Metro Service Reductions

So let’s talk about Metro.

In April, King County’s Regional Transit Committee issued a ‘scenario’ titled, “600,000 Service Hour Reduction Scenario” that proposes various service cuts to address King County Metro’s $60 million deficit.  In early May, the Seattle PI published an article about the possible service reductions.  Seems like there are still a lot of details to be worked out, and I’m anxious to see where things end up.  But then the story got even more complex, when a car tab increase was proposed.  The Seattle Times explained the proposal here.

If I’m getting the details right, the WA State Legislature already gave counties the authority to charge a fee.  The county hasn’t done that yet.  According to the Kent Reporter, King County Commissioner Dow Constantine sent a proposal to the Metropolitan County Council on June 20th, asking them to approve the temporary, two year $20 per car fee.  He also sent a proposal to cut Metro service hours by 600,000 hours if the fee isn’t approved.  And it looks like voters will be weighing in on the ballot in November.

Confusing!  Complicated!  Get me a Bloody Mary!

Fortunately, community activist Mike Ruby has offered Wallyhood some context and perspective, which I’ll summarize below for you:

  • Metro proposes to reduce service according to these criteria:
    • reduce low productivity service
    • restructure system to provide more efficient service
    • reduce the most expensive (per passenger mile) service
    • reduce the most productive services
  • The report has the following information about Wallingford:
    • Routes 45 Queen Anne Express and 46 Shilshole Express pass through Wallingford on 40th on the way to UW.  Both have three rush hours trips to the U in the morning and outbound in the afternoon rush. Both stop at 40th and Stone and at 40th and Wallingford.  And both routes might be eliminated because they score in the bottom 25% of rideship during peak hours. The problem with this scoring is that students using Upasses do not use the ORCA machine or zip their cards through the toll box. As a result, Metro does not know how many folks are using the bus unless they do an on-site count.  (Note: By next autumn the UW will be issuing bus passes that behave like the current ORCA card and require a tap on the reader when riders board the bus.)
    • Another pair of buses that serve Wallingford are listed as candidates for restructuring:  routes 30 Seattle Center and 31 Magnolia.  The 30 runs from Magnusson Park, through the UW and Wallingford, and down Westlake to the Seattle Center. The 31 runs from the UW, through Wallingford and Fremont to Magnolia.  The reasons given for needing to “restructure” these two runs are wide ranging but the main one seems to be “service duplication”.  The only place in the route for these two buses where the route is the same is through Wallingford on 40th so perhaps this is the section they are planning to reduce service along. It is not at all clear how they might do this, especially since the both buses are completely full and have standing room only inbound to the UW in the mornings. Again the problem may be the students with a Upass and no one gets a real count. Maybe Metro’s statistics show these lines running empty.

Metro also looked at where they might add back service if, after the cutback and if the new temporary license tab fee passes.  There are many considerations, and nothing is fixed yet.   But so far, the priorities for rebuilding service are current passenger loads, schedule reliability, productivity, and whether the area is underserved. Rebuilding candidates are:

  • 16 Meridian to Northgate is listed as oversubscribed too often. It is also listed as one of the buses that is habitually late, more than 20% of the time during the day and more than 35% of the time during the PM peak. It is the only route of its type in all the Metro system that is listed as habitually late every day of the week. They suggest that service on the 16 should be increased to 15 minutes between buses instead of the current 20 minutes.
  • The 30 Seattle Center to UW is also listed as late weekdays 20% of the time in the day and 35% of the time in the PM peak. This belies their other statistic about the 30 being a low utilization route.

Another interesting fact is the rating of the 26 Latona as in the top 25% of most heavily used routes in the Metro system.  But do you remember when they tried to eliminate the 26 in the last round of service cuts – on the grounds that Wallingford was “overserved?”

Thank you Mike!  You’re a rock star.

I commute daily on the 26, and based on the number of times that the 26 doesn’t even stop to pick up commuters in the afternoons because the bus is full before it leaves downtown, or the number of times that the aisles are standing room only… I’d like to go on record BEGGING Metro not to cut the #26.  Or the #28, #30, and #31. Please no.  Rush hour increases might even be in order.  But I guess we’re going to have to figure out how to pay for it.  And not just for Wallingford.

I’m sure we’ll be hearing more about Metro in the months to come.  Til then, ride safe.

Update:  Metro has recently announced 3 public meetings to discuss proposed cuts with the public.  The Seattle meeting is 6pm, July 12th @ 516 Third Ave.  For more information, click here.

  1. DOUG. said,

    I remember when we had a progressive motor vehicle excise tax in Washington, before Osama tim Eyman waged his economic jihad on our state.

    I totally support a $20 hike in the car tab fees, but it seems unfair that a $3000 Accord should be billed the same as a $80,000 Escalade. Car value and weight should be part of the MVET assessment. Thanks Tim!

    Wed, June 29 at 7:58 am
  2. Dennis said,

    The 26 is on the list of eliminated routes under one of the service reductions. Seems crazy to me – I commute on it and as Chris said it tends to be pretty full. The list of cuts is at the link:

    http://metro.kingcounty.gov/am/future/service-cuts.html

    My experience with the 16 is that it gets caught in Seattle Center/Mercer Mess traffic – I won’t use it headed northbound around rush hour.

    Wed, June 29 at 8:15 am
  3. Chris W. said,

    @Dennis Thanks for pointing that out!

    Wed, June 29 at 8:23 am
  4. Chris W. said,

    A colleague just provided me with this Metro one-sheet: “What will happen if the congestion reduction charge is not approved?”

