Metro Chief: Cuts Would Slash "Meat and Muscle" of Service
At Transportation Choices Coalition forum, Metro head Kevin Desmond lays out the (potential) bleak future for bus service in King County.
In the latest stop on what some are calling the "[King County Metro general manager] Kevin Desmond Misery Tour," Transportation Choices Coalition members showed up to the downtown YMCA last Friday to find out what the impacts of bus spending reductions will be if King County Metro has to make the cuts it predicts. Those cuts could be as much as 17 percent, or $75 million, but will more likely be about $10 million to $12 million less than that amount thanks to better-than-expected sales tax revenues.
"Cash reserves ran out this summer." —KC Metro GM Kevin Desmond After cutting nearly $200 million from Metro's capital funding program and raising fares four times since 2008, Desmond said, “there really is not more choice at this point than to cut into the meat and the muscle of what we spend money on, which is bus service.”
Desmond said that with the current rate of gains in Metro ridership, the agency should really be looking at a 15 percent increase in service, rather than a 17-percent decrease (plus another 50-cent fare increase for non-low-income riders; those making 200 percent or less of the poverty level will pay a new low-income fare of $1.50).
"We have been deficit spending throughout this process, propped up by cash reserves and the [temporary, $20] congestion reduction charge. Those cash reserves ran out this summer," Desmond said.
"Incidentally," Desmond added—echoing the C Is for Crank's pro-Metro column last week—"those 700,000 estimated people who came downtown last Wednesday couldn’t have gotten down here without a good transit system."
The King County Council will have to vote sometime this month to put the measure on the ballot; if they do, voters will decide whether to approve it on April 22.
April Putney, the Futurewise lobbyist-turned-campaign-manager for Move King County Now, the campaign for the proposal, said, "Obviously, we think these cuts suck—they'll put 30,000 more cars on [county] roads, and 80 percent of bus riders would have to wait longer. And they would just leave some people stranded."