. Without the charge, Metro says service cuts could begin as early as this winter. Seattle Transit Blog has rounded-up its posts on the topic here. If the King County Council doesn’t pass direct implementation of the new fee this summer, it’s likely the proposal will end up on the fall ballot.

Details on the Tuesday, July 12th Seattle meeting are below. You can also provide public testimony via this online form. This King County provided map shows how cuts would play out in the Capitol Hill and Central District area of the city.

Due to the dramatic recession-driven drop in sales tax revenues, Metro Transit is facing a 
$60 million annual deficit between revenues and the cost of providing current levels of transit 
service. To close this budget shortfall, King County has a choice of cutting 17 percent of transit 
service—taking the system back to 1996 service levels—or preserving current service levels by 
enacting a $20 congestion reduction charge on vehicles in King County.

The Metropolitan King County Council’s Transportation, Economy and Environment Committee will 
host three special evening hearings to hear public testimony on the proposed transit service reduction 
and the Metro Transit budget crisis. These meetings are an opportunity for you to learn about the 
proposals and weigh in on the future of Metro transit.

The meetings will be held in Kirkland, Seattle and Burien:

Wednesday, July 6, 6:00 p.m.
Kirkland City Council Chambers 
123 Fifth Avenue
 
Tuesday, July 12, 6:00 p.m.
King County Council Chambers 
516 Third Avenue, 10th Floor, Seattle

 
Thursday, July 21, 6:00 p.m.
Burien City Council Chambers 
400 S.W. 152nd Street
 
In the past two years, Metro Transit has transformed its operations to hold off these cuts and wrench every available dollar out of the agency for service, including:- Achieving new scheduling efficiencies; 
– Eliminating more than 100 staff positions; 
– Deferring planned service expansion; 
– Reducing operating reserves, and 
– Reducing its capital program.  

80 percent. Metro’s employees were also part of the solution: negotiating cost-cutting labor agreements that will reduce Metro’s costs by $17 million per year. 

Despite these fare increases, budget reductions, and operational efficiencies, it is not enough to cover the anticipated shortfall and we are now nearly out of tools to save our system. The savings and efficiencies created by Metro over the past few years save approximately $147 million per year, but the drop in sales tax revenues means Metro still faces an operating shortfall of $60 million a year each year from 2012 through 2015.

The State Legislature has authorized a tool that is available to King County to help maintain Metro service at its current level: a temporary $20 Congestion Reduction Charge on vehicle licenses for a two–year period ending in mid-2014. County Executive Constantine has sent that proposal to the County Council as well as two other pieces of legislation:
– An ordinance approving a Congestion Reduction Plan, a prerequisite for Council action on a   Congestion Reduction Charge, and 
– An ordinance cutting 100,000 hours of Metro bus service effective February 2012 and directing 
  Metro to plan for reducing bus service by an additional 500,000 service hours in the 2012-2013   budget. 

Metro Transit service is critical to the economy of King County, providing approximately 110 million rides annually, taking hundreds of thousands of cars off the road each day, and helping people get to and from some of the largest employment and activity centers in our state. More information about Metro’s financial crisis and the Congestion Reduction Charge is available on the King County website http://www.kingcounty.gov/exec/news/release/2011/June/20Metro.aspx

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Spencer
Spencer
11 years ago

That sounds pretty drastic for the area around Summit.

Piesco
Piesco
11 years ago

We had the 14 and 43 in 1996:
The 43 started in 1979.
The 14 Summit trolleybus route has existed since the 1940s and I believe it started as a streetcar line in the 19th century.

Feedback
Feedback
11 years ago

I think I speak for everyone when I say that the car tab fee is necessary to preserve the way of life for hundreds of thousands of Seattle-area residents. Those who cannot pay it will simply have to stop driving to the benefit of all other motorists, public transit riders, bicyclists, and of course our environment.

T
T
11 years ago

> I think I speak for everyone

No. You don’t.