    It shows the 26 & 26, 45 & 46 up for elimination entirely. 30 & 31 to be reduced.

    http://metro.kingcounty.gov/am/future/PDFs/p2_Metro_route_list_17percent_reduction_062411.pdf

    Wed, June 29 at 9:08 am
  5. Drew D said,

    Part of the issue why routes will be eliminated is that Metro doesn’t really consider usage – they consider “social justice” in their route planning. Wallingford isn’t poor enough – sorry guys! South Seattle already got their multi-billion dollar light rail system and frequent bus traffic. Their representatives are against the fee as they will have to pay it too and they are already getting enough service. http://www.seattlepi.com/local/transportation/article/xxxx-1377395.php

    Wed, June 29 at 9:54 am
  6. walkinroun said,

    Darn those poor people! They are always messing things up for the rest of us!

    Wed, June 29 at 11:52 am
  7. iyqtoo said,

    Frankly, if I commuted by car, I’d consider $20/year a bargain to reduce the number of fellow commuters.

    Once the lite rail is open to N’gate, most of the N-S Metro routes are going to cannabilize light rail rider numbers. It’s my guess the #26 will continue to be on the bubble while we see major improvements to the crosstown routes like the #44, including BRT.

    I also think we shouldn’t be surprised to see major improvements, including additional E-W bus service routes on Pacific, 35th & 40th to handle the predicted wild increases in traffic volume between Ballard and Fremont and the new 520 interchange.

    The Wallingford Community Council really needs to get crackin’ on these things, all of which will have an enormous impact on South Wallingford. Important decisions tend to get made when the neighborhood isn’t looking. We can’t stop progress, but mitigations are highly unlikely to be offered when $$ is so tight.

    Wed, June 29 at 12:26 pm
  8. NancyL said,

    Thanks for the heads up. You kinda rushed past the part about voters… November… $20 car tab fee… so it may boil down to getting car owners to understand that it’s in their best (traffic) interest to vote for the fee?! Feet don’t fail me now!

    Wed, June 29 at 12:44 pm
  9. C said,

    Too many shortsighted voters think “Why should I pay $20 when I don’t use the bus?” without thinking about all those people who will be back in their cars and the increased congestion on the roads should routes be cut and service decreased.

    Wed, June 29 at 1:57 pm
  10. DOUG. said,

    Drew D @5 is totally wrong, of course. Read the article he linked to. One of the big issues with which routes get funded is the 40/40/20 rule, where 40% of new services went to each the East and South King County regions and only 20% went to Seattle, regardless of where demand is. Metro is scrapping this arbitrary rule, which will allow new routes to be implemented based on demand.

    Wed, June 29 at 2:05 pm
  11. Drew D said,

    @Doug

    No changes in distribution to the South only Bellevue/ Eastside

    “The current proposal would essentially shift 1 percent of service to Seattle, where most of the density is, and take away about 1 percent from the Eastside, he said. It would eliminate low-performing routes and reduce bus service to far-flung areas. While it appears to have support from the Seattle City Council, representatives from Bellevue and other suburbs may not back the plan because they stand to lose more bus service, Dunn said.”

    “Policymakers on the Regional Transit Committee are debating a new plan that delivers buses based on demand, population density, jobs, cost-efficiency, social justice and geographic diversity.”

    “Councilmember Julia Patterson, a Democrat who represents suburban areas around Kent, Seatac and Tukwila, says its chances are unclear. She said it could hinge on how the Regional Transit Committee votes on a new 10-year strategic plan that guides how Metro allocates future bus service.”

    From Metro Strategic Plan Goal2:

    Human Potential: Provide equitable opportunities for people from all areas of King County to access the public transportation system.

    Performance Measures
    Population with 1/4-mile walk access to a transit stop or 2-mile drive to a park-and-ride
    % low-income population within 1/4-mile walk access to transit
    % minority population within 1/4-mile walk access to transit
    Accessible bus stops
    Transit mode share by market
    Student and reduced-fare permits and usage
    Access applicants who undertake fixed-route travel training
    Access boardings
    Access registrants
    Requested Access trips compared to those provided
    Number of trips provided by the Jobs Access and Reverse Commute and Community Access Transportation programs
    Title VI compliance

    Wed, June 29 at 2:52 pm
  12. Chris W. said,

    @NancyL I thought it was premature to write about that much. I may be mistaken, but I don’t think it’s certain that it’ll end up in voters’ hands yet. And in what form. But we’ll follow up as the date gets closer & we know more. Thanks!

    Wed, June 29 at 3:51 pm
  13. Janey said,

    One of the important things to understand is that the law give King County Council the ability to simply enact the $20 car tabs with a super-majority. Sadly, this would require that they “grow a pair”, which they don’t seem likely to do. The D’s on the council support the tabs; Jane Hague is supposedly the swing vote. You might consider writing/emailing her, even though we’re not in her district.

    Don’t know about y’all, but I personally feel that it’s not necessary that we vote on every issue that comes along. Don’t we elect these people to make some decisions?

    Wed, June 29 at 6:10 pm
  14. Andrew said,

    Good to see the 16 is getting some attention to correct it’s awful lateness.

    Wed, June 29 at 7:57 pm
  15. K said,

    I agree with Dennis and Andrew. I take the 16 almost daily, and it is almost never on time. The Mercer Mess has a lot to do with it, northbound at least – and that’ll get worse before it (hopefully) gets better. I would hate to see this route reduced (it already sucks trying to go anywhere on the sparse Sunday schedule) but would love to see it revised or otherwise improved.

    Thu, June 30 at 6:59 pm
  16. Kimberly C said,

    If you are the petition-signing type, here is one in support of the car tab fee.
    http://org2.democracyinaction.org/o/5153/p/dia/action/public/?action_KEY=7408

    Tue, July 5 at 7:54 pm
  17. Chris W. said,

    Thanks, Kimberly!

    Tue, July 5 at 8:38 pm

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