(Crossposted news release from King County Executive Dow Constantine)

Groundbreaking transit legislation co-created with community advocates and introduced by King County Executive Dow Constantine directs future investments upstream by intentionally weaving together King County Metro’s policies and the Metro Connects long-range plan. The result will be ensuring transit investments go where they are needed most.

Constantine, community leaders, and elected officials are celebrating and marking the beginning of formal consideration of the legislation by the King County Council and the Regional Transit Committee. Constantine recognized and honored Equity Cabinet members who co-created the policies.

“These comprehensive changes take King County’s equity work to the next level, driving innovation and investments in public transportation service to the places where it is needed most,” Constantine said. “They chart our path forward to benefit everyone – especially priority populations – across the region and connect people to opportunities at every stage of their life. Investing where needs are greatest is our highest priority.”

King County policy direction on public transportation is updated periodically by the County Council and the County Executive to address the growing region’s needs. In 2020, the County Council adopted the Mobility Framework, which elevates the importance of equity and sustainability as Metro adapts to changes in how the public travels. The proposed policy updates build on that framework and extend its reach across Metro’s long-range plans and policies.

“There has never been a more pressing time to center equity than right now,” said Dave Upthegrove, prime sponsor of the legislation, Regional Transit Committee Chair and King County Councilmember. “We know that access to reliable, fast, and frequent transit can make day-to-day living easier – whether it’s getting to work quicker, having multiple options for getting to the local grocery store, or just knowing that your bus will come when scheduled.”

“With these updates, Metro – in close partnership with the community – has done important work to lead with equity and sustainability in how we deliver future transit service. Once discussed, debated, and passed, these policies will improve the lives of residents across the entire county for decades to come.”

Overview of key policy changes

Community engagement is key to developing policies rooted in community perspectives and driving resources to where they are needed. The proposed documents strengthen Metro’s community engagement goals to focus on priority populations and to involve impacted communities early and in upstream decision-making processes.

Service Guidelines help Metro evaluate, design, and modify transit services to meet changing needs and deliver efficient, high-quality service. They ensure that decision-making and recommendations are objective, transparent, and aligned with the region’s goals for public transportation. They also establish criteria and processes that Metro uses to analyze and plan changes to the transit system. Proposed updates to the Service Guidelines include:

  • Prioritizing service growth investments based on equity, productivity, and then geographic value.
  • Expanding the definition of social equity to also include, in addition to race and income: disability, immigrants and refugees, and linguistically-diverse populations. Further, a measure was added to gauge low- and medium-income jobs along travel corridors.
  • Clarifying that service hours directly replaced by a partner agency’s service could be redeployed to meet countywide goals. Proposed policy would clarify the possibility and approach.

Metro Connects is Metro’s long-range plan for providing more service, more choices, and one easy-to-use system. It currently provides a vision for the service network in 2025 and 2040 with fast, frequent, and reliable service all day, every day throughout King County. It outlines innovative travel options; clean, safe and customer-friendly vehicles and facilities; and information that makes transit work for everyone.

Proposed updates to Metro Connects include:

  • Extending timelines to 2050 and replacing the 2025 network with an “interim network.” The service network maps will be updated with revisions to the RapidRide network and changes that better serve equity gaps identified.
  • Updating planning dates, service proposals, and capital costs for future transit networks.
  • Updating the estimated gaps between available and needed funding.

Metro’s Strategic Plan through 2031 outlines Metro’s goals, the strategies and objectives to achieve them, and the measures to determine if we are succeeding. Proposed updates to the Strategic Plan include:

  • Simplifying and streamlining measures.
  • Increasing transparency by creating a public-facing performance measurement dashboard so staff, elected leaders, and the public can more easily track progress on Metro’s strategies and goals.
  • Aligning goal areas with the Mobility Framework.
  • Aligning goal areas with King County-Cities Climate Collaboration.

