Woes at Metro

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Metro, Seattle’s public transit system, is struggling under the weight of a weak economy and has tough decisions to make: charge cars as a temporary solution or start cutting back on services.

These days, it’s rare to find a person who has not been affected by the struggling economy.  Lay offs, job scarcity, budget cuts, and now public transportation issues have touched all of our lives in some way or another.  King County’s public transit system, known as Metro, is unfortunately no exception to this.  Tough decisions are just about to be made about if and how to sustain the level of transportation service King county offers to the public.

Posted by Megan RisleyJune 30, 2011

That is, King County must decide if it is going to implement a temporary $20 congestion reduction charge while it figures out how to sustain the current levels of service Metro currently provides or if is going to begin reducing Metro’s service by 17 percent.  This may not seem like a lot, but it’s the equivalent of 600,000 hours less service than King County residents are getting now.  That’s 9 million rides lost.  Put another way, a “mere” 17 percent reduction in service would affect nearly 80 percent of riders (most of those who depend solely on the bus for their transportation needs) – that’s four out of five that would have to walk longer distances to bus stops (which poses safety issues, especially at night and in certain neighborhoods), wait longer for buses (which means getting up earlier and/or getting home later) and even watching fully loaded buses pass them by.

Of course, Metro has already done everything it can to avoid reducing services.  Because most of its revenue is from sales tax, and the slumped economy has discouraged people from spending as much, Metro has had to take measures like digging into funding reserves, raising fares four times (remember when it cost only $1.50 for a ride during peak hours?) in the last two years and foregoing the purchase of new and replacement buses.  These cuts in cost have put nearly $400 million towards  Metro’s 2008-2011 budget gap, but it still faces an annual shortcoming of $60 million.  So, King County, it’s either slash service like its another budget, or charge cars registered in King County a mere $20 a year to buy Metro some more time to figure out how to maintain its present level of service.

Obviously, neither of these are long-term solutions.  Twenty dollars a year, from each person who owns a car, won’t solve Metro’s revenue problems, and could fuel the cars vs. pedestrians fire that really need not exist in the first place, but it is a positive step in keeping the level of public transportation services King County currently has.  Public transit cuts down on the amount of cars on the road which, in turn, decreases traffic and thus, commute times and thus, road rage.  So, it really is in everyone’s – drivers and pedestrians alike – best interest to help Metro maintain its public transit services. Get involved in the conversation by attending an upcoming  Council hearing:

July 6 at 6:00 p.m.Kirkland City Council Chambers123 Fifth AvenueKirkland, WA 98033    July 12 at 6:00 p.m.King County Council Chambers516 Third Avenue, 10th FloorSeattle, WA 98104    July 21 at 6:00 p.m.Burien City Council Chambers400 S.W. 152nd StreetBurien, WA 98166


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