Crisis in Bus Service Funding

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service reductions

We face a crisis in funding for our bus service.

King County Metro estimates that 17% of current service will need to be cut, beginning next year, without additional funding.

The problem is not new. Since 2008, King County Metro has faced a funding shortfall that they have addressed through a variety of efficiencies. Decline in sales tax revenue from the economic downturn was a key reason; in addition, counties in Washington state have significantly fewer tax revenue options than cities.

The problem is worsened by two upcoming issues. First of all, state mitigation funding for Alaskan Way Viaduct replacement will expire in June of 2014.

Secondly, authority to issue a $20 vehicle license fee will expire at the end of 2013. In 2011, the state legislature allowed King County to approve a $20 vehicle license fee knows as the Congestion Relief charge, but only for 2012 and 2013.

In 2009, an agreement between Seattle, King County and the State proposed an MVET to provide permanent funding, but the fee approved by the legislature was vetoed by the former Governor.

The City Council will hold a briefing on Monday, April 29 at the Council Briefing meeting, where King County Metro will present their Metro Transit Service Guidelines Report. An earlier presentation from February is available here.

Resolving this depends on action by the state legislature, and it’s unclear what will happen there; the City Council unanimously approved the state legislative agenda calling for sustainable funding for transit operations.

Should no new revenue source be approved by the state legislature, reductions will be made according to the service guidelines adopted in 2012. 65routes (30%) will be deleted, and 86 routes (40%) will be revised or reduced. Only 66 routes will not be reduced, but they are sure to become more crowded and less reliable. Overall, this will result in more car trips, and additional congestion on city streets. You can see where the cuts are by geographic area at Metro’s website or in the Monday’s presentation.  No part of Seattle would be left unaffected.