CapHillMax
CapHillMax
11 years ago

Metro is proposing cutting some of its busiest and most profitable routes. That is not a rational decision that a revenue-starved agency will make. The only conclusion left is that Metro is attempting to coerce voters into supporting this fee by threatening to cut the best and busiest routes. I’m not going to buy it. This will be the FIRST transit initiative in twenty years that I will have voted “no” on.

empty buses
empty buses
11 years ago

I ride on empty buses (10, 11), except for the morning 7-8 and evening 5-6. I also look at the other routes with empty buses, double route buses following each other, 3-4 buses in a row down Pike. This is a waste of money and should be better sync’d to run more efficiently. There are cost savings that need to happen. I don’t blame the 3rd highest paid drivers in the nation, but empty buses?

except not
except not
11 years ago

Yah…except that you don’t speak for everyone. We just had an increase in March, poor timing to push another fee or tax on us. Just because I drive a car, doesn’t mean I need to subsidize your bus route. Maybe we should impose a fee on people that like or need to walk?

inciteful
inciteful
11 years ago

So. This must be intended to incite the public [should this read “transit-riding-public?”] into a fervor. I sincerely doubt the best options to balance the budget are cutting high-ridership routes through the MOST DENSELY POPULATED cencus tract in Seattle, i.e. 14 and 43. It’s possible this decision is stemming from the idea that Capitol Hill will soon(ish) have light rail service, however, I don’t care who you are, I can’t imagine cutting service in an area that has the highest ridership potential would seem like a good idea. This reads, “publicity stunt” or “pay attention” to me.

Not that I have a problem with using this map as a PR tool to raise awareness of the seriousness of the problems with Metro’s budget. I guess I just hope that the folks making the decisions aren’t seriously considering cutting off access to their system in a neighborhood that has the best potential for ridership growth in all of Seattle.

Tom
Tom
11 years ago

That’s EXACTLY what Metro is doing. I don’t ride the bus often, because as it is, the timetable isn’t convenient. Its also a huge pain in the backside to dig up quarters for the fare.

It seems to me that Metro is pumping a hell of a lot of money into the south end and starting supposedly rapid bus lines down there when that area is already served by Sound Transit and existing Metro runs. Moreover, if folks get as far as the airport, they can take the train into the city.

KF
KF
11 years ago

Just because you see empty buses doesn’t mean they’re all that way,the bus that gets me home each day is so over-crowded that I stand every day and am mashed between other people. I hope that Metro looked at reducing bus service during slow times, upping it during busy times, reducing redundant bus lines, and making sure their drivers don’t leave their stop early or late, which throws everything off (why you see several buses in a row). Losing the 43 would be really bad for people trying to get to U-Dist and Ballard from downtown and Capitol Hill, it means they have to take an extra bus to get where they want to go, and with reduced frequency, they might have to add 30-60 minutes to their trip factoring in the waiting for the connection. Car owners don’t think we share the burden, yet $2.50 a ride is not cheap, especially if you take the bus twice (or more than twice) a day!

JTContinental
JTContinental
11 years ago

I have never ridden on the 11 when it wasn’t standing room only.

Zef Wagner
Zef Wagner
11 years ago

The 43 does get high ridership, but it also is duplicated along the entire route by other buses. So it makes sense to eliminate it if the funding isn’t there, since a combination of the 48, 8, and 11 can still get people the same places by transferring. This isn’t coercion, it’s just the rational response to a massive drop in funding. If you are worried about it, just vote for the fee.

Zef Wagner
Zef Wagner
11 years ago

The 43 is a great route, but it’s one of the only buses that duplicates other routes for its entire length. It actually makes sense. People would have to transfer between the 48, 8, and 11. This is the option that would hurt the fewest people.

The 14N serves a dense area, but ridership is not actually very high since it is so close to downtown that most people walk anyway.

commuter
commuter
11 years ago

Raise the bus fares not the car tabs.

B
B
11 years ago

I realize the 43 is duplicated along its route, but not having to transfer is-for the marginal bus customer-often the difference between taking transit and driving. Adding 20 min each way to a daily commute makes parking fees at UW look a lot more reasonable. Not so much for students as for grad students, postdocs, faculty, and staff who live in Cap Hill (and other surrounding neighborhoods).

Make these cuts, and there will be more people driving through the most congested parts of the city, every day. This will affect drivers just as much as transit riders.

-B
(transit rider AND car owner)

the Urbanist
the Urbanist
11 years ago

@ except not & T

Walking, unlike motor vehicles, doesn’t create congestion (which robs cities, people, and companies of productivity and money each year); damage infrastructure (which is woefully underfunded already); create pollution (which causes a downstream increase in healthcare costs for all of society); or help induce sprawl (which increases infrastructure costs by forcing the city to provide power, sewer, fire, police, and education services even farther away from the core at an increasing cost with a diminishing return).

