King County warns of future bus service cuts, appeals to state for funds

SEATTLE -- With the Legislature beginning to consider a transportation funding package in Olympia, King County Executive Dow Constantine again warned there would be deep cuts in Metro Transit service without more money.

“The time for action is now, with the Legislature in special session, to avert cuts to bus service that would be without precedent in the 40-year history of Metro,” Constantine said. “It is unconscionable that King County should be compelled to cut bus service, due to lack of funding authority from the state.”

Temporary funding dedicated for Metro Transit expires next year, Constantine said, and Metro has exhausted its reserves and implemented many efficiencies and cost-savings.

Metro’s service guidelines identify the need for increasing service by 15 percent – but without funding in place after next year, Metro on Thursday released a proposal that details up to 17 percent in cuts to bus service. Another 150 daily bus trips between West Seattle and downtown Seattle – buses that ease construction congestion during the Alaskan Way Viaduct project – also are at risk of being canceled in June when state funding ends, Metro said.

“Buses are on the chopping block throughout King County, severing people’s lifelines for getting to work,” said King County Councilman Larry Phillips, chairman of the Transportation, Economy, and Environment Committee. “These drastic transit cuts move King County in the worst possible direction for mobility and a prosperous economy. Voters deserve to have a say about this, either by the state Legislature coming through on a transportation package in the current special session, or by King County finding other funding options.”

Metro said that the proposed cuts would revert Metro’s service to levels not seen since 1997 – even as ridership nears all-time highs. Ridership is up 40 percent on SR 520, and RapidRide growth continues. Traffic is down 25,000 vehicles a day on SR 99 while bus ridership from West Seattle is up nearly 10,000 riders – 42 percent – since 2009. Metro provides about 400,000 rides each day and is nearing the annual record of 119 million riders reached in 2008.

Metro must plan service changes and notify the public months in advance of potential implementation, and will launch a wide outreach effort to inform riders of any such changes. Three months of public meetings are planned prior to the King County Council’s consideration next spring of the proposed service cuts that would have to begin as soon as June, with more cuts to follow through 2014 and 2015.

The proposed cuts could mean a loss of an unprecedented 14 million rides annually, said Metro Transit General Manager Kevin Desmond.

The King County Council will consider finalizing the proposed cuts in spring, to be reviewed in light of updated financial forecasts available in March. Cuts in Alaskan Way Viaduct mitigation service would begin in June unless state funding becomes available; other cuts would follow beginning in September.

Route details

Proposed cuts of up to 600,000 hours of service, or about 17 percent of Metro’s current service, and 45,000 hours of Alaskan Way Viaduct construction mitigation service, are posted online.

74 of Metro’s 214 routes would be deleted: 4, 5EX, 7EX, 19, 21, 22, 25, 26, 27, 28, 30, 31, 37, 47, 48EX, 57, 61, 62, 66EX, 67, 68, 72, 82, 83, 84, 99, 110, 113, 139, 152, 154, 158, 159, 161, 167, 173, 178, 179, 190, 192, 200, 201, 202, 203, 205EX, 209, 210, 211EX, 213, 215, 217, 237, 238, 242, 243, 244EX, 250, 260, 265, 277, 280, 304, 306EX, and 308; and DART routes 901, 908, 909, 910, 913, 916, 919, 927, 930, and 935.

    Public outreach, meetings

    Metro plans public meetings and other informational opportunities throughout the county during the next three months. Riders with questions or comments can visit Metro’s service cuts page for more information. On social media channels, riders can use #KCMetroCuts to join the conversation.