On Tuesday, King County Executive Dow Constantine transmitted his proposed 2023-24 budget to the King County Council. Transit cornerstones include fleet electrification, organizational health, ridership recovery and security.

The largest transit agency in the Puget Sound region, Metro currently delivers more than 220,000 average weekday trips across Access paratransit, bus, on-demand services, rideshare, Seattle Streetcar, vanpool, water taxi and more. The agency was named the nation’s most equitable agency in combatting climate change by the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) earlier this year.

The Executive’s proposed Metro budget prioritizes investments where needs are greatest, and aligns with the agency’s and King County’s policies. Notably, the agency’s long-range plan (“Metro Connects”), the service guidelines and the “Strategic Plan for Public Transportation 2021-2031” were recently updated to center equity and sustainability. The groundbreaking legislation was co-created with the Equity Cabinet and community partners, proposed by the Executive and adopted by the council in 2021.

The Executive’s priorities in the proposed 2023-24 Metro budget balance short-term progress with longer-term positioning to advance healthy communities, a sustainable environment and a thriving economy.

Fleet electrification
Fight climate change, lower our region’s carbon footprint, and support healthy air and water

  • Converting Metro’s 1,400 coach bus fleet to zero-emissions by 2035, including building charging infrastructure at bases and at layover sites.
  • Converting Metro’s non-bus fleets, such as Access paratransit, Rideshare and non-service fleet to zero-emissions.
  • Converting Metro’s bus bases to support electrified operations, as well as deploying charging infrastructure for battery‐electric buses in the field at layover (on-route) locations.
  • Prioritizing areas in south King County, where residents are disproportionately impacted by poor air quality, in where electric buses will be deployed and where supporting infrastructure will be built.
  • Preparing Metro’s workforce to implement, operate and maintain a zero-emissions fleet and the supporting infrastructure.

Organizational health
Be an employer of choice and enable employee growth to facilitate world-class transit service

  • Growing Metro’s staff to support the expansion of Link light rail service, which Metro operates through a contract with Sound Transit.
  • Recruiting a diverse workforce through investments in administrative and operational resources, employee wellness, Equal Employment Opportunity and Equity Inclusion and Belonging programs, recruiting and training—with the intention of more quickly filling vacant positions and addressing existing gaps in administrative functions.
  • Developing new processes, techniques and tools to support changes to agency business practices to help Metro achieve its long-term goals.

Ridership recovery
Deliver reliable service riders can count on

  • Adding almost 200,000 hours of Metro-funded service hours in the biennium as we continue to grow service back to pre-pandemic levels and adding service in support of the RapidRide G Line (Madison) and the RapidRide H Line (Burien) Lines.
  • Planning for 70,000 hours of service growth funded by the Seattle Transit Measure (STM) in the biennium.
  • Planning for another 500,000 hours of growth from 2025 through 2032 to grow service back to pre-pandemic levels—supporting investments where needs are greatest; service for the RapidRide I Line (Renton / Kent / Auburn), the RapidRide J Line (U-District / Downtown) and the RapidRide R Line (Rainier Valley / Downtown); and increased service investment to mitigate expected operational impacts from the West Seattle / Ballard Link light rail extension and construction, and from installation of zero-emissions infrastructure at Metro bases.
  • Continuing to plan and design the RapidRide K Line (Kirkland / Bellevue).
  • Investing in DART and other on-demand, flexible service programs that complement the fixed-route network of buses, Link light rail and Seattle Streetcar.
  • Implementing operational improvements for the management of bus service to deliver more reliable service for riders and to improve the quality of breaks for operators.
  • Making Metro more accessible to people with lower incomes and to youth through free and reduced-fare programs and engagement to address barriers to ORCA and transit use.
  • Expanding the income-based approach to fares, making fare payment more efficient and accessible, and implementing more equitable fare enforcement.
  • Partnering with Health through Housing and the King County Department of Community and Health Services to deliver mobility services to people experiencing homelessness who are in emergency and supportive housing.
  • Enhancing passenger infrastructure and transit hubs for integration with regional transit expansions
  • Making speed and reliability improvements along existing and future planned bus routes.
  • Investing in Information Technology including customer information management; data analytics and reporting; network, tools, and communications; safety and security; and service delivery.

Safety and security
Provide a safe and secure environment for riders and employees

  • Implementing Safety Security and Fare Enforcement (SaFE) Reform by continuing community engagement and testing new pilots and practices.
  • Investing in SaFE strategies with a particular focus on reimagining the duties of safety and security personnel, working more closely with regional social services programs and providing customer service resources at transit centers.
  • Improving employee safety at all of Metro’s bases with investments to better control access and to monitor facilities.
  • Investing in staff to maintain frequent cleaning of Metro’s bus interiors implemented during the pandemic.

Community engagement and next steps

If you would like to provide feedback on the proposed budget, the following is the King County Council’s timeline. (Please note this is subject to be changed by the council.)

  • Wed., Oct. 5 at 9:30 a.m. – Budget panel
  • Wed., Oct. 5 at 6 p.m. – Budget public hearing
  • Wed., Oct. 12 at 9:30 a.m. – Budget panel
  • Wed., Oct. 12 at 6 p.m. – Budget public hearing
  • Thurs., Oct. 19 at 6 p.m. – Budget public hearing
  • Tues., Nov. 8 at 9:30 a.m. – Final committee action on budget ordinances, public comment
  • Thurs., Nov. 10 at 9:30 a.m. – Final committee action on the biennial budget
  • Tues, Nov. 15 – Final council action on the biennial budget

More information about this process can be found on the council’s “King County’s 2023-24 Biennial Budget” webpage.

Relevant links