King County Executive Dow Constantine recently proposed investments and adjustments for King County Metro within his broader mid-biennial budget. The proposals align with King County’s values and Metro’s priorities in investing where needs are greatest, and touch upon five key areas:

  1. Respond and recover from the COVID-19 pandemic;
  2. Restore and expand transit service;
  3. Transition to a zero-emissions fleet;
  4. Implement enterprise initiatives to make progress on long-term goals that center equity, modernize the system, and build back stronger; and
  5. Advance capital projects, regional partnerships, and other investments.

King County recently sped up its timeline for a 100% zero-electrification Metro transit fleet from 2040 to 2035. The mid-biennial budget proposal includes $65.8 million in additional appropriation this biennium to accelerate electrification—including investments in charging infrastructure at bus bases, an Access paratransit vehicle electrification pilot, and preliminary planning for the electrification of Water Taxi vessels.

Metro championing sustainability and combatting climate change also helps the agency lead with equity. Accordingly, Metro is building battery-electric charging infrastructure in south King County first, where residents have historically experienced a greater share of pollution from cars and trucks. Up to 40 new zero-emission battery-electric buses will be serving Metro customers in the months ahead.

Following the adoption of the biennial budget for 2021-22, Metro’s financial position improved due to additional federal funding (Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act, American Rescue Plan Act), the renewal of a scaled-down Seattle Transportation Benefit District (STBD) levy (funding approximately 170,000 service hours), and strengthened sales tax forecasts. But ridership and fare revenue are still significantly impacted by the pandemic.

Please find below high-level descriptions of the Executive’s proposed investments and updated planning assumptions that relate to Metro, informed by the agency’s strengthened financial outlook. In addition to these mid-biennial budget proposals, the Executive directed Metro to continue to plan for future years and for the 2023-24 biennial budget process.

  1. Respond and recover from the COVID-19 pandemic
    1. Maintain enhanced cleaning and health protocols to protect customers and employees from COVID-19
    2. Improve HVAC systems for facilities and aboard King County Water Taxi vessels
    3. Rebuild confidence in transit and renew the habit of transit through communications, marketing, incentives, outreach, and partnerships
    4. Improve all 24 Metro worksites to enable a better hybrid work environment and resulting in long-term cost savings
  2. Restore and expand transit service
    1. Restore Metro-funded service levels back to pre-pandemic levels by the end of 2022
    2. Remove previously-assumed reductions of 90,000 service hours in 2022 and 500,000 service hours in 2025
    3. Invest in additional flexible service pilots where needs are greatest
    4. Support operations for the continued expansion of Link light rail system (funded by Sound Transit) and the operation of Seattle Transportation Benefit District (STBD) bus service (funded by the City of Seattle)
  3. Transition to a zero-emissions fleet
    1. Support transition through $65.8M in additional appropriation this biennium, including:
      1. Accelerate appropriation for Interim Base Bus Charging ($63M)
      2. Access Transportation Electric Vehicle Pilot ($1M)
      3. Planning staffing and studies to establish and oversee the ongoing zero-emission work ($1M)
      4. Vehicle Maintenance staffing to support the delivery of the 40 new battery-electric buses already planned for this biennium ($450K)
      5. Preliminary planning efforts for zero-emission Water Taxi vessels ($350K)
    2. In addition to the appropriations requested in the current mid-biennial budget, Metro will be focused on developing a 2023-2024 budget strategy to convert to a zero-emission fleet by 2035. That could include:
      1. Full electrification of South Annex Base, which is scheduled for completion in 2028
      2. Planning for the conversion of existing bases to support battery-electric buses, including exploring additional base capacity
      3. Adding layover infrastructure to support battery-electric bus operations
      4. Purchasing additional battery-electric buses to replace aging hybrids
  4. Implement enterprise initiatives to make progress on long-term goals
    1. Advanced Service Management (ASM) – Pilot techniques to improve reliability of bus service, reduce “bus bunching,” and improve the customer and operator experience
      1. (All investments from existing appropriation for 2021-2022)
    2. Business transformation – Dedicate resources to Metro’s highest aspirations and biggest challenges— to improve our processes, modernize, become more efficient, reduce cost, and improve our customer and employee experience
      1. Fund dedicated business transformation resources on critical business needs, with placeholders to fund solutions that result from this work
    3. Safety, security, and fare enforcement (SaFE) Reform – Work with community to reimagine transit safety, security, and enforcement
      1. Provide one-time funding for pilots, and planning and engagement efforts
    4. Organizational health – Develop people and the organization to create a healthy workplace
      1. Address recruiting needs, and create development and wellbeing programs, including apprenticeships and training programs
    5. Investing service where needs are greatest – As identified by the Mobility Framework and policy updates, provide mobility solutions to priority populations not well-served by the existing transit network
      1. Invest in flexible services and capital projects, guided by already-funded community engagement and outreach
  5. Capital infrastructure investments, regional partnerships, and other investments
    1. Capital infrastructure investments, including strengthening base security, enhancing existing RapidRide lines, and improving access to transit and bus stop improvements
    2. Supporting King County and regional partnerships, including funding transportation for participants of King County’s Jobs and Housing Support programs and working with the Department of Community and Human Services on their Health Through Housing Initiative

The full mid-biennial budget is currently being considered by the King County Council. To learn more or to share your views, residents can attend or view council and committee meetings, or contact councilmembers.

Relevant resources: