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Not April Fool’s: Metro says more cuts coming — UPDATE: Hill faces service reduction, #25 loss

Screen shot 2013-04-01 at 10.09.15 AMUpdate: The list of threatened cutbacks, reductions — and eliminations — for the Capitol Hill area and central Seattle have been added at the bottom of the post. Only one on-Hill route appears to be a possible target for elimination. If the threatened Metro belt tightening occurs, say goodbye to Harvard Ave’s Route 25. A long list of Capitol Hill-crossing routes could see a reduction in midday and peak service, documented below.

Officials said Monday that funding shortfalls could mean Metro faces up to 65 routes eliminated and up to 86 routes potentially reduced and revised — about 40% of the system.

The release of the threatened cutbacks comes as legislators in Olympia consider a statewide transportation funding package.

We’ve also embedded Metro’s annual report to be presented to the King County Council Monday afternoon, below, for an in-depth look at the transit service, the opportunities it provides and the challenges it faces.

(Source: King County)

(Source: King County)

Screen shot 2013-04-01 at 10.31.17 AM

Original Report: We haven’t done many April Fool’s posts on CHS but there have been a few good tricks here and there:

Organizers have also been adamant that Monday’s dance-in in Olympia is not an April Fool’s shenanigan. We’re assuming Metro’s announcement about an announcement is also not a prank.

Monday, the doomy and gloomy (14 to 16% cuts coming by next summer) GM of the King County transit system, Kevin Desmond, is slated to release a report detailing  cuts to the system *if* new sources of funding can’t be found:

Facing funding shortfall, Metro to release report showing routes at risk for cuts, revisions

Reforms made, reserves drawn-down, and temporary funding expires next year Metro Transit faces a funding shortfall due to lagging sales tax revenues during the Great Recession, and temporary funding runs out next year. Without a stable source of revenue, Metro estimates 17 percent of bus service will face cuts and revisions. A report outlining routes at risk of cancellation or reductions will be delivered to the King County Council Monday, April 1.

Metro Transit General Manager Kevin Desmond will brief media at 10 a.m. Monday, April 1, to share the report, the potential service cuts and what bus riders face unless Metro can obtain a stable revenue source.

10 a.m. Monday, April 1

King Street Center, 201 S. Jackson St. Seattle

Eighth Floor Conference room

Metro has a projected $75 million annual budget gap beginning in 2014. The county temporarily averted bus cuts by enacting a two-year Congestion Reduction Charge, but that $20-per-vehicle charge expires in 2014. Metro also made extensive financial reforms and raised fares to keep buses on the road. Metro’s financial reserves, which also helped provide a one-time financial stop-gap, will be depleted and not available on an ongoing basis to sustain service.

Metro operates 217 routes and is the ninth largest transit system in the country. The agency has a fleet of 1,400 buses that carried 115 million passengers in 2012 – Metro’s second highest ridership ever. Metro’s largest source of funding is sales tax revenue, and since late 2007 the weak economy has caused ongoing revenue shortfalls. If new funding does not become available, Metro’s 2013-2014 budget assumes that deep service cuts will begin in fall 2014 and continue in 2015.

The state legislature is considering funding solutions for transportation needs statewide, including transit. King County has joined with the Sound Cities Association and the city of Seattle to ask the legislature for local transportation funding tools.

Cuts discussed recently have focused particularly on West Seattle-related service that could end with the coming retirement of an “enhanced” service package temporarily paid for by WSDOT:

Service enhancements that are at risk when funding ends

  • 30 peak period trips on six routes: 18 X, 21 X, 56 X, 120, 121 and 358. Twenty-two of these trips are West Seattle-downtown routes.

  • Schedule adjustments on 16 routes: RapidRide C Line, 21 (local and X), 37, 55, 56 X, 57, 113, 116 X, 118 X, 119 X, 120, 121, 122, 123 and 125.

Central Se Seattle s King County

King County Metro Transit 2012

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13 thoughts on “Not April Fool’s: Metro says more cuts coming — UPDATE: Hill faces service reduction, #25 loss

  1. Not to be too cynical here, but really, isn’t this about the gazillionth time the Metro song about “service cuts if the public doesn’t pony up more money” been played? Will Seattle-ites ever get wise to this racket?

    • This potential cutback is because a special $20/yr fee attached to car tab renewals that went to Metro was only approved for 2 years. If it expires in 2014, as it is scheduled to, Metro will face a big drop in funding compared to now. If you cut Metro’s funding, it’s pretty silly for anyone to expect them to continue with existing service levels while being funded less. If that $20 per year is made permanent, some of these cuts may not be necessary.

  2. Metro’s entire system and routing needs an overhaul. If service were more dependable ridership would increase. They need to revaluate their stops and perhaps consolidate some. I get the convenience factor but some stops are too close together and underused.

    We’re building a city that is increasingly dependent on mass transit so reducing routes and expanding windows of time between runs are counter to growth. Metro, like the USPS, needs a third party to review their operations with a fresh perspective because something is clearly not working.