So, that is why we don’t tax walkers or cyclists for that matter. And finally, if you insist that you are subsidizing my bus route, it’s just like when I (and we all do) subsidize the roads you drive on since no road in America pays for itself. See: http://www.infrastructurist.com/2011/01/07/new-report-roads-

seagirl
seagirl
11 years ago

What about getting rid of the ride free area? Everyday I see people board the bus downtown and then don’t pay their fare when they get off the bus out of the ride free area. It seems that Metro is losing money everyday because of this. I have lived in much larger cities across the nation where all people pay their fare as they board the bus, which seems to make the most sense.

b2k
b2k
11 years ago

sure thing but then I hope I can divert all my taxes to not benefiting the road and infrastructure you so need to drive yourself on.

b2k
b2k
11 years ago

thats funny because I ride the exact same routes, at the exact same times every day, and they are full.

b2k
b2k
11 years ago

sorry didnt read your post thoroughly enough.

CapHillMax
CapHillMax
11 years ago

@Zef. Maybe I’m mistaken, but isn’t the 43 the only bus between Capitol Hill and Montlake? What other lines are there? I can perhaps see cutting this line in 2016 when light rail is operational, but now?

Ross Hunter proposed a great efficiency plan for Metro in 2009. I’d like to see that implemented first, before yet another increase, whether fares or a $20 tab tax.

Just my $0.02….

CapHillMax
CapHillMax
11 years ago

I agree with your post. However, every initiative that is proposed is always “less than a tank of gas”, “less than 3 lattes a month”, less than one night out for dinner. The problem is, those all add up into real, significant money and at the of the day, you end up with a huge bill.

I’m somewhat of a transit wonk and think buses and rail are the way to go. However, Metro needs to do its part by being mean and lean and spending its money wisely. I say that as a left-leaning Dem – and when “spendocrats” like me start showing grave concern about continued unfettered increases, then, in this case, Metro and Constantine should take notice. None of my friends, all Democrats, most left of liberal, who all ride transit, will vote to approve this proposal for just those reasons.

Zef Wagner
Zef Wagner
11 years ago

It is the only direct bus, but anyone in Montlake can take the 48 and transfer to the 11. This will be a huge inconvenience, so we should vote for the fee. I was just making the point that the 43 duplicates existing service, so getting rid of it just means people have to transfer more rather than completely lose service. That is one way bus companies can save money, but we pay in lost time.

noL
noL
11 years ago

Getting rid of the ride free area would be a horrific idea as removing it would cause a massive delay in all buses. The volume of ridership in the downtown core is so high that the amount of time it would take for every rider to pay the fare would in turn cause massive delays in bus times. It just simply would take too long which is why the ride free area is there. Besides, most riders on the buses in the ride free area are paying fare on either side of the area anyway.

I’m saddened by the idea of cutting both of these lines. I see the 14N PACKED every single morning before it even reaches Denny. Not to mention that I see people every day along the 14N route with luggage heading to the airport. I don’t know about you, but walking the 20 min downtown to the light rail with suitcases is no easy feat and seems awful. I also see the 14N route full every evening all the way down to Mercer. The 14N route has been in place for decades and one of the oldest routes on Capitol Hill.

Combine that with cutting the 43 and the whole I-5 shores area of Capitol Hill is left without easily accessible bus service to the U-Dist and downtown. The 8 doesn’t count because the 8 is the worst and most unreliable bus line in the city- (my thoughts being that is travels from too far away and is always delayed and full to be reliable for commuting between Capitol Hill and Queen Anne).

I do not see how cutting bus service in the most densely bus service use area in the city would be a good idea. It just seems like someone grabbed the short straw. The people making these decisions need to spend time on these routes before making cuts to routes.

This whole idea really makes me sad for the future of public transportation.

Zef Wagner
Zef Wagner
11 years ago

Well said. To be clear, I was certainly not saying it would be good to lose the 43, just that it is the most rational bus to cut if Metro wants to save a lot of money without actually cutting anyone’s service completely. The quality of service will be bad enough that many people will give up on transit and drive instead. That’s why they are calling this a Congestion Reduction Charge, and that’s why even 100% drivers should support this fee.

David Seater
David Seater
11 years ago

You can get from Capitol Hill to Montlake by taking the 11 or 8 east to 23rd, then transferring to the 48. It’s less convenient, but with a 17% budget cut things have to get a lot less convenient for a lot of people.

David Seater
David Seater
11 years ago

They don’t literally mean the sames routes that existed in 1996, they mean the number of service hours will be the same.

Zef Wagner
Zef Wagner
11 years ago

The 14N has good ridership at peak times, but poor ridership at all other times. It is unfortunately close enough to downtown that not many people actually NEED to take it, they just take it to avoid walking and speed up the trip. I would hate to see it go too, but this is what’s called low-hanging fruit. Let’s just pass the fee so this doesn’t happen.

