With two temporary funding measures set to expire in the next year, King County Metro is once again faced with the possibility of fairly severe cuts to its service hours.
According to Metro, if a stable funding source is not figured out in the near future, 74 of Metro’s 214 routes would be eliminated, while 107 routes would be reduced or revised.
For Federal Way residents, the possibility of these cuts is a cause for concern because many rely on Metro and other regional transit services to get around. In Federal Way, up to four routes could be eliminated, and a number of others would be revised.
“What they’re doing to people who are disabled, that don’t drive and everything, they are screwing with people who don’t have ways to get around,” said Federal Way resident Jeff Patrick at the Metro community meeting held Nov. 20 at the Federal Way Community Center.
“The only way I get around is by walking and by riding the bus, plain and simple. And they’re screwing with people’s lives. This right now, it makes me very upset. I don’t like what they’re doing to people like me, and other people like me. It’s just not right for them to cut all these buses, period.”
Des Moines resident Carl Johnson, who rides the bus to work daily, said he would certainly feel the impact of the cuts if no funding solution is figured out by Metro.
“It’s going to have a direct impact on me,” Johnson said. “But I’m one of those people that believe we’ve been over-promised and under-delivered for a while.”
Johnson said he hopes Metro, if service is reduced, would figure out a way to serve customers within the reduced service environment.
“There are going to be a lot of positive efficiencies that are going to come out of what they’re doing,” he said. “I do believe they’ll be able to live within those efficiencies. I do think Metro has tried to listen, but it’s been difficult.”
Jeff Switzer, communications officer for the King County Department of Transportation, said the challenge for Metro is to finally figure out the long-term funding solution for the transit agency.
“We have temporary funding that expires next year from a congestion reduction charge, which was designed to be a two-year temporary charge,” he said.
The congestion reduction charge was enacted in 2011 by the King County Council. It helped alleviate Metro’s funding woes by adding an additional $20 to King County residents car tabs.
Switzer said Metro is well aware of the direct impact the proposed cuts will have on citizens in Federal Way and throughout the region.
“These affect people’s lives. We don’t want to be making cuts. We should be growing at a time like this,” he said.
Federal Way City Councilmember Susan Honda also attended the Nov. 20 community meeting. Honda said the council realizes they need to advocate for citizens regarding the proposed cuts.
“We need to be really strong, and tell Metro this isn’t going to work for the community,” Honda said.
“We have a lot of low-income people in Federal Way, and sometimes, for many of them, the bus is the only way for them to get to work, the grocery store, or school. We can’t have such severe cuts that are going to impact people in a very negative way.”
The funding shortfall is anticipated to be $75 million, which would cover 600,000 hours of services and assorted bus purchases. Metro experienced the same issue in 2011, and was able to avert the funding issue when the King County Council enacted a new car tab fee on King County residents.
To learn more about the proposed cuts, visit www.kingcounty.gov/metro/future. Those concerned by the issue are encouraged to engage Metro through a number of social media and Internet resources. The transit agency has a blog, metrofutureblog.wordpress.com, along with a Twitter account at @kcmetrobus and a Twitter hashtag #KCMetroCuts. The agency also encourages input on its Facebook page, facebook.com/HaveaSayatKCMetro.
Because the state Legislature has not helped create a stable funding source for public transit, Metro itself could face the cancellation of 74 bus routes, along with revisions to 107 other routes, if no funding is forthcoming from Olympia.
According to Metro, if the funding is not found and the agency is forced to cut the services, it would be the “loss of an unprecedented 14 million rides annually, and would revert Metro’s service to levels not seen since 1997.”
Metro warns that this reduction would come as ridership nears an all-time high again that was first seen in 2008. Metro provides about 400,000 rides a day, according to the transit agency.