    • Yeah, that’s what we need. More studies to make it more efficient. Let’s just cancel all service before 6:00 am after 6:00 pm and no service on the weekend. That should fix everything.

      • I never said studies. They are clearly lacking internal competency so some support is needed somewhere, from someone. Metro clearly needs assistance in adopting new principles instead of relying on their antiquated way of conducting business.

        This may come from a consultant who can help Metro drive efficiencies or perhaps a new leader. The last thing we need are studies or a reduction in service as you suggest. What we do need is a smarter way of operating.

    • Two words: County Council.

      The biggest problem with Metro is that, since it was absorbed into the County, it has been a political football for the County Council. Every change has to be approved by them, except the most minor of changes that have little effect (i.e. adding a single run to a route to reduce crowding after a service change), and even those minor changes are subject to review and revision at the command of the council.

      The problem with this is that every change you make, regardless of how small, will inconvenience someone. A subset of those inconvenienced will get mad, and write their County Councilmember. This happens with a few more people, and suddenly Metro is being forced to undo a change that make sense for many, many people because of a loud minority and politicians who care more about votes than good governance. Repeat this process over two decades, and you can imagine why Metro would shy away from making any changes that could ruffle any feathers. It’s ironic, really: The Council is constantly breathing down Metro’s back to find efficiencies and reduce costs, but then rejects or freaks out when they make changes to service that do that very thing.

      The September service change is a good example of this. While many changes people didn’t like (but that have worked) have been implemented, many more changes that should have been implemented (The Queen Anne restructure and the new route 24 come to mind) were killed because of a loud minority. The result is wasted service hours on unproductive routes.

      As to auditing, Metro has done a rather extensive audit recently, with a plate of changes recommended, all of which have been implemented. Some of them, like reducing recovery time at the end of a run, make no sense from a transit management standpoint but were implemented anyhow, with the resulting losses in on-time performance and driver morale as they’re forced to spend hours in their coach without any chances to get up or use the restroom. Other changes were long overdue, like the elimination of the council-mandated “40/40/20” policy, where 80% of new service was allocated to East and South King County, regardless of need.

      Metro isn’t perfect – their management can be amazingly bureaucratic, and slow to react to changes – but many, many of their problems can be attributed to chronic mismanagement by the Council, and almost a decade of being underfunded. The Planning Staff and ground-level personnel have done pretty well (IMHO), given the environment they’re working in.

      (TL;DR Don’t blame Metro for bad management by the Council – most of the stupidity you see in the agency can be traced to them.)

      • Apparently, there is at least one Councilmember on the Council who doesn’t fit the description you mentioned, and it’s probably not one you would think of…http://seattletransitblog.com/2013/03/04/doing-good-work-in-the-snoqualmie-valley/

        Not only did she cast an important vote for the CRC, she’s not mucking up the system to specifically serve only her district. And, if you’re advocating for a system more like Sound Transit, please don’t. That thing has become a living, breathing entity that will never go away, and there is NO accountability. If you don’t like how metro operates, call your representative on the Council. Don’t like ST? Well, tough cookies, cause you don’t directly elect the people on that board. Good luck picking up a phone or sending an email to get a meaningful response. It isn’t going to happen. To say that the Councilmembers at KC advocate too much for their constituents is silly. I’d rather have someone fight for me at that level rather than hope and pray the ST Board has my best thoughts in mind.

  3. Aren’t people getting tired of metro’s constant whining that they never have enough funding and that they are going to cut service? They blackmail us telling us that they’re going to cut major routes like the 43 the result being that people are outraged and somehow they get more money and later they’ll whine that they don’t have any more money and they’ll have to cut service and this routine will rinse and repeat forever.

  4. Call me an insensitive jerk if you wish (and I frankly don’t care) but when Metro spends millions on “Rapid Ride” bullsh** they didn’t need, they have a lot of nerve whining about not having money.

    I’ll give in on the “temporary” $20 on my car tabs, but don’t forget there’s a second lump of around $40 we’re getting hit with as well that’s supposed to fund Metro via the City.

    I remember a TV special several years ago with predictions for 2013, one of which was a tongue-in-cheek account of Sound Transit being THE only transit company in the area. Imagine what life would be like if that happens.

  5. The city wants to exponentially increase the density on Capitol Hill, eliminate/reduce street parking and encourage development of huge apartment buildings with very little or no parking spaces.

    Yet at the same time, public transit capacity is being REDUCED.

    Something does not compute here.

  6. It seems like this is a constant while I also hear of more money going towards roads and vehicles with single people in them. We need to invest in transit and yes, as densities increase, it’s needed more than ever. This weakening of transit will also increase job discrimination against people without cars–if we cannot rely on Metro to pick us up, and may be passed by many buses before getting one. The city needs to figure this out, and hopefully in a way that doesn’t increase fares–fares have gone up really fast and the bus is already incredibly expensive for those of us at the economic margins. And if people abandon the then crippled service for cars, where are they all going to park? This situation is crazy.

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