On Monday, August 15, the King County Council approved a two-year, $20 Vehicle License Fee (VLF) that will allow Metro Transit to avoid a potential cut of 600,000 annual hours – the equivalent of all Metro service to the Eastside or all of its Night and Weekend Service. This staves off disaster for two years, but still leaves much work to do in the long run.
Great credit goes to County Executive Dow Constantine for managing this crisis and negotiating an agreement with two Republican County Councilmembers that allows the County Council to secure the needed supermajority required by State Law. Metro managed to find ways to keep funding bus service for two years since the recession, but their options have run out, and Metro published a list of the bus routes that would have to be cut or reduced if this resource were not made available. Seattle worked in concert with King County to secure legislative approval for this temporary fix, although we were unable to prevent the legislature from requiring the supermajority vote to make it happen.
But what about the long run? If we are going to have the kind of transit service that we need, we must not only maintain, but expand, Metro bus service, the basic and widespread service that carries the vast majority of transit riders around the County. Our consultant report on Climate Neutral Seattle calls for a 5% increase in bus service each year for the foreseeable future. Meeting our growth management goals and keeping our economy moving in the face of rising oil prices and congestion requires expanded transit service as well.
Seattle and other King County municipalities must work hard in Olympia during the next legislative session to ensure that major new transit funding is included in a statewide transportation package likely to go to voters in 2012. And we must convince the voters that the package merits approval. Otherwise we fall back into transit crisis mode again in 2013.
More good news on transit: see the next post on the Regional Transit Task Force success!