David Seater
David Seater
11 years ago

Bus fares have already been raised 80% in the last 4 years. This new car tab fee will cost under $2 a month, less than one adult fare.

B
B
11 years ago

Fair enough. I definitely think this is an issue that trancends typical left/right politics…in fact I’d consider myself more of a left-leaning libertarian than anything else, so I am very sympathetic to the argument that the tendency of government agencies generally is to nickle and dime tax and fee increases, and that they do add up.

On the other hand, I think car owners enjoy tremendous subsidies in the form of public infrastructure, mandated parking requirements for new construction (not so much in Cap Hill, but certainly elsewhere), etc., not to mention gas taxes that are quite low compared to the rest of the developed world. I really don’t think most drivers (me included!) bear the real, full cost of private vehicle ownership and use. So an increase at the margins, in a car-congested community behind the curve on transit, is probably justified.

That said, I am all for Metro (and all government agencies) being held to the highest possible standards of efficiency in terms of how they spend our money…which they clearly are not, currently.

T
T
11 years ago

@the Urbanist

>And finally, if you insist that you are subsidizing my bus route, it’s just like when I (and we all do) subsidize the roads you drive on since no road in America pays for itself.

Oh. Your bus route doesn’t use the roads, too? I didn’t know Metro had off-road buses. o_O

upd
upd
11 years ago

Correction, you see they were just raised by the city at 20$ a year, so this is 20$ would = 40 bucks a year, that is 4$ a month. Which could also = .06 cent increase on to a two way bus fair each day over a 30 day period.

Rebekah
Rebekah
11 years ago

I agree with a lot of those here that are for public transportation, but against the raise in tab fees. I don’t have a car, and haven’t for the 12 years I’ve lived in Seattle. I feel like I have a good handle on the bus system.

It seems to me that metro is making decisions that don’t make any logical sense, like cutting bus lines in the most dense bus-riding population in the metro area. If these buses are standing room only in the mornings and evenings, then turn them into commuter routes (running only in the mornings and evenings), versus cutting them entirely.

Instead of cutting routes like the 43 altogether, shorten them. Perhaps downtown to Montlake, at which point riders could transfer to several buses going the remainder of the way to the U-District, or East over the bridge.

I agree that cutting these popular routes is a publicity stunt. Particularly cutting the trolley routes, where I thought they just released studies about those electric buses being the most economical.

I just don’t think they’ve actually put much hard thought into this. They could probably completely re-design the system for added efficiencies, but it sounds like that’s too hard labor-intensive for them. They hit the low-hanging fruit, and now they’re trying to avoid having to do more work.

I don’t like it. I’m against the fee. Metro needs to figure it out for themselves, and they’re just shooting themselves in the foot by cutting popular routes, whether they seem redundant or not.

bee
bee
11 years ago

the sad thing is that I will just pay the $20 for the additional car tab fee and still consider it a great deal to not to have to ride the bus. at $2.50, it is so slow and terribly inefficient, stopping practically every 2 blocks. in a car i can take back roads and get to my destination way faster and much cheaper than the $5 it would take to ride a bus round trip. with the sprawl of seattle and the lack of a good road system in high density areas, especially east-west routes, i really don’t know what can save this city from a congestion nightmare. certainly not a light rail that should have been built 50 years ago as opposed to 4 years from now on the hill.

Karen
Karen
11 years ago

I’m in favor of the $20 car tab fee (if that’s the only way to avoid drastic service cuts) – if you have the $ to own and maintain a car, pay for insurance, gas, etc., you can probably manage to find an extra $20 to your car tab fee over the course of a year. The #14 and the #43 don’t just serve able-bodied folks on Capitol Hill who might just as easily walk downtown, or walk to the bus tunnel entrance for other destinations. There are a lot of riders who are not so able-bodied, and depend on the bus to get to work, doctor’s appointments, etc. If you’re on crutches, a cane, a walker or just not as bouncy as you were in younger days, or simply just recovering from an injury, a walk from Bellevue Ave to up to Broadway to catch the 49 or from say, Mercer or Harrison over to Pine could be a challenge. (from one who has had to crutch that far – it is not fun, especially if its rainy and cold). Bus service in this densely populated and diverse neighborhood really does provide a valuable service to the community and $20 to continue that service is worthwhile.

BusBetch
BusBetch
11 years ago

i believe we had a fair car tab system based on car value before not too long ago. a system we voted out in order to have a 35 dollar fee. i wonder what will happen come election time?

oh and tax the super rich.