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Puget Sound transit cuts

Transit around the Puget Sound battles cuts in the face of higher gas prices and revenue shortages.

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metrobusesSEATTLE — More than 350 people turned out Tuesday night to send the King County Council’s transportation committee what the panel called “a clear message”: Don’t cut transit service.

The “overwhelming majority” of the people called on the King County Council and the Legislature to find the funding needed to keep the transit system at current levels.

“People and employers need transit to get to work and make our regional economy and transportation system work,” said County Councilman Larry Phillips, chairman of the council’s Transportation, Economy and Environment Committee.

“If 20,000-30,000 people a day are forced back into their cars due to transit cuts, our region will feel the pain through traffic gridlock, loss of economic competitiveness, lack of options for our most vulnerable citizens, and increased air pollution,” Phillips said. “I call on the state Legislature to provide us with local options to avoid transit cuts.”

Metro is facing the potential loss of 600,000 hours of transit service, the council said. Absent action from the Legislature, King County will begin seeking input this fall on how to cut 17 percent of Metro’s transit service starting in 2014.

Prior to the public testimony, committee members heard from a panel composed of transit stakeholders from the business, environment, social services, and education sectors, who spoke about the impact a 17 percent cut in transit service could have on the region.

“Transit is how students get to class, get to the jobs that pay their tuition.  It is how they connect to their community as volunteers, advocates, and participants in civic life,” said Josh Kavanagh, the University of Washington’s director of transportation.

For those wanting more information or to submit testimony, go to:

Local News

Public to weigh in on drastic bus cuts

metrobusesSEATTLE — King County Council’s Transportation, Economy and Environment Committee will hold a public hearing Tuesday to discuss possible transit cuts that could affect hundreds of thousands of Metro riders.

The meeting at 3:30 p.m. at the Union Station in the 400 block of S. Jackson Street was called to discuss the potential annual shortfall of up to $75 million that Metro faces.

If the cuts go into effect, as much as 600,000 service hours — or 17 percent — could be cut by 2014. Unless new funds become available, roughly two-thirds of Metro bus routes could be eliminated, reduced or revised, officials said.

Metro has had a funding shortage since 2008, but has managed to side-step major service reductions by raising fares and digging into reserves. King County has adopted recommendations from a performance audit to save about $22 million annually, and has secured $121 million in grant funding to help develop high-volume RapidRide lines in major travel corridors.

The potential cuts come on the heels of a new report from the PIRG Education Fund that found young Americans are part of a major demographic shift increasingly relying on public transportation to get around. According to the study, “A New direction: Our changing Relationship with Driving and the Implications for America’s Future,” Americans will use about half as much gasoline and other fuels in 2040 than they use today.

Rob Johnson, the executive director of the Transportation Choices Coalition, said time and increased ridership will begin to have an ever-growing affect on local transportation systems.

“The trends highlighted by this report have significant implications for the Puget Sound area,” Johnson said. “It’s crucial that Washington’s leaders right-size our plans and projects to ensure that we don’t build projects for tomorrow based on assumptions from yesterday.”

metrobusesSEATTLE — King County Metro briefed the Seattle City Council on its proposal for potential budget cuts Monday. The cuts would take effect if funding is not provided through legislative measures.

Metro is projecting a $75 million annual revenue shortfall that could force the agency to reduce bus service by as much as 17 percent beginning in fall 2014. Metro said it has identified 65 routes at risk for elimination and 86 routes at risk for service reductions.

The potential cuts would create a transit system with fewer travel options and longer travel times and buses on the remaining routes would become more crowded and less reliable, the agency said. It added that it has been able to avoid cuts by saving or generating revenue totaling $798 million through operating more efficiently, cutting staff, increasing fares and using reserve funds, as well as the implementation of the congestion reduction charged (CRC), a temporary $20 charge on vehicle licenses. The CRC ends in 2014 and Metro also will no longer have reserve funds to spend on operations.

Seattle City Councilmember Tom Rasmussen said that losing the CRC funding would also “eliminate many commuter express routes and some neighborhoods will lose all service.”

“Our legislative leaders need to demonstrate their ability to get things done and find solutions that preserve Metro bus service and boost our economic recovery,” councilmember Tim Burgess said.

SEATTLE — As many as 65 Metro Transit bus routes are slated to be cut, and another 86 routes reduced if state lawmakers allow temporary two-year funding to expire at the end of the year, King County Metro Transit General Manager Kevin Desmond said Monday.

According to Desmond, up to 17 percent of Metro’s service could be cut by the end of the year if temporary funding is not renewed in the face of Metro’s projected $75 million annual budget gap.

Patricia Stinehour is one of almost 400,000 daily riders on King County Metro buses.

“I take it everywhere,” Stinehour said. “Everywhere I need to go. I shop. I go to the library. I go to work. Go out with friends. So, I use the bus for everything and I can’t imagine having lines cut.”

In 2010, the county temporarily averted the same cuts by enacting a two-year Congestion Reduction Charge at $20-per-vehicle that provided an estimated $50 million over two years. Desmond said Metro’s financial reserves are depleted and any further department reforms, such as cutting staff and wage freezes, would lead to definite cuts in routes.

“Our analysis shows that we should be adding service to meet growing demand,” Desmond said. “But the sad reality is that — without ongoing and sufficient funding — potentially one-third of our routes are on the chopping block, and another 40 percent of our routes face reductions and revisions.”

metrobusesMetro Transit’s largest source of funding is sales tax revenue, Desmond said, and since 2008 a weak economy has stunted incoming funds. Metro Transit Seattle is the ninth largest transit system in the country, carrying more than 115 million passengers in 2012.

