How might Metro’s funding shortfall affect you?

2013_0315_busboardingMetro continues to face a funding shortfall. The state Legislature is considering new transit funding tools, but if none is approved, Metro faces a $75 million annual shortage after some stop-gap funding runs out in mid-2014.

Over the past five years we have made deep cost cuts, raised fares four times, and taken many other actions to keep buses on the road, but we would have no way to close the projected budget gap without making major service reductions. A report we released today says we would have to  eliminate, reduce or change about two-thirds of Metro bus routes. Read the news release.

This 2012 Service Guidelines Report analyzes our transit system using measures of productivity, geographic value, social equity, and ridership. The report shows us where we need to increase service to reduce crowding, keep buses on time, and meet growing demand. It also identifies service that we might consider reducing if necessary. The report offers the first glimpse at which Metro routes are at risk of  elimination or reduction if a funding solution isn’t found.

Without additional revenue, Metro will have to reduce up to 17 percent of bus service. A reduction of this magnitude would be felt by all riders. An estimated seven out of 10 of you would lose some or all service and might have to go farther to get to the bus, take a longer trip, or transfer more. Riders throughout the system might have to crowd onto packed buses or wait at the curb while full buses pass by.

We want you to know what’s at risk and join our conversation about Metro’s future service. While the report provides an illustration of specific routes that might be eliminated, reduced or changed, the actual proposed reductions will take more planning, including  public outreach on the first potential reductions this fall. Reductions would be made starting in September 2014 and continuing through the following year.

We’ll provide updates via our “Metro Future” blog category as the funding and policy issues evolve. In the meantime:

34 thoughts on “How might Metro’s funding shortfall affect you?

  1. Why is there a shortfall after the sales tax increase? Is this an April Fools joke?

  2. raise Metro fares and charge Metro Access users the full legally allowable fare

  3. Metro raised our sales taxes and auto-tabs fees to inhance it’s service. If Metro decreases service after agreeing to provide more service with the fees that we are already paying, will the county decrease our sales tax percentage for services we are suppose to get that we will not be getting?

  4. This is becoming old – If you would stop with the major raises and the different overtime pays, you would not need to cut the routes – typical – take away from the public first – I am no longer falling for this.

  5. Metro could save money by ELIMINATING COSTLY AND UNNECESSARY STUDIES AND PLANS FOR EXTENDING LIGHT RAIL, STREET CARS, AND OTHER PROJECTS, including the E, F, G and other lines. The savings alone would fund current needs.

    Another area is current service changes. As a rider I frequently observe two D Line Rapid Ride buses coming within two minutes of each other. The second one is usually empty because the first one has picked up most of the passengers. What a waste of fuel, equipment, employee work hours and benefits! The service changes made between Northgate, Ballard, Fremont, Queen Anne, Magnolia and downtown have not improved service and lost riders. The less frequent # 29 line duplicates routes in Ballard and does not serve Magnolia on weekends or daytime.

    These are just a few examples of wasteful funding that can be used for current needs.
    Look at our history: very efficient street cars throughout the city; replaced by electric trolleys; replaced mostly by diesel buses; a popular street car along the waterfront operated – only to be closed a few years later; double capacity Rapid Rides that do not save more than one or two minutes (and always seem to just miss the bus I want when transferring to another line); and now expensive studies to add light rail and more street car lines.

    Are we reinventing our wheels?

  6. To gain broader voter support for Metro funding I would suggest a back of bus ad campaign to educate drivers on Metro routes that reads something like:
    “Metro route XXX removes approximately NNN cars from this roadway each day. If the legislature fails to increase Metro funding that will put up to YYY more cars between you and your commute. *provide URL to support Metro funding*” Maybe do the averages for I-5, I-90, SR-520, SR-99 etc. specifically since these will be the choke points for most commuters.