RELEVANT LINKS

“These comprehensive changes take King County’s equity work to the next level, driving innovation and investments in public transportation service to the places where it is needed most,” King County Executive Dow Constantine said. “They chart our path forward to benefit everyone – especially priority populations – across the region and connect people to opportunities at every stage of their life. Investing where needs are greatest is our highest priority.” –Dow Constantine, King County Executive

“If we are to be a County where people want to live and work, that provides equitable access to opportunity and that lives up to our environmental values, we need a robust transit network that makes it easier for people to get to all the places they need and want to go. I was proud to sponsor what became the Mobility Framework, a shining example of community-led policymaking that laid the foundation for Metro’s proposed policy updates. Now, I look forward to considering these updates as we continue the hard work to build the even more people-friendly, equitable and sustainable transit system that is essential for King County’s success.” –Claudia Balducci, King County Council Chair

“There has never been a more pressing time to center equity than right now. We know that access to reliable, fast, and frequent transit can make day-to-day living easier – whether it’s getting to work quicker, having multiple options for getting to the local grocery store or just knowing that your bus will come when scheduled. With these updates, Metro – in close partnership with the community – has done important work to lead with equity and sustainability in how we deliver future transit service. Once discussed, debated, and passed, these policies will improve the lives of residents across the entire county for decades to come.” –Dave Upthegrove, prime sponsor, Regional Transit Committee Chair and King County Councilmember

“Crafted in concert with community, these updates to Metro’s fundamental policies will help promote equitable and sustainable outcomes for the future of transit in an upstream way. Mobility is a human right that allows communities and individuals to access the opportunities needed to thrive. This proposal helps fulfill Metro’s duty to assure its services support healthy communities, a thriving economy, and a sustainable environment.” –Girmay Zahilay, King County Councilmember, co-sponsor of the legislation

“It has been an absolute pleasure to work in collaboration with other community leaders and staff at King County Metro to think through and establish meaningful policy changes. There was a level of intentionality that I have not experienced in many other places that made it easier to bring multiple community voices and lived experiences to the forefront of conversations and the decision-making process. Often, policy is created based on the experiences and knowledge base of a few individuals who are more often than not far removed from the challenges taking place on the ground and in community. Although our approach to policy was not revolutionary by any means, it was certainly groundbreaking in that there was space to advocate and challenge the status quo. It is my sincerest hope that our work will serve as a great example and mark the beginning of drastic changes to the way that others with access to privilege and decision-making power approach the creation and implementation of policy. What we ultimately want is to support and empower community members, particularly those with the greatest needs, to push for and have a voice in spaces that are strategically designed to keep them out and limit their influence. –Sarneshea Evans, Equity Cabinet Co-Chair

“The co-creation approach between community and policy developers at the outset ensured an equity-centered framework and strategies downstream. What curb ramps do for all pedestrians or the Head Start Program does for early learning for all children, my hope is that starting with those with the greatest needs in mind, will ultimately improve services to all users of transit. We should work to realize the greatest potential for the future rather be limited by past policies and practices.” –Tony To, Equity Cabinet Co-Chair

“As King County continues to grow, public transit is an important tool to address historic inequities while supporting the region’s goals for housing and employment growth. For nearly two years, members of the Regional Transit Committee have considered how Metro’s updated policies should look at equity, growth, partnerships, and transparency. Our work represents a broad range of communities with different transit needs and priorities – from rural towns to urban centers. Together, we can ensure that our future mobility system meets people’s needs and prioritizes investments where needs are greatest. –Jennifer Robertson, Regional Transit Committee Vice Chair, Bellevue City Councilmember

“Metro collaborated with an extensive list of stakeholders to develop ground-breaking policy changes that lead with equity and sustainability. These policies provide the framework to increase mobility and access to opportunity for all – especially priority populations. It has been an honor serving as a member of the Regional Transit Committee during this historic policy update.” –Toni Troutner, Kent City Council President

“While I could go many places on the bus growing up, I also remember the places I couldn’t get to—simply because routes or timeframes didn’t allow it. I know firsthand that this region will not give everyone an opportunity to thrive without universal access to mobility. These updates move us forward to fulfilling that vision and delivering on a promise of a future with healthy communities, a thriving economy, and a sustainable environment.” –Terry White, King County Metro General Manager