Desmond said the transit service managed to buck the country-wide trend of cutting service over the past five years.

“Throughout the recession Metro bucked industry trends and kept most of our service on the road to serve the people who depend on and benefit from public transit,” Desmond said. “However, as we did two years ago, we are again facing major cuts expected to have far-reaching effects.

“This is, of course, going to affect transit-dependent folks very significantly because many of those folks simply do not have good choices, including seniors and people with disabilities.”

From working professionals to students, thousands rely on the bus to get from one place to another on time.

Even those who don’t ride the bus will be affected. A reduction of this size by King County Metro would put more cars on the roads because riding the bus just wouldn’t be feasible. There could be an additional 20,000 to 30,000 cars on the road each day.

A report released by Metro showed the transit’s system’s at-risk routes:

Routes at risk for reductions and revisions (86 routes): 1, 2S, 2N, 3S, 3N, 4S, 4N, 5, 5EX, 7, 8, 9EX, 10, 11, 12, 14S, 16, 21, 24, 26, 26EX, 28, 28EX, 29, 31, 36, 41, 43, 47, 48N, 60, 65, 66EX, 67, 68, 70, 71, 72, 73, 106, 107, 116EX, 118, 121, 122, 125, 148, 156, 177, 181, 182, 186, 187, 193EX, 202, 204, 209, 214, 221, 224, 226, 232, 234,  235, 236, 238, 241, 245, 246, 248, 249, 255, 269, 271, 309EX, 311, 312EX, 331, 355EX, 372EX, 373EX, 901DART, 903DART, 908DART, 909DART and 931DART.

Routes potentially unchanged (66 routes): 13, 15EX, 17EX, 18EX, 32, 33**, 40, 44, 48S, 49, 50, 55**, 56**, 62, 64EX, 74EX, 75, 101, 102, 105, 111, 120, 124, 128, 131**, 132**, 140, 143EX, 150, 153, 155, 158, 164, 166, 167, 168, 169, 178, 180, 183, 212, 217, 218, 240, 242, 252, 301, 303EX, 306EX, 316, 330, 342, 345, 346, 347, 348, 358EX, A Line, B Line, C Line, D Line, 773, 775, 915DART, 916DART, 917DART (** Routes not reduced because we expect productivity to be above the bottom 25 percent threshold due to changes since spring 2012)



TACOMA — The Pierce County Board of Commissioners voted Monday night to cut service by 34 percent in September because voters did not pass a proposed sales tax increase on Nov. 6.

The board voted to make the cuts effective Sept. 29.

“We understand these reductions will deeply impact thousands in our communities,” said Tacoma Mayor Marilyn Strickland, chairwoman of the Pierce Transit board. “This was a difficult decision. Reducing service in September allows our riders time to make plans in advance and the agency to provide stable service.”

Pierce Transit currently operates 417,000 annual service hours. The revised service plan, with the September implementation, will reduce annual service hours to approximately 275,000. The plan will be made available for riders and the public to review on the agency website. Pierce Transit will distribute information through print materials, open houses, and presentations. Look for information in the coming days regarding agency outreach efforts. A public hearing on the implementation plan will happen in May.

Elements of the reduction plan include elimination of Saturday, Sunday, and holiday service and the Route 62 in northeast Tacoma. Primary impacts to weekday service include reductions in service past 7 p.m. and midday service (9 a.m.-3 p.m.).

The News Tribune of Tacoma noted the cutbacks won’t be as drastic as what the agency had projected in mailers sent to voters before the Nov. 6 election. Pierce Transit said then that annual service hours would be reduced by 53 percent if voters failed to approve an additional three-tenths of 1 percent sales tax.


TACOMA — Pierce County’s Proposition 1, a Pierce Transit measure that would raise sales taxes in order to stave off transit cuts, failed by only 704 votes, the Pierce County Auditor’s Office reported Tuesday in its Nov. 6 certified election results.

There were 201,182 votes cast on the measure.

The proposal would have raised the sales tax in Tacoma to 9.8 percent, the highest in the state.

With the measure being defeated, transportation for disabled riders will decrease and bus routes are expected to come to a stop after 7 p.m. on weekdays. There will no longer be buses on the weekends, officials said as votes were being cast.

Meanwhile, as the News Tribune of Tacoma first reported, a tax-raising measure for Fire Protection District No. 23, which serves the Mount Rainier gateway communities, was approved in the general election by 1 vote. The final count was 306 yes votes to 305 no votes.

Local News

Transit riders headed for cuts in Pierce County


Proposition 1, a Pierce Transit tax measure that would raise sales taxes in order to stave off transit spending cuts, was failing by a slight margin Monday night.

And the failing numbers had many transit users around Pierce County worried.

“We need our buses,” said 62-year-old Betty Moor. “If it don’t pass I’m stuck on the weekends.”

At latest count, 97,804 voters rejected the measure, while 97,088 approved it. If the sales tax increase is rejected by voters, transportatoin for disabled riders will decrease and bus routes will come to a stop after 7 p.m. on weekdays. There will no longer be buses on the weekends.

“I live and reside on the bus,” Moor said. “It gets me everywhere from morning to night.”

But some are hoping the measure fails. Ken Grassi, the Mayor of University Place and a business owner, said raising sales tax is the wrong thing to do in a struggling economy. If passed, the sales tax in Tacoma could go up to 9.8 percent, the highest in the state.

“They need to take a really hard look department by department, line by line and make some deeper cuts,” Grassi said.