  7. To DM:
    Sales tax revenue has yet to rebound to meet the region’s demands for transit service. We won’t reach 2008 levels again until 2015. The Congestion Reduction Charge provides $25 million annually until 2014. We have continued to keep as much service as possible on the road, current need and demand is greater than the resources available now. The total needed beyond what’s coming in to meet current need and respond to demand is projected to be $75 million when the Congestion Reduction Charge expires next year.

  8. I think it would be a good thing to have to walk a bit further to catch a bus. The #5 stops 3 times within 6 blocks of my house.

    The bus routes are so weird- with huge buses routinely unable to maneuver down streets like Latona. Why not stick to larger arterial roads. Cant wait for the enhanced service on Aurora even if I have to walk (shocking) 4 blocks……

  9. To doug,

    As someone who ride the 26 and frequently see the sad comical farce of an accordion bus turn right on 34th & Fremont, and other parts on Latona, I agree. But when I asked the bus driver why, I am told while 26 is not that full by 4th and Blanchard, it’s full on the southern part of its route. On the other hand, I have not looked at passenger data for 26.

  10. I feel like talk about continued rate raises and reduced service are counter productive. We need an efficient reliable transit system. Increasing bus use is good for the the environment good for the city and the community. Metro has no reasonable youth pass our family pass. I am a single mom with two kids. I’d ride the bus way more if it wasn’t significantly cheaper for me to drive when I count me and my two kids. How about creating innovative solutions and pricing that engage the community, that get more people riding and using the busses. It needs to be affordable. Seattle is one of the only Major cities that doesn’t offer a youth summer pass. I know it’s not the whole solution but seems like addressing that need and opening access to a greater part of the community would be a smart part of a multi approach solution

  11. Metro already under serves Alki. In order to make a 6 mile trip to downtown I have to transfer buses. If I take one option, I have to pay for a bus and light rail AND walk four blocks which is not an easy thing to do for me–especially if I’m carrying something. On the other route it can take an hour to go those six miles. I think it would be less expense to have shuttles to Alki.

    The logic of metro planning seems to be: 1. Reduce routes. 2. Have decreased ridership because of situations like Alki. 3. Justify further reductions because of reduced ridership.

    I still see largely empty buses leaving from here. That’s not because people don’t want service but because the service provided is not a viable alternative. A great deal of money goes empty buses.

  12. Does it really make sense to delete the only bus on the waterfront? Rt 99

  13. Why did Metro invest significant money to roll out RapidRide last year and now are crying the budget shortfall blues again? Metro “received a total of $82 million in 2011 federal and state grant funding for RapidRide buses and infrastructure”. The new bus stops on 3rd ave have been sitting with their fancy electronic reader boards and ORCA readers unused for 6+ months. The message you send to the public is confused at best, cutting service and raising rates multiple times. Maybe Tim Eyman can start an initiative to privatize Metro – I see so much waste daily that a 17% more efficient system is not rocket science. Creating disincentives to ride will only prove to reduce revenues further. Good luck on your messaging…

  14. I received an email today from Metro, and it was filled with warning about cuts and links to this site. This seems like a conflict of interest. Metro shouldn’t be using tax payer money to lobby the public for more money. Are government organizations allowed to lobby for legislation?

  15. The leadership officials of Metro need to do a better job attaining adequate funding. I understand cost of operations has risen and state and county budgets are tight. Good leaders are able to bring people together to solve a problem. Many of the people most affected by the proposed transit cuts are likely not involved in politics and may lack access to technology needed for blogs and public forums such as this. I question Metro’s reasoning for already planning transit cuts rather than allocating all available resources to raise the funds needed to maintain service. With the growth of King County metro should be planning future route enchantments and more off-peak hour routes rather than preparing for route cuts. The leadership of metro needs to do what it takes in order to get the budget needed to serve the people of King County, even if that means stepping down so a more capable leader can get the job done. Given how bad traffic is and the already high cost of living, transit cuts shouldn’t even be on the table. Part of the onus is on the people of King County to demand more of their elected officials, but those who are paid to maintain the transit system have a bigger responsibility and they are not getting the job done.

