Community members from Queen Anne and Magnolia met on Thursday, March 13, to discuss proposed Metro bus cuts in the area and Proposition 1, which could save the service if passed.
King County Metro transit is facing a $75 million budget shortfall. If funds aren’t secured, 600,000 service hours, or about 17 percent of its service, will need to be cut. This means 74 routes would be cut, and 107 routes would be reduced or revised. Only 33 routes would remain unchanged.
In Magnolia, the plan was to preserve all-day service in areas with high ridership. Routes 19 and 31 would be eliminated, while Routes 24 and 33 would be reduced. In Queen Anne Routes 1, 2, 3, 13, 16 and 29 would be changed; Routes 4, 31 and 62 would be eliminated.
This news comes at a time when ridership is at an all-time-high. According to Metro service-planning supervisor Marty Minkoff, bus service should increase by 15 percent to keep up with current demand. The poor economy, starting in 2008, created a major shortfall in funding, especially from sales-tax revenue, which provides 50 percent of Metro’s funding, Minkoff said.
“We have to plan and prepare for a financial worst-case scenario,” he said.
That scenario will begin to play out in September 2014 if funding isn’t secured. Metro focused its cuts on four different criteria areas: low-performing routes, efficiency through modifying or combining routes, routes that are only running at 25- to 50-percent productivity and reducing service on the lowest target service levels.
All communities will be impacted, including schools whose students use public transportation, Minkoff said. If these cuts happen, some people will be left with “no viable transportation options at all,” he said. “Stable, long-term funding is essential.
To address the funding gap, the Metropolitan King County Council created the King County Transportation District, which proposed Proposition 1. The proposition includes a 0.1-percent sales-tax increase and a new $60 car-tab fee, which would replace an existing $20 car-tab fee. The funding source would be limited to 10 years, generating $130 million per year. Sixty percent would go to Metro; the rest would go toward improving roads throughout King County.
The impact on an average household would be $11 a month, said King County Regional Initiatives director Diane Carlson. There would be a $20 car-tab rebate for low-income households. Adult and senior bus fares would also increase by 25 cents, and there would be a new low-income fare of $1.25 or $1.50.
The proposition needs a simple majority of 50 percent, plus one, to pass.
If Prop. 1 fails, Metro cuts will be rolled out over four quarters, starting in September 2014, and ending a year later.
The vote would not only fund Metro but would also give funding to roads budgets that have been slashed throughout the county. Right now, only top-priority roads or those with safety issues are being fixed, Carlson said. About $16 million of the funds generated will go directly to fix Seattle roads.
“It’s fair to say this will impact 100 percent of [commuters],” said April Putney, from the Move King County Now campaign, adding people will return to driving if they do not have a viable public-transportation option. Estimates are that 30,000 more cars may be on the road if Metro funding gets cut.
“If we think traffic is bad now,” it will only get worse, she said.
Putney works on a team that is trying to inform voters about the first-ever county special election, on April 22. Not many people know the election, conducted through mail-in ballots, even exists.
The campaign will doorbell in Queen Anne on April 5. (To volunteer to doorbell, visit www.movekingcountynow.org or email firstname.lastname@example.org.)
“No community will be spared by these bus cuts,” Putney said.
To see all of the proposed route changes, visit metro.kingcounty.gov/am/future/proposed-changes.html.
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