King County Executive Dow Constantine transmitted Metro’s proposed two-year budget to the King County Council on Sept. 22, starting the formal process for funding the operations of the region’s largest public transportation network.
The budget outlines our ongoing commitment to providing reliable bus, water taxi, Access paratransit, and vanpool service – especially to serve riders where needs are greatest.
It shows how Metro plans to continue to respond and adapt to the continued challenges of reduced revenue projections and lower ridership as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The budget also helps Metro prepare for when ridership and revenues recover to allow for the continued growth of a robust mobility network.
Some adjustments are necessary in 2021 and 2022 as we deal with difficult financial realities. However, we remain dedicated to delivering bus service to our customers, which today is about 11,000 weekday bus trips across King County. We are also focused on providing broad all-day service while peak commute travel demand is temporarily reduced due to the pandemic.
Overall, our spending priorities show our commitment to safety, equity, and sustainability in our everyday operations as the region responds and recovers.
Metro is working to restore and rebuild transit service, reduce our region’s carbon footprint, and reduce single-occupancy trips. We also are reimagining our policing and fare enforcement, and will work on the continued evolution of an equitable fare structure.
During the next two years, there are several highlights to note.
Building and delivering in 2021-22
- We continue to make progress toward launching the RapidRide H Line (today’s Route 120 between Burien, White Center, Delridge, and downtown Seattle) RapidRide G Line in Seattle, and the future RapidRide I Line (between Renton, Kent, and Auburn.)
- We continue to invest in a 100% zero-emission fleet and are preparing to receive our first round of a new generation of 40 long-range battery electric buses and the associated charging infrastructure.
- We are finalizing concepts for restructuring bus service in north King County to connect to three new planned Link light rail stations in 2021, serving the U District, Roosevelt, and Northgate in Seattle.
- We will restore service where needs are greatest, allocating resources to high ridership/crowded routes, especially those serving low-income and Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) communities.
- We also will support the region’s economic recovery by adjusting service as employers bring jobs back and commute patterns evolve.
Reimagining policing and security, fare structure
- As announced by Executive Constantine, Metro will partner with the King County Sheriff’s Office, contractors, employees, and community members to co-create new alternatives to traditional fare enforcement, which has had a disproportionate negative impact on riders of color. With COVID-19, fare enforcement will continue to be suspended at least through the end of 2020. The goal is to design new programs in 2021 and implement no later than 2022.
- Metro will delay a planned fare increase to allow time for the economic recovery to take hold and to allow for a review of fares across all mobility modes—including bus, water taxi, paratransit service, and more.
Longer term plans to improve and adjust service
As regional Sound Transit Link light rail expansions take place and bus rapid transit projects move ahead, Metro is preparing to work with customers and stakeholders on important planning and engagement work during the next two years. The efforts will build on previous successful work to integrate bus, rail, and rapid transit projects to the benefit of making connections that customers rely on.
Base expansions: The pandemic and stay-at-home order significantly reduced service demand, as well as forecasts.
- Metro is proceeding with its South Campus expansion in Tukwila, including the design and construction of South Annex Base by 2027. Metro will design these new facilities to contribute to the environmental and physical well-being of the surrounding community through long-term use of an all-electric fleet. The all-electric South Campus facilities will help reduce pollution and noise impacts associated with bus base operations. We are committed to these environmental and community goals that are consistent with our equity and sustainability principles.
- Metro has suspended efforts to acquire a site to build a new base in south King County. Metro plans to stay flexible during these uncertain times, and—as demand returns— we will consider reactivating the acquisition process for the south King County base.
RapidRide changes: Due to reduced financial resources, Metro expects the scale of the previously-planned expansion of the RapidRide program to be reduced from seven lines by 2027 to three or four lines by 2027. These potential reductions were informed by Metro’s Mobility Framework; Service Guidelines; and each project’s status, risk, operating costs, and capital costs. A final decision is pending King County Council budget adoption in November.
- Moving forward, both the RapidRide G Line (Madison Valley – Downtown Seattle) and H Line (Downtown Seattle – Burien) projects are nearing construction dates and will be able to be implemented the soonest. These lines being so far into their respective projects is a result of them being major agency priorities at both Metro and the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) for extended periods of time. Given this, both the G and the H lines are included in the 2021-2022 proposed budget.
- The RapidRide I (Renton – Kent – Auburn), J (Downtown Seattle – Roosevelt), K (Totem Lake – Eastgate), and R (Downtown Seattle – Mount Baker – Rainier Valley) lines all represent exceptional projects and transit services. They have been agency priorities since the RapidRide expansion program was formed and will continue to represent the strongest of the future candidate corridors. Work on the I Line will continue as planned while Metro supports SDOT on their effort with J Line. Metro’s work on the K and R lines will be paused.
In the coming months, the King County Council will consider and vote on the “Executive Proposed 2021-22 Budget.” Metro will report on those final decisions when they are available. For information on the budget process including opportunities for public comment, visit the King County Council’s “2021-22 Biennial Budget” webpage.
We appreciate the continued trust that riders put in Metro for their everyday travel needs, and steps we all are taking to provide a safe, sustainable, and equitable regional transit network.