    I’ve contacted my elected officials to demand adequate funding for transit.

  16. simply raise fares and significantly reduce the Metro Access service that runs $50,000,000 a year with over $40 a ride subsidy level that is outrageous


  17. raise fares and significantly reduce Metro Access service that costs $50,000,000 with over $40/ride subsidy that is outrageous!

  18. $50,000,000 a year. Metro shortfall is $75,000,000. simply eliminating Metro Access solves 2/3rds of the funding shortfall

  19. Where did you get the $50 million a year figure from? Do you have a good understanding on what service Access provides and the effects on the community if it was eliminated?

  20. i contacted Metro a a couple of years ago inquiring to costs and found out the $50,000,000. And what is more the subsidy rate is over $40.00 a ride that they charge a $1 for.

    Metro claims to have a $75,000,000 shortfall; yet it has resources to subsidize Metro Access at an absurd rate. Simply eliminating the service saves $50,000,000 that is 2/3rds of the shortfall

  21. To K. Houlton:
    Metro is in its 5th consecutive austere budget and has implemented many reforms, efficiencies and fare increases to sustain current services despite the impacts to sales tax. We have also implemented a new strategic plan and service planning guidelines that maintains the goal to improve the current system to attract more riders and deliver quality services, even in times of financial challenge. As we have dealt with these challenges, following through on our commitment to RapidRide lines A through F has fit with these goals and support from King County Council and the Executive. RapidRide serves some of the busiest corridors in King County and is playing a key role in meeting our growing region’s public transportation needs. Through its frequent service, enhanced passenger amenities, intelligent transportation systems and connections to major residential, employment and commercial centers, RapidRide has been shown to attract new riders to transit. Additionally, the RapidRide program has been heavily supported by the Federal Transit Administration and Metro has been able to leverage grants for about 60% of the capital costs.

  22. To Nathan:
    We appreciate your concern and comment. The actual funding solutions remain the province of elected officials, and we are not lobbying in support of any one solution. Instead, we’re working to keep people informed about the potential cuts we face unless a funding solution is found. As a public agency we feel a trust and obligation to explain the situation so our customers are informed.

  23. i provided the solution; raise fares and eliminate Metro Access

  24. Emma Arvanitas on 2013/04/02 at 8:53 am said:
    “Metro has already cut back so much that there is decreased service, standing room only on every bus across the board and I have to take more transfer routes just to get to/from work! How are they going to cut back even more?! How is there no money for transportation when all we do is pay for it? They cancelled the 34 and 39 buses last time that went from Seward Park to Downtown and replaced them with the 50 that goes to absolutely nowhere. It now takes me 2 buses and about an hour and a half to get 5 miles and it is the only option available. At what point does this stop being acceptable?!!! Anyone implementing these cuts needs to be forced to ride the bus with the rest of us FULL TIME so they can see what a detriment it is. This is really the most pathetic example of public interest I have seen in Seattle transportation ever. Seriously I have never been so disappointed in my city.”

