Ouch, More Cuts on the Way

Time for some more cutting, straight from Metro…   😦

Public Hearings on Transit Service Cuts

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:

Date Location
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.

In addition, riders are sharing the pain: since 2007, Metro has raised fares four times, an increase of 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 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.
  • 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 at this link.

17% Service Reduction?!?! Seriously?

Ok, this sucks. Straight from Metro.

County Executive calls on County Council to enact two-year funding for Metro or face 17 percent service reduction

King County Executive Dow Constantine this morning asked the King County Council to make important decisions about the future of Metro Transit: approve a two-year, $20 congestion reduction charge to help maintain Metro service near current levels for two years, or begin the process of reducing the transit system by 17 percent.

The poor economy has hit Metro hard, causing a drop in Metro’s funding from sales tax. Over the past four years, Metro has cut costs, raised fares four times, dug deeply into reserves, found new operating efficiencies, canceled the purchase of replacement buses, and negotiated cost-saving contracts with its employee unions. These actions have generated nearly $400 million to narrow Metro’s budget gap for 2008-2011 and about $143 million annually for the years ahead—but Metro still faces an ongoing shortfall of $60 million per year.

The two-year congestion reduction charge would be $20 a year on vehicles licensed in King County. The proceeds would be used to preserve transit service while King County works with regional leaders, legislators and the Governor on a long-term funding solution for transportation needs.

In case the congestion charge is not approved, the Executive also asked the Council to authorize a reduction of about 100,000 annual bus service hours in February 2012. This would be the first in a series of reductions totaling 600,000 service hours that the Executive would ask the Council to authorize for the next two years if new funding is not approved.

These reductions would shrink the Metro system by about 17 percent, leading to the loss of an estimated 9 million passenger trips annually.Overall, a reduction of this size would affect 80 percent of Metro passengers—meaning four out of five bus riders would have to walk further, wait longer, make an extra transfer, stand in the aisle, or even see fully loaded buses pass them by.

Other areas have balancing budgets at this point? Why is Seattle still getting hit so hard? Can we stop serving the areas that barely use transit and bulk back up where we get real ROI already?! This is insane.

The other question I have though, is what in the world is this $20 congestion charge? How would it be applied? It appears that this isn’t a concrete idea or maybe somebody knows something more about it?