Let’s Keep Our Buses Running

Here in King County, just as our ridership is surging, higher fuel costs and lower tax revenues from a faltering economy, are creating a growing deficit in our Metro budget. Our ability to maintain service levels for our existing riders and to respond to new customers who are discovering the ease, convenience, and cost-effectiveness of our transit system, is constrained.

Metro is rated the fastest growing large bus transit agency in the nation and in May set a record for 400,000 riders per day.

Metro is rated the fastest growing large bus transit agency in the nation and in May set a record for 400,000 riders per day.

I fundamentally believe that a robust transportation network that moves people between their homes and their jobs is critical to our long term economic prosperity, as is reducing congestion so that vital freight can get to and through our region. An accessible, reliable and affordable public transportation system is vital to our community. Moreover, reducing the number of cars on the road is essential to reducing carbon emissions and protecting our environment. Thus, we must do all we can to keep our buses running and maintain our existing transit service. We must also remain steadfast with the implementation of the service expansion we promised voters when we asked them to approve the Transit Now initiative.

Therefore, I am proposing a measure that will maintain current bus service levels and will limit our fare increase to 25 cents this year with another 25 cent increase in 2010.

This phased approach would minimize the impact on the young, the old and others who can least afford it. In addition, it will give businesses and institutions like the University of Washington and Children’s Hospital that purchase employee bus passes more time to plan for these expenses so that they can continue to provide this benefit to their employees and support regional mobility.

These fare increases, however, by themselves will not be enough to make up the financial shortfall over the next two years.

Rather than reducing services, I further propose that the shortfall be covered by the sale of some Metro capital assets such as the Bellevue Metro site and by cutting capital projects totaling approximately $65 million. In addition, I propose to spend operating and capital reserves of approximately $45 – $60 million. This is an appropriate time to use these “rainy day” funds given the unprecedented financial storm pounding Metro today.

These actions are painful, but they will allow Metro transit to remain fully funded through the end of 2010 while we continue our work of finding long term funding solutions.

We must begin now to solve the significant deficit at Metro that returns in 2011. This financial gap will be in the range of $30-$40 million in annual operating funds. Over the next two years, we must look across our region’s long-term critical economic, environmental, and infrastructure needs and explore new funding models to create an adaptable and efficient transportation network.

Whether it is transforming the State Route 99 or 520 corridors or serving increased density in our growing suburbs or promoting economic development in rural areas, we will have to rethink every aspect of the movement of people and goods throughout the region. We have a short window to examine our long term funding strategies.

Let us begin now!


14 responses to “Let’s Keep Our Buses Running

  1. What we really need is a stable funding source for transit – NOT sales tax, which is obviously far too subject to change during economic troubles. Reinstating the vehicle registration fees would be a good place to start.

  2. I’m all for it. If it means we get more buses, better service and more direct routes to the suburbs (i.e., it takes me 2 hours to get to my Bothell campus). If things continue the way they are, stuffed buses, too few routes, 2 hours to get to the east side, then dump it. Give us a train already!!

  3. What are the capital improvements that will be cut?

  4. Is there a possibility of eliminating the Ride Free Zone downtown? I believe that it would increase on-time-ness of buses, as well as revenues.

  5. NO FARE INCREASE!! You are pinching us again. Poor people in Seattle, and even those like myself, supporting 3 kids on $40,000 a year cannot handle any more cost increases. Figure it out, Ron. I have supported you, voted for you, been impressed by you for 19 years…FIX IT with your management skills, not by raising user fee’s from people who can’t afford the last fare increase only 4 months ago!

  6. I think we should make the fare a flat $2 for both Metro and Sound Transit regardless of peak or non-peak hours for travelers going two zones or less.

    This would get rid of a lot of confusion and hassle on the part of bus drivers and travelers. I see a lot of time and fuel being wasted while busses idle at stops in order for drivers to explain the fares and collect another quarter from riders.

    $2. All the time. Two zones or less. Both Metro and ST. There is economy in simplicity.

  7. Seattle is one of the most poorly run cities I’ve been to. Pass the buck to the people that are already hurting, ridiculous! Why not clean house and stop wasting money on car free days and useless studies that cost taxpayers billions.

  8. I live in Burien and have followed the Park and Ride issue. It’s great that you are so much in favor of bus transportation. But I’m curious as to why King County’s financial support of our Park & Ride facility was held hostage to political wrangling over the Lora Lake Apts. (As a side note, the Lora Lake site has since been found to be contaminated and was always unsuitable for residential use.) Please comment. Also, is King County going to contribute to moving the Park & Ride facilities? Thank you.

  9. i would be all for a raise in fares if we had a transit system that was worth it. this is ridiculous and at a time when we’re trying to get more people to use alternate transportation in a not very bike-friendly city? good job.

  10. Why cut the waterfront trolley to only build a new one two blocks east? Especially when it already cuts through Pioneer Square. Why not extend the Waterfront trolley up to the center?

    Doesn’t it seem ridiculous to eliminate something and then replace it with the same thing in almost the same position?

  11. David Treadwell


    There is a reason that most mature large cities have a great light rail/subway system: the system has lower operational costs than buses (albeit higher capital costs) and it scales very well with additional population.

    It is time for King County to get on board and build a great, comprehensive rail-based transit system. We are starting with Sond Transit, but fuel costs and environmental issues are really raising the importance of acting now

  12. Eliminate the downtown ride free area. This will increase revenues and will not impact regular riders who already purchase passes. This will also allow for bus drivers to utilize both doors on buses for passengers to exit. This will alleviate delays during overcrowded peak times and will allow buses to spend less time at stops which will also help conserve fuel. They build buses with two doors for a reason, Ron. Seattle should start using both.

  13. A dollar a day is not going to make us or break us – I’d much rather pay an extra dollar than have service cuts. And even at $4.50 a day the bus is way better than driving…but maybe this is a good incentive to bike more…starting in the spring…

  14. William W. Branom

    Fares must more closely match costs, that is
    certain, but quality of life is determined by transportation issues, and these issues are suffered by and must be solved by the many. That means taxes; gasoline and oil should be taxed specifically for transportation improvements. Also, please support the
    re-start of the waterfront trolley–everything except the barn is there already, no great costs,
    and a potential replacement on First Ave is just wishful thinking and not likely to every happen.
    Tourists love it! People are moved! Electric not diesel! What’s not to love?

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