  25. Joanna on 2013/04/02 at 12:52 am said:
    “I am trying to figure out how Metro is rating the bus routes. The definition seems to state by one or both measures. Is it rides per platform mile or just miles per rider? Let use the 2s as defined as 2s in A-6, it is in the top 25% for riders per hour during peak service and apparently in bottom 25% for passenger miles and apparently performing at expectations at all other times. I am not sure how that makes it a D, since it also is in the top 25% by one of the measures during peak service and could be given a B. By the way it is only .1 point shy of being fine even in the miles measure. The 11 route also seems to be in a similar situation, only with a more extreme difference, and there the pattern repeats itself during off-peak and night time rides. It could have been given a B where it received Ds. Where is the rating for those that are at the top by one measure and at the bottom by another? It seems ridership would be just as important economically in terms of fare recovery analysis. I pay the same for a short ride as I do for a longer ride. (I know many have passes.) Since I know the route, I will say that the 2 transports many from Madrona and in between to Broadway and to places along Seneca to work etc on First Hill and to downtown while gaining passengers along the way. But, then it is used throughout the day and evening. I know that the 2010 analysis had it as in the top level in terms of use between 23rd and Pine.
    I think this is more likely to be the case with routes that serve as a connection for different destinations and purposes. If a route is primarily a commuter route to one destination then the peak hour passenger mile will give a good snapshot of the productivity. However, on the routes traveling from neighborhoods and densely populated areas to differing types of destinations the miles traveled may not be as many. Buses do have to turn around and have waiting areas at the end of each line and sometimes that will create an extra 1/2 to mile with lower ridership. I am feeling that this analysis was done too hastily and now they have people like me upset with Metro rather than lobbying for Metro’s interests in Olympia.”

  26. This is what happens when you have services with no oversight.As cash strapped as California is there is still a transit system.I think the people see the game.By putting stress on its riders by threatening route closers Metro hopes to get Olympia to cut them another check.If they do I say there should be strings attached.For one upper management and half of the adminsistrators should get pink slips and best regards on their future endeavors.

  27. mike gray on 2013/0403 at 8:23 am said:
    “How can there be a short fall? Were rabbits guarding the lettuce? This is so typical of agencies who have virtually no oversight?”

  28. I am a state of Washington employee, working at a local college. Due to budget shortfalls, many state and most college employees took a 3% pay cut in July 2011. I was one of them, and because it is a salaried position, it is also not overtime eligible. This is still in effect.

    The salaries for KIng County, and all Washington public employees, are public record. To view the saleries of King COunty employees, click the link below.

    I sorted by Overtime, just to see who had the most, and how much.
    Of the top 20, 6 were transit drivers, all who earned a base salary of at least 71K a year, and all who received at LEAST 54K in overtime pay.

    So we got bus drivers whose base pay is around the same as VP’s at local colleges. On this list, the overtime they received is more than my yearly salary.

    I am a longtime Metro rider and staunch public transit supporter, but this must stop.

    Before one route gets cut, ALL overtime needs to be eliminated, including police and fire. Hire more police and fire if you are paying groups of people 50 K in overtime. OBVIOUSLY!

    Neither my wife, a scientist, nor I, a college program manager, earn salaries anywhere NEAR what our bus driver earns, despite multiple college degrees between us. It isn’t that we aren’t successful; it is there are real-market factors affecting our industries.

    The same factors are affecting King County, and their answer is to raise fares or taxes,

    I propose:
    A 5% cut in pay for all King COunty employees
    An end to ALL overtime effective immediately

  29. Will there be public meetings where people can come and express their opinions in a public forum?

  30. Wow thanks Andy.Damn, drivers making over 70 K whats with that.They seriously need oversight from top to bottom.

  31. Metro hourly costs are amongst the highest in the Country; i saw it costs Metro $130 per hour to operate a bus versus the average of $119. Why are Metro’s costs so high?

  32. I have few questions. When Metro knew that it was having financial problems in 2011 (i.e.: adding the car tab fee). Why was it appropriate to spend money on replacing many of the perfectly usable signs and/or stops in the downtown core and how much was spent on the project? Usually when a company is in financial distress they cut back on spending.

    If cuts do happen, I would propose cuts to route 120. Living in the service area, it is very common to see in-service empty buses following each other along the route. Clearly having the bus run every 10 minutes is overkill and the hours can be used in other places.

  33. Metro needs to address it’s costing that is amongst the highest in the nation. Also, the subsidy level for Metro Access of $40/ride is flat out obscene. Metro needs to raise the fare for Metro Access to the maximum legal amount that I understand is double the fare of a traditional bus. Thus $4.50 to $5